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Why you should always eat fresh food

A new book explores how eating fresh, whole foods can boost your immunity, fight off disease and help you live your best life

Once you’ve tasted the freshness of home-grown fruit, vegetables and herbs, you get hooked for life (Unsplash)

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My mom’s bags are always full of seeds for vegetables that she wants to try growing at home, never mind if they are too exotic or delicate for the extreme weather conditions in her part of the world. She gets them, labours over them and often succeeds. Her success tastes sweet.

A close friend of mine gets up early every Sunday to go to the farmers’ market and spend her morning stocking up on the freshest, healthiest produce. She buys all her produce only from the farmers’ market. A colleague frets about her balcony herb garden like people would for their pets when going away on a vacation. 

Also read: How to add more vegetables to your diet

They all tell me that once you’ve tasted the freshness of home-grown fruit, vegetables and herbs, you get hooked for life. The flavour and quality of home-grown food is far superior to anything you can buy in a supermarket.

Why Do You Need to Eat Fresh? 

For starters, fresh produce from a farm, be it big or small (whether in the suburbs or your balcony garden) tastes different; it tastes more wholesome. If you’ve grown the food yourself, you know exactly what you’ve put into it, you can be sure that it’s free from any harmful pesticides and chemicals. Not everyone can grow food or have access to farmers’ market. But everyone can try to buy locally-grown fresh produce. 

The Immunity Connection

The sooner you eat a fruit or vegetable after it’s picked, the better it is for you nutritionally. Research has proven that the lesser the time-lapse between plucking veggies and fruit and eating them, the higher the nutrient composition of that food will be. As time passes, produce loses some of its nutritional value and it is absolutely clear that eating enough nutrients is a prerequisite for good, robust immunity, and deficiencies of the same can be a big immunity downer. 

So, when you eat fresh food plucked off the branch or pulled from the earth—bursting with goodness, nutrients, antioxidants and enzymes—there can be no doubt about the value component of these nutritionally dense foods. 

It is important to note that the vegetables that are allowed to ripen on the plant will have more nutrients compared to those that are picked early and ripen in storage.

Good to Know 

Frozen vegetables are often just as healthy as fresh ones because they are usually blanched and frozen immediately, right out of the farm. 

It is noteworthy that, during the pandemic, the uncertainty around the food system and access to fresh food brought forth the importance of keeping the food chain (at least the basic needs) as close to us as possible. One lesson we have all learnt during the pandemic is the importance of keeping as less physical distance as possible between source and consumption point. 

Finally, eating fresh takes the food from ordinary to extraordinary; it satisfies cravings, nourishes and delights us. It doesn’t really take that much to grow or source fresh produce. 

It just takes some awareness and willingness. Make a decision to only eat fresh and stick to it. Every small beginning counts, considering the huge payback. 

Also read: Why eating food low in food miles is good for you

To do

  • Take cues from a colleague’s herb garden and start work on your kitchen garden, begin accompanying neighbours to the Sunday Farmer’s Markets, borrow some exotic (or otherwise) seeds from friends which can be grown at home. Start small, but start today.
  • The biggest excuse (and quite a valid one), is space, or rather the lack of it. It is a fact that not all of us have gardens to potter about in, but usually we all do have a balcony or two that we can make use of. You don’t really need a lot of ground space to create wonders with, even a small space can be used constructively to grow enough for a small family.
  • Don’t even have a spare balcony? How about putting your kitchen windowsill to use and grow herbs that are used in your kitchen every day? Everyone has room for a small pot of rosemary, thyme, basil or mint. In fact, if not in the kitchen, any sunny windowsill will do. So, you can start with herbs as they are very easy to grow. Herbs enhance the taste and texture of almost anything. Just compare the cost of a modest herb garden with that of commercially bought small packets and you’ll know why this is a brilliant idea. No more bargaining with vendors for free dhaniya (coriander) or green chillies while shopping for vegetables, just grow your own!
  • Other easy foods to grow are onions, garlic, chillies, tomatoes, potatoes, leafy greens like lettuce and spinach. Imagine plucking fresh salad greens minutes before you eat them for lunch, or deciding between okra and brinjals from your very own mini-farm to cook for dinner.
  • If you have a wall or railing that faces the sun and you’d like to beautify it, consider growing vertical crops such as peas and cucumbers. A hanging basket of cherry tomato vines won’t just look good, it’ll also supply your salad.

Excerpted with permission from The Immunity Diet by Kavita Devgan, published by Rupa Publications.

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