The Telegraph
Saturday , March 16 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eat more and cheap or eat less but better? It’s funny how things just happen, but I recently made a post on Facebook about the scandal that’s happening in Europe at the moment 末 some frozen beef products, it has been found, partly contain horse meat and pork and, in some cases, 100 per cent horse meat!

I got so many replies and if you ask me, I don’t eat too much processed food but all three of the beasts are equally delicious! I’m sure most of you don’t really care about what’s happening in Europe with meat products, especially beef, but it does open an enormous can of worms in the processed food industry.

One reply that fired me to write on this was from a French friend of mine; he always has lots to say about any and everything, especially when it comes to food. And he did indeed say a lot. But his last post did motivate me: “Stop eating processed foods and there won’t be any surprises!” What are the supermarkets really up to when it comes to food processing and what are we actually eating?

Over the past few years I’ve been reading books and blogs about modern-day, post-war western diet. Any country that hasn’t succumbed to it is probably much healthier and should probably avoid it at all costs.

I’m talking here mainly about processed foods 末 canned, frozen, ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat 末 that have become the cash cow of the multi-billion-dollar supermarket drive since the late 1950s... great looking packaging, all screaming out vitamins and minerals, those things that we can’t see are everything we really need! All packed with difficult-to-digest carbohydrates, full of all kinds of fat, preservatives, colours and pretty much anything you can think of other than real food. I mean, good carbohydrates, fresh vegetables and proteins and not things that you can’t pronounce.

That same western diet is also starting to be blamed for the increasing percentage of diseases such as diabetes, heart-related ailments and cancer. The fact is that this sort of diet is filled with things such as refined sugars, bleached flours and vegetable-based oils and solid fats, all of which are now getting so much bad press around the world, though slowly and quietly (because) supermarkets are trying to suppress the damage.

Fat, especially animal fat, has been vilified so much that it’s looked upon as some sort of plague, so much so that many people wouldn’t admit to eating fat at all, fearing embarrassment! Our body needs a certain amount of fat. All our vital organs are covered and made up of a good amount of the stuff that needs to be replenished. This doesn’t mean eat lots of fat, but don’t starve yourself of it. If you do over a period of time, your body will grab any trace of it and store it... and over a few years you may have more fat stored around your heart and higher levels of cholesterol than if you had consumed healthy amounts.

For half a century, we’ve been told that animal and other saturated fat is bad for us and that we should replace it with vegetable oils, and avoid butter and replace it with margarine. It was pitched as the wonder fat of the 1960s that would stop the world from dying from heart diseases. The whole world followed blindly and after many years of research, we were told that the same ‘wonder fat’ was probably much worse than butter!

In India, to a great extent, you are still lucky to live on a diet of unadulterated ma-style home-cooked food and people still eat high quantities of grains and pulses, vegetables and small quantities of meat and fish.

We should all probably be eating more whole wheat flour (atta) and other grain flours such as millet (bajra) as they are full of good things that keep our body and digestive system working. Try to use things such as honey and palm sugar (jaggery) instead of refined sugar, as they still have all of the goodness that bleaching and refining removes from regular sugar. Other than calories, refined sugar has little to offer.

Fat is always one of those things that should be eaten in moderation. Unfortunately, too many Indian diets contain too much fat. For example, don’t fry something unless you really need to. Most vegetable dishes don’t need to be fried and overcooking kills everything that was good in the first place!

Next time you buy some oil, see how much your cook uses in a day. Most people would be horrified. Much better to substitute all of that flavourless oil with a little butter or ghee at the end of cooking, maybe a teaspoonful. Everything in moderation! And never ever go anywhere near Dalda as it will most definitely slowly kill you. And so will all that samosa, kachori and bhajas that most love to eat early evening!

So be careful of those tasty namkeens and puff-pastry items. They usually have incredibly high percentage of fat. A packet of any bhujia will contain anywhere up to 50 per cent fat and the cheaper it is, the more chance that it’s cooked in cheap and nasty hydrogenated vegetable oils, Dalda for instance. These have been recently found to be the big killers. So, try to find roasted ones if you enjoy nibbling on them.

Eat less cheese and try to have fresh cheese. A good local one would be Kalimpong cheese. Much better if you can find cheese in a tin or box rather than processed. The latter are full of preservatives and look and taste like rubber. Make fresh yogurt at home and if you want cream, try to find fresh, not the carton stuff.

Consume whatever is in season, as it will probably not have been force-grown or grown with pesticides, but eat as much fruits and vegetables 末 raw or cooked 末 as you like. Don’t eat enormous amounts of rice, bread, potatoes and other starch-based products. They’ll just make you feel bloated. Eat as much bean and pulse-based protein as you want but eat things like meat, chicken and fish in smaller quantities and finally, if all of that really sounded miserable, do eat things like ghee, butter and cheese in small quantities. A bar of chocolate from time to time and the odd mishti here and there will not kill you!

l in all, we should probably revert back to eating like our great grandmothers 末 eating small portions and a little of this and that and only things that are in season. Do try to hold off the temptation of eating processed foods as long as you can, until inevitably, one day, most of you will be eating TV dinners and thaw-and-serve samosas. God help humanity!

Are you a processed food junkie? Tell