Having the best of everything at all times does seem like a great situation at most times but not so much in the case of food.
Thanks to hybridization, genetic modifications and other scientific advances in agriculture we now have access to all types of food any time of the year.
However, there is a reason different things grow naturally in different seasons. Everything that grows naturally in a particular season is meant to be consumed at that time. Vegetables like cauliflower, capsicum, lemon, etc. that are rich in Vitamin C grow naturally in the winters. This is because winters are normally dry which makes us vulnerable to skin infections.
The vitamin C helps our skin and hair stay healthy during the cold dry season. Similarly summer vegetables and fruits like tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, etc. have high water content that not just takes care of our nutrition but also helps maintain our body water levels.
Apart from seasonal, we should also consume local or regional food in our daily diet. This is because the food produced in the region is easily supported by the soil type, rainfall pattern and way of life. Also, local produce is never stored for long and transported over large distances which helps in retaining the freshness.
Less transportation means lower cost and lower carbon footprint as well. Added to this, we also benefit our local farmers instead of paying huge amounts to some foreign company, only to consume high doses of preservatives and chemicals.
In order to produce off-season food items, farmers use chemicals that alter the composition of the product due to which it does not remain as healthy as it would have been if cultivated in the right season. These chemicals also make them more susceptible to rotting and ironically, to curb this more chemicals are injected to slow down the ageing process.
It’s a continuous cycle. When these unripe vegetables reach the markets they are injected with chemicals that ripen them the very next day, ready to be sold. This is very common in the case of bananas and watermelons.
The only way we can prevent ourselves from being impacted by this disastrous and unnatural loop is by knowing our food. We all need to be aware of our own land, the fruits and vegetables we grow and the seasons they grow in so that we can choose to consume right.
Consumerism is a big contributing factor. These days people try to replicate recipes from around the world and this has created a huge demand of unusual food products. In response to these demands many departmental stores and malls have started importing canned products like canned pineapple, beans, green peas, cherries and a lot more.
Anything that comes in a can screams trouble yet we see food bloggers and others use packaged tomato puree, corn, etc. carelessly. The liquid in which these products are stored contain preservatives that can cause serious health issues in the future. These canned items have an expiry date of up to two years or more and this can never be possible naturally.
Many studies have been done on how the continuous intake of chemicals have compromised our immune system. Doctors always recommend a diet that is rich in seasonal produce. Seasonal food tastes the best and has all the nutrients required. Most people suffer from diseases because they did not take the right food at the right time, not because they did not eat enough healthy food. If in the name of health we are eating beans from a can and a salad made of unseasonal vegetables, it won’t have a positive impact.
With capitalism spreading like wildfire, we now have dragon fruits and asparagus in our markets. Some of these might actually be healthy but were never grown in the region before. After proper research, if the same products are grown locally and in the right time, it can work wonders. Organic farmers of Manipur are doing that with Avocados. Instead of paying huge amounts for something foreign we will get the same at a lower price and in a much healthier composition.
Environment friendly farming practices like regenerative farming, can be easily done with seasonal food products because they grow on their own and require very little care. Soil type, water content, temperature, etc. is perfect for their growth already. Productivity will be highest and we won’t need to add any fertilizer to increase the yield or any chemical to ensure that they can withstand unfavorable climate conditions.
This makes the production costs cheaper too. More awareness must be laid in these factors to boost local production. Instead of looking far and wide for solutions and following the West’s example, we can benefit a lot more if we look at ourselves and the history of our region so that huge profits can be guaranteed without much struggle and the people can be healthier too.
Another worrying concept is that of ‘Ready To Eat’. The fast paced youth of today is getting more inclined to these practices but they are not at all recommended. Consuming ready to eat food and consuming fast food is more or less the same. Along with the various ingredients, there are a few sneaky chemicals in the packaging that keep the main ingredients fresh for a long time and those are problematic.
Nowadays, we also find half cooked rice that can be cooked if we just put it into a microwave for five minutes. It is worrying that some people now do not even have the time to cook fresh rice for themselves.
“What we take in, is what we give out.” The food we eat is one of the most important factors that determine both our physical and mental health so we must all keep a check of what we eat and try to keep our diet as nutritious as we can.
A little bit of awareness can go a long way. Let us all be mindful of what we take in.
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