Industrial ingredients in our food which we should use minimally and with caution…too much refined salt, refined sugar and refined oils. All are indicted in the chronic diseases we suffer from today, for example diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

By Tara Narayan

SUDDENLY, I realized that there’s just too much salt in the food I buy home from outside eateries! It’s like I’m eating salt instead of food to be healthy and happy. These sultry steamy pre-monsoon days I fall for the temptation of buying food from one of my favorite eateries around about town Panaji…and I have just too many complaints with both quality and plastic packaging of takeaway food. Mind you, I’m buying a puri-bhaji or a dahivada or a paneer paratha or mashed potato toasted sandwich from some of the best iconic eateries in town Panaji!
Still I find there’s never any standardization of food. One time a pizza from a fancy new pizzeria will be generously loaded with feta cheese, whole arugula lettuce – the next time around, same order, will have these stingy droplets of feta cheese and itsy bitsy torn pieces of torn arugula dotting the pizza, plus a perplexing service charge of Rs25! For what, I’m picking up the pizza myself. At home the hubby who is constantly told to put more protein in his vegetarian eating, eats a piece of pizza and is done.
(Sigh) I put away the pizza remains in the fridge and eat cold pizza for breakfast the next morning only to find how much more saltier it is cold! Again, ginger biscuits I buy at Rs45 per piece, are sometimes yummilicious crisp, fresh, and sometimes several days old and crumbling away easily. Why? I stop buying them.
My favorite breakfast of idli or meduvada or ghee masala dosa at my favourite Bangalore Café – which offers southern Udipi fare from 7.30 am onwards down town Panaji…has become a tad too salty and spicy lately, change of cook maybe; now I just drop by to savor the perfect filter coffee (little mercies). I buy back some pongal one morning, damn it, too salty.
Too much salt? Spicy and salty and over flavorful – that is most food I buy from out. It’s like neither eatery owners nor chefs give a damn if their customers eat more and more salt, sugar, oil — all indicted over and over again as what contributes to inflammation in body beautiful (the root cause of most everything ailing us). The more inflammation and acidity, the more we suffer sooner or later.
Like it or not and no matter how badly your palate has been spoilt by common industrial food ingredients, what you put in your mouth matters – they (who sell food) don’t know or pretend they don’t know and most of either don’t knows either or if we know we are not able to break the cycle of vicious and vulnerable consumerism at individual and collective level.
As a people we are making life unhealthier to live – be it buying food home or ordering it over phone via the plethora of food delivery services within the vicinity, and they say no charges but they do charge.
See, at home I’m sure most of us aware home cooks are conscious of minimal usage of salt, sugar, oil – but in our constant eating out we put up with it for what? I’m asking myself the question! Convenience sake. Dahivada are something I like to buy home and then I think the dahi is too sweetened and salted with chaat masala and next time I say just pack me the plain vada, minus dahi, and I get four medium-size vada (deep fried, soaked in water, before water is squeezed out and vada dropped in over-seasoned dahi), Rs80, minus seasoned dahi. I tell myself the plain vada are better, I will do my own dahi touches at home with my home-made dahi and a bit of tamarind sauce and chaat masala…plain vada may also be put in hot rasam and savored.
Then one morning I tasted a leftover plain vada from the fridge and found it so oversalty! Never mind questioning my acts of stupidity and accentricity…why I do what I do to opt out of more domestic work at home! But the story is salt, salty – all around.
When cooking at home I use wee bits of natural salt or Himalayan pink salt (we learn refined processed salts have arsenic in them and screw up the adrenal system as also turn the vascular system into concrete with atherosclerosis, my problem, salt and refined oils are indicted, rubbish LDL fats in eating habits). Refined sugar too we know is everywhere and it is carcinogenic. Ditto for refined oils.
Yet, the hunt for health-friendly food and better eating habits continues with the educated health-conscious, it’s a real challenge in my humdrum life when energy levels are low and I don’t feel like cooking beyond the minimal and go out buying food from here and there. It’s a headache to be educated about what one should put in one’s mouth and what one should not if one wants to stay alive a little longer!
LIKE I don’t know how some dear friends of mine have just dropped dead overnight in their 60s in recent months…here today, gone tomorrow. Eating habits and too much stressful living has something to do with it. Life in general for working class aam aadmi has become horrible and we know it’s not just something to do with food, lifestyle and attitude, that too but something else…I can’t put my finger on it but it’s bugging me.
COMING to my other complaint of the times! How come I get cheated so often nowadays while I do my shopping for daily needs? Everything is priced at the last Rs9 as in Rs99, Rs199, Rs299 and so on and invariably the cashier at the shop or mall will not have a Rs1 coin to return to me in small change. She will say, next time, and next time never comes. Like if it happens five times in a day, I’m losing Rs5 per day.
At first I used to insist on my small change of Rs1 return, now I’m just so fed up, I don’t. It’s like if I’m in a hurry or something is on my mind and I’m chatting with someone, the cashier will see if I’ve noticed that my return change is Rs100 short or not…if I say, hey, you haven’t given my correct change, the balance Rs100 note appears. Sometimes a shopkeeper will pretend he’s got Rs100 and not Rs500…until I have to correct him and he obliges quietly. This cheating business is happening too frequently, Rs10 less, Rs100 less or more.
Funny or not funny. Check your change. Even at 5-star hotel restaurants I find if one is dealing with cash payments, one may be shortchanged with less Rs20 or Rs50 or les Rs100 and you won’t even know until you get home and check your bill. Is it deliberate? I’m inclined to think nowadays that it is deliberate and especially if some smart cashier thinks you’re a senior citizen who’s half-cracked up and easier to con, so con! Cheating is eliminated if one uses a credit card of course.
Point is should one make a fuss about Rs1 not returned or Rs100 not returned and even if one realizes it is because of one’s own fault in not being alert on the spot and able to do a bit of simple arithmetic in mind? How easy has it become to con consumers in our difficult, vulnerable, insecure times nowadays?
Or do we take cheating for granted and keep quiet or accept it quietly shrugging shoulders…if it’s molehill instead of a mountain of an issue? Hell’s bells, in past younger experiences I have known folk call me back to collect change I forgot to collect!
SO this is the world we’re living in now. Difficult to be happy and even more so, healthy. You have to me more educated and rich to reap happiness and health and for most of us it is an uphill, frustrating job…for where is truth, freedom, health? Without these three vital ingredients of life and living how can we be either happy or health, both are intimately interrelated, no?
That brings me to some food for thought. We are a sick society falling apart in mind and body, heart and soul, and we are responsible for it because we’re robbing one another of happy and healthy reasons to live…we tell lies so glibly, petty cheating has become so endemic, we forge signatures to knock of a nominee or owner’s name to help ourselves to property and bank accounts of dead (also alive) relatives if we are in a position to do so, etcetera, etcetera. Think of all the horror stories you have heard from your friends.
Once upon a time I remember we started out with natural trust and now we start out with distrust until proved otherwise; we talk love all the time to death but rarely walk it, preferring to hate…invite enmity in our life and living instead of friendship. All this doesn’t add up to unhappiness and ill-health?
Under the circumstances you tell me how may we reap health and happiness? If we are unhappy, it follows that we will be unhealthy — I see it all around me, how reluctant we are facing up to the truth when it comes to one’s own lies, deceits, one-upmanship, justifications, excuses, etc. So how may we feel happy to feel the lightness of being free of the burden of guilt? To feel and think free we need to do a reality check of our premises and values…my values may be higher or lower than yours and that is why we don’t judge one another by one’s own values but through the eyes of the other person’s life story.
By and large if we do the right thing at the right time, preferring truth to lies, we are free in mind, body, heart and soul and health comes so much more naturally with a smile on the lips! Well, all this by way of food for thought this week, don’t just think about it and sit on the fence all the time, make up your mind even if it is not convenient to do so.



SOMETIME ago I was writing here about the summer’s sweltering heat and how the expensive aerated cold drinks market is making a killing…apart from the much advertised big brands, we forget we have our own traditional jeera paani and I much prefer these. Apart from all the half-a-dozen brands I mentioned here I forgot to mention that Goa’s very own Western Beverages puts out their Taan Jeera Masala Soda in 160 ml pet bottles and I find it very palatable (not the pet bottles, just the jeera masala soda; the small print ingredients copy actually lists black salt and sugar content at 8g per 100ml), by far the least sugary jeera paani I’ve found and very palatable.
Another brand is Trik Jeera. Jeera paani quenches thirst like the costlier cold aerated drinks of high promotion and value cannot – it’s sad to see parents ply their children with these cold aerated drinks everywhere! Sure, screw up their kidneys from birth itself if you wish. Taan Jeera Masala Soda is Rs10. If you like jeera masala soda, check it out; at Café Real down town they have been serving freshly made jeera paani for years now. Don’t forget hot is oftentimes more cooling than cold when it comes to what you put in your mouth.
ALL this reminds me that health consciousness is spreading and enlightened high-end places are opening up down town Panaji itself. Most folk dropping in at Starbucks at Magsons Towers should also drop next door at in at KaiZen adjoining it…the place oozes peace and its menu offers such things as Rs100 Shot of Immunity(Turmeric+Honey+Lime+Ginger) and “Blissful” is a chamomile tea, “buoyant” a jasmine tea” and Calm” a spearmint tea. They offer sourdough bread sandwiches, Lebanese dips and crackers, there’s a juice bar…KaiZen has a gym attached if you want to do weights first before you quench life’s thirsts away! They offer almond, peanut, cashew butters as buy aways…whoever said health is easy to buy? Not me.

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