Switching to Organic & Traditional (Healthy) Foods

Organic-Pepper-and-Bitter-honey

Chennai seems to be buzzing with organic farming & organic/traditional food movement, these days. Healthier and alternative food choices seem to be catching up quickly, among the urban crowd. In order to elevate my status from being clueless to organic-aware citizen, I went and spoke to the lead volunteer of an NGO called reStore (East Coast Road), Ms. Radhika. They have a shop selling organic food items.

But first – Organic food is the same food that we eat on a day-to-day basis, but they are grown without using fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals. Grains, vegetables/fruits, oils, etc. can all be produced organically. 

In fact, that is how food was grown in India for many thousand years. During the last few decades, since we faced severe food shortage, Government took certain measures to increase the quantity/efficiency of produce to meet the demand, and hence chemicals were introduced into our food-chain.

What no one anticipated, however, was the side-effects these chemicals ended up creating. If consumers suffer from diseases related to chronic exposure to chemicals (over a period of time), it’s worse for producers – they suffer from acute exposure (direct and immediate) and hence face a much greater risk to their health/life.

There was another problem created by the Government policies – Favoring certain types of grains (rice, wheat) over other grains that were traditionally popular (millets, for example). Add our fast-food culture and eating fashionable foods that are not native to India (like oats), we are only creating more problems.

Organic-Coloured-Rice

Black, brown & white rice!!

It’s a known fact that many of our diseases are lifestyle-related and there could be no better preventive-medicine than food. In order to encourage us to adopt a healthier lifestyle (and suffer lesser ailments), organic farming and organic shops are getting established quickly across the city and even across the country. Chennai, I am told, is a leading the organic movement with a lot of vigor.

In their shop, I saw different types of organic foods like rice, basmati, grains, flour, millets, honey, oil, vegetables/fruits, tea/coffee powder, etc.

Wheat-Kambu-Spaghetti-Instead-of-Noodles

Wheat, Kambu, Spaghetti!!

I bought one packet of the spaghetti (shown above), to try instead of noodles. I also bought one type of millet (not sure which one). The millet was made into upma and I had it with pickle – it was quite good. Should try eating this spaghetti also, sometime. I know it is healthier than instant noodles.

Washing-and-Cleaning-Powder-without-Chemicals

Organic washing/cleaning agents packed in cardboard, w/o plastic.

They had a separate section where there were chemical-less washing powder, cleaning/mopping agent, cosmetics, clothes (made of organic cotton), etc. It seems, boondhikkai/soapnut is used for washing clothes; natural essential microorganisms (EM) eat off left-over food on floors to keep pests away. They also had many books on organic farming/traditional food. I bought two – one about millets and another about growing a home garden.

Books-on-Organic-Lifestyle

I asked if chemicals and fertilizers were not used earlier by farmers, and she said that our ancestors believed in managing pests (using repellent techniques that keep them away), than killing them. There were multiple types of food grains and enough diversity, back in those days – many were grown for their medicinal value. Nowadays, we know only a few types of food grains! Millets, for example, were very popular and were used instead of rice/wheat even 3-4 decades back. Oils were cold-pressed, and not refined (which strips them off certain nutrients).

I am going to switch to organic food in a phased manner – first I will be replacing the noodles/snacks with healthier items, eat millet upma for a few days in a month. But as and when more people adopt to healthier lifestyle, organic food will be available everywhere (they are already available in certain supermarket chains) and items will be less expensive. Then, I guess, many people will convert.

Organic food is slightly more expensive than normal food, but it reduces the cost of medicines, suffering, etc. later on. So, have you/do you intend to switch to organic anytime soon?

Destination Infinity 

30 thoughts on “Switching to Organic & Traditional (Healthy) Foods

      1. It’s a collection of booklets published by reStore. I will try to summarize the content of those books in the blog, if I find it useful.

        Destination Infinity

  1. I am doing millets upma often nowadays. Even pongal is good. We are slowly getting used to it.

    Have you heard of Nammaazhwar? He initiated the organic farming for many years now. He died just a few days back. Many areas are shifting to organic farming now. I buy vegetables and fruits also often. They don’t look pretty though!

    Very informative post, D.I.

  2. Organic food is the way to a better future. I would gladly support such movement. Though I get really annoyed sometimes when I see cost price of such products being marked up just because of the tag. Where in reality this marked up cost is not even reaching the actual harvester – rather to the ‘tag’ owner. :P

    1. Think about it – if they are not using pesticides, then they should be spending less, no? But I guess they should be spending on organic pest repellents that are not subsidized. One of the major culprit is the Govt. policy of heavily subsidizing fertilizers.

      Destination Infinity

  3. Hi Rajesh,

    Where exactly is this store?

    Would help if you mention the prices of the items you purchased.

    Kindly do let me know when you make a visit again will join you – headed for the book-fair starting on Jan-10???

    Cheers,
    Mahesh

    1. This is in ECR. Have a look at the link in the post to get complete details (incl. pricing) and location.

      I am reading books directly on Kindle these days, so am not sure if I will visit the expo. Will let you know if I do.

      Destination Infinity

        1. The main issue is, I have not touched the books I bought in previous Chennai book fair, yet! If I go for this one, I’ll be tempted to buy more and pile more (unread) books at home. Only if I skip this, I will finish all those unread books :)

          Destination Infinity

  4. These days everyone is switching to organic. Now in every supermarket that we enter, there is separate aisle with organic food.
    Review those books once you are done. would love to learn more.

  5. We need to adapt to the fact that taking food as medicine and medicine as food… farmers need to wake up, the chemical fertilizers does not only affect the health but also the farmlands which slows giveaway cultivation expose to chemicals.
    Sure, it’s time for looking back… where our future lies. This restore shop is right opposite of our street… will try getting stuffs there.

    1. “Medicine as food” concept is catching up fast – partly because we won’t be able to afford costly ‘modern & exploitative’ healthcare :)

      Destination Infinity

  6. It is frightening to notice how much we are exposed to harmful chemicals from the food that we eat and to everything around us. I guess, it would be hard and it would definitely take time but it is the wiser option, considering a long term healthier aspect.

    1. Organic food is just like our normal food – vegetables, grains, oils, etc. can be made without chemicals. There is no change in taste. But yes, eating millets/ragi/kambu and other traditional healthy foods may take some time to get used to.

      Destination Infinity

    1. I didn’t buy that brown rice, but I made a simpler change to my diet – I stopped eating rice in the nights (also) and I am eating wheat bread and multi-grain bread/sandwich, instead. Too much of raw rice feels very heavy!

      Destination Infinity

  7. On a positive note, it’s good to see people getting awareness and becoming more health conscious these days! Vaer Organic store is also a good store in chennai delivering quality organic produce.

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