Locally available produce is not only fresher and cheaper, they are usually far more nutritious.
“Roti, Kapada aur Makan” (Food, Clothes & House) are the basic needs of human beings. The Constitution of India in Article 21 & 47 accept some basic and fundamental rights, guarantees protection of livelihood and declares that it is the duty of the state to raise level of nutrition through various means. But, unfortunately the perplexity, misconceptions & myths regarding the nutrition especially the diet of child, pregnant/ lactating mothers continues to remain unsettling in our society.
Complete food vs. Balanced food:
The food we eat can be a “Complete food” i.e it should contain almost all essential components like; Carbohydrate, Protein, Fat, Minerals, Vitamins, etc. While, the “Balanced food” is a food which contains all these components in proportionate amount. Milk is complete food but unfortunately not a balanced food. In fact in our universe there is no food item which can be labeled as a balanced food. So, we have to combine different food sources to impart a balanced nutrition.
1) Biryani, Pulao, Poha, Upma etc. are cereal based food in which the basic cereal (Rice/Wheat) is mixed with nuts, peanuts, vegetables etc and cooked in oil/ghee thus making it balanced food.
2) Milk based food like Kheer, Dalia, Suji etc. also becomes balanced food with the addition of various cereals, dry-fruits etc.
Thus we can have a locally available nutritious diet.
The mother’s milk for all practical purposes remains the best available nutritious food as it is “Species Specific” i.e. as per the growing need of the offspring. It is rightly said that mother’s milk is “tailor-made” for the baby & the contents of breastmilk can’t be replicated or manufactured in any laboratory.
Benefits of consuming local foods:
Here are reasons why to include locally available food:
Home-made : Germ-free & made with the emotions & love of the parents, grandparents or other relatives.
Fresh : Fresh, clean, more hygienic and includes safe practice as compared to tinned or packaged food.
Availability : They are easily available & handy even during odd hours of day & one doesn’t have to rush to the shop to satiate hunger.
Cost effective : These foods are many times cheaper than the packaged commercially available foods.
Preservatives : The packaged food may contain lots of additives and preservatives in order to make it more attractive and to prevent from getting stale or spoiled before time. These chemicals can also be dangerous for the human body & may cause many allergic disorders and diseases.
Home-made vs. Junk Food:
Junk foods not only contain preservatives and additives but also lots of sugar, salt & fat (including trans-fatty acids) which are udoubtedly injurious to the health of an individual. The most severe disadvantage of junk food is that once any individual becomes addicted, it is challenging to return to the home-made food.
A major concern in the covid-19 pandemic is the safety of the packaged foods.
Regulations by Government:
There are many Acts and legislations by Indian government to regulate the production, distribution, supply, use, sale of such foods.
Some of them are:
The Infant Milk Substitute (IMS) Act, The Food Safety & Standards Act, the regulations related to sale of junk food in and around fifty meters range of school & college premises.
Myths & Misconceptions:
There are various myths & misconceptions related to the consumption of local and nutritious food:
a) Most people measure quality with the price tag. They believe that the locally available, cheap, seasonal fruits lacks goodness of nutrition and one should only consume costly, imported fruits preserved in cold storages. For them, fruit Juices are healthier than the whole fruit. However, the reality check is different, the whole fruit provides roughage and fibers. The actual fact is that the tinned or preserved juices may be dangerous for various reasons.
b) Protein supplements or health tonics with “exaggerated claims” are better for nourishment since they are enriched with minerals & vitamins as compared to natural protein.
c) If the celebrities are promoting some food it must be good. The biased, unscientific promotion or advertisement is neglected even by highly qualifieds.
d) The Processed, Refined, attractively packaged, costly, stored food promoted by multinationals are “magic foods” for many.
e) Some of us feel that the artificial, commercial foods are innovative & need of the hour.
We live in a spurious world where‘Junk food' (artificial, commercial food) is promoted at the cost of locally available, natural source, nutritious food. The key is to be an informed & empowered consumer who can’t be easily misled by unscientific, biased promotion or forged advertisements.
Let’s together take a pledge to consume as well as provide the best possible, locally available nutritious food to contribute to the health of our beloved ones.
(The authour is a Professor of Pediatrics at Medical College Amravati, Founder, Convenor of Human Milk Banking Association of India, and Founder Secretary for IYCF chapter of IAP)