Over the last 2 decades, with increasing industrialization, we have seen the availability of all those foods in the marketplace that were prepared at home before. The food industry has grown leaps and bounds. Processed material, food intermediates, snack foods, ready to cook, ready to eat foods fast foods and food delivery companies & apps have emerged everywhere. Now we don't have to cook anything at home and all kinds of food are just a phone call or a click away. This is has improved convenience and reduced time & efforts. But over-dependance on ready foods with changing lifestyle has wreck havoc on our health. We see lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart diseases, arthritis, depression & anxiety almost in every house. All these disorders have a direct link to our food choices, and somehow we are not able to see this link.
Let’s see how the state of food (while eating) affects our health:
f we look at various stages of food, it starts from raw food, which grows in fields. This is then harvested and sold either in raw form or is used to produce processed food in factories. But the quality of same food varies distinctly as it passes through more stages. Let’s look at each stage.
Raw food: When a food crop is harvested, it’s raw form is the best form for human health. It has all the vital nutrients, vitamins, minerals and enzymes intact. When we were an agrarian society, we used to eat a good quantity of raw food, as it was grown in the fields. But slowly with urbanization & commercialization of food, raw food consumption has gone very low. Raw produce is stored and transported in cold chains and made available in distant areas after many days of its harvest, which leads to deterioration in its quality and depletion of nutrients. When it reaches us in raw form, still it has a good quantity of nutrients left. If we eat this food, it works as medicine and we can prevent or improve on most lifestyle diseases.
Cooked food: After buying raw food, we cook it, as over the years we have developed taste for soft food. During cooking, we heat & boil food adding oil & spices. Plenty of nutrition is lost during the cooking process. But since we cannot see it, we judge the quality by taste, color & presentation. This food is okay to satisfy our hunger and do not harm us. But also it does not work as medicine and only good for satiety and gratification.
Processed food: This is the food that we purchase ready and eat as it is. Most of the snack foods are in this category. Intermediaries for home cooking like oils, sugar, salt, dressings, pastes etc. are also in the processed category. Even natural food like milk and milk products are available to us in processed & packed form today.
The problem is, though these foods are tasty, not only there nutritious value is totally lost, they also impact our health adversely. Industrial processing changes its biochemistry so much that our body system does not recognize them as food, and consider them as a foreign entity, just like micro-organisms, pollutants, allergens etc. that enter the body. Body’s defense mechanism called the immune system becomes active and generates an immune response to get rid of processed food. That means these foods are not welcomed inside the body. The immune response over a long period of time leads to auto-immune disorders, wherein in the process of removing these foreign bodies, our body cells and tissues also get destroyed as collateral damage. Most of the modern-day diseases are the outcome of auto-immune disorders.
If we check our food intake, it is primarily processed & cooked food, much more than raw food. Though we cannot avoid eating processed food totally, we can surely minimize its intake. Lack of time is often cited as reasons to eat ready food. But to consume raw food like fruits, salads, green leaves, sprouts, nuts & seeds not much time and cooking skills are required. Cooked food can be prepared using minimally processed ingredients. If we consume 40% raw food, 40% cooked food with minimally processed ingredients, and less than 20% processed food, we will be able to prevent and reduce many modern-day diseases like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, fatty liver, disorders related to hormonal imbalance like Hypo/hyperthyroidism, PCOD etc.
Our taste buds may resist this change for a few days, as for a long time we have not enjoyed natural tastes and have been used to strong tastes, but after a few days of practice we can alter our taste perception and start enjoying natural tastes. With this little change, if the reward is much better health, then it is definitely worth doing. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!