Tuesday, September 30, 2014

So you think smoking is bad for health?

Smoking has become very socially unacceptable nowadays. We are slowly going the way of the west, and it is difficult to light up in any gathering without getting withering glances from the others, if not face outright hostility. Media is full of messages against smoking. Any health article starts with the injunction to avoid smoking.


Looks like people are all committed to good health, right? A commitment to healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle? If you are one of those self-righteous ones who does not smoke, you also have a smug superior attitude which you wear on your sleeve, on how you are more responsible in taking care of your health.  Anyone I ask is positive that they are concerned about their health and are taking care of it well. Are you though? Whether you are a smoker or a non-smoker, you are very likely slave to a host of habits and lifestyle issues that are worse for your health than smoking.  I am listing a few of them here.


The first is excess of sugar in your diet. The human body is not capable of processing the amount of sugar we dump into it every day. The sugar we consume as part of our tea and coffee directly is bad enough, but if it were only that, the body would still manage. The amount of sugar we consume through soft drinks, breakfast cereals, ready-to-eat foods, and any kind of food that we buy off the shelves is humongous.

 (watch how much sugar in a can of coke:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKZ2ZqBYlrI ; how much sugar in your breakfast cereal:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBhZvVcKvSo )


Do you put that much sugar in the food you cook at home? You don't, right? If you think the "sugar substitutes" like aspartame are the solution, think again. The body cannot be fooled that easily – they are chemicals, and they have long term damaging effects on your health and wellbeing.


The second is table salt. Yes, ordinary salt of the variety all of us eat. The stuff that you buy as "refined, purified, salt" is nothing but a chemical powder NaCl. Natural salt has been a part of human diet for millennia, in fact it is essential to health. Natural salt has about 80-odd minerals and trace elements that make it a complete food easily assimilated by the body. That has been replaced with processed salt, which we have been convinced is good for us, since it is "processed" with "added iodine".  Guess what, the amount of salt in processed food is perhaps more than even the amount of sugar, which is what makes it bad, as anything excessive is bad. What makes it worse is that the processed foods of course use the "refined" variety of salt. Thus a perfectly natural part of human diet has been demonized. Salt is not bad for health, in normal quantities, what we normally use for our home cooking. Use unrefined natural sea salt (yes, that unglamorous stuff which our parents used to buy) and powder it at home. And put up with the fact that it absorbs moisture and becomes lumpy – that is because there are no chemicals in it to prevent that.


That of course brings us to processed food in general. What oil do you use at home? Refined, of course. And what does refined oil mean? To start with, at the extraction stage itself, a lot of heat and chemicals are applied to increase the yield of the press (which is why cold-pressed is much more expensive). A bunch of chemicals is then introduced including detergents to remove the "odors". As with all processed foods, a lot of the processing is done in order to improve the shelf life, transportability, and appearance. Your health, and the fact that you are going to eat this stuff, is of no concern.


Processed food has several chemicals added to it, in fact there is a list of several hundred for use by the food industry.


I can hear you say "But, they are FDA approved!".  Give me a break. The FDA knows nothing when it comes to health. They are here to serve industry, and not our health.  "But, they are within the safe limits for consumption". Is there any safe limit when it comes to arsenic, or radiation? Or for that matter, any other toxin? The body can handle bad stuff thrown at it, up to a point. But the rate at which we are throwing bad stuff into our bodies nowadays, it's a wonder we are still alive.


So you think smoking is bad for health? I don't deny that, but you consume stuff worse than that every minute of the day, which you think are healthy, but are as much or more damaging to your health. Food for thought - ruminate on that!

( this series of articles will be continued – I welcome your reactions – please post in my blog or write  to dinesh.gopalan@gmail.com )

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