It is a hot, humid day. The sun is shinning bright, the leaves of the trees are going dry, and you can see the effects of mirages everywhere. At this very moment, the shopkeeper hands you a cold glass of coca cola. Eager to taste this cold delight on a day like this, you take it from the shopkeeper’s hand. Cold condensed water on the surface of the bottle touches your hand and as you drink the first sip, it seems like a spring of heavenly water has just entered your body. Or how about the time when you open a box of chocolates which you dearly love. The smell of coco and milk, the aesthetic appearance of the chocolates in the box, and when you take a bite the inner chocolate filling oozes out of your mouth. The expression of your face being a mirror reflection of this chocolate delight with its rough but melting exterior and smooth interior. This chocolate is hard to miss.
However, one thing common between both the coca cola and the chocolate, among many other highly processed food (apart from the short-lived delight you get while having them) is the feeling of guilt afterwards. The daily consumption of any of these kinds of processed foods or drinks can have mild side effects like high blood pressure, obesity, heartburn, acidity etc. or major side effects like heart attack, diabetes, chronic diseases and even cancer. These type of major side effects occur mostly when you ignore the early signals your body gives you in the form of mild side effects. Its important that in order to fight diseases and have a good immune response against invading pathogens, we should lead a healthy lifestyle and have peace of mind.
So, this leaves us with the question. Should we stop eating these tasty foods which we hold very dear to us, restricting ourselves from the great joy it brings us? Can healthy food also be as tasty as my favorite highly processed snack or drink? Well, the answer to this is a big YES. A fact many people are unaware about is that healthy foods are actually much tastier to the majority of people, as compared to unhealthy food. One can lead a healthy lifestyle and continue to relish and enjoy the food they eat by just leading a scientifically assessed optimal nutritional diet, and as big and technical as its sounds its quite simple to follow.
So firstly, let’s start with the basics of our lifestyles, why it needs to be changed, and what are some quick and healthy alternatives to these foods. Ideally, we would shop for fresh, local food every day and make our food from scratch. In actual factuality, we live far from our sources of food, need to buy food that can be stored on the shelf and have little time to eat, much less to make it. Processed foods are convenient, and let’s get this straight, not all processed foods are bad for you. Pre-chopped veggies, canned fruits, actually natural fruit juices are some examples. However, comfort may sometimes mean great quantities of sodium, fats and sugar hidden.
Some examples of processed foods which are among many people’s favorites are: cereals (box of chochos and even boxed oat meals which proclaim to be healthy for you), milk (flavored, canned), cheese, cookies (apart from the obvious Choco chip and jam biscuits, even self-proclaimed digestive, and oatmeal packed biscuits), bread, chips. A variety of methods for food processing are used. Any food is normally frozen, cut, dried, cooked, or pasteurized. Foods can be processed at different speeds. Vegetables can be washed, sliced, and served only at one end until they are sold in bags. However, several additional sugars, salt, oils, and calories are present in highly processed food. Frozen pizza is a clear example. Now the best judge of which food is actually good and bad can be you. Just check the ingredients list of the packed food you’re buying and by seeing the amount of sugar, added preservatives, color, and flavor in the ingredients, you can get the extend of the healthiness of the food item. In the list of ingredients, it is often easy to ignore these additives. Words like dextrose, malts, trans fats and hydrogenated oil should be monitored. Products loaded with these ingredients will provide the recommended sodium and sugar almost twice a day.
Here is a table of some of common foods, their effects and a healthy alternative to them:
|Cereals||Low in fiber and high in processed carbs causing high blood sugar level, obesity.||Porridge oats: Cheaper, healthier, easy to make, perfect tasty snack. (Pro tip: add nuts, maple syrup)|
|Ketchup||Laden with a highly addictive sugar ingredient||Chutneys: Prepared in a paste-like texture by vegetables, dals and other nutritious and whole ingredients. Can be made for different flavors.|
|Two-minute noodles||They are made of maida, which is processed flour and contain poor fats and high levels of MSG and salt.||Whole grain pasta noodles: Its quickly made, healthy, and tasty.|
|White rice||Processing extracts from rice grains all the essential nutrients that produce high carbon and starch content.||Brown rice: It contains bran, germ and endosperm that all contribute to the body’s health.|
|Processed Meats: frozen burgers, sausages, salami, bacon.||High possibility of cancer as it contains carcinogens.||Fresh meat: Tastes better, less expensive.|
|Packed fruit juices.||Contains high amount of sugar and less than 20% juice.||Fresh juices, coconut water: provides all nutrients of the fruit, less expensive.|
|Microwave popcorn||Popcorn is healthy and microwaving is safe. However, the package of the popcorn contains Perfluoroalkyls which can cause reduced kidney function and poor semen quality.||Corn kernels in pressure cooker.|