Let’s go beyond fruits and vegetables
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It was the beginning of the new financial year and we waited eagerly for our appraisals. Being an eternal optimist and hoping for a decent raise, the time seemed ripe to make a few positive lifestyle changes. Making a gradual shift towards organic food choices was one of them. Instead of slow and steady I just bolted towards my goal, and ordered a whole bunch of organic goodies – daal, hand pounded rice, mixed flour, cooking oil, honey and went a little overboard with a reetha concoction for washing clothes. Needless to say, the bill amounted to more than my appraisal that month.

I am reaping the benefits of ‘almost’ consistently consuming organic food after three months, but there is one important takeaway. Words such as ‘chemical-free’, ‘unprocessed’, ‘unrefined’ and ‘organic’ are thrown around so casually that it’s best to gather as much information as possible before making a permanent lifestyle change.

We spoke to those who are on the forefront of the organic movement to help you take baby steps towards a better diet and healthier life:

A Case for Turning Organic

Rahul Pabreja, a 31-year-old social entrepreneur, co-owner of The Farmer’s Market store in Bandra, Mumbai shares, “I turned organic almost two years ago, just to avoid falling ill. I have lost family and friends to cancer and two friends suffered strokes.” The news of a young co-worker passing away due to a stroke had caused a lot of unsettlement in office, and this hits home.

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My organic journey began with purchases from Green Sattva in Mumbai, so I reached out to the owner, Hetal Shah - “I turned organic seven years ago to combat infertility and PCOD. Eating consciously completely changed my body and improved my health. In no time, I conceived and this experience encouraged me to make chemical-free food available to everybody.” This vital piece of information was quickly shared in office before typing it on Word Doc.

We are sold. But, what’s organic food

Chemical-free food which is grown and nurtured without pesticides and fertilisers, and brought to your plate without processes such as artifitial ripening, adding preservatives, is organic. Hemant Chabbra, a Maharashtra-based farmer has been nurturing his soil without any chemicals for 20 years to grow ‘poison-free’ food.

“As a mandate, the soil has to be pesticide and fertiliser-free for at least three years and the farmer needs to certify it. There are agencies such as ECOCERD and INDIA ORGANIC that a farmer can approach for certificates and this needs to be renewed every year. Even after harvesting, there is no polishing or processing involved. Use of machinery is considerably less because the artificial heat destroys nutrients,” informs Shah.

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What to buy

Basics to your rescue – salt, oil and sugar. The organic version will guarantee that they are unprocessed, unrefined and unadulterated which will shield your body from several food and lifestyle related diseases.
Then you can move on to fruits, vegetables and grains that are consumed on daily basis – wheat flour, rice, potato, tomatoes and more.

“Help yourself to lots of chemical-free fruits, nuts and dates for breakfast, and serve yourself a generous portion of salad for lunch. You will power through the day and this diet will also clean your gut,” assures Chabbra who often practices a completely organic raw diet.

Where to buy

Keep yourself informed about organic farmer’s markets in your city that thrive in metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. If you do a google search on organic brands, there will be no less than a million options. “Ensure you do a background check. Apart from checking their certificates, find out if they also grow their own food,” Shah quips in.

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“Farmer to customer is the best way to go about your grocery shopping. Apart from buying from the source, you will also save money by eliminating middlemen” – expert advice from Rahum Pabreja.

Which brings us to a consumer’s biggest concern…

…But, organic food is expensive

All three experts on this panel vehemently deny because it is a lifestyle choice. You will have to ask yourself some practical questions - Should you spend on medical bills or eating better and taking care of your health? Should you spend on restaurant bills or buying organic food?

Chabbra strongly believes it all boils down to priorities that determine your grocery budget. To ease into the process, Rahul suggests, “Start with consciously choosing organic for just one meal and it won’t be too long till you feel transformed.”

Creative conceptualised by Vartika Pahuja
Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

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