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Benefits of eating local


The mar­kets are flood­ed with thou­sands of food vari­eties and we don’t know what to eat! When there is a new fad, we are quick to adopt. Often the met­ric we use is the taste. If it is makes our taste buds hap­py, we go for it else we dump it.

Is there a dif­fer­ent way of look­ing at the food that we eat? May be yes! Every time you pick a new food item, try ask­ing “How local is this”? The answer may not be straight for­ward but an explo­ration will def­i­nite­ly pay off! Here are some rea­sons why it is impor­tant and use­ful to eat local! The inten­tion is def­i­nite­ly not to spoil the won­der­ful piz­za din­ner that you are prob­a­bly plan­ning this evening.

Gut Microbiota

If you are per­son who is close­ly fol­low­ing what is hap­pen­ing in med­ical and food research, then there is a good chance that you have heard of the Gut Micro­bio­ta (GM). It is the microbe pop­u­la­tion liv­ing in our intes­tine. Ew! microbes. But wait. These are not harm­ful as you think them to be but extreme­ly ben­e­fi­cial to our entire sys­tem. Research says that the Gut micro­bio­ta of healthy indi­vid­u­als is very dif­fer­ent com­pared to those with dis­or­ders. Not only that. The gut microbes vary with geog­ra­phy, eth­nic­i­ty etc. That is what recent stud­ies have found. Can you draw the con­nec­tion now? Peo­ple in a cer­tain geo­graph­i­cal region share the same micro­bio­ta. There are stud­ies to show how due to glob­al­iza­tion, the human pop­u­la­tion is slow­ly los­ing its rich diver­si­ty of micro­bio­ta which helped us to com­bat dis­eases and be healthy. The micro­bio­ta is tuned to local foods and enhanced and main­tained when we eat local! Processed foods kill these valu­able microbes mak­ing us sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­eases. If we have to pre­serve these valu­able microbes, eat­ing local is a great idea. It will immense­ly help the next gen­er­a­tion. Oh! since when have we start­ed wor­ry­ing about them? May be now its time.

Food Miles

Is this some kind of points you can earn? No! This is the dis­tance that your food trav­els from the field to plate and the car­bon foot­print it cre­ates. The term food miles was coined in the 1990s by Dr. Tim Lang, Prof of food pol­i­cy, Lon­don. With­in India, food trav­els hun­dreds of kms to reach our plate. The car­bon emis­sion it con­tributes can be quite high due to its trans­port, refrig­er­a­tion and lack of facil­i­ties to grow food types every­where. Its a com­plex choice in regions where the tem­per­a­tures can be extreme.

There are hundreds of people for and against food miles but let us look at it intuitively

In a cold place, it may be inef­fi­cient to grow veg­eta­bles in win­ter in a green­house. But in a place like South India, which has good tem­per­a­ture ranges and rain­fall, eat­ing local is quite pos­si­ble. Keep explor­ing where your food came from. We still import a lot of cere­als and grains. Eat­ing local can encour­age grow­ing local. This will also help us dis­cov­er local foods that we have nev­er tried.

Nutrient Value

In order for the food reach your plate, it goes through numer­ous process­es of preser­va­tion and refrig­er­a­tion. Arti­fi­cial­ly ripened man­goes and homog­e­nized and pas­teurised milk are quite com­mon. We nev­er had ava­ca­dos in south India but now see an abun­dance of them. Foods are also genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied to make them in grow in all places. While these increase the avail­abil­i­ty of food, they decrease the nutri­ent val­ue. Now tell me? Do you want to eat tasty man­goes or health­i­er ones or some­thing that is tasty and healthy? Its a no brain­er.

Ayurveda

Ayurve­da has excel­lent insights on how local food helps and how sea­son­al foods can keep one healthy and hap­py. Our fes­ti­vals too are tuned to sea­son­al foods. Raw man­goes dur­ing Rama Nava­mi and jamuns dur­ing Krish­na Jayan­ti! In fact Ayurve­da goes a step fur­ther and says how the sea­son, the taste in the food and the dosha of the body are all inter­con­nect­ed. Isn’t this a beau­ti­ful way of look­ing at these rhythms and eat­ing.

While we total­ly under­stand that it is dif­fi­cult to reverse con­sump­tion prac­tices, it is impor­tant to become aware and start some­where. Knowl­edge is pow­er. Igno­rance is not always bliss.

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