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Processed foods: A bane on health

Rice is the staple food for Asians, 70% quantity of our daily food is rice, which is the main source of energy. We consume highly polished – small -sparkling – silky-glossy white rice which contains only carbohydrates. The bran containing all the other nutrients goes to cattle feed.

How we use the product is as important as how we grow or how much we grow.

Polished rice gets digested faster, converts into glucose and enters our blood stream. Presently, it is the main cause for the diabetes. Similarly in wheat too. Whole wheat grain is consumed less and its by-product Maida is used for its softness, white colour and its ease to make variety of dishes.

Brownish sea salt and Himalayan pink salt have been replaced by refined white salt, jaggery is replaced by refined white sugar crystals and pasteurized dairy milk has reached even our villages. All these five white products (white rice-milk- salt- maida and sugar) are the main part of our daily diet. We have compromised with nutrition just for the sake of whiteness of the product.

When an improved variety of paddy is milled into high polished rice, we get 55 kgs of rice per quintal of paddy. On the other hand, we get up to 82 kgs of rice in the case of an unpolished rice with traditional paddy variety. The difference is very clear. Just one factor like less processing will result in more nutrition, and that too for a lesser price. How we use the product is as important as how we grow or how much we grow. High end processing will involve addition of chemicals thereby polluting the food, while increasing the cost of the food which is passed on to the consumers.

Realising these dangers there is now a slow shift towards traditional food, with traditional methods of preparation. Soaking, sprouting or fermenting of cereals, pulses is the oldest known form of food biotechnology. They cause nutritional improvements and increased availability of nutrients for absorption. In the past, most of the people ate fermented rice. Left over cooked rice was soaked in water and kept over night in a clay vessel closed with a lid.

Next day morning the fermented rice mixed with butter milk, onions and pinch of salt was eaten first thing in the morning. This highly nutritious vitamin B rich fermented food quenches the acidity of the body. It supplies lots of nutrients, restores healthy intestinal flora and relieves all diseases related to stomach and intestines.

We have forgotten that food acts as a medicine. Hulled barley was used to cure kidney problems and as a body coolant. South Indian recipes like idly, vada, dosa are all fermented to cause changes in food quality indices including texture, flavor, appearance, nutrition and safety. We are under the impression that our elders were consuming leftovers to avoid food wastage. We all throw such a highly nutritious food in dustbins or serve it to beggars, labors and animals.

It is interesting to note that people living in metros have started growing plants and vegetables in terraces, balconies and on vacant sites. Today, millets have arrived on the rich man’s plate and it’s a good sign.

B N Nandish
Churchigundi, Shikaripura taluk, Shimoga district -577 214, Karnataka
Email: legumelogic@gmail.com