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Article on “is Your Food Dead? ”


In most Indian households, food is cooked daily, often for every meal.This should mean that we are getting the very best nutrition!! Sadly, the reality could be that we are putting away dead food!

Why? The reason is simply that valuable nutrients in fresh food are often a casuality of careless handling and preperation. Consider the eating pattern of a typical South Indian household. Idlis, steamed rice and dal cakes,are usually served for breakfast. While highly nurtitious, frequently baking soda is stirred into the batter before cooking. Apart from adding unneccessary sodium, baking soda destroys vitamin B1 present in black gram dal, plus the other B vitamins developed during fermentation.

Lunch would comprise rice, sambar, a vegetable porial, papad, rasam and curds. Rice is ususally washed in many changes of water and then cooked in excess water which is drained away. This causes a loss of vitamins B1 and B2. Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C. But when cabbage is readied for porial by finely shredding and soaking in generous amount of water, this water-soluble vitamin leaches out and is lost. Further, it is likely that the cabbage will be flooded with water which is then allowed to evaporate by keeping the pan uncovered on the flame. Whatever water soluble vitamins and minerals remain after washing will be destroyed by this faulty cooking process.

Tea, if prepared the traditional Indian way of boiling water, milk and tea leaves together, has reduced nutritional value because in this method tannins which give tea its deep maroon colour bind iron, vitamin B1 and proteins.

A choice of vegetable bhajjis--potato, onion and spinach - will probably accompany the evening cup of tea. Potatoes are a constant source of vitamin C in the average Indian diet, but peeling, slicing and soaking them in water before cooking deprives us of this vitamin. Spinach, on the other hand, is a storehouse of betacarotene which is converted into vitamin A in the body. However, betacarotene being fat-soluble, remains in the oil once the spinach bhajjis are deep fries. Further, adding baking sodato improve the textureand appearance of bhajjisis common practice, and this causes a further loss of vitamin C and the B vitamins found in green leafy vegetables, potatoes and onions.

At night, left over food from the previous meals is recycled. This causes drastic nutritional losses. If chappatis are prepared, the wholemeal wheat flour is carefully seived before its kneaded into dough. Seiving flour removes the wheat germ which apart from providing protein of exceptional quality is also a repository of vitamin E, most of the B vitamins, many minerals and electrolytes, and the bran which is an invaluable source of dietary fibre.