Early man settled around areas where he could find food and water and with time built his life around these foods. Slowly, over generations, people learnt and passed on knowledge about what from that region can be eaten, how they should be cooked, when during the day they are best eaten, what spices have anti-septic/fungal/bacterial properties and much more. This humongous unwritten body of information which has been serving the people of each region for centuries is what we call “cuisine” today.
Each cuisine does not just taste different but also ensures nourishment in it’s own unique way. The cuisine ties together various foods that are available in that region to provide the consumer with everything that is necessary for optimal health. This is why the Mexicans eat their beans and we eat our lentils, they Italians love their pasta and we can’t do without our dosa and the English have their lard and we have our ghee.
This being the case, there is no reason to eat foods that are foreign when it comes down to losing fat or regaining health. That is, when you have a rich, historical and exquisite cuisine available to you, why eat like a westerner just when you’re trying to lose weight or gain health? Is a salad the only way to eat a nutrient rich low calorie meal? Is broccoli the only healthful green vegetable? Are berries the only fatloss-friendly fruits? Absolutely not.
If fat loss or health is your goal, then what you need is nutrient rich meals made from organic wholesome ingredients that are satisfying enough for you to sustain in the long term. Now, just like how there are many ways to go from point A to B, there are many ways to build these meals and as long as the ingredients you use are wholesome, it’s all good. This is usually easier when you are dealing with foods that are locally available. And that’s why my recommendation is always to eat local and seasonal food depending on which part of the world you live in.
local food is cheap and easily available. There’s no way you’re going to get a grass-fed beef fillet with organic grilled asparagus and mashed potatoes in Chennai. But you can eat paneer dosas with pudina chutney and a glorious filter coffee any day of the week. When you have a local option which is nutritionally similar, stop looking for “health foods” on the internet and start embracing your food culture.
ingredients used in local food is familiar to the farmer, the middleman and the cook. They know how to grow, handle and cook with local ingredients and hence the need for fertilizers, ripeners and processing is much lower. This greatly reduces the inherent risk that is a part of all your food today.
local and seasonal foods are just easier to produce because the land naturally favours these ingredients as they are a part of the eco system. And because of this, the use of dangerous chemicals to force cultivation and improve yield is reduced. For example, mangoes are much healthier and tastier in India in June than in England in December.
To sum up
eat foods that are in season and are from around where you currently are. It doesn’t matter what nationality you are. If you live in India, eat Indian food. If you live someplace else, eat food that is native to that region.
Note: This post was originally published in The Hindu MetroPlus