Tag Archives: organic

Organic food stores in Chennai – Part 1

In the last post I explained why you need to stay the hell away from pesticides. If you aren’t convinced or haven’t read it, do me yourself a favor and (re-)read the article… this time, read the studies/publications that are linked to it.

Now for some stores in Chennai that sell truly organic produce.

Green Shoppe, Annanagar, Chennai

No. 2, B-Block,  2nd Avenue,
Chinthamani,
Annanagar, Chennai 600102.

Website: n/a

Phone: 96262 78090

Contact: Hemalatha

  • Fresh produce is available on Fridays, Saturdays & (limited produce on) Tuesdays from 10am. Other items (grains, pulses, oil etc.) available all days.
  • You can pre-order via phone and just pick-up at the store.
  • Prices – Reasonable

ReStore, Adyar, Chennai

No. 27/ 10, 2nd Main Rd.,
Kasturba Nagar,
Adyar, Chennai 600020.

Website: www.restore.org.in

Phone: 98417 66299

Contact: Ms. Radhika

  • Fresh produce is available on Tuesdays & Saturdays from 4pm to 7pm. Other items (grains, pulses, oil etc.) available all days.
  • You can pre-order via phone or email. Contact the store for more details.
  • Prices – Very reasonable (Not for profit organization)

Annai Organic & Natural Foods, Adyar, Chennai

No. 8, 1st Avenue,
Shastri Nagar,
Adyar, Chennai 600041.

Website: www.annaiorganicfoods.com

Phone: 94432 06790

Contact: Mr. Rajendran

  • Fresh produce is available on Saturdays, Sundays & Wednesday from 3pm to 7pm. Other items (grains, pulses, oil etc.) available all days.
  • You can pre-order via phone and just pick-up at the store.
  • Prices – Reasonable

And yes, I did talk to the owners about where they get the produce from and how they are farmed and I am convinced that these are indeed truly organic produce. If you are skeptical (and you should be), please spend a few minutes talking to these guys. Ask them about why they are doing what they’re doing, how the crops are farmed, where they get it from, how they inspect the produce etc etc.

While these are the only three stores I got a chance to visit, interact with the owners and try out, there are plenty more such small stores that sell organic foods (fresh produce, honey, milk, eggs, grains, lentils, ghee, oils etc.) in Chennai especially in the RA Puram, Alwarpet and T. Nagar areas. I will be visiting more stores in the coming weeks and will be sure to share the knowledge. Until then, these three stores should be able to help you go completely organic with the spread they offer. Now if only I can find a place that sells organic meat…!

Seriously folks – its worth the drive and a few extra rupees. Make the change now!

Peace out.

 

 

What is the deal with pesticides in produce? To organic or not to organic?

As I am suffering from a disease, I apologize for the time it took me to get this extremely critical article published. I really wanted to churn it out in my usual style. I tried starting this post with some funny lines. They all sucked. Then I moved on to analogies. They didn’t make sense. Then I tried a newsflash of sorts. That just sounded lame. So I’m just going to start with some basics and gradually move on to the crux of the issue. Sorry, but the disease is a downer! Writers block… you need to have had to relate!

– – – – – x – – – – –

What are pesticides anyway?

Pesticides (including insecticides) are substances or mixtures of substances intended to protect against pests where the pesticide may be a chemical or a biological agent or device and the pest may be anything from insects to plant pathogens to worms to mammals that spread disease or cause any kind of nuisance.

Pesticide use, like most things we have today, was invented a long time back and, obviously, for a reason. This might be news to you but, for a while now, we humans have been using chemicals on our crops to save them from pests. What started off as dusting of elemental sulphur (in ancient Mesopotamia about 4500 years) got transformed into the use of…

  • toxic chemicals such as arsenic, mercury and lead by the 15th century,
  • nicotine sulphate based insecticides in the 17th century, and
  • natural pesticides derived from chrysanthemum and roots of tropical vegetables in the 19th century.

It was in the 1950s that things started to get ugly when synthetic pesticides and insecticides (like DDT) were starting to become the preferred choice. Pesticide manufacturers started manufacturing too much synthetic pesticides and their use became widespread. Between 1950 and now, pesticide use has has increased 50-fold and per this article we are now looking at the following ungodly numbers…

World pesticide amount used exceeded 5.0 billion pounds in 2000 and 2001. Herbicides accounted for the largest portion of total use, followed by other pesticide use, and fungicide use. Total world pesticide amount used decreased in 2001 for all pesticide types.

There’s got to be something good about it!

If we have been using pesticides for thousands of years and if the government regulates it’s use, there should be some good to pesticide usage right? OK, the government regulation means nothing, but you know what I mean – pesticides didn’t come into existence for no reason. So what are the pros associated with pesticides?

  • Better yield: Pesticide use helps in controlling pests and plant diseases and hence results in improved yield.
  • Protection against infection: Using pesticide to ward off pests has saved many (human and animal) lives from insect born infectious diseases like malaria, typhoid, black plague etc.
  • More revenue: By improving yields, pesticide use helps agrobusinesses generate more revenue. As a matter of fact, for every $1 spent on pesticides, $4 worth of crops are saved.
  • Variety & availability: A variety of crops are made available year round removing ‘seasonal’ from the equation.

And of course there is the bad!

As expected though, as we started using pesticides and as demand and ‘food manufacturing’ increased, their usage has also increased drastically. And what is the easiest way to meet demand? Yep! Dump the natural and move completely to artificial. And since synthetic pesticides can be produced in large quantities with ease, that is exactly what we did.

So when we realized we are using too much chemical on our food, we started looking into the possible ill effects of pesticide use and came back with an impressive list.

Acute & chronic effects

Pesticide exposure can cause a variety of adverse health effects. These effects can range from simple irritation of the skin and eyes to more severe effects such as affecting the nervous system, mimicking hormones causing reproductive problems, and also causing cancer.

More here.

Acute poisoning from a single or short-term exposure can result in death. Chronic impacts of long-term exposure to pesticides, including pesticide residues in food, could also result in death.

More here.

Birth defects

Fifteen studies from 9 countriesexamined associations between pesticides and birth defects. The studies consistently showed increased risk with pesticide exposure. Specific defects included limb reductions,urogenital anomalies,central nervous system defects,orofacial clefts,heart defects,and eye anomalies. The rate of any birth defect was also increased by parental exposure to pesticides.

Fetal deaths

Fetal death includes spontaneous abortion, fetal death, stillbirth, and neonatal death. Results were consistent across several study designs; 9 of 11 studiesfound positive associations with pesticide exposure.

Genotoxicity

Pesticide exposure doubled the frequency of chromosome aberrations. In clinical practice, these aberrations could present as spontaneous abortion, birth defects, sperm abnormalities, or cancer risk.

More here.

And here is some literature about pesticide exposure causing asthma, neurological defects and cancer.

But the government has it under control, right?

Yes, the government set limits!

But wait! No one cares about limits! Its all about making a buck isn’t it? This is a world where people will do anything to shine some greeen… and that includes killing you. I’m not kidding one bit here.

While developed countries have good control of food production (and manufacturing), developing and under-developed countries struggle with quality and control. As is the case with adulteration, control over agricultural produce – the seeds, the methods, the pesticides, the quantities – is very weak. And the reason for this?

  • Farmers are uneducated and don’t posses the capability to understand the risks involved with excessive pesticide use.
  • Greedy farmers and food manufacturers use WAY more pesticide than their supposed to in an effort to improve their yields.
  • And of course, corruption in its many forms.

So what happens when people don’t care about limits? Well, things get ugly… real ugly!

When bad becomes worse and worse becomes WTF!

OK, so pesticides are being used and the government can’t and won’t do crap about it. This isn’t any different from robbery or bribery or prostitution right? Wrong. The difference is that this particular issue could harm you in ways you wouldn’t imagine and that isn’t because pesticides are being used in produce but because…

  • Pesticides are being used in astronomical quantities in India (and other developing countries)
  • Pesticides that have been banned due to their extremely toxic nature are still being used in India (and other developing countries)

Here is some evidence explaining why the situation is worse than you think it is.

This 2005 article from India Together says…

Pesticide use in India has jumped hundred folds from 154 million tones in 1954 to 88,000 million tones in 2001 [Thats 571-fold in under 50 years!]. Punjab is one of the largest users of pesticides: 6,972 million tones a year.

This Nov 2010 article from India Today says…

The NGO picked up 193 samples of 35 different vegetables from markets in Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata. These were then tested for 106 pesticides and the results were alarming as four of the five banned chemicals were found in these samples.

Banned substances like chlordane, heptachlor, endrin and ethyl parathion were found in almost all samples of bitter gourd. Pesticide residue was also recovered from vegetables like cauliflower, tomato, ladyfinger, brinjal, cucumber, cabbage, potatoes and onions.

According to the findings, the pesticides used in India are 750 times higher than the European standards. These chemicals can cause brain cancer, blood cancer, kidney or lung damage and neurological problems. It can also disrupt liver and hormone functions and can cause several skin disorders.

The pesticide residue limit in India has not been reviewed for the past 30 years. Experts agree that strict monitoring from state agencies is an absolute imperative.

This post on Living Farms says…

The chemical came into spotlight in India when at Kasargad in Kerala it was sprayed aerially and the local population of many villages was exposed to it. What followed was very shocking. It led to physical and mental defects in poor farmers and their families. Studies have shown endosulfan to accumulate in a mother’s breast milk and it has been linked to appalling birth deformities, the like of which are still being observed at Kasargad, “Kerala’s Bhopal”.

Such events have occurred across the Globe and 62 countries all over the world have either banned it or restricted its use. Unfortunately India has done nothing to stem the use of this endocrine disruptor which can cause changes at the genetic level.

This very recent article on toxiclinks says…

However, studies over the years have shown that a little over 200 grams of vegetables that an average Indian statistically gets on a daily basis, is a recipe of a toxic blend of over 40 deadly chemical pesticides….

The year 2008 document of AVRDC  ‘The World Vegetable Center’, thus rightly suggests India’s pesticide use on vegetables as alarmingly high.

This, also very recent, article from The Times Of India says…

Rampant use of banned pesticides in fruits and vegetables continues to put at risk the life of the common man. Farmers apply pesticides such as chlordane, endrin and heptachor that can cause serious neurological problems, kidney damage and skin diseases. A study cond`ucted by Delhi-based NGO Consumer-Voice reveals that the amount of pesticides used in eatables in India is as much as 750 times the European standards. The survey collected sample data from various wholesale and retail shops in Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata.

“Out of five internationally-banned pesticides, four were found to be common in vegetables sold in the Indian markets. Banned pesticides were found in bitter gourd and spinach,” said Sisir Ghosh, head of Consumer-Voice. The banned chemicals included chlordane, a potent central nervous system toxin, endrin, which can cause headache nausea and dizziness, and heptachor that can damage the liver and decrease fertility.

And make no mistake, this absolutely is the case in pretty much all developing nations as explained here, here and here.

And guess what? Most of these risks seem to affect folks who make ‘healthy food choices’ more than their non-caring/unhealthy counterparts as these are the folks who tend to include more vegetables and fruit in their diet! And this, my friend, is how worse becomes WTF!

My thoughts?

Pardon my french but, from this and the other literature I have read on the subject, I have to say…

Les pesticides seront vas te faire encule jusqu’à

Alright Raj. Thats enough! Less scary, more healthy! Is there a solution?

If you do live in a developed country, this might not be that big a deal since controls are in place holding pesticide content within acceptable limits and worrying too much about this might be considered obsessive. But if you do live in a developing country, eating organic food ranks right up in the list of things you’d need to do to live a basic safe life. In other words, eating pesticide free food (in developing countries) is comparable to looking for vehicles on the road before crossing.

So, safely assuming all the vegetables and fruits you buy (in your developing nation) from your local grocer or grocery chain or street vendor is loaded with (accepted AND banned) pesticides (way beyond the upper limit), what do you do to keep your risk of pesticide poisoning low?

The best option to safety, taste and health – eat organic food!

Yes, finding organic food is hard and yes it is a bit more (10-20%) expensive. But wouldn’t you rather eat truly healthy produce and support organic farming than to eat chemical laden make-believe healthy produce and fall prey to greedy food manufacturers/distributors?

If organic food isn’t available for any reason,

  • Eat ONLY seasonal vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits that are in season need lesser pesticides than others.
  • Wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly using soap! Yep. You read that right. Use any detergent you use to wash your hands but be sure to wash off all the soap before eating/cooking.
  • Eat food that has worms in it. Pick fruits and vegetables that have worms in them. Clean them free of worms. Eat! If the reasoning isn’t obvious, if the worm wasn’t killed, you probably are safe too.
  • Any fruit, be it a banana or an apple or a fig, peel it before you deal it.
  • If you’re at a restaurant or someone’s house and are unsure about the produce you are being served, reduce your risk by eating less of what you’re skeptical about.

Think about it this way – You don’t eat food that has dirt/crap on it. Why would you eat food with (real) poison? You wouldn’t eat at a place that is known to cause food poisoning. Why would you eat pesticide laden food that you know could food poison and poison you and your family?

Eat organic food folks! A few bucks here and there isn’t worth the risk of chronic pesticide poisoning leading to possible neurodevelopmental disorders and cancers and acute poisoning resulting in anything from skin problems to possible death.

And remember – awareness precedes action! If you live in a developing country, consider this an eye-opener and make the necessary changes immediately. If you live in a developed country, please make an effort to forward this on to your friends and family who live in developing nations. Take a moment and make a difference. Please share this post on your wall or whatever else you share stuff on and spread the word.

In the next post, I will write in detail about some organic food stores in Chennai (India) that supply safe, delicious and pesticide free produce at reasonable prices. Stay tuned.

Peace out.

Eating real food? In India?

After many grueling days of head spinning search, I finally found a house to live in Chennai. The house was perfect for the most part. The location was pretty awesome really. It was super close to the beach and within a 0.5 km (0.3 mile) radius, there were 10+ restaurants (including a bunch of places that sell unbelievably awesome desserts), 2 grocery stores, 1 specialty grocery store, 2 health store, an awesome bookstore, 3 banks with 24 hour ATMs, innumerable tender coconut and sugarcane juice stands and much more! The house, though, was, in my opinion, pretty great. It had 2 bedrooms, 1 living, 1 dining room, 1 study room, 3 full bathrooms, a spacious kitchen which will definitely be overused and a prayer room which will remain unused. Other than that, the bathrooms were fine, the flooring was granite and tile, enough lights and fans and other usual stuff.

So after I finalize the rental and pay the advance to the landlord, I take my then to-be wife to the apartment to check it out. She walks in with me, checks out the space and her face shrinks. You know, the typical ‘Well, I hate it like you hate Justin Bieber. But I’m going to try real hard to make it seem like I just hate it to a normal extent‘ look. It took me a while but I finally understood why she hated it.

All plug no play

She and I lived in the US for a good chunk of time and while she is Indian at heart, she is still (for good reason) used to the US standard of living. The thing in India is that you don’t have many things that you can just plug and play. Everything is available, but nothing is readily available. See the difference? Let me give you an example.

In a place like Chennai, an air-conditioner is pretty much a necessity. So, if you walk in to a store to buy one, the sales dude will tell you the price and features and sell you the unit saying their company will take care of everything. He will promise you that as soon as the payment is made, an engineer will call and schedule an appointment and will very promptly fit the unit for you. All charges included. No hassles.Plug and play right? Wait.

In reality though, the engineer will call and set up an appointment for say Monday 10am and the guy might turn up as early as just 5 hours late or as late as ‘I’m on my way right now, I’ll be there in 3 days’! And only after this are you told that there needs to made a melon sized hole on your wall and that the power source is too far away from where you want the a/c and yada yada. So you battle it out for a few days and finally when you have the a/c installed and working, you feel like you’ve been blessed with the gift of temperature control. And this is just one example.

So in the case of moving into a new house, the house is EMPTY. There is literally not a thing in the house that you can use. You will need to buy and install your own a/c, fridge, washing machine, water filter, microwave and even change switch boards etc in many cases. All these things are available… but not readily available. This is the reason my US-trained wife hated the apartment at first glance and this is also the exact reason why people freak out when they consider moving to India.

The point here is to look a little deeper. What seems like an ugly empty house, could actually end up being your dream home if you spend some time and effort to set it up. The case with nutrition is the same… exactly the same! Pretty much everything you need is available… just not readily available. Let me break it down for you.

Moving on to nutrition

I think we will all agree that good health is a direct result of good nutrition and good nutrition is a direct result of eating real food rich in nutrients and avoiding foods containing anti-nutrients. That being the case, as I mentioned in the previous post, irrespective of whether it is paleo or primal or GAPS or WAPF or the sustainability focused Eat Real Food, the recipe for good nutrition calls for plenty of vegetables & fruit, seafood, meat, eggs, poultry, dairy and safe starches and limited amounts of soaked/sprouted nuts, lentils, beans and legumes.

So, the question then is, if you did move to India or live in India (or any other developing country) can you sustainably eat a diet that is focuses on food quality?

During the last couple of months, I have been on a search for real food. Unlike in the US, where you buy real food in a box or with a label, here I had an opportunity to look for ‘actual’ real food and not just food that is labeled as real food. Thanks to  the folks from the BootCamp and from my FaceBook group, my search moved on from branded grocery chains to local shops to street vendors to seemingly dirty but factually clean farms/home-stores where real food is really available. In other words, I had the chance to actually interact with the people who produce and/or source these foods and discuss specifics about the food.

Vegetables & fruits

Yes the commercially available vegetables in India are loaded with pesticides. But there are places that sell real organic vegetables and fruits (no pesticides) at extremely reasonable prices. One such store is ReStore in Adyar, Chennai. These guys are a not-for-profit organization who sell purely organic produce and groceries. Since it wouldn’t be fair to them if I even tried explaining their passion and service, I recommend you check out their website.

Seafood

Chennai is one of the few big cities in India that has a shoreline… and a big one at that. So finding fresh seafood caught from the ocean (i.e super fresh wild caught seafood) isn’t an issue at all! There seems to be plenty of stores that sell fish that was caught the very same day and if you’re not ready to trust the guys at the store (and you shouldn’t), you always have the option of buying fish from the beach itself!

Red meat

I have had very little experience eating red meat in India (cos of the taboo associated with eating the cow) and so I’ll share what one of my well-read readers, Vizeet Srivastava, who is very passionate about good nutrition and consumes mostly high quality real food, had to say.

I think lamb meat you get here is not labeled as grass fed but it is grass fed. Cows may be getting hormones and antibiotics injections to some extent but not large doses as being done in US (as many things are not very commercialized here).

Goat meat is generally safer for two reasons:
1. Goat is mostly domesticated by poor people.
2. Goat milk is not popular and not easily available so most of it will be consumed by the baby goat and will have better immune system and health.
I buy from local shop who keeps smaller breed which means there is lesser chance that it is farmed. Moreover I do not think goat factory farming is profitable given number of people who keep them at home.

Poultry

Free range chicken is definitely not easily available in India, but again there isn’t much nutrition in chicken anyways and hence I don’t see a need to invest any amount of time in finding a source of good quality poultry. That said, free range ducks seems to be available fairly easily.

Eggs

Country eggs (naatu kozhi muttai), quail eggs and duck eggs are available in most places. Since these are not farmed as commercially as regular chicken eggs, chances of finding free range eggs are fairly high. They surely wont be labeled ‘free range’ or ‘cage free’ or ‘blah blah certified’, but if you spend a couple of minutes and talk to the grocer/vendor and ask him where he gets his eggs from, you’ll be able to find good quality eggs.

Dairy

It is true that grass-fed dairy is unheard of in India. But why would I go ask for grass-fed dairy if I can walk into a dairy farm and ask the farmer what he feeds his cows? And will I have anymore questions if he points to green grass and hay and says I need to pick up the milk every day within 2 hours of milking? Granted, the cows feed on a mixture of grains in addition to grass and hay, but the fact that these cows have never been exposed to hormones of any sort and that the milk is ‘as milked’ and unadulterated makes it legit! How awesome is that? And how many skim milk/low fat milk/soy milk chugging ‘health advocates’ actually know how wonderful real milk tastes?

What is my diet like right now?

Still a work in progress but here is what I normally eat these days…

  • Scoop of whey in water while coaching.
  • Shake with 1/2 liter whole milk, 2 big bananas and 1 scoop whey right after working out.
  • 3-4 cups of avial (traditional south Indian dish made with mixed vegetables, coconut, yogurt and spices) or kootu (lentils + vegetables + coconut oil), 3-4 whole eggs, 1 cup cooked white rice and a cup of whole milk or yogurt for lunch.
  • 1 cup of whole milk, a bunch of almonds and a fruit or two in the evening.
  • Some fish, 3-4 cups of vegetables cooked in coconut oil or ghee for dinner.
  • 1 cup of whole milk and a fruit bout an hour before hitting the bed.

So what am I trying to say here?

Simple – If you are ready to go that extra mile and ‘hunt for real food’, you can rest assured that you will get food that is high in quality, exceptional in taste and easy on your wallet! But if you choose to be lazy and just accept what is readily available, I swear to God you will be stuck in a hot and humid room with an uninstalled air conditioner eating pesticide/anti-nutrient filled food!

Go the extra mile just once, do the foundational work well and eat real food for the most part ‘cos life is just better when you’re fit and healthy!

Peace out.

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