For the past few decades of the globalised capitalist market economic system most of us have chosen to follow the western models in areas ranging from fashion to food. Now most highly qualified nutritionists agree that western food models have failed because at least 40% of the people are suffering from obesity mainly because of the excessive quantities of fatty and fast food they regularly consume in addition to drinking various brands of coke. As a result of this obesity, most of those western people are vulnerable to often fatal ailments like heart failures and other non-communicable diseases like diabetes.
With the advent of the digital era with its modern technology including artificial intelligence, robotic marvels, the obesity epidemic is increasing because there is less physical movement and more press button work.
In Sri Lanka we are blessed with hundreds of varieties of vegetables and fruits which are not only tasty but also nourishing while some have medicinal properties also. For instance our Murunga is supposed to be one of the most nourishing vegetables and our scientists need to do some researches in the nutritive or medicinal qualities there should in the Murunga or drumstick we throw away. We also have in abundance of nutrition filled Mallums like Gotukola and Mukunuwenna in addition to Kathurumurunga which adds flavour and nourishment to our meals as a curry or a Mallum. Despite having hundreds of varieties of vegetables and fruits we have bitten our tongues with a huge bill for food imports. Some of our highly qualified nutritionist say we are often importing processed rubbish and paying a high price for it. Let us hope that there will be education and awareness relating to this and we will learn to give preference to nutrition instead of just taste though combination of both is possible for a person who is dedicated to cooking.
In addition specially during recent years unscrupulous traders and vendors are known to be using harmful preservatives or other chemicals so that the vegetables and fruits could be kept for days. There is also the crisis of genetically modified fruits which are big and look attractive, but the nutrition value is known to be minimal because they don’t go through the natural germination process. One such case involves bananas.
Today the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) marks the World Food Day with the theme being our actions are our future. Healthy diets for a zero-hunger world. In a statement the Rome based FAO says In recent decades, we have dramatically changed our diets and eating habits as a result of globalisation, urbanization and income growth.
We have moved from seasonal, mainly plant-based and fibre-rich dishes to diets that are high in refined starches, sugar, fats, salt, processed foods, meat and other animal-source products. Less time is spent preparing meals at home, and consumers, especially in urban areas, increasingly rely on supermarkets, fast food outlets, street food vendors and take-away restaurants.
A combination of unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles has sent obesity rates soaring, not only in developed countries, but also low-income countries, where hunger and obesity often coexist. Now over 670 million adults and 120 million girls and boys (5-19 years) are obese, and over 40 million children under 5 are overweight, while more than 820 million people suffer from hunger.
An unhealthy diet is the leading risk factor for deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and certain cancers. Linked with one fifth of deaths worldwide, unhealthy eating habits are also taking a toll on national health budgets costing up to US$ 2 trillion a year.
Obesity and other forms of malnutrition affect nearly one in three people. Projections indicate that the number will be one in two by 2025. The good news is that affordable solutions exist to reduce all forms of malnutrition, but they require greater global commitment and action.
We hope Sri Lanka with the multitude of food resources at our disposal will carry out awareness proprogrammes so that people will learn the fine art of not only eating well, but eating wisely.