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Learn the labels on health foods

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

We are swamped by information on what to eat or not eat and the market is full of ‘health foods’ that may not be as healthy as they seem

One solution to redressing nutrition problems is to nurture public health nutrition education. Thanks to digital media, the public is swamped by information overload on how to eat and what not to eat. Contradicting studies add to the confusion. For example, from time immemorial, Indians have known that coconut oil is an amazing food and beauty essential. But only last week, a Harvard don called it ‘pure poison!’  We have been told all fats are bad. But fatty ghee is good! People should be eating unpolished rice instead of refined grains which increase the risk of diabetes and heart diseases. And when hunger pangs remind us to eat, we reach out for junk food!

You will find a humongous variety of chips in grocery stores stacked alongside such packaged snacks as dried berries which are rich in vitamin C and fibre, roasted chickpeas containing five grams of protein, five grams of fibre, and only 130 calories per serving; chia pods each containing six grams of fibre, three grams protein; quinoa peanut butter, 80 calories, two gm protein, five gm fat, 40 mg sodium and seven gm carbohydrates low-sodium yogurt without artificial sweeteners, and packed with  protein and  calcium,  gluten-free, organic, whole-grain popcorn… the list is long and one could go on and on.

"Our granola munchies filled with rich nuts and seeds are power-packed with nutrition and are a great meal replacement," say Rohit and Purvi Pugalia of Munchilicious, who donated 1,000 kgs of granola to Kerala flood victims and have pledged 20% of this month's sales to the cause.

Says Dipti Motiani of Second Nature, "Our cold extracted juice products contain Vitamin E and magnesium which help energy production and reduce PMS symptoms and inflammation. They also have potassium, which helps stave off strokes and high blood pressure and even keeps anxiety and stress at bay. Low in calories and low on sugar, they also help in reducing weight gain, while being loaded with nutrients to help you fulfil daily requirements."

 When all is said and done, however, just how efficacious are ‘health’ products?

Says Karishma Chawla, "It depends on the type of health products available. A common marketing technique is labelling products as fat-free which are actually high on sugar or low sugar which are high on fat! The important thing is to understand that everything that is sold as being healthy might not be and hence it is important to take expert advice. Also it’s important to learn labels and synonyms to check the authenticity of the products. We do have products that have healthy ingredients for eg quinoa pops or kale chips, but they would be higher on sodium, and should be consumed sparingly as an emergency snack or while travelling. We are what we eat. We must unlearn faulty nutrition habits and replace them with healthy eating as a lifestyle disciplinary approach. Eat purposefully and not foolishly is the new nutrition mantra!
Ronita Torcato

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