Ms Vaneisa Baksh

How much kale do you need to eat to reap the benefits of this trendy superfood? How much quinoa? Yoghurt? How many almonds should you chomp? How many pumpkin, chia and flax seeds?

What is a superfood anyway? A good bet is that it is a product high in nutrients. A better bet is that it is a product strategically labelled by marketers who understand the human need to feel good about themselves when they buy crazy-expensive food.

If you are willing to pay a lot more for foods boasting of organic and grass-fed origins, you might as well get those with super powers so you can also tell people that you drink green tea and almond milk.

The truth is that a healthy diet comes from a broad range of foods. Nutritionists will tell you that the broader the spectrum, the better. The closer to natural, the better.

The simpler the process before it gets to you, the more likely you’re eating something that will do you some good.

I have been spending a geek-load of hours checking out foods and packaging because I want to get a sense of what people are eating, and how they are being persuaded to make those choices.

As the regulations regarding food labelling have become more stringent, those creatives on the marketing payrolls have a ripe old time using buzzwords to sell us crap.

Yes, kale is a good thing. But so are spinach, bhagi and callaloo bush – cheaper, local fare loaded with everything a dark green leafy vegetable should have.

When we kowtow to the marketing moguls, we’re surrendering our common sense regarding food choices. Have you seen the cost of anything that has been branded a superfood?

I saw a sticker on a supermarket shelf the other day for a product described as artisan lettuce. It was $75, I think.

I was scandalised and asked the nearby attendant if the sticker was referring to the little plastic containers in front of me, and if he would buy lettuce at that price.

He said it appeared the lettuce we were looking at was not of that artisanal brand. I shrugged it off, but he was so intrigued that he went seeking the expensive lettuce.

A while later, he returned. There was none left. We were disappointed not to see this item face to face.

I feel it is more beneficial to buy local fruit and vegetables, and I am very conscious of that when I shop.

I have always felt it important to support local farmers; maybe because I come from a family of farmers; maybe because I believe that we need to help our cottage industries.

But that aside, I also feel disquiet about the fruit and vegetables that have travelled long distances, from different climates, looking as fresh and rosy as the day they were harvested. What do they preserve them with?

And as I mention farmers, I remember on CNC3 news last week, the anchors were reporting on a fine that had been levied at bandits who stole 231 avocadoes years ago. I think it was 2014.

The anchors could barely maintain their composure as they descended into reminiscing about their own avocado-stealing days. The insensitivity annoyed me intensely.

Praedial larceny is one of the biggest problems facing our agricultural sector. Just a few days ago, an Aranjuez farmer was telling me that hundreds of heads of lettuce had been stolen from him the day before.

He knew who the thieves were, and went to the police, but they told him there was no way they could prove it so he might as well drop it.

I know those stories well.

But I digressed. My point was simply that we have an abundance of local and regionally produced fruits, vegetables and provisions; but we associate better quality with imported stuff.

Yes, I know we also have to deal with indiscriminate and uninformed use of pesticides and other chemicals; but who is to say that there is a lesser risk from strawberries from cold climes?

I come back to our responsibility to look at what we are buying and consuming. We have to read labels. Comparing labels between local and foreign items for instance, I found the calories and sugars were lower in the local brands. Check out cereals and sauces.

When the ads appear on television, read the small print. The ones for medications are scary. True, advances in science have made it possible to treat all kinds of ailments and people are living longer lives, but those side effects make me cringe.

I asked a pharmacist about the efficacy of these drugs, and he told me that “big pharma” has a legal obligation to list side effects, but overall there have been many improvements in the quality of drugs, and they have the capacity to treat more specifically with diseases.

The lifestyle diseases – diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol – are prevalent, but the treatments are better.

I asked about the most popular kinds of supplements, he said fish oils, saw palmetto, CoQ10, vitamins B, C and E, calcium, folic acid, magnesium and multivitamins.

They are expensive too, but I suppose if you have a deficiency, you need them. Still it doesn’t hurt to get it as naturally as possible. Prevention is still better than cure.

vaneisabaksh@gmail.com

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