April 27, 2008

life in general: cool it!

About 10-15 years ago, I stopped having carbonated soft drinks like Coca Cola etc. The harm they do is so much more than the temporary tasty/nice feeling you may get for those few seconds when you gulp them down that it is really a crime we do to our own bodies in drinking them. What even makes it a crime on Mother Nature and humanity is the severe depletion of groundwater in all the villages and areas where these soft beverage companies have their manufacturing plants.

More often that not, and this is often done subtly and cleverly to disguise their true deeds, they bribe the local governments and pay dirt cheap rates for the water they pump out from their deep borewells and use it in their colas and other drinks. Further, the affluents from these factories, like in the case of other manufacturing industries, are generally discharged in the local ecological landscape thereby polluting it dangerously.
The villagers and local residents are forced to suffer because the groundwater table is almost exhausted from the never-ending pumping of water by the beverage companies. Also, the villagers' local rivers/streams/waterbodies/soil gets polluted from these companies affluents leading to loss of livelihood for them because they are generall dependent on a delicately functioning local ecological system.

As urban consumers we have a choice and must exercise it. In the last 8-10 years, I have taken in a big way to drinking juices made fresh from seasonal fruits and vegetables. It is not that you have to always juice a fruit or a vegetable. Eating them as it is or in a cooked form is as beneficial if not a bit more.

Anyway, 2-3 weeks back, I contributed, to the magazine I write for, a write-up on cool drinks for its lifestyle section. I share it below.

Cool it

There is no dearth of food and drink items to keep your body warm during winter chills. A vast majority of Indian food—veg or non-veg—are cooked primarily to cater to your taste buds. That translates into food made using spices and oils which then raises your internal body heat considerably.

In the hot summer heat of April and May this kind of food could only make your discomfort worsen. It is possible to keep the heat levels down in your system under control by tweaking your dietary habits in the next 2-3 months. In essence, you need to stick to local and seasonal varieties in food and you will be fine.

Chilled beverages—whether aerated soft drinks or hard drinks like beer—are deceptively cool. The chemicals and preservatives in them not only raise the heat internally but are also damaging to your health. So, stay away from them.

Instead, go for tender coconut water, the most effective cooling drink. Musk melons and water melons are effective too. "Even ripe mangoes will help contrary to myths about it being heaty," says Kavita Mukhi, a Bombay-based eco-nutritionist and CEO of Conscious Foods, an organic-food company. "Just ensure that mangoes are consumed on its own in between meals, and not with meals."

Orange fruit juice is another effective coolant except for those having acidity problems. The same applies to nimbu-paani.

Among vegetables, the most effective cooling drinks are juices of vegetables like bottle gourd (dudhi), cucumber and carrot in which mint or coriander leaves have been added. Make these at home or else have it at fresh juice stalls outside some gardens and parks in your city.

Don't forget leafy vegetables in your solid diet. "Chaulai-ka-saag (Amaranth) is the coolest leafy vegetable on Earth," says Dr. Raj Merchant, a Bombay-based naturopath specialising in leaf therapy. Wheat and jowar are the two non-heaty grains to make rotis from.

Non-vegetarians need to be more careful. "It is better not to have heaty food such as eggs; your body is already hot due to the summer temperatures and does not require high-energy stuff," says Mukhi.

Coffee-addicts have no choice but to cut down on their intake if they want to stay away from the heat-generating caffeine, but tea-addicts have an option. They can brew their regular teas with mint leaves, or alternatively go for green non-fermented tea without milk.

Go slow on your meals and focus more on naturally cool drinks and food.

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