Junk at home

Article submission, Tuesday 1st April 2008
processed food

We all eat burgers, fries, pakodas (stuffed and fried lentil dish) and pav-bhaji (white bread with over-cooked, mashed and fried vegetables), even if it’s with a tinge of guilt. What we really look forward to is that home-cooked meal of steaming rotes, sabji and dal chawal because we know that home food is good food.

Or is it? We’ve got to admit that we aren’t eating like our ancestors did straight from the field and cooking our produce just a little, if at all. And to add to our woes, we pressure-cook, microwave, deep-fry, re-heat and re-fry, all which can ruin our food. Today, it’s the taste that matters, nutritive values can go jump. Well, that’s all very fine until the health problems start. “It can take as early as six months for the effects of a nutritive deficient diet to show.

Most vitamins are unstable. Many of the nutrients in vegetables are so unstable that they start to deteriorate immediately after the vegetables are picked. Vitamin C and some of the B vitamins are destroyed by exposure to light, air and heat. They are also liable to dissolve in water. Using vegetables that are already a few days old, peeling, chopping and leaving them exposed to the air or soaking in water is like sounding the death knell for vitamins. If any nutrients do survive, over-cooking or throwing away the cooking water will finish them off. And if you add baking soda to keep your veggies green, this ensures that vitamins like B1, B2 and B5 make an even quicker run.

flame broiled

The bad news is that it’s not only the B and C, which go down the drain; it’s also others such as A, E and beta-carotene (an oxidant).“High temperatures produced during deep-frying can destroy fat-soluble vitamins like A. Vitamin E is even more heat-sensitive than A and also suffers in the deep freeze. Its loss is worrying because it is present in minuscule quantities in our food anyway.

Minerals can get washed away too. Minerals are not indestructible either although they do stand up to heat. Water is their worst enemy as they dissolve easily. If you throw away the water before or after cooking and wash grains and pulses too well - you lose them. “Rice and pulses should be washed just once unless you think they contain insecticide and soaking the rice before cooking means that making it a total carbs without any nutrition.

Protein is tougher to destroy. Protein has a life as well, though admittedly it takes a lot of over-cooking to destroy its nutritional value. The hard lacy edges of a fried egg don’t get you anything. While the right amount of cooking makes protein easier to digest, over-cooking does just the opposite. Protein can become indigestible with overcooking and can cause bloating. Fats are sensitive to heat too, some fatty acids, sometimes referred to as vitamin F, are also damaged by cooking, and exposure to light and air. What’s worse is that when oils are heated to very high temperatures as during frying, the fatty acids can convert to carcinogenic substances. Oil should not reach smoking point as it produces compounds which are dangerous to health.

To much of barbequed food does have similar effect due to burning of oil and smokiness can cause cancers. Sometimes one can smell the rancidity that has been produced in the stale oil. If you simply must re-use oil, make sure that you don’t heat it unnecessarily. After the first use, cool it immediately and strain through a fine mesh and store in the refrigerator. Don’t use repeatedly as subjecting it to prolonged heat in this way causes it to spoil.

Make it the natural way if home food is to score above fast food; it’s important that we don’t cook the way hotels do. By re-heating, re-frying, storing, and freezing. At least not all the time. Once in a while its ok for parties If you do eat like this and your body seems to be taking it - it’s probably because you are young and healthy. Young healthy individuals with a high metabolism rate take longer to show the ill-effects of a nutrient deficient diet it only affects when you turn 30ish and metabolism starts to slow. However, finally everyone has to pay the price of a bad diet. People may not even relate the problems they are suffering from to their diet. It’s the little things like skin problems, lowered immunity or simply fatigue. But then this is only the beginning, poor nutrition makes one susceptible to many diseases ranging from heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Above information is given in good faith however for any diseased condition please consult physician or dietitian before starting it. Your questions and suggestions are welcome at: rena.bill.shukla@gmail.com

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