- Nimmi Ittycheria John
February 27, 2017
Thirty years of telling people what to eat and how good it was for their bodies got me thinking…. Was I being too theoretical… Is a carrot really good for you? And what about the much talked about greens?
To my horror, after the time I have spent with farmers and their practices, I discovered that I was wrong all those years. Not because the vegetables have changed, but because our methods of cultivation spell slow death for all those who consume them. We often scoff at those who take their own lives with a swig of poison and the like. We have not given much thought to the fact that this is precisely what each us is indulging in everyday rather obliviously albeit in smaller doses.
Which led me to the question ‘are we just filling ourselves or are we nourishing ourselves?’ or worse, ‘are we poisoning ourselves?’
I have since exchanged my vocation as a nutritionist to that of someone coordinating an NGO involved with sustainable agriculture/organic farming. It works among small and medium farmers. It is a small effort to provide people with what is truly healthy and free of toxic poison. Natural farming methods help to recreate living soil that is rich in micronutrients that are so vital for growth and healthy functioning of the human body.
With due respect to fitness trainers, physicians, nutritionists like myself who chant “cut calories, burn fat and build muscle”, there cannot be good health if your food and water is poisonous. The more I interact with farmers, the more paranoid I get about the slow poisoning of Indians, their soil and their bodies. Prolific literature on health has made us very aware of what we should eat to be well nourished in terms of carbohydrate, protein, fat and even minor nutrients. But how much do we know about the quantum of chemicals that affect our health despite consuming all that conventional wisdom thought was ‘good for us’?
The carrot for example is synonymous with antioxidants, fibre and many of the most virtuous nutrients. It is grown from a seed coated with chemicals. The packing warns you that the seed is poisonous. All warnings unfortunately end at that stage and the shining full grown carrot that catches your eye under deceptive spot lighting in ‘hypermarkets’. The truth is that from seed to the final wash in a carrot washing machine, toxins are used to keep weeds away, stunt growth of leaves to add body to the root and even polish the ‘final product’. As consumers we are enamoured by perfection in appearance and forget that the very thing we pander for, can be lethal.
While not all of us have the luxury of indulging in quests to convert farmers to natural methods, or shout ‘grow food without poison’ slogans on the beach, we all need to eat to live. The number of organic outlets in our cities and towns are growing rapidly, giving us the luxury of investing in preventive health. Farmers groups are organising themselves to find and sustain their own markets to bypass enslavement to vegetable mafia. They surely deserve patronage from customers who care about themselves, the environment and farmers who dare to grow food without poison.
(A word of caution. As in any growing business, the authenticity of the source must be investigated as inorganic as the effort sounds!)
Do eat to nourish yourself, not to poison yourself!
Nimmi Ittycheria John is a nutritionist by training. She has 30 years of experience in research, clinical practice, teaching and writing. She is now Project Director at The Earth Trust, a Nilgiri based NGO that is into sustainable agriculture, women’s health and skill development in rural areas and ecoclubs in panchayat schools in the district.
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