- Food shaming is as discriminatory as body shaming
- It can make us believe that food at home can cause weight gain
- It convinces to eat only exotic foods like kale, broccoli, avocado etc
Have you ever heard of food shaming? Much like body shaming, food shaming is looking down upon local and native food and food practices. It just as discriminatory, unhealthy and just as unfair as body shaming, mentions Jinal Shah in her Tedx talk. In her video, Jinal elaborates how simple, local foods like ghee, parantha, makkhan (etc) have been looked down upon, all thanks to the food industry. Food shaming comes with the very desire to replace local, naturally available foods with exotic foods. This is becoming a rising concern, especially in a country like India as it takes us away from good health, our native culture and cuisine.
What has led to food shaming?
1. Categorisation of food
Categorising food into carbs, fats, proteins, fibre, etc, and then turning a food into a hero or a villain based on a single nutrient is food shaming. This phenomenon is also known as nutritionism. Jinal highlights the fact how nutritionism - driven by the food industry - has nearly convinced us that everything that comes from our kitchens, and the produce from our local farms is not healthy enough for us. Alongside, they have convinced us that every product that they (food industry) are selling contains all the nutrients that our body needs.
2. Our faith in lab research vs time-tested collective food wisdom
People's faith in studies and everything that has been tested in laboratories, proven by research is the truth. You must have heard that dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and is thus great for brain health. But did you know that pinni or gond laddu is just as rich in antioxidants and is good for heart and brain health. It is important to understand that lab research may be limited in its scope and is usually done on a small sample size. It is conducted in controlled environments which cannot be relatable in real life. Many of these studies are done on animals and are even sponsored by the food industry itself.
Jinal stresses on the fact that traditional food wisdom is time-tested, which has been passed down to us by our ancestors. This wisdom has been observed by real people in real situations, and stand true even in the present times.
Thus, when we prefer "clarified butter from milk" over ghee and "turmeric latte" over age-old haldi doodh, we would know how much food shaming we have been a part of.
Effect of food shaming on people
Processed and packaged foods have replaced simple home-cooked meals. We have lost touch with our food heritage, crop cycle and agriculture. Lack of seasonal foods in our children's diet has resulted in widespread increase of non-communicable diseases like fatty liver disease, diabetes, obesity, heart issues, mental health diseases, cancer and much more in children.
How to protect yourself from food shaming?
Whenever you are trying to know if a particular food is good for you or not, you should take care of the following:
1. Do the grandmother test: See if your grandmother recognises the food in question as "food", and is she ate the food while she was growing up.
2. Food miles test: This test is based on the distance between where the food has grown, and where you are eating it. The shorter the distance, the healthier that food is for you. So if you are planning on a avocado toast for breakfast tomorrow, see if it passes the food miles test.
Food which grows in your region is likely to be in season at that point of time and will have all nutrients that the body requires to fight infections, build immunity, etc.
3. Versatility test: The number of ways in which food can be eaten and utilised will be referred to as its versatility. This includes not just food preparations, but also the ability of food to be used for its medicinal and therapeutic properties, and ritualistic and decorative properties. Sugarcane, for instance, is a versatile food. It can be consumed as a fruit, it can be converted into a juice (which is rich in fibre), it can be converted into jaggery - which has medicinal properties that can help during cough, congestion and sore throat.
(Jinal Shah is Senior Nutritionist at Rujuta Diwekar's)
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