A scoop of raw truth

A scoop of raw truth

Changing choices

A scoop of raw truth

Look around, otherwise you could stumble into some superfood or the other. Food items that contain, or claim to contain, antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals are calling out from the shelves, even in supermarkets.

Organic outlets are mushrooming by the day while exotic fruits are available at, well, exotic prices. And to talk of social media, it is garnished with photographs of superfood art. For a long time, the consumer was content with local vegetables and fruits, but now things have changed. With health food marketers and fitness experts recommending superfood, the challenge for the consumer is to separate the grain from the chaff. 

Rashmi J Cherian, a registered dietitian and quality head of Qua Nutrition, says, any superfood is good only if it is consumed in the natural form.

     For instance, fenugreek, considered a superfood, is good for diabetes while flax seeds are good for the heart. But if it is processed, mixed or seasoned with something, it ceases to be superfood,” she says.

While a majority don’t understand the science or biochemistry of these products, people are trying to make smart choices — to find if there is any meat in the so-called highly nutritious food.

      Nandita Iyer, a nutrition expert, who  blogs on healthy vegetarian food at saffrontrail.comnutrition, says, “Anything that makes people more aware of eating healthy and makes them more conscious about their health is a welcome trend. ​One should focus on locally grown food as much as possible. Many exotic vegetables and grains/seeds are now being successfully cultivated in India. Also, in case of imported food items, note the date of packaging, importing, best before dates etc,” she cautions.

Ask her if it is necessary to buy exoticism and that too at a huge price, she says, “The simple vegetables and fruits available locally that you would consider nutritious are ‘​amla’ (Indian gooseberry), traditional green leafy vegetables like ‘basalesoppu’ (Malabar spinach), spinach, methi and other local greens, radish leaves, beet greens — all that is usually thrown away — are rich in nutrients. Banana, guava, papaya are some of the fruits that are grown locally and rich in nutrients,” adds Nandita.

The superfood theory, be it a fad or truth, is literally brewing a storm and creating health awareness. Smoothies have never looked so good before while salads have become the order of the day.

“When one talks about exotic vegetables, it includes asparagus, kale, yellow and red peppers which are rich in vitamin C. Instead of that you can have tomatoes for the red colour and lemon. Spring onions have a good amount of vitamins. Some of the exotic vegetables available here need to be checked as they could be stale. It’s best when it comes from the home garden or the local vegetable seller,” adds Rashmi.  
Come to think of it, the lifestyle today is flavoured with junk food, not to forget alcohol. Therefore, the word ‘detoxing’ has also become the flavour of the moment. Products, edible or otherwise, also have labels about detoxing elements and it is only fair for the consumers to think again. Elaborating on what detoxing is, Rashmi says, “Detoxing is removing toxins from the body. We basically go for natural fruits and juices, and aloe vera. There should be no oil content or preservative but fresh vegetables and fruit juices. Those that come in blast packaging in the market get spoiled in a day or two. These have preservatives.”

 Nandita, who is also a columnist and has conducted culinary workshops, describes an ideal balanced diet,  “It should have whole grains, vegetables, fruits, adequate protein from sources as per your dietary preferences, healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado and reasonable quantities of other fats like ghee and cold pressed oils. Refined and processed carbs are best avoided.”
“​It's a good trend that people are going back to ancient grains like a variety of millets, amaranth, buckwheat, barley and so on in the ​search to find alternatives to polished white rice. Millet-based bakes and desserts are also catching on,’’ she adds.

So far so good. But with a new superfood emerging day, the problem could well be one of plenty.