The Hush Post|03:32pm| 3-min-read
Indian food habits generally stressed on wholesome foods, like cereals, pulses. Unlike the West, whole (cereals) and not processed ones were preferred. But with urbanisation, came the need for ready-to-eat foods like bread, jam, processed cheese, packed frozen food, canned stuff, bread spreads, etc.
What Indian households now have been doing is to try modernise their living and to introduce short-cuts to traditional Indian cooking. The Indian market is flooded with umpteen options of ready-to-use food and Indian women are grabbing it with both hands. The new ready substitutes are available in India, as in other countries. What the Indian consumer forgets is that in developed countries, highest standard of maintaining purity and preserving the nutrition naturally as far as possible is done.
Whereas back home, food manufacturing companies are making cheaper versions of Western products using chemicals, preservatives, additives to increase their shelf life as well as to enhance the taste.
Modern day mothers look for the choicest add-ons to make food interesting for their families. Breakfast foods like porridge, methi ka prantha, poha, sooji, besan chillas ,boiled eggs, bananas, almonds are soon getting omitted from the list. What has replaced them are chemically-processed and refined (reduced to flour form) foods like bread, jam, sauces, breadspreads, mayonnaise, maida-based products, and the list is endless. Let us first see what harm does packed ready-to-use food stuff do to you:
Sugar in all processed foods
Foods that have been chemically processed and made solely from refined ingredients and artificial substances, are what is generally known as processed food.
Most people argue that they are not using heaped sugar spoons in their tea or coffee, but they’re already getting it from processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Any number of so-to-say healthy beverages or processed foods you pick up from departmental stores, is not worth the money you spend on it.
Processed foods reward our brain with taste
Processed foods are so incredibly rewarding to our brains that they affect our thoughts and behaviour, making us eat more and more often, especially kids.
Food manufacturers spend massive amounts of resources on making their foods as “rewarding” as possible to the brain.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is added to processed foods. Though it is medically safe for consumption, out of five eatables on the breakfast table, if three of them contain MSG and you are consuming them almost daily, its a bad sign. Since, the nice taste and odour gets etched in the minds of children, they want more of it. MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, and glutamic acid is found naturally in tomatoes, grapes, cheese, mushrooms and other foods.
What do processed foods contain
Preservatives, colorants, flavour, texturants are all chemials in addition to the other additional chemicals not even listed on the label.
For example, manufacturers don’t have to disclose exactly what “artificial flavour” means and it is usually a combination of chemicals. It could mean that there are 10 or more additional chemicals that are blended in to give a specific flavor.
Carbohydrates from whole foods are much better than refined carbohydrates. So, a chapati with home-made butter is any day better than a slice of bread. Another issue with refined bread is that “simple” carbohydrates are quickly broken down in the digestive tract, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Do not be fooled by labels like “whole grains” that are often plastered on processed food packages, including breakfast cereals. These are usually whole grains that have been pulverised into very fine flour and are just as harmful as their refined counterparts.
Synthetic vitamins and minerals are also added to the foods to compensate for what was lost during processing. Synthetic nutrients are not a good replacement for nutrients found in whole foods.
No fibre in processed foods
Natural fibre in food can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates and help us feel more satisfied with fewer calories. The fibre that is found naturally in foods is often lost during processing, or intentionally removed.
So, real food is the key to good health, processed food is not.
Processed foods to avoid on the breakfast table
- Packed breakfast cereals like chocos, cornflakes, readymade masala oats, replacement makki ki roti, plain oats
- Bread (white or brown are equally bad), if necessary or in a hurry, team it up with healthy foods like eggs, butter, vegetables like red,yellow, green capsicum, hung curd; replacement chappati or parantha instead
- Any fruit juice from the market — eat raw fruit instead, banana is the best bet or any seasonal/ local fruit
- Packed yogurt which is sugar-sweetened and fat-free– prepare hung curd at home instead
- Processed gluten-free foods — use them only if you are allergic to gluten
- coffee or tea with biscuits
- maggi/ noodles, even if the companies claim they have added vegetables, oats, or wheat flour, it is all pulverised and refined through various processes
- Any left over cooked non-veg food because its nutrients are lost by the morning even if you refrigerate
- Frozen foods like potato wedges, nuggets, non-veg salamis, sausages, hams
- Doughnuts/ muffins/ cakes/ pancakes eaten best as snack or dessert , pancakes which are high on refined flour, if you make it with wheat flour at home, its OK
Healthy traditional Indian foods
- Stuffed paranthas are still a healthier option than any of the processed food, provided you don’t use too much refined oil, use butter instead
- Idli, uttapam, upma, dhokla
- chillas of moongi, home-made sprouted beans, besan, chawal ke atta.
- Sewaiyaan/ vermicilli— home ade-ones are a better option
- Porridge— sweet with milk or salty with peas, carrots, tomatoes
- chapati/ plain parantha with vegetable and curd
- sabudana khichdi
- Eggs– boiled/ scrambled/ omlette eggs use a small chappati instead of refined bread