By Arundhati Mitra
Find out why it is healthier to turn to natural food before it is too late
Sprouts probably contain the largest amount of nutrients per unit of any food known. Enzymes that initiate and control most chemical reactions in our body are activated in the sprouting process. This helps convert proteins into amino acids, starch into glucose and increases the value of vitamins. For example, vitamin B increases by 1,000 per cent and Vitamin C by 600 per cent in sprouted wheat. A study of Chinese pharmacopoeia reveals that the Chinese could lose weight, cure rheumatism, lower fever and tone the body through the regular consumption of sprouts. Sprouts were introduced to the West by Captain Cook. Despite many strenuous voyages spanning a decade, his crew was remarkably fit. Their secret-sprouted beans. It is best to eat sprouts fresh. However, the nourishment which develops as the sprouts grow is very stable and can be frozen or dried for future use. Sprouts can be mixed with other foods and dressings such as lemon juice and rock salt. This live food rejuvenates body cells and tissues and provides energy. It also retards the aging process. Sprouted potato and tomato seeds, however, should be avoided as they are poisonous. Alfalfa and moong-bean sprouts are, on the other hand, excellent soft food: they contain every known vitamin necessary for the human body in perfect balance. And yes, they don’t taste bad either.
A huge golden-brown roasted steak, dripping with butter. Surrounded by finger chips and garnished by a sprig of basil and creamy mayonnaise. The aroma of exotic herbs. Your taste buds tingle. You almost feel the steak melting in your mouth. Yummy, isn’t it? But wait! What about the cholesterol you are inviting into your system?
If you are health-conscious and have sufficient will-power, you may push away this delicious picture and go for something more banal, like a boiled salad. But is that really as healthy as it seems?The new mantra doing the rounds is that any-repeat, any-cooked food is avoidable. ‘In cooked food,’ says Jehangir Palkhivala, an Indian yoga therapist, ‘life forces are taken away from the food. Raw food can be consumed easily without exerting pressure on our organs.’
And this is only for starters.
Nutrition science is fast gaining the reputation of being a healing and preventive device. Dr Nand Kishore Sharma, a naturopath in New Delhi, India, feels that most diseases are caused by bad food habits. ‘Unnatural food, which includes any form of food not found in nature, generates toxins that gradually poison the body,’ he says. From his ‘Fireless Kitchen’, Dr Sharma gives patients regenerative or natural food for degenerative diseases. This, he claims, has cured many. ‘I have even seen people grow new teeth and hair at 60 and 70 years of age,’ he says.
Urvashi Rawal is a case in point. A homeopath from Mumbai, India, she suddenly lost her voice in 1988. Doctors could not help her beyond diagnosing that she had developed some nodes on her vocal chords. During this time she met Rishi Prabhakar, who introduced her to his Siddha Samadhi Yoga(SSY) and put her on a complete raw food diet. ‘I suffered from severe diarrhea for the first few days. In the process, natural food flushed out all the toxins from my body,’ Rawal (now Ma Urvashi) recalls. Within six months, she regained her voice. Today, she is a senior SSY instructor.
Raw food is usually defined as that which is not cooked, applied to fire or fragmented. Uday Chotai, a naturohygienist from Mumbai, adds: ‘According to naturopathy, there are two types of food—suncooked and uncooked. Fruits that ripen in the sun fall into the category of suncooked food. Uncooked or raw food have not ripened at all.’ But both types have high pranic value and meet every requirement of the body.
In their book Prakritik Vyanjan, Dr Nand Kishore and Savita Sharma affirm that nature is a most effective resource manager. During summer, we get juicy fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, muskmelon, mint and cucumber, which have a cooling effect. In winters, there are dry fruits and dates. The authors discourage having non-seasonal fruits and vegetables since they have low nutrition value. Moreover, the nutrients that the body gets . from seasonal fruits and vegetables are assimilated and kept in store for coming seasons. Any minor requirements can be compensated through available seasonal fruits and vegetables.
However, despite such a foolproof natural system, man tends to experiment with nature-often with adverse results. We eat peeled fruits and vegetables because they taste better and are easier to chew. But in doing so, we rid them of their vitamins, minerals and fiber. Chewing has its own advantages: the more we chew, the better does the food mix with digestive juices in our mouth. This reduces strain on the stomach.
Dr Victor G. Rocine, a Norwegian homeopath, advises eating food ‘the way God manufactured it’. According to him, we must preserve the organic chemical salts in food because once we remove them, we are likely to alter other chemicals as well. Dr Rocine also discourages adding artificial ingredients to food, especially if their natural forms are available. He cites the example of common salt. Table salt, according to him, is an inorganic substance and hence not of much value for us organic beings. Dr Rocine suggests taking sodium from organic substances such as spinach, strawberries and carrots. Foods rich in sodium are often rich in chlorine and oxygen also.
Dr Sharma agrees: ‘Man needs perhaps one per cent salt. This he can easily get from fruits and vegetables.’ Going a step further, A.P. Dewan, in his book Food for Health, says too much salt increases the body’s alkalinity. This can result in cancer. The notion that cooking destroys food has many supporters. ‘Natural foods,’ points out Ma Urvashi, ‘contain sun energy in the cellulose. This is destroyed when exposed to high temperatures while cooking.’ When ingested, the cooked food is first broken down to its natural form and then digested. ‘We can save our body a lot of energy if we take natural food in the first instance,’ she argues.
Dr S.N. Pandey, a Delhi-based naturopath, feels that the mysteries of nature cannot be duplicated artificially. ‘Nature’s products exist in holistic forms. Their effects are also holistic,’ he says. ‘This is destroyed while cooking. Citric acid, for example, can never do for the human body what lime can.’ One important substance that is destroyed by any form of heating are enzymes. They work as catalysts during all chemical changes in the body, especially during digestion. They die at temperatures, above 55ºC. After that no food can be absorbed by the body. Enzymes become inactive even at low temperatures, but can be revived. Though our body produces enzymes, the best source is fresh food, rich in natural enzymes. All raw food advocates underscore the necessity of properly washing fruits and vegetables. This is because of the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. ‘Have you ever seen cows and goats washing their greens before eating?’ asks Dr Sharma. ‘Organic soil has a lot of nutrients. Though humans can’t consume it directly, a little amount is harmless. But chemicals contaminate everything.’
Thankfully, organic fertilisers and pesticides will soon come into the market. In fact, Ma Urvashi cites the case of Dr C.K. Patel, former professor of Vallabh Vidya Nagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, who is already exporting neem pesticides prepared by him. Another point that qualifies raw food is freshness. Says Dr Swati Sawant, naturopath: ‘Raw juices clean our system. But if we allow them to rest a long time, they get oxidised and are of no use.’ There is an interesting theory behind this. During his studies, Dr Rocine observed that the moment a fruit is plucked from a tree, its life principle begins to go back to the atmosphere, leaving the fruit nutritionally dead. This is especially true of chlorophyll, an important component in the production of red blood cells. As these components spoil quickly, the food is preserved by removing them-in the process eliminating the most nutritive parts.Nutritionists are also questioning many age-old beliefs. Take milk. Considered by many a complete food, it is increasingly being labelled unhealthy-even in its raw form. ‘Do you know of any animal other than man that consumes milk of another species?’ asks Dr Sharma. ‘The milk of cows or buffaloes is suited for their calves, not us.’
A lot of non-vegetarian food is also eaten raw. The Japanese, for one, eat raw seafood. In fact, sushi, a Japanese raw fish preparation, is a gourmet’s delight. Adds Parvinder Multani, executive chef of Oberoi Maidens: ‘Appetisers like caviar, stallion salamis and oysters are considered delicacies. These are all eaten raw.’ He points out that the French make steak tartare with minced beef or horse meat, served raw with egg yolks and seasonings. In Africa, many beef dishes are eaten raw.
In the ultimate analysis, however, it is unrealistic and undesirable to hastily do away with certain habits, no matter what the advantages. Pointing out various psychological factors, most natural food champions state that the food we eat should suit our mental and emotional temperament. Otherwise its physiological benefits will be nullified. As Kavita Mukhi of Nature Options says: ‘We should eat a balanced diet by combining natural and cooked food.’ So if you don’t like raw food or can’t get adjusted to it, take your time to develop the palate. There’s really no hurry. After all, we all know what happened to the proverbial hare.
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