Today most foods including fruits and vegetables are available through the year. Understanding how this works logistically makes one pause to rethink and ponder.
As a consumer, while one is delighted at the thought of not being deprived of their favourites, as a responsible consumer, however, one may have to exercise restraint.
Pesticide – Suicide
In the rapid pace of development we have inflicted serious damage to the natural resources and consequently to ourselves. Pesticides, once used to promote and protect crop yield are now being used indiscriminately, harming both environment and human life.
The indiscriminate use of fertilisers and plant protection chemicals has, no doubt, tripled or quadrupled our total food production, but has also created a number of health hazards and deteriorated the agro-eco system badly.
Frequent Flyer Foods
Foods now travel more than the people who eat them. Grocery stores and super markets shelves are loaded with preserved and processed foods. This situation has created the need to switch to locally grown foods and organic farming to cultivate valuable, healthy and safer crop.
Serving regionally grown foods is the more sustainable (sensible) approach. It ensures freshness, nutrition, fewer travel miles of food, and less handling or processing. At the same time, it supports local agriculture and economy and creates a healthy food system.
Word to the wise – terms such as ‘organic, locally – grown, natural’ are not synonymous. Consumers must be made aware of each of these terms so that they can make appropriate buying decisions based on safety, economic, personal and community needs.
Organic food is grown without pesticides and chemical inputs and it saves us from daily poisoning. Organic foods can be either fresh or processed, based on production methods.
Processed organic food usually contains only (or at least a specified percentage of) organic ingredients and no artificial food additives and is often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions, such as, no chemical ripening, no food irradiation.
Growing food organically doesn’t alter the nutritional content, and avoids the synthetic pesticidal and insecticidal residues. Besides the fact that these foods contain fewer chemical residues, they also retain phenolic compounds –chemicals that act as a plant’s natural defense and also happen to be good for our health. One must avoid genetically modified food.
Indian on my Plate
Eating a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, pulses and dals, meat, poultry and seafood products helps ensure that we meet food and dietary recommendations.
But you must also listen to your body and watch out for food intolerance like lactose, fructose, gluten (wheat, barley, rye), dairy, egg, soy and corn.
So, eat local, eat seasonal, eat diverse.
Be conscious of your ‘food miles’– the distance a food travels to reach your plate. Don’t get hooked on to exotic ingredients. Instead look for local substitutes and try to grow them around you. Look for organic produce. Try to grow something your kitchen needs like dhania (Coriander), tulsi (Basil), meetha neem (Curry Leaves), aloe vera, pudina (Mint) and nimbu (Lemon).
(The author is clinical nutritionist and Founder, www.theweightmonitor.com, Whole Foods India, and Founder President, Celiac Society of India)