What is it with processed food?
Think about this scenario that is only possible in countries like India where a street vendor sells fruits and vegetables cut in bite sized pieces like guava, pineapple, papaya in an uncovered trolley with some spices and salt next to them in a crowded market place. Well, apart from what you actually buy, you get a few other things like a friendly fly asking for its share of the fruit wrapped in a dusty, used newspaper. Would you ever eat that? Well, my answer is we all grew up eating that and none of us who spent their childhood days in India would have missed those little pleasures of life. But will I allow my three year old to eat that now? I would give it a second thought, but still I would go for it as it is much, much healthier and nutritious than the store bought packaged chips and juices that are more contaminated than what we get to see with the vendor. Guava and green mangoes are found abundantly during the respective seasons and we all ate them organic though unaware of that term back then.
As parents, we think it is healthier or 'cleaner' to buy a pack of chips for the children and it somehow became fashionable to not to go back to the street vendors again as the income levels of families have increased. This trend back home in India is worrying me the most since the MNC's are already taking a full advantage of this and in fact there are certain tv commercials which openly link rising income levels and switching to buy processed, refined oil as a matter of prestige.
Now, that we are here in a developed nation, we get to see how the big corporates have already taken a clean sweep at the market with highly processed food loaded with salt, sugar and fat labeled as 'healthy' and 'convenient' for the masses. Most people don't even give a second thought about buying and consuming these things and when we look back, we get to see how deeply the marketers have perpetrated through our lifestyle:
- We begin with feeding our infants with formula and a whole range of processed, ready to serve baby food
- Health drinks for children that are predominantly made of GMOs, especially corn.
- Snacks like biscuits, cookies, chocolates, jelly beans, lollipops that are considered 'okay' for children to eat though most parents are aware of the health risks
- Processed cereals coated with loads and loads of sugar are considered 'healthy'
- Ready to eat meals like '2 minutes' noodles
- Talk about fizzy drinks- a sumptuous meal with a Biriyani or an Arabic Qabsa can never end without a can of soda, again loaded with sugar. Most of the toddlers are also used to having it regularly
- Bottled fruit juices which are considered as healthier alternatives to carbonated drinks making it a regular in grocery shopping.
- Flavoured custards and puddings that often have carrageenan as one of the ingredients
- Processed, long life milk and low fat diary that makes you consume more chemicals than you can imagine
- Highly processed meat- the father of all processed dangers in a supermarket! Soaked in chemicals and fed with GMOs and processed with high fat and sugar, and finding a freezer compartment without this is almost a rarity in this part of the world.
I am sure the list is much more. I am stopping it here because I will reserve the rest for a later day. Is life too difficult without these? I don't think so. The majority of the people are unaware of the dangers of these foods and are often blinded by their claims that these things are healthy and a small minority think it won't really affect their health as the outcome is not immediate.
But the long term impact on health is inevitable and the long term doesn't really mean the time frame of 10 years or so, but it can be as short as just a month, in my personal experience. From eroding teeth enamels to a hyperactive behaviour in children and ulcers and gastric troubles in adults, the ill effects of consuming processed food are many. Life is not very difficult without these and not too easy with these, and let us try to look for easier, healthier alternatives that can have a good impact on our health.