A few years ago, before I was bumped off by her, my lunch used to come from Ms. Vijaya Venkat’s health service. She would make it a point to keep telling us about the five white poisons; sugar, salt, maida, oil and milk and her vegetarian food used to be extraordinarily good despite the minimal use of these “poisons”.
Over the years, I have realised that she was both right and wrong. I have followed her “only fruits till lunch” dictum quite religiously, but I disagree with her when it comes to milk, salt and oil. I personally don’t drink milk because I am partly lactose intolerant, but if you are not, it is a wonderful food. Salt and oil taken in the right proportions are good for the body as well.
The problem is with sugar and maida. These are pure carbohydrates (carbs) and the prime reason for the shooting “chubbiness” that is hitting all sections of our society.
Last month, Christopher McDougall released his new book “Natural Born Heroes”. The book dizzily moves from parkour to Greek resistance fighters to abstinence from carbohydrates, but the one message that shines through is that the best way to stay fit is to let the body burn fat. And for that to happen, our carb intake has to be as less as possible. A good way is to avoid high glycemic index foods (rice, refined wheat, sugar, etc) and to move towards foods that are low glycemic index (broccoli, nuts, eggs, cheese, etc). I did that last month and while the first week was as tough as a Jain “athai”, after the second week the craving for carbs was gone. Given that in our society it is virtually impossible to avoid carbs, I am slowly managing to eat carb laden foods as sparingly as possible.
Maggi is among the most carb rich foods there is. Which is one of the reasons why when you are traveling in Ladakh, at virtually all restaurant stops, the staple food is either Maggi or “thukpa”, which is also a local noodle soup, fresher, but with less carbs than Maggi. Hot Maggi is cheap, heats up the body, provides instant energy and feels nourishing, which is why it is so popular in cold Ladakh.
Forget the lead content and the so-called “ajinomoto” issue. The problem with Maggi and similar foods really is that of carbs. Cornflakes in all forms, virtually all chocolates, Coke, Pepsi, Frooti and all similar drinks and virtually all processed foods are essentially unhealthy and go straight to the belly or the buttock.
Michael Pollen has a simple mantra. Avoid anything that comes in a tin or is packaged and processed. Eat fresh produce, cooked fresh. This automatically leads to a healthier food lifestyle and a significant reduction in the intake of all foods that are high in carbs.
After turning 50, you realise that the only important thing is your health. And eating right is perhaps the single most important thing that determines your health, after your genes.
Maggi should be banned, but not because of the lead content, but because it just is an extremely unhealthy food item. Period!