As mentioned in the Homepage, the people in southern India where I grew up, ate plenty of rice and used coconut oil for most forms of cooking; and yet the occurrence of diabetes (Type 2), blood pressure and heart ailments was sporadic.
Looking back, I note that the rice we ate was hand-pound and not so polished as we get today. The coconut oil was not ‘refined’, and we mostly used jaggery (unrefined sugar from Palmyra palm) in place of white sugar. The salt we used was straight from the salt pans (known as salt ponds in the US). Chemical fertilizers and pesticides had not become popular yet, hence the grains, fruits and vegetables were safe for consumption. The milk came unprocessed from the cows we or our neighbours owned (It was always boiled before use, hence the bacterial infection part was taken care of). The hens foraged in the farmland and ate plenty of greens, termites and other natural protein food in addition to what was given at home. The marine and freshwater fish that people ate came from unpolluted environment. No wonder the people were healthier then.
The situation, today, is different here; and is as bad as in most other parts of the world. We cannot go back to those pristine days, but we can and must find ways to manage healthier life while still living in the present times. It is not a new idea, though. Numerous individuals, organizations and even governments have voiced this opinion and have been doing much to mitigate the ill effects of the present day food products.
Let us look at some common items that we consume.
Salt or Sodium chloride (NaCl) is the major ingredient of refined as well as unrefined salt. However, the unrefined salt also has small quantities of several other minerals that are required by our body in small quantities, including iodine in the form of Potassium iodide. While manufacturing refined salt, the first thing they do is to strip off all minerals and leave only Sodium chloride.
While manufacturing refined salt, all the minerals are stripped off Sodium chloride, but iodine is added to it at a later stage. The refined salt also contains microfined Silicon dioxide, which is added to powdered Sodium chloride in order to make it non-sticky even under humid conditions. Read what some experts have to say about refined and non-refined salt:
- Natural sea salt vs Table salt – The Best Natural Foods
- Why sea salt is good for you (and Table salt is not) – Small Footprint Family
- The truth about salt and the chemical industry – By C. T. Corriher, The Health Wyze Report
Sugar in its different forms is essential for providing energy to a living body. However, excess of added sugar is reported to be harmful in various ways. There is also much discussion on the superiority of unrefined sugar over refined sugar; and the scale appears to tilt in favour of unrefined sugar. You may read the following articles in this regard and form your own opinion:
- The Truth About Sugar – By Fiona Phillips, Mirror
- The Bitter Story Behind Sugar – By Express Features, The New Indian Express
- Refined Sugar Destroys Health – Nutrition 2 Success
Adulteration and contamination of milk through greed and neglect continue to happen in the present world. Most of us are aware of the infamous milk adulteration episode in China (Wikipedia), which has now been effectively contained. New Zealand, too, was in the news for a while regarding contamination of milk powder (Wikipedia). The following articles tell us what is happening in South Asia and how the authorities are dealing with this problem.
- Laws to prevent food, milk adulteration to be made stringent – The Economic Times
- Adulterated milk is what Indians are drinking – Centre for Science and Environment
Milk can also get contaminated by harmful bacteria if stored improperly or stored beyond its expiry date.
There are numerous publication on the harmful effects of refined oils. An important argument that goes against refined edible oil is heating it, during the refining process, to 450 degree F (200 degree C) or above in order to increase its shelf life. Such intense heat is reported to affect the basic structure of the oil. If this is true it is very unfortunate. Read what some experts have to say about this and other related matters and form your own opinion:
- Healthy cooking oils: A not-so-simple quiz – The Best Natural Foods
- Dangers of highly refined cooking oils – Ca Care
- Refined vegetable oil – Healthy Eating Politics
Fruits & Vegetables
The following articles tell us about the prevalence of pesticides in fruits and vegetables.
- Are we eating fruits and vegetables or pesticides? – MapsofIndia
- Plates loaded with pesticides – Times of India
- Removing Pesticides from Fruits and Vegetables – Centre for Science and Environment
- The Debate over Organic vs. Chemical Fertilizers – Today’s Homeowner
Chicken is the cheapest animal protein available in the present times, thanks to modern technology and market competition. There is intense pressure among companies to provide chicken at extremely competitive rates. Which means, they have to ensure maximum output at minimum time and cost. Making the chicken grow at rocket speed is part of the game. Unfortunately the ‘End justifies the means’ maxim appear to affect the quality of chicken we get in some parts of the world. Here are a few researched articles on this subject:
- How drugs pumped into supermarket chickens pose a terrifying threat to our health – Mail Online
Indian poultry farmers continue use of growth promoters, despite official ban – By Raghavendra Verma, GlobalMeat news.com.
What can you do?
The articles listed above shed some light on how safe some of the food products we buy from the market are. I encourage you to read these and other sources and form your own opinion. While the alarming situations mentioned in these articles are not universal, it is a fact that the overall quality of these items has changed through the decades.
Whereas it is next to impossible to abstain from essential food commodities, we can do our part to safeguard ourselves, particularly the younger generation, by making wise choices, to the extent possible. Read below to see what you can do if you feel convinced that some of the food products that we buy from the market may not be perfectly safe.
Salt: Consume un’refined’ salt if it is legal to use in the country where you are.
Sugar: Use less of white sugar and start using un’refined’ sugar from sugarcane (called Gur in India) or palm tree sap (called Jaggery, Palm Gur or Karuppukkatti in India). The overall consumption of added sugar in any form should be minimized.
Milk: Purchase milk only from trusted brands and trusted outlets. If you can get fresh milk from known sources, go for it, but as the saying goes, ‘trust but verify’ 🙂
Cooking oils: Give preference to un’refined’ oils as far as possible.
Fruits & Vegetables: Take extra effort to wash these items thoroughly before eating. Organic fruits and vegetables are worth the price you pay. If you have some backyard, learn to grow your own fruits and vegetables. Tropical countries are blessed with good sunlight and warmth throughout the year. Others, too, can make effective use of the sunny seasons.
Chicken: Give preference to farm chicken whenever possible. If you must purchase from markets, ensure that it is from a renowned company and that it is stored and handled hygienically.
Have you any questions?
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