Indian snacks as bad as western fast food
I always thought so but had no research study to back up my gut feel that Indian snack food was as bad as western fast food. But now there is a research study to prove it. In fact it says that Indian snacks may well be worse! The findings of which were presented at a conference on “Fats and trans-fatty acids in Indian diet” at the Seventh Health Writers Workshop organised by Health Essayists and Authors League (HEAL) here by Anoop Misra, director and head, department of diabetes and metabolic diseases at the Fortis Group of Hospitals. Well, I hope this quietens down the rhetoric against western fast food in India.
…new research has found that Western food is a lesser evil than the Indian bhatura or parathas. Digest this — while the trans-fatty acids (hydrogenated oils and fats) in French fries (per 100 gm) is 4.2%-6.1%, it is 9.5% in bhatura, 7.8% in paratha and 7.6% each in puri and tikkis. The myth must go. While we blame Western food as junk, Indian food is worse. The presence of trans-fatty acids in our food is much higher posing a risk for development of diabetes and coronary heart disease in early 20s and 30s…this is, however, not to say that Western fast food is healthier. It is just less harmful than Indian dishes…the South Indian snacks of idli-dosa have won hands down in the ‘fat-battle’ …
Okay, so these studies were conducted on snack food that was fried in vanaspati (hydrogenated fats) and that is why the transfats in these foods are so high. But while some good hotels do use oil, many don’t. And how many of us check anyway? In fact the transfats in bhaturas came down to 3 percent when vanaspati was not used. But then the french fries which were also fried in vanaspati had lower transfats than the Indian snacks! Unfortunately the report did not have the trans fat content of french fries cooked in oil, but clearly, they would decrease too.
And in any case even if french fries and baked goods are bad for health, how many of our countrymen consume these on a regular basis? Our street food and all the canteens in schools, colleges and companies may stock these, but it is mostly Indian snacks like Samosas and Kachoris and Namkeens that are popular and certainly cheaper. These are the Indian snacks are what we consume on a daily basis and these are what we should worry about. Unfortunately, frying is ingrained in our psyche. We fry everything, not just snacks, but also our veggies, rice (pulao), our bread (parathas, puris) and non-vegetarian food as well. Poorer people use a lot of vanaspati (hydrogenated fat) as it is cheaper than oil. Many hotels use vanaspati to add that extra taste or mix it with oil. Right now the government is thinking of ways to regulate the Trans Fatty content in vanaspati (it varies from brand to brand) but I think vanaspati should be banned altogether.
Related Reading: What is the Indian government doing to control trans fats in our food?
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