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Clean Food For Health

Column Editors Speak June 2019

Clean Food For Health

Clean, nutrient-dense food is essential for better health

By Dr Ulhas Ganu

It’s not just air, but food too that could become polluted by toxins. Poor storage conditions and pesticides used to protect plants from infective agents are major factors. There are three types of pesticides: herbicides, which protect plants from weeds, insecticides, which protect plants from harmful insects and fungicides, which protect plants from fungi that spread disease. Thus, while using pesticides helps solve a set of problems, it invites other problems. Naturally, a balance needs to be struck between the two aspects. On the other hand, organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms or ionizing radiation, which makes it safer to consume.

Organic farming is defined as the agricultural system which uses ecologically-based pest controls and biological fertilizers derived largely from animal and plant wastes and nitrogen-fixing cover crops. Though organic food is better in terms of quality and reduced content of pesticides, it is costlier than normal farm produce because of lower yields. Surface contaminant pesticides from vegetables are best removed by immersing them for around 20 minutes in 10% saltwater. For a quicker and equally effective wash, the Food Revolution Network blog advises adding the greens, water, and baking soda to a bowl, soaking for a minute followed by draining in a strainer and then rinsing and patting leaves dry with a clean lint-free kitchen towel or paper towels. The blog adds that smooth-skinned fruits such as apples, nectarines, and cherries can be washed in a dilute solution of baking soda in the same way as vegetables.

Clean Food For Health 1
Dr. Ulhas Ganu

Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, Eighth Edition, recommends rinsing of fresh vegetables and fruits under running water just before eating, cutting, or cooking. Drying it with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on the wet product is recommended to prevent remaining microbes from multiplying. Pregnant women, younger children, old people and people with weakened immune systems (HIV infected, organ transplant patients or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy) are more susceptible to foodborne infections and hence, are advised to eat cooked food and avoid raw (unpasteurized) foods like fruit juice or milk.

The guideline adds that deficiencies of essential nutrients have dramatically decreased over the past century. Further, advances in medicine have made many infectious diseases easily preventable through vaccination or treatable with medicines. At the same time, rates of chronic diseases—many of which are related to poor quality diet and physical inactivity—have increased. There is a marked increase in preventable, diet-related chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even some types of cancer. The report adds that healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity can help people achieve and maintain good health, and reduce the risk of chronic disease. This appears to be the case with almost all developed and many rapidly industrialized developing countries. How can we improve the nutritional content of the food we eat? Apart from protein, pulses are particularly rich in folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. Their low-calorie content and high complex carbohydrates and fiber content mean slow digestion with a feeling of satiety.

Though nutrient-dense, pulses contain anti-nutritional factors such as trypsin-inhibitors and tannins, which reduce the bioavailability of the protein. Oxalates and phytates decrease the absorption of calcium, iron, and zinc. Soaking and cooking pulses decrease the levels of these antinutrients, increasing the bioavailability of these macro and micronutrients. While cooking does full justice to the full nutrient content of pulses, sprouting enhances their value vis-à-vis macro- and micro-nutrients by promoting the production of protein, enzymes, and vitamins, transforming them into nutrition powerhouses. Cooking sprouts is necessary to avoid infections because of bacterial contaminants. Further reading: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015- 2020; Method to wash pesticides from vegetables and fruits: Foodrevolution.org; Organic farming: Brittanica.org

Also read about

Nutritious Protein

Phytochemicals And Phytonutrients

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