Food as medicine or medicine as food

I have heard my grandma saying her parents and grandparents never took medicine. In fact those were the days when allopathic medicine was still in infant stages in our country and this was not the reason behind them not taking medicine. They were healthy, with no chronic diseases, only epidemic and endemic diseases were the medical conditions present in society then. A disease or condition that usually lasts for 3 months or longer and may get worse over time are known as chronic disease. They tend to occur in older adults and can usually be controlled but not cured. The most common types of chronic disease are cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and arthritis. I have seen my grandma and grandpa taking medicine for blood pressure, diabetes and age related medical conditions at their 60’s or 70’s. I have also seen my parents starting same medications at their 40’s and even 30’s. Now at present such medications are making way in to our day’s cycle by our 20’s. Have ever thought of the reason behind it?
No doubt the lifestyle and physical activity of our grandparents and their parents were different from ours. They did not lead a sedentary life like us. Unlike they were active throughout the day. This can’t be the only reason for build-up and sudden spike in chronic diseases right. What is that which is common for every living creature? It’s hunger and food. Is food only to satisfy our hunger? No it is much more than that. Food is the basic block to build our body. Fuel to our regenerative cells. Source of energy for our daily activities and body metabolism. So we are what we eat!!! What were the eating habits of our grandparents that kept them healthy throughout their life? Their food was simple, with seasonal fruits, vegetables and greens, along cereals and pulses. Best part was most of the fruits, vegetables and greens were from their backyard and the staples were cultivated on their farm lands.
What’s in our staples, fruits and vegetables, which keeps chronic diseases at bay? Grains are the primary staple food, which are nutritionally rich and deliver recommended nutrients to body. All the grains have good calorific value, largely from starch and proteins. The starch and carbohydrates in rice, wheat, maize, jowar, ragi and bajra, the high protein proportion in greengram, blackgram, redgram, soybean, mothbean and peas as whole grains and split dal and carbohydrates, protein and antioxidants in the minor millets, popularly known as nutri-cereals contribute to the energy for basic body metabolism and building of muscles. The oil seeds are source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The resistant starch and fibre in cereals, pulses and oil seeds in addition to these adds to blood glucose level regulation and easy bowel movement. Coming to vegetables and fruits, they are source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which take care of our vision, functioning of vital organs, detoxification of blood and body cells, bone health and removal of free radicals, which might otherwise lead to inflammation of body cells. Apart from these their high water content acts as natural body coolant, keeps body hydrated and the dietary fibre is a prebiotic (food to beneficial gut bacteria), adds to bulk of stools, eases bowel movement and hence promotes gut health. So just inclusion of all these in regular diet will meet complete nutritional requirement for healthy build-up of our body. A healthy body hence needs food as medicine regularly, deviation from this leads to medical conditions, which demands intake of medicine regularly.
Have we deviated much from this food consumption pattern? The major reason for most of the chronic diseases in western countries is processed food, which might have lost its basic nature and filled with preservatives, artificial colours, taste makers and taste enhancers. These chemicals upon deposition in body cells will lead to obesity and chronic diseases like heart diseases and diabetes. The very next reason in these countries is non-vegetarian meal, which lacks dietary fibre and leading to major gut diseases and intestine cancer. Our Indian diet is unlike this, as the proportion of processed food consumption in India is only 2 per cent as compared to western countries, where it is 98 % and ours is mainly vegetarian based diet. But still the chronic diseases and obesity is rising day by day. Ever thought what might be the reason?
Though ours is majorly vegetarian based diet with few processed products, our diet is slowly being affected by the western food habits in recent days. The ready to eat cereals like oats, cornflakes, white poison viz., maida, table salt and sugar, refined vegetable oils and fast food have made their way into our life even without our knowledge. Consumption of all these lead to spike in blood sugar levels, with meagre mineral content and vitamins they affect the proper functioning of vital organs, lack of fibre lead to gut related disorders and excessive fats in fast food lead to obesity. As these were the major culprits identified till date, the dieticians and doctors would majorly advice to stay away from junk food, fried food, maida and processed sugars. We can still see many suffering from chronic diseases who have never come across all these food stuff or who have quitted it on doctor’s advice and adopted a healthy diet. The new culprit now is this healthy diet!!!
With ever growing population, as a country we have come a long way from begging bowl to self-sustenance and now a major exporter of food grains, fruits and vegetables. This was possible because of green revolution in early 70’s. With green revolution high yielding hybrids and varieties replaced our native crop cultivars, mineral fertilizers crept into soils with indiscriminate use altering their productivity and fertility, the chemical pesticides and herbicides entered food chain, being sprayed with no proper regulation to keep pests away and increase crop yield. All the conventional produce available in the market today is loaded with pesticide residues. From a longterm study it was found that these pesticide residues basically act as free radicals, they accumulate in our body cells and biomagnify, they offset the beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables. The food plate which we are considering as healthy is exposing our body to more of chemicals and chronic disease.
Now the new recommendation is to go organic, with motto of food as medicine to environment and human health. With natural and organic farming we can build an ecosystem which is sustainable, pollution free, better place to live for us and our future generation and basically produce food that acts as medicine to lead a healthy life.

Why expose yourselves to different chemicals in form of conventionally grown food and include an array of tablets and capsules to manage the chronic conditions that build with time? Instead go organic!!!


Dr. Anusha L.
Ph.D. in Agriculture (Agronomy)
Agriculture Scientific Advisor
Tapovanam Organic Farming Systems
Linkedin: Dr. Anusha L


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