We tend to forget the health aspects of food
Posted on October 5th, 2014

Dr Hector Perera      London

As we enter a supermarket, we tend to forget about the health aspects of food. Most people know that too much sugar, oil and salt are bad for the health but I have my doubts how many of them remember all the health benefits of food when they went on food shopping.  Sometimes we get a basket and go round but as more and more things get into it, we might go for a trolley. When we go to the bakery section or to meat counters or to any other section, we always forget about the health aspect of food and buy far too much of everything.

 Brown bread is good but far too many varieties of bread are displayed and you think to try them as well than just eating just brown bread. Breads made with 100 percent whole grain wheat are a good source of bran fibre. The bran in wheat bread will improve your bowel movements by softening and increasing the bulk of your stools, making them easier to pass through your intestines. Fibre may provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome. Adult males up to age 50 should have 38 grams of fibre daily, and women 25 grams daily. Too much fibre can cause gas and bloating; be careful and add whole wheat bread to your diet gradually. One slice of whole wheat bread contains about 2.8 grams of fibre. Whole grains were found to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in a study of 42,850 men, ages 40 to 75, over a period of 14 years. A 2004 issue of “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” reported that men who included three servings of whole grains in their daily diet had a lower risk of coronary heart disease. Bread made with whole wheat helps you maintain a healthy weight. According to a study published in a 2003 issue of “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” women who ate more whole grains consistently weighed less than women who ate fewer whole grains. Within the whole wheat kernel is the vital wheat germ or embryo of the seed that contains B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, some studies have suggested that B vitamins and vitamin E may protect against diseases of mental decline, such as Alzheimer’s. With all that information in hand but still my eyes catching other kinds of breads and rolls on the shelf.

Other kinds of breads

Rolls – Many different varieties, shapes and sizes ranging from crusty white rolls to soft wholemeal baps.

Sandwich – Large flat-topped loaf baked in a lidded square tin. Then Sliced wrapped – With many different varieties including white, brown and wholemeal, the sliced wrapped loaf is a convenient bread which makes perfect toast and sandwiches. That’s not all, Soda Bread – Flat, round, heavy loaf usually marked into quarters and risen with baking powder, not yeast. Soda Bread comes originally from Ireland.

Then I noticed, Stottie, a flat round large bap from the North East of England. The Geordie stottie has a fluffy texture and was often traditionally eaten filled with bacon and Pease pudding. How about Tin – Loaf baked in a rectangular open tin. Did I thought about the health aspect in buying or sorting different types of bread? I couldn’t forget other types such as Baguette, bagel, brioche, then the Indian type bread called chapatti and naan. Is that all, not really. Then a kind of bread called tiger bread from Netherlands as well then next to it was a kind of flat bread called tortilla so what am I to buy or try? Why not try something different? The shape and colours and the price, really let it go so I am tempted to buy a few more different kinds as well than just brown bread. Where is the health aspect, oh I just forgot or confused mind.

 How about some chicken?

 The smell of appetizing roasting and cooking chicken drives me there like a magnet. Far too many varieties to choose, spicy, BBQ, Chinese, how about Indian oh that is the spicy one. The queue is too long and some people keep on buying far too many and others in the queue go impatient, including me. Did I think about the health aspect, not really? Just not chicken there was pork as well and I was thinking to buy some of them as well. When my turn comes, I just ask for three or four of this and that and just put on the trolley.

How about buying a whole chicken?

 I am always surprised at the number of people I know that do not cut up their own whole chicken. Most do not know how and some are afraid of handling raw poultry. They buy pre-cut chickens instead. I am not talking about buying a package of just chicken thighs or breasts, but a pre-cut chicken with breasts, wings, legs, thighs.

One way to save a few dollars or sterling or rupees is to buy whole chickens and cut them yourself. Consider boneless, skinless chicken breast prices can cost as much as $5 a pound. Whole chickens are often priced for less. What about the chicken I got at the counter? Eating too much is not good but honestly I forget those health aspects.

The process of cutting apart a whole chicken can be intimidating. But it’s not too difficult once you get the hang of it. To get the most bang out of chicken, it is better to purchase stewing or roaster chickens which are larger. You’ll get more meat, about enough to feed four to six people. Broiler fryers are medium-sized chickens. Cornish game hens are small so you probably don’t want to invest the time cutting them up. I am already lost what to buy.

Some say cut a couple of chickens at one time then freeze the extra wings, breasts, legs and thighs in freezer bags. The chicken will keep in the freezer for about two months. What about what is already in the freezer so what would I buy?

What next?

Pushing the trolley besides the rows of shelves and freezers full of food, I was thinking what next? In the world food section, I found lots of Sri Lanka food such as pickles, bottled or canned fish, dry fish, sambol, kata sambol” and far too many to mention here and I cannot admit that I didn’t pick some of them as well even salt, preservatives and colourings are no quite healthy. I had no list to buy, just tempt to buy or even to look at them carefully or casually.  I usually go there with the wife and children then they have their own choices so I have to wait until that is over. I was not along, I could see the shop floor is over crowed with people with trolleys virtually overflowing. That again depends on the time of the day. I could see their trollies are almost over flowing and still buying more and more and my trolley is no better. I forgot what’s in there as the wife and the children as well buy things and fill it up.

No artificial sweeteners in Watalappam” but where are they?

 I buy semi skimmed milk because it has less fat but didn’t I buy things full of fat, salt and colourings? So where are the health aspects, sorry I forgot it.  As of 2008, more than 6,000 products, consumed by over 100 million worldwide, contain aspartame that is an artificial sweetener. They are included in the following: Carbonated soft drinks, Chewable vitamins, Sugar-free cough drops, Table top sweeteners and a variety of Yogurts. Then my mind goes back to Rhunu Mee Kiri” and coconut and kitual palm trickle. They don’t sell Watalappam” in supermarkets, do they?

Most people think that they already know these healthy,” aspartame-based products like the back of their hands. Truth is and an ugly one at that there are scientifically backed evidences and lab results showing the dangers and unproven safety of aspartame use.

Human reports to FDA, too, have associated aspartame to minor adverse reactions and life-threatening conditions that include: Migraines, Change in vision, Nausea and vomiting, Insomnia / sleep problems, Abdominal and joint pains, Change in heart rate, Depression, Memory loss and Seizure. I forget all these facts about artificial sweeteners. I am pretty certain they are in most of the fruit juices as well.

There were chocolate flavoured, strawberry flavoured milk shakes on display with attractive prices. I cannot say they as well find space in the trolley. Then far too many varieties of fruit juices, they say natural orange juice, no added sugar but is that true? How about artificial sweeteners as I mentioned before? Sometimes I forget those names or they may have written in tiny letters but I cannot be bothered to find the glasses to read them. I am sure I am not alone when they have to buy things.

Eating red meat

How about some beef and pork? Red meat is one of the most controversial foods in the history of nutrition. Despite the fact that humans have been eating it throughout evolution, many people believe that it can cause harm. Humans have been eating meat throughout evolution and our digestive systems are well equipped to handle it.

Traditional populations like the Inuit and Masai have eaten lots of meat, much more than the average Westerner, but remained in excellent health. However, the meat we eat today is vastly different from the meat our ancestors ate. Back in the day, animals roamed free and ate grass, insects or whatever was natural to them. Picture a wild cow on a field 10.000 years ago, roaming free and chewing on grass and various other edible plants. The meat from this animal is completely different from the meat derived from a cow that was born and raised in a factory, fed grain-based feed, then pumped full of antibiotics and hormones to make it grow faster. Red meat is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and various other nutrients that can have profound effects on health.

Pork has more bad cholesterol than beef?

Sometimes I cannot go pass those counters displaying packets of pork and beef in attractive prices, buy three for the price of two. The reddish looking meat seems to be fresh but I forgot they might have added chemicals such as MSG to make it colourful or filled with carbon monoxide. I must say I forget the health aspect for a moment and temp to buy them as well. I think I need another freezer at home to pack all these things as well. I know pork and beef are not quite healthy, have cholesterol but I must say sometimes I do not think the health aspect of food. Just next to it is the freezer filled with bacon and sausages. Smoked bacon taste better than unsmoked bacon so more people buy the smoked ones. If I say the people do not buy them due to health point of view, sure I am wrong. The packets are displayed in an attractive manner with an attractive price tag. Are they bad to eat, just a bit would be OK. The governments have been warning us about it for decades and has spent a massive amount of resources warning us about the dangers” of it. The reason they do so, is that sodium is believed to increase blood pressure, a common risk factor for heart disease and stroke. These are the two most common sources of death in middle and high income countries.

I am sure many of us are aware of the fact that too much of salt, sugar and fats are really bad for health but how much of these facts do we remember when we went on food shopping in supermarkets. Your comments are welcomed [email protected]

2 Responses to “We tend to forget the health aspects of food”

  1. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Good article
    A few other aspects of good eating:

    -avoid fast food restaurants. It is pure “junk food”. I am writing about US McDonald’s, Burger King, etc.
    -Drink more water. The simplest of all drinks.
    -enjoy the traditional spices of Sri Lanka. If one checks the Ayurvedic system of medicine they use many of the same spiced for medicine as well.

  2. AnuD Says:

    The way we ate a few decades ago or the old way of eating was the best. Now, here, westerners are married to the way we ate a few decades ago.

    Read meat promotes cancer. Fast foods and pop-drinks cause obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol and eventually cardiac problems.

    Spices are also pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical, (turmeric is good for Alzheimers) and anti-microbials.

    Anyway, what are Neutraceuticals.

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