Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Beware of processed food

Eating processed foods can lead to toxins forming in the body which can cause harmful diseases in the long run, says corporate chef Jose Varkey

Photo: Corporate chef Jose Varkey

By Shevlin Sebastian

At 7.30 a.m., just before he leaves for work, Jose Varkey, the corporate chef of the CGH Earth group is about to watch his 84-year-old mother cut a cake on her birthday when a visitor drops in. The moment the discussion veers towards his current interest, the dangers of processed food, Jose requests his mother to delay the cake-cutting for a few minutes. And with passion he vents forth on the subject.

“Eating noodles is very harmful,” he begins. Firstly, it does not have any fibre. Secondly it is loaded with monosodium glutamate (Ajinomoto), to make it tasty. “It is a chemical that settles into your body and gives you all kinds of diseases,” he says. “It is not wanted by the body, except by your taste buds.”

He says the problem with most of the processed foods is that the salt content is very high. “That is because sodium is used to preserve the food and it can have an adverse effect on the body,” he says. “The companies are adding preservatives as per the chemical norms, but not according to the requirements of the human being.”

When preservatives are added to the food, they become toxins in the body. “The body spends a lot of energy to eliminate it,” he says. Because of a fibre-less diet, it is an uphill task. Invariably, the toxins remain in the body and develop into cancer, joint pains, and arthritis.

Another problem of processed food is the lack of nutritional value. “All the vitamins, minerals and fibres are eliminated through the refining process,” says Jose. “Now these have been put into the food by nature. It is meant to go directly to our bloodstream without denaturing.”

Jose says that even red rice, which is one of our staple foods, is now sold as a refined package, unlike in earlier times when people would eat it with bran. “When bran goes into the body, it purifies it,” says Jose.

Some of the examples of refined food are white flour, salt, sugar and bread.
“Since bread contains only white flour, and the bran has been removed, so that it will last longer, it is useless in terms of nutrition,” says Jose.

The chef suggests that whole wheat bread is best, but it is hardly available. “At CGH Earth resorts we sell whole wheat or multi grain bread, but when we put it in our pastry shops there are hardly any takers,” says Jose. “I don’t blame the customers because most people are not aware of the dangers of processed food.”

Jose says that it has become imperative to develop an organic food movement in Kerala. “In Europe, everybody is buying organic food, even though it is costlier,” he says. “In fact, there are many markets which only sell organic food.

The second solution is to eat healthy food. “Have idlis and dosas,” he says. The amount of fruits that are eaten should be increased. Rough cereals or muesli for breakfast is another suggestion. “For lunch, try eating raw rice, with bran, along with plenty of green vegetables,” says Jose. As for fish, he suggests that we should not fry it.

“When you fry at high heat, the oil turns into transfat,” says Jose. “When we eat the fish, it could lead to high levels of cholesterol.”

Most fish do not require oil because it has got its own oil. But it may not be as tasty, as when it is fried. He says wrapping the fish in a banana leaf and cooking it on a tawa is a good method.

Jose also suggests putting two or three drops of unrefined oil in dishes like the avial. “This will takes care of all the viral and fungal attacks,” he says.

For meat, he suggests slow cooking. Apply 75 to 80 degrees and cook for a longer period of time. “This will prevent the loss of its natural properties,” he says. “But who has the time today to cook for three hours?”

In Europe they use slow cooker (trade name: crock pots) with set timers. “They put the meat in the pot and go to work,” he says. “When they come in the evening, it is ready. Such systems have to come here.”

Meanwhile, back at his home, the chocolate cake, comprising ground coco nibs, is cut and pieces are distributed. It is soft and sweet, and slips down the throat without a murmur.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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