By Mamta Tripathi
Organic food is no longer looked upon as a passing fad or an expensive indulgence. Read on to know why it makes for sensible eating
Ten years ago, I started paying lip service to organic food, even though I secretly thought that it was just a fad of the western world. How could I ask the money-conscious Indian to spend more on organic food? And how would I know that it was truly organic? However, a chance meeting with the obesity psychiatrist of the John Hopkins Medical Centre really shook me up.
She merely pointed to the humongous size of most Americans and the alarming rise in the last few decades of psychological disorders, early puberty, all kinds of cancers, hyperactivity, and attention disorder in children. Research pointed out that this was due to chemicals, colours, pesticides, and additives in the food. The growth hormones, pumped into food to increase its shelf life and even make it look larger, had a profound effect on America’s waist size and health.
Unfortunately, globalisation and the introduction of junk food in India are now creating similar problems. Childhood obesity is on the rise – we are the world’s diabetes capital, menstrual irregularities like polycystic ovarian disorder and endometriosis are common, and every second person seems to have blood pressure, cholesterol, and/or joint problems.
We indirectly consume steroids and hormones injected into animals to make them plumper and produce more milk or eggs. The amount of pesticides, artificial fertilisers, and chemical additives that go into our produce is startling. By continuing to buy this pesticideladen food we are unintentionally encouraging the practice.
Pesticides are fundamentally designed to kill insects, fungi, weeds, and small animals or to prolong the storage life of food and keep it free of pests. However, these pesticides are toxic and poisonous for our bodies. And they are present everywhere – in the air, soil, and water we drink.
Effects of pesticides
The health effects of pesticides depend on the type. Some, like the organophosphates and carbonates, affect the nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may also be carcinogens. Others may affect the hormone or endocrine system in the body.
Infants and children may be especially sensitive to health risks posed by pesticides for several reasons:
• Most of them today eat and drink large quantities of pesti- cide-treated produce like processed foods, snacks, sweets, chocolates, colas, and biscuits.
• Their internal organs are still developing and maturing.
• In relation to their body weight, infants and children eat and drink more than adults, possibly increasing their exposure to pesticides in food and water.
• Pesticides may harm a developing child by blocking the absorption of important food nutrients necessary for normal healthy growth.
The job of the liver is to remove toxins. About 50 years ago, the liver had only to remove toxins known as free radicals, which were just a byproduct of breathing. Today, the liver is overworked, because now free radicals come not only from the process of breathing, but also from our food. So every system in our body is at risk, from our nervous system to our immune system. And when a child’s organs are not fully developed, can you imagine what happens when we put in more free radicals than are eliminated?
In addition, there are critical periods in human development, when exposure to toxins can permanently alter the way an individual’s biological system operates.
It is also worth noting that farm workers suffer more than their share of bad pesticide effects; and birds, beneficial insects, and other wild creatures are impacted as well. Pesticide exposure can occur through means other than food intake, but research shows that reducing pesticide intake via food has an immediate observable effect on body levels of pesticides. So, the next time you go shopping, pick organic when you can, and when you cannot, try to avoid foods with high pesticide residues and substitute those with low pesticide residues.
The term organic is applied to all food grown naturally, without the use of synthetic chemicals during any stage of its growing, harvesting and preparation. Animals reared for meat and dairy produce are covered by the same rules as fruit and vegetables – all must be grown as nature intended.
Everything that is certified organic is regularly inspected and the chain of supply is carefully checked at every stage from the farm, through harvesting, transport, storage, processing and retailing.
Four basic principles of organic agriculture
An organic diet is not just about nutrition, it is the art of eating. It reflects your attitude to life and to the world, because good food sustains life and bad food kills. For healthy growth, we need pure food. Organic food is safe, pure, more nutritious, environmentfriendly, protects against diseases, and maintains peace of mind. A pure diet fosters purity of mind, body and soul. Every religious text advocates that to keep the body in good health is a duty, for otherwise we will not be able to trim the lamp of wisdom and keep our mind strong and clear.
Organic food is readily available today at all health shops and supermarkets.
Sobo Central, Haji Ali Ph: 32214501 /02 /03
Off Andheri Link Road, Andheri(W), Ph: 99204 18027
Bake Haven –
Malabar Hill, Mount Pleasant Road, Ph: 5664 3798 / 2367 1527
Doctor Hub, Pedder Road, Ph: 2352 4122
Carmichael Road, Ph: 2352 6291
Ring Road, Industree Crafts Pvt. Ltd., Ph: 6547 2292
Bidadi Ph: 98454 71271 / 984547 1272
Doopanahalli Road, Indiranagar Ph: 2515 2909 /2910
Kusal Arcade, 80 Feet Road Ph: 5110 3777 /51103778
Mother Earth, Connaught Place, Ph: 2336 8397
Hauz Khas Ph: 2653 5422 / 2653 2561
Mother Earth South City Mall Ph: 983101 2584 /4007 2171
Rajpur Road Ph: 274 3175
Navdanya – Biodiversity Farm/Bija Vidyapeeth
Village Ramgarh / Shishambara Ph: 269 3025 / 211 1015
24-Lettered Mantra – Banjara Hills, Hyderabad Fruit & Vegetable Shops Banjara Hills Ph: 2330 0303 / 2330 3404
Ph: Mitul – 982401 9888
Higher Than Hope
Next to the Ashram
So the next time you dismiss organic products as being expensive think again. And you will agree that in the long run it makes sound sense and will prove to be a decision that you will never regret.
Naini Setalvad is a nutritionist specialising in lifestyle and immunity disorders. Her foundation, Health For You, throws light on healthy food habits.
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