An Oxford University study found that packaged foods and drinks In India are unhealthy due to the high levels of saturated fat, salt, and sugar present in them. Oxford University’s George Institute for Global Health analyzed more than 4,00,000 food and drink products from 12 countries around the world, using Australia’s Health Star Rating system to rank them. This system works by breaking down the nutrient concentration and measures the salt, sugar, saturated fat, protein, energy, fiber, and calcium to give a star rating that ranges from ½ (unhealthy) to 5 (healthy). According to a study published in the medical journal Obesity Reviews, the UK topped the list with a rating of 2.83, followed by the US with 2.82 and Australia with 2.81. 

India has the lowest rating of 2.27, followed by China with 2.43 and Chile at 2.44. The study mentions that China had the most harmful levels of saturated fat in their food, while their drinks were the healthiest. South Africa got a poor rating for its drinks with 1.92 and food with 2.87. The study adds that India’s packaged foods and drinks are most energy-dense (kilojoule content 1515 kJ/ 100 g). 

This is surely a wake-up call for India as it is estimated that by 2025, India will have over 17 million obese children. The results will surely cause concern because packaged foods and drinks lead to diseases like obesity, heart disease, etc. in many low and middle-income countries. The study report also states that many of the world’s biggest food and drink manufacturers have become members of the International Food and Beverage Alliance and pledged to reduce the levels of sugar, salt and harmful fats found in their products. The study findings can help push the companies to work towards providing healthy products.

How healthy is the traditional food of India?

Indian cuisine does not get its due. Rarely does it get listed in the healthy cuisines of the word lists? That’s sad because it has a lot going for it – not just taste-wise, but health-wise too. Here are the top five reasons for continuing to stick to the Indian thali, to stay healthy. What we have been eating for the last many decades, it seems to have been right as it has helped keep a tight lid on mind debilitating disorders like Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s. India, in fact, has the lowest rate of these diseases in the world, and now the mystery has been solved.

Turmeric, our golden much-used spice contains an antioxidant called curcumin, which has been linked to a lower risk of these and a few cancers as well. In fact, it’s not just about turmeric, spices in Indian cooking are there for more than just flavor. They are there for a purpose – to cool or heat the body, to avoid flatulence, to boost metabolism and that’s a good thing. Now we also know that adding black pepper – which most Indian cooks do intuitively in curries and other spicy dishes – helps boost curcumin absorption.

Traditionally, our diet has been low in meats, and that according to studies just helps significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease but also cuts the risk of developing CVD and hypertension. And this is actually a wonderful example of food synergy, which is a relatively new stream of nutrition. Till even a decade ago, the world didn’t know about the fact that eating two or more ingredients together can help score bigger health benefits. Today, though it is clear that while every food that we eat has its own profile of nutrients, often certain combinations are greater than the sum of their parts. In Indian cuisine, we have been, wittingly or unwittingly, applying this food rule for ages. By dunking whole wheat roti into a yogurt we ensure that the zinc is absorbed better from wheat.

Traditional turmeric milk that always has some black pepper added to it is another age-old food synergy masterstroke, as black pepper helps in better absorption of curcumin from turmeric. Also, the ubiquitous dal and rice combination delivers complete good quality protein, making up for the missing amino acids in lentils and grams. There are many more such examples in the Indian way of cooking and eating.

A portion of good probiotic food is one that contains millions and millions of live bacteria which join hands with the good bugs already present in our gut and boost our gut health. Also, it is easy to stay primarily vegetarian with Indian cuisine. With the wide range of vegetable and lentil dishes, there are in all regional repertoires, you won’t miss meat for one second.

Probiotics are a hot word today and are being considered as a panacea of sorts that can put our gut in order and prevent all modern-day ailments. Our traditional thali is chock-a-block with such foods, we just never realized it. Homemade curd or yogurt, pickles, fermented vegetables, kanji, most dishes of south-Indian cuisine like buttermilk, idli, dosa, appam, dhokla, uttapam – are all high in live cultures of the good bacteria.

Maintaining gut health has been considered important right from the times of Ayurveda. Finally, we have been smoking pointwise too. Smoke (flash) point is the temperature at which a bluish smoke begins to emerge from the fat source and begins to burn and disintegrate (basically when the pan starts smoking and an acrid smell begins to emanate).

Besides spoiling the taste of the food, studies point the fat in oils turns carcinogenic too. Apparently, our ancestors were smart about this. Traditionally, we have been frying foods in oils that have high smoke points like coconut oil and peanut oil instead of those (like corn, canola, sunflower, sesame), which have a low smoke point. And this is precisely why ghee that has a very high smoke point was always such a favorite earlier for all frying purposes.

What influences Indians to buy packed food?

Consumers perceive the Packed Food as nourishing, healthier and delicious. Consumers, therefore, are switching to this substance item and willing to pay the premium cost. The investigation had been coordinated to know the most affecting factors that affect purchasers to purchase Packed Food. Literature reviews are available that the food habits of the people are promptly being changed in the way women are being involved in the economic activities of our society. Individual habits, attitudes, beliefs and values, age, education, income, marital status, etc. are some socio-demographic factors that influence a consumer in the time of buying packed foods.

 Besides these social demographic influencing factors, results have confirmed that consumers are interested in buying this food as it is easy to cook, delicious, easy to find, quality product, low price, etc. The study examination concluded by gathering data from 150 respondents through a questionnaire. The collected data were analyzed through the Factor Analysis Process. It had also been detected that working individuals are essential clients of this sustenance. 

In addition, gender; age; education level; family income; profession demonstrate a positive impact on purchasing packed food. It had also been identified that packed food is currently very expanding because it is easy to cook (as indicated by 94% of respondents) and safe (as indicated by 73% of respondents). Moreover, the brand image (indicated by 84% respondents), quality (68%), low pricing (77%), advertising (64%), appearance (69%), availability (59%), and taste (78%), likewise influence clients to purchase this kind of food. 

Through this research, an interesting topic had been found that “time-saving (according to 38% respondents)” and “packaging (indicated by 49% respondents)” factors do not have any significant impact on the purpose of buying the packed foods.

The main reason for the growth of the packed food industry is increased awareness among consumers in the country. Previously, packed food was mainly being exported. But over the last couple of years, the domestic market has also started growing. Western culture goes into our way of life and so Food culture has been changed nowadays. Previously, people used to eat food in restaurants. As the pattern has been changed, the act of eating food at the restaurant has been converted to taking food in the home but it will be on a Ready-made basis.

 Women’s freedom, flexibility & involvement in business or administrative sectors are becoming to extend So, they can’t give enough time in-house because of taking part in the financial area. Retail shops are developing in the local area, and they are built up in an advantageous area. So, people can get easy access to any retail shop to buy packaged foods which can be delicious and highly convenient but they can do a lot of harm to your body. 

Health issues faced by consuming packed foods

From increasing cholesterol levels and preventing the body from reducing your weight to dehydrating your body, packaged foods contain harmful ingredients that take a toll on health irrespective of your age.

Packed with harmful preservatives

Packaged foods are loaded with preservatives to increase their shelf life. However, one thing to consider is that if this food can last for years on the shelf, can it not last in your body for a long, long time? The side effects of preservatives are plenty. From promoting the growth of cancer cells to causing chronic heart and mental disorders, preservatives do no good to your body.

Chemical-based ingredients

Other than preservatives, packaged foods are made with a host of artificial, chemical-based ingredients such as colorants, artificial flavoring, and texturants. These chemicals wreak havoc on your body and disturb the natural balance of your internal organs leading to dehydration when consumed in small quantities and can also cause permanent disorders such as diabetes and hypertension.

Presence of BPA

The plastic coating inside most packaged foods can be poisonous as it contains Bisphenol or BPA made from crude oil which is unsafe for human consumption.  BPA is used to kill rats in lab experiments. Imagine what this toxic material can do to your child’s health.

Packaged foods are highly addictive

The convenience and taste that packaged foods offer make them highly addictive. Soon packaged food options will replace natural food. They become your go-to option when you are tired, stressed out or simply running late. Substituting natural food with packaged food deprives your body of essential nutrients that only fresh ingredients can provide.

Unhealthy sugar levels

Packaged foods are a major cause of obesity primarily due to their high sugar content. Be it packaged juice or cereal; packaged foods are only marketed as sugar-free, low-calorie foods. These foods have corn syrup, genetically modified plant matter and glucose that further raises the sugar levels.

Excessive sodium and salt

The high sodium and salt content in packaged foods such as chips, processed meats and biscuits can cause serious complications to your health. They can spell disaster for people suffering from high blood pressure and can lead to chronic heart diseases over prolonged consumption.

Lack of essential nutrients

A balanced meal must contain the right quantities of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and sugar. Packaged foods do not contain these nutrients in the right amounts and are sometimes devoid of any nutrients at all. Eating such food does not benefit you in any way.

Difficult to digest

Packaged foods have a long shelf life making them hard to digest. Furthermore, these foods lack fiber which is essential for the smooth movement of food through the digestive system. As a result, you feel bloated and uncomfortable for long hours after eating such food.

High in trans fats

Packaged foods are made in large quantities and hence manufacturers lookout for the most affordable ingredients to reduce their production costs. These foods contain hydrogenated oils that are high in trans fats leading to oxidation and inflammation in the body. Studies reveal that these oils significantly increase the risk of heart disease.

Aluminum leaks cause memory loss

When food is packed into aluminum cans, free radicals contaminate the food.  When you eat canned food over the years, you are at risk of suffering from memory loss and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Poor quality ingredients

Packaged food barely has any natural ingredients. If they do, these ingredients are not of the freshest quality as manufacturers look for the cheapest ingredients to make their products more affordable. As these ingredients are heavily processed and added to the packaged food, you cannot judge their quality.

Makes you more prone to diseases

When you consume packaged foods regularly, you put yourself at the risk of developing a host of diseases. From heart problems and obesity to insulin-dependent diabetes, life-threatening disease stems from consuming packaged foods. These foods can also lead to skin problems such as acne due to the excessive amounts of oil used in the production of these foods and the lack of fiber can lead to gastrointestinal tract ailments.

Packaged food contains high levels of refined carbohydrates

Most packaged foods contain high levels of refined carbohydrates. Refined carbs as compared to whole carbs are not good for us because they are broken down quickly in the digestive tract and cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. This means that you might have carb cravings shortly after your blood sugar levels go down. A diet high in refined carbs makes you more prone to chronic diseases.

A comeback to the traditional shelves

Research points to the rising trend to seek out new cuisines that are not only healthy but are also different and inspired by international flavors. The global food trend of ‘deconstruction’ where a food item is broken down into its component flavors and then reconstructed using completely different ingredients is also catching on for Indian food. Our traditional food items are made with the fusion style which is more welcoming. Nowadays, people have begun to consume it and are hoping to stay fit. The craze of consuming traditional foods has gone viral in social media, which makes everyone to have it preferably. Many restaurants provide traditional cuisines which has made a new turn over in the food industry. Do not let your food to deteriorate your health, eat traditional foods and remain in a healthy phase.     


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