Tuesday, May 29, 2012


What does it mean when one is "advised" to practice healthy eating? Does it refer to the way one eats the food or what type of food is to be eaten to maintain good health? If it refers to the eating practice, slow eating as Buddhists practice is considered most healthy. But the foods that are healthy can be many depending on who talks about it. Industry always avers that their food products are good and even if they are not nutritionally balanced, they still do not cause any harm. Nutritionists beg to differ with this stand because scientifically one must eat more and more protective foods like fruits and vegetables, less and less of animal products and high fiber foods. Most consumers are either unaware or mindlessly ignore the principle that one's calorie intake must be balanced with calorie expenditure through physical activities to maintain decent health. Some experts promote the idea that there must be a "facilitatory" environment for helping consumers to practice healthy eating. Most importantly the present situation where healthy foods are priced out of the reach of most people while nutritionally empty products are flooding the market at ridiculously low cost, in every nook and corner in the US, must be reversed if perceptible improvement in the health of population there is to be expected. Here is an interesting expose on this important issue by a learned expert.  

"People are bombarded with conflicting advice, much of it from sources with a vested interest in selling particular foods, supplements or diet plans. Nutrition studies tend to focus on single nutrients, making their results difficult to apply to real diets. No wonder people have a hard time knowing what or whom to believe. This is too bad, really. The basic principles of healthy eating could not be easier to understand: eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, balance calorie intake with expenditure, and don't eat too much junk food. If such principles seem hard to follow, it is surely because of how they affect the food industry. Balancing calorie intake often means eating less, but doing so is bad for business. Food companies must do everything they can to sell more food, not less. So they make foods available everywhere — even in drug, book and clothing stores — and in very large portions. Few people can resist eating tasty food when it's right in front of them. Large portions alone explain rising rates of obesity: they encourage people to eat more calories but to underestimate what they have eaten. Healthy eating requires a food environment that makes it easier for everyone to make better choices. It also requires a food system that makes it cheaper to buy fruits and vegetables than less healthful foods, so everyone can afford to eat healthfully". 

It is true that to day's environment is not conducive to creating clarity in the mind of the consumer, even if he is well read because the vast information surge vis-a-vis food across the global media causes more confusion due to severe contradictions and conflicting ideas. Consumer education is a very difficult task and the current efforts in all countries are grossly inadequate to raise the awareness about all aspects of food among the citizenry. The present curricula followed in primary schools need radical changes and this is an area neglected by many governments world over. If the basic principles of healthy eating whether referring to mode of eating or healthiness of foods consumed are not inculcated at young age, it will be difficult for grown ups to imbibe the same later. Industry cooperation may be difficult to get because business flourishes only when tasty foods are sold which in most cases are invariably unhealthy. A blend of coercive enforcement of discipline in food products marketing and persuasive efforts to wean away the industry from developing recklessly bad food that cockle the taste buds only ignoring the well being of the consumer, can only succeed in the long run.   


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