The world is changing faster than ever. The world has become so fast paced that we all are caught up in the desire to fulfill our ambitious goals. But with this fast paced lifestyle arise many problems that have direct or indirect effect on our health. With advancing technology, door to door food service in 30 minutes and no time to plan meals in midst of busy schedules and workload of office, people have developed unhealthy food habits. This has given rise to a culture which focuses on consuming food for satisfying our hunger and not to satisfy the nutrient requirements of our bodies. We are consuming food in accordance to our comfort and speed and not in accordance to our pleasure and health.
It has become a common practice in our community to open a packet of cookies for snacks or a chocolate bar for breakfast or instant noodles for our lunch. This practice is on the rise because these foods are comfortable to make and also because of behavioral neglect towards our diet. The consumers are also being targeted and spoilt by food companies. Have you ever wondered why people especially the youth are attracted to these soda drinks and all other industry made snacks? We all know that fruits and nuts are healthy for us while chips and candies are called ‘junk foods’ for a reason but staying away from junk food is easier said than done. Why is it so difficult to resist buying a can of cola?
This is because industries manipulate our mind by using their products. We are constantly being targeted by industries who want to make us get addicted to their products. Companies are competing with each other to form more and more habit forming products. This is a race for them. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail and start working on their next product, but what remains constant is that the consumers are the ones to lose. Consumers lose not only their money on a product which is not needed but also lose their health.
Food corporations hire scientists to develop the most irresistible habit forming foods. These scientists research on human brain’s response to certain flavors and substances that have the capability to trigger certain centers of our brain that either give us a sense of mild euphoria or pleasure while consuming their products. Currently sugar and caffeine is their main arena of research. Well, this explains the reason why Coca Cola Company and Pepsico have combined revenue of more than 100 billion US Dollars per year. Thus, while fighting against unhealthy food choices we are not fighting against our desire to eat these foods, we are actually fighting against these industries who have addicted our mind to their food.
In these times, the supermarket stores are flooded with convenient ready to eat processed food that appeal to our taste buds but slowly and steadily deteriorate our health. And not only this even the fresh food we buy are not as nutritious as they used to be two decades ago. The Green revolution and industrialization have over used our natural resources. The nutrients in the soil are constantly declining and the use of chemical fertilizers has been constantly increasing. Excessive chemicals when used during farming end up accumulating in the growing crops which can cause severe allergies and even produce toxic effects on vital organs of our body. Since we are constantly surrounded by processed non-nutritious food it becomes even more important to make the best available choice while having a meal.
Most of the food that is considered unhealthy is actually derived from naturally occurring healthy items. Fruits are full of antioxidants and are considered super foods, but when they are fermented and distillated beyond their natural limit they turn into hazardous alcohol. So the main culprit is the industrialization and processing involved in it.
For centuries, inhabitants of Andes Mountains (South America) have consumed coca leaves either by adding in their tea or chewing on them since a long time now. It prevents mountain sickness and anemia. These people consume coca throughout their lives without any addiction or hallucinating effects that powdered cocaine provides. This is because industries exploited the natural product and concentrated it into its most toxic form to sell to their consumers. Due to its adverse and even life threating effects on humans, it is banned in most of the countries.
Have you ever looked at the ingredients on a bar of chocolate? The original dark chocolate is really beneficial for our health; it gives us glowing skin and even improves our blood circulatory system. But when industries took over this field, they mixed it with lots of sugar and butter to enhance its taste. And as a result we got bars with less benefits and more unhealthy fats.
Our food habits play a vital role in our heath. Diseases like diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular problems are very common these days and affecting majority of people around us irrespective of these patients having a family history of such conditions. Cardiovascular diseases are the main cause of mortality in India under the category of non-communicable diseases. Same is the case with diabetes. India is the second most affected country with diabetes. It has around 77 million diabetes patients, i.e. one out of every six people in the world who are suffering from diabetes is an Indian. Indians spend 1.5 lakh crores rupees annually on diabetes related treatment alone and this expenditure is rising by 30% per year. Now the irony of this situation is that this money is being spent on aftercare of disease and not contributing towards a healthy lifestyle. Even after spending lakhs in a hospital we again get back to our non-healthy food habits which were actually responsible for our hospital bills. Thus, we are spending our money while reacting to the disease after it has caused damage and not investing in preventing it.
Apart from influencing our physical health, eating right affects our mental health too. Optimizing nutrition is a viable way to avoid and lessen mental disorders. It had be proved that hypertension and ADHD patients show lesser symptoms and better recovery when they are supplemented with right amount of vitamins and nutrients.
The food cravings we get on seeing a packet of potato chips or a bar of chocolate is caused by our mood and conversely the food we consume is causing our mood. If we are constantly choosing low quality foods with no vitamins and minerals and high levels of unhealthy fats and sugars and chemical flavoring agents, our body starts craving for more bad food and we feel hungry all the time. These cravings can be controlled by replacing low quality food with fresh yet tasty alternatives like dark chocolate or nuts. These foods boost our mood in addition to controlling untimely hungers. Healthy fats from nuts and seeds increase the production of ‘feel good’ hormones in our body while unhealthy fats make us irritated and stressed.
To sum up, the simple question we need to ask ourselves is that why do we need an influencer like Cristiano Ronaldo to remind us to stay away from these sugary carbonated drinks? Why can`t we make simple yet better choices while purchasing our grocery? Eating healthy doesn`t mean eating boiled vegetables and salads. Healthy food can be as tasty as any of the fast food available in the market. Surely fruit juices or buttermilk or milkshakes are better alternative than a can of carbonated soda to beat the heat. They not only cool us down from inside but also provide us with nutrients and minerals. Instead of ordering deep fried food we can opt for steamed homemade dhokla and idlis. It is all about making the best possible choice and opting for the healthiest option while being surrounded by a flood of unhealthy snacks. Introducing small replacements in our daily diet can leave a big impact on our health.
Food is not the cure or replacement for the medicines that a doctor prescribes, but is a huge component of well-being. If we need to build a healthy community, a community where chronic disease is uncommon, type II diabetes is a rarity, heart disease affects the minority of people then we need to reform our food culture and food environment. It is crucial to generate a food focused approach to health in our communities. We need to focus on our eating habits to build a healthy community. The opportunity of having the biggest impact on our health is actually in our hands, it depends on how we feed ourselves!
-Priyanshi Mishra (Freelancer)
Picture Credits: abbott.in