Health Notes.

Instant Food Products


Recently, there was much publicity about instant food products and instant noodles with unacceptable concentrations of lead. The news took millions of Maggi noodle fans by surprise with plenty of talk about it in the air.

On a personal level, I am not an advocate of Maggi instant noodles. Maybe because I have always been cooking and eating healthy since young. Besides, a few decades ago, instant noodles were not in the market. In those days, my mother painstakingly prepared my Indian breakfast like thosai an occasionally fed me with just plain bread and jam or bread with leftover curry. Sometimes, extra breakfast was packed and taken to school to be eaten during recess.

As time passed, more women entered the work force leaving little time to prepare an elaborate breakfast in the mornings. Gradually, instant noodles became a hit with many households to save time. Advertisements featuring a happy family slurping Maggi noodles played a significant role in luring busy housewives to prepare breakfast or lunch within minutes. Other advertisements showed contented and happy housewives waving goodbye to their kids going to school with more noodles packed in their lunch boxes. Soon, celebrity chefs and popular actors began to endorse these products. I guess advertisements in the media presented in various forms motivated people to buy instant noodles and other instant products all over the world, particularly in India where it became a craze.

While shopping in Indian grocery stores, I come across many brands of instant breakfast products such as thosai, appam, payasam, uppuma and more. Other supermarkets stock up many instant foods ranging from soup to a gourmet mea. These were cheap and easy to prepare as they come with simple instructions. As many as 10 thosai could be churned out within minutes from a packet of instant thosai flour costing about SGD2.60. Though these instant products cut down preparation and cooking time, they do not taste and look as good as the fresh looking, healthy traditional ones which are painstakingly and passionately made. Instant products are made to last from 1-2 years on the shelves. This is only possible because these products contain many preservatives, additives, anti-caking agents, anti-oxidants, sweetening agents, chemical preservatives, colouring matters, emulsifiers or stabilizers, flavouring agents, flavour enhancers, humectants, nutrient supplements and the list goes on. And all of these are harmful to our health in the long run.

Not many people, especially manufacturers, are concerned about all these so called “negligible’ chemicals in food as their motivation is to make profit. As for consumers, their only goal is to fill up their stomachs and of those of their family members. Many housewives are reluctant to cook as cooking is not only tedious and time consuming, it might also eat into their leisure time such as watching television or going shopping. Kids are also won over easily by misleading advertisements of unhealthy food.

Housewives who love their children and family should sacrifice a bit of their time to cook, be it a one dish meal or an elaborate one. It shows they care and want a healthy family. Remember a healthy family is a wealthy family! After all we eat to live and why not live healthily and so please stop eating instant food products?

Research shows long term exposure to lead (chronic toxicity) can cause many serious health problems, especially in children .I am not a doctor, nutritionist, dietitian, chemist or a scientist, but a chef. I love my ingredients only if they are fresh and know the source of origin. I cook with only fresh ingredients, even if it is a meagre meal. Occasionally, I tend to be lazy and even on those days if I have to cook, I will ensure that the day’s protein, vegetables and fruits and carbohydrate recommendations by the health authorities such as the Health Promotion Board are met.

I am passing this message around in the hope that you will share it with your friends and colleagues. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and take time to cook instead of reaching out to instant products!!

Leave a Reply