“ In recent times, India has also become home to chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic inflammation and anemia to name just a few.”
In a country of 1.3 billion people, malnutrition is often accepted as a harsh reality of life. Ensuring that an entire population does not, at the very least, go hungry is in itself a daunting task, and quite naturally takes priority over everything else. However, in recent years, unseen and unnoticed, India has also become home to chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic inflammation and anaemia to name just a few. The demands of a fast paced life, the choice of convenience over quality, and the lack of better options, are finally revealing their repercussions.
A choice of convenience over nutrition
With time, more kitchens across India have begun to rely on the convenience of store bought ingredients in preparing meals, while a smaller section of the country have switched to packaged food or instant meals for their nourishment, as it is often the most viable choice. As nations develop, this is a natural progression, hence in this context, our attention needs to shift to how nutritious packaged food in India actually is. Simple everyday ingredients such as salt, spices, oils, pickles and instant foods need to be made nutritious as it is these that form the basis of millions of meals across our country. While we have seen a big change over the years when it comes to oils or salt, this nutritional impact is yet to become mainstream.
Take the case of Spices, India is the biggest consumer, as well as exporter of spices in the world. Right from Ancient times, the silk route plied spices such as Pepper, Cinnamon, Turmeric and Cardamom from Asia to the West. Ancient Indians knew exactly how each spice was to be used, they understood that spices needed to be hand ground so as not to produce too much heat, hence retaining the essential oils that lend them their unique flavour and aroma. Spice powders when added to cooking, release their essential oils in the heat generated, thus rendering the dish aromatic as well as nutritious with their nutraceutical properties as well as fibre content.
“All the essential oils and nutrients in our spices are lost long before they reach our kitchens”
This is far from how spices are manufactured in our times. A huge demand has led to the mass production of spice powders. Gone is the hand grinding, only to be replaced by large industrial grinders that produce so much heat, that all the essential oils and nutrients in these spices are lost well before they reach our kitchens. This is a stark reality for a country that, for centuries has understood and used the medicinal properties of plants, herbs and spices to ensure maximum nutrition. Ayurveda, siddha, Unani and yoga, have always looked as food holistically. Indians have always understood how to make the most of mother nature’s bounty, and our cuisines are proof of this concept. The power of Black pepper or Kali Mirch in keeping colds at bay, the healing and anti-inflammatory properties of Turmeric powder, this is what makes these spices a staple in kitchens across India.
Studies showing the comparison in terms of volatile oils between cryogenically ground and non cryogenically ground spices.
Cryogenic grinding - A way to preserve nutrition
With modern day techniques, it is now possible to retain nutritional value in packaged food as well. Techniques such as Cryogenic Grinding, ensure that spice powders like coriander and chilli, retain all their essential oils and micronutrients. Whole peppercorns, roots of turmeric or other whole spices are first cooled to a temperature of -196 ̊ C using liquid nitrogen, before they are ground, thereby ensuring that the heat generated during grinding is compensated by the low temperatures. Spice powders ground using this method have been found to retain up to twice the essential oils when compared to heat generating techniques, which translates into richer colour, increased flavour and more aroma as well as retention of all the medicinal benefits that spices have to offer. With the simple application of scientific principles, we instantly have ingredients that are twice as nutritious as before, without leaving behind any unwanted residue.
“Cryogenically ground spices retain twice the essential oils and nutrients when compared to traditional grinding methods”
We need to recognize the need for meticulous care, for safe procedures, better processing techniques, when it comes to the packaged food we manufacture, because the only way for a nation of Indians to become healthier is by consuming food that is made truly healthier.