Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Food is always associated with sensory satisfaction, nutrition and good health. Why any one should think of diseases when food is the subject matter for any consideration is beyond comprehension. The definition of good food is that it should provide all the nutrients in correct proportion to assure normal growth and maintain the health on an even keel. Nature has endowed mankind with a large variety of foods and with the available knowledge about health and nutrition, it is easy to choose a diet most satisfying from both sensory as well as optimum nutritional angles.

Diseases come in different forms due to different reasons. While infection is a major cause of many diseases others include genetic factors, food contaminations, environmental pollution, living style and unbalanced/nutrition deficient foods. These causative factors can influence the nature of diseases singly or synergistically resulting in complicated disorders of serious nature. The modern day health ailments in the form of diabetes, CVD, blood pressure, cancers, obesity etc are affecting more and more people and improper food selection and inappropriate eating habits including over eating do contribute to this epidemic. But it is not fair to blame the foods and give them tags like 'disease delaying foods', conveniently branded with the acronym-DDF,as being reported in a recent seminar on food challenges by one of the food pundits. For innovating on jargon, this takes the cake! If coining slogans, without contents is a solution for all the problems afflicting this country, we should have reached the top of the world long ago. It does not dawn on such slogan mongers that if a material is accepted as a food it is considered safe from the point of view of causing any disease if consumed properly. A nutritionist can never concede the point that a properly balanced food would ever cause any disease and therefore it is presumptuous to talk about a particular category of foods which can delay onset of any disease. In fact it is better to classify all good foods that meet with the nutritional standards as 'disease preventing foods'.

If any one particular group of foods can be categorized as health protectants, it is the horticultural crops which, taken regularly in adequate quantities, beginning from early childhood can pre-empt many modern day diseases helping to prolong good quality life. Fruits and vegetables play an important role in maintaining good health as they are low in calories, contain no cholesterol, rich in dietary fiber, folates, Vitamins A, E and C besides many phytochemicals with health protecting properties. Similarly many spice crops compliment their function. It is now well established that spices like turmeric, chilli, garlic, onion, fenugreek, cumin, coriander etc possess higher degree of disease preventing properties. Many of them are anti inflammatory, diuretic, laxative, liver protecting, pain relief, digestive, anti dyspeptic, anti flatulent, skin protecting, expectorant, emollient, heart protectants, antispasmodic, carminative and antiseptic. It is no wonder that the affluent countries, after experiencing the onslaught of many health disorders due to modern living styles, are aggressively taking up national campaigns under the slogan "5 a day" exhorting their people to consume fruits and vegetables five servings a day to escape from repercussions of serious health complications in later life.


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