Reviving An Ancient Superfood
Dr Khader Valli, on why millet was and should be every Indian’s staple
We all have our notions of what is healthy and what is not, drilled into our minds from a very young age as default practices for a healthy life. An hour’s talk with Dr Khader Valli will make you realise that everything you ever thought about health may be false. Dr Valli is on the conquest to revolutionise eating habits in India. Known as the ‘Millet Man of India,’ he explains why traditional food grains like millet are nothing short of superfoods and need to make a comeback to the Indian diet.
“We live in the times of an industrial food culture,” remarks Dr Valli, who has been very vocal about the evils that plague agricultural practices today, to the extent of refusing to call it ‘farming’ even. “Farming should be done to grow local plant varieties; now everyone is growing sugarcane, rice, wheat and soybean. This is not farming, but industrial food production carried out by corporates.” He traces the problem way back to the times of the Green Revolution, the initiative that is believed to have put India on the map as a major food-grain producer. According to Dr Valli, it was at this time that farmers were encouraged to steer away from traditional crops and grow rice and wheat, which were commercially more viable. The practice of using genetically modified seed for higher crop yield also started here, all of which have affected healthy, ageold dietary practices of India. “We are not eating the right food, it’s not food at all,” he says.
Over a 100 people consult Dr Valli each day, people who come to him with illnesses ranging from diabetes to gangrene. He doesn’t give them prescriptions for bottled syrups or pills; he merely suggests changes in diet as a cure. And cured they are. Dr Valli recommends the five super grains, called siridhanya, which increase metabolism and cure many lifestyle diseases. These are the little millets, foxtail millets, banyard millets, brown top millets, and kodo millets. Millets are one of the oldest foods eaten by man. Until a few decades ago, millets were the staple food in India. When farmers gave up millet for commercial food grains, people’s food habits too changed automatically.
“FARMING SHOULD BE DONE TO GROW LOCAL PLANT VARIETIES; NOW EVERYONE IS GROWING SUGARCANE, RICE, WHEAT AND SOYBEAN. THIS IS NOT FARMING, BUT INDUSTRIAL FOOD PRODUCTION CARRIED OUT BY CORPORATES.”Dr Khader Valli Millet Man of India
“We have to move from an economic model to an ecological model, from consuming to conserving,” says Dr Valli, who resigned his job in the US and decided to come back to India to prioritise awareness about healthy eating and living. He recommends that everyone grow their own food as much as possible. In his own land, he has a food forest where he practises traditional farming. All of his efforts in spreading awareness about health issues are personal, rarely backed by governments or companies, who put commercial gain above everything else. “People always say that I have given up too much, stable job and all, but I don’t give two hoots about the job, it makes me sick. I haven’t given up anything,” he says.
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