Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Myths about Indian Food

Food myths are part of every culture. Some are plain superstition: the idea that seafood, almonds and red meat have aphrodisiac properties is pure baloney.

It would be very funny too — were it not for the whales, tigers, sharks, rhinos and turtles nearly hunted to extinction for their "aphrodisiac" flesh.

Some food myths are dangerous because they have a smattering of truth in them. Here is an example: bitter gourd has a mild and transient blood sugar-lowering effect.

Here is another fact: most diabetics hate controlling their diet and taking insulin and drugs. This induces some diabetics to opt out of rational treatment altogether and substitute bitter gourd for treatment. Many diabetics have landed into diabetic ketoacidosis and mortuaries thanks to the bitter gourd cure.

Hot and cooling food

Another myth is regarding hot foods and cooling foods. There are no such things; despite all age-old notions it is to the contrary. Buttermilk is not "cooling". Neither is beer. Chillies do not produce "heat", at least not in any scientific sense of the term.

Chillies make you sweat because they induce pain and cause reflex dilatation of peripheral blood vessels and pumping of sweat. This is not equivalent to producing heat. If anything, the sweat cools the body.

For the same reason, alcohol does not warm you up. A brandy on a winter night might seem like the warmest thing in the world, but the effect is no different from the chilli effect: peripheral blood vessels dilate and cause the body to lose heat.

This is actually counterproductive to conserving body heat. Arctic explorers have died of hypothermia brought on by the drink.

Misconceptions about spice

Spicy foods cause ulcers. Not true. The intact lining of the stomach and intestines are impervious to pain and the acid produced by the stomach, and a bacterium called H.pylori is the most common cause of peptic ulcers. One landmark study involved injecting capsicum extract into the stomachs of volunteers - and even that did not cause ulcers.

If an ulcer has already disrupted the gut lining, then spicy food is not your friend. But that is a different issue altogether. After all, salt rubbed on wounds makes them smart, but that doesn't mean salt causes wounds.

Okra is not "brain food", limejuice will not burn fat and jowar is not more nutritious than wheat. Potatoes are not fattening, red meat will not make you more aggressive and there are no "spiritual" foods that help create a spiritual mindset.

Food myths are no different from astrology, myths about the universe, and dare I say it, religion. Believing is everything. But dying as a result of them isn't worth it.

Source: The Hindu


priya said...

Thaz so sweet and thanks for sharing the info'.

monifa said...

any idea why spinach is not recommended for dinner? or is that a myth too?