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Eat what comes naturally

I can’t remember which famous man of letters said that there were three kinds of lies — lies; damn lies and statistics. The respected gentleman might well have added a fourth kind of fallacy to his list — many proverbs. Two that come readily to mind are “Clothes maketh a man” and “You are what you eat”.

If the first were true, we could all be James Bond, and the second, taken literally,… I shudder to think what I would be. Or anyone else for that matter. A sizeable part of humanity would be vegetables, cats would be rats and monkeys would be nuts — the mind boggles at the implications.

On a more serious note, though, there is certainly growing cause for concern, these days, about what to eat and what to avoid. So many things that ail the average person are diet-related that more and more people are thinking twice before they swallow. Even foods that are supposed to be good for us — vegetables of every hue and variety neatly and temptingly stacked in market stalls — we are told that either they don’t contain the level of good nutrients that they should, because the earth itself is impoverished, or that they contain alarming levels of harmful chemicals and toxic substances. Or both. So what do we eat'

Organic food. This is one genuinely viable choice. Grown on a small scale without using chemicals of any kind, either as fertiliser or pesticides, organic food is, and has for quite some time, been around and is more and more visible on shelves of shops and supermarkets all over the world. Other health foods, lactose-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free and sugar-free but rich in nutrients are also becoming increasingly available.

Health Shoppe at 2, Rowland Road and at City Centre, Salt Lake, has a lot of answers for the problems caused by stressed-out living and mass-produced food. They have a huge range of products to pamper you from head to toe, but on a visit there I concentrated on those that related to food and drink, and was quite impressed by the effort they have made to offer health food of every variety, importing from all over the world and from different parts of India. The shop is an “all-under-one-roof” concept, and a good shoppers’ stop in the city. There have been, and are, other outlets in the city with a similar philosophy, but not on the same scale and not as all-embracing.

Starting with the basics — staples, cereals and pulses, there is spaghetti, penne, spirale and other pasta, all made from organic wheat. There is wheat germ, brown rice, wheat bran, muesli and oat bran and among the Indian cereals there is muri, chira, ragi and ragi atta among others. There are also dals of every variety. There are non-masala noodles, cup noodles and instant noodles with flavours ranging from chicken satay to spicy shrimp.

If you are into snacking, you can have digestive biscuits topped up with a range of sugar-free diet fruit preserves and as a jam lover I think that these — varieties like blackberry, raspberry, blueberry and apricot to name only a few — are excellent. A savoury alternative is to top up your biscuit with Marmite, a truly healthy yeast extract that has caused the world to be divided into two kinds of people — those who hate it and those who love it. I belong to the latter. Spread it thinly on buttered bread, biscuits or toast and you might join the faithful.

Eat Natural is a brand of imported products — also snacking options. They have Fruit and Nut Bar, Almond and Apricot Bar, Macademia and Fruit Bar (macademia nuts are a full-of-goodness produce originating in Hawaii) and Date and Walnut Bar and this range is delicious. For savoury snacking, there is a range of mixtures (Chana Masala, Chatpata Beans etc.) where not a drop of oil is used, because they are all roasted.

Drinks wise, there is Noni juice, which comes from a fruit grown in volcanic terrain, the soil and its ash content providing minerals and nutrients long gone from the soil of other terrain. There is aloe vera juice and there are teas, herbal and green, of a wide variety of flavours. There is also soya milk to have with cereals, and of course it’s lactose free. For those with a sweet tooth, Health Shoppe offers Sweet William Original Dairy Free Chocolates and Sugar-free Golightly Chocolates. I tried some of the former brands and quite frankly I don’t see how you can make chocolate without milk. It was acceptable, but not enjoyable.

The USP of Health Shoppe, unique to this outlet, is what they offer in terms of what you don’t get in your food although you should, even if you eat and eat and eat.

This is their range of diet supplements and vitamins. It is a huge catalogue and caters to just about every need and condition, though it does not fall under the category of prescribed medication. The products are listed under heads like Eyes, Heart, Metabolism, Immunity, Hypertension, Overall Wellbeing, Nervous System, Menopause and Skin, and include, apart from chemical formulations, compounds such as Fish Oil Cholesterol Free, Ginger Root Whole Herb, Salmon Oil, Olive Leaf, Valerium Root, Green Tea Extract, Horse Chestnut Standardised, Cinnamon Capsules and Cod Liver Oil Softgels.

Another range, also unique to Health Shoppe, though has nothing to do with food, is homeopathic medicine for pets, branded HomeoPet, and produced by an Australian company. They say: “HomeoPet is the only natural medicine in the USA to achieve Federal Drug Authority registration and approval after years of clinical trials. They just work.” The clinical trials have shown effectiveness in 77 per cent cases. Food for thought, at least.

Coming back to the veracity of proverbs, if the person who coined “You are what you eat” simply meant “eat healthy, clean and pure and you will be that”, I guess he may have had a point. I might just buy that.

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