India has had invasions for several centuries, and with each invasion certain cultures and traditions have been entrusted upon us. Each invasion brought its own languages, arts, religions and of course food! The foods from foreign lands have now become a part of our food palette and it is impossible to imagine biryani not being Indian. Indian foods have always been considered too spicy and unhealthy and it was the main reason for entry of foreign foods to the average Indian. These foods which were eaten as substitutes few years back have now become our staple food and are threatening to make the next generation obese and over dependant on foreign foods. Some of these foods are having high carbohydrate and fat content and making most of the urban children sluggish and overweight. Imported food items, both fresh and processed, are filling shopping bags in cities and towns as the global food trade zeroes in on India as a prime market.

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The urban, health conscious and educated Indian often sees foreign food with fancy packaging convince themselves it is nutritious and are eager to spend the extra bit on these foods without proper knowledge about them. Though there are several bad influences not all western food is bad. Some of them have positive effects on health and are actually quite good for us.

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The Good

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There are few western foods which are undoubtedly good for health. The best example for positive influence of western diet would be the introduction of salads and different kinds of fruits like watermelons and papaya. Salads are healthy and delicious at the same time. Indian foods are mostly over cooked which remove most of the good ingredients and make them less healthy. Salads on the other hand are eaten raw, and manage to keep the proteins and vitamins intact. Salads also have a pleasing appearance and properly dressed salads can be a treat both to the eyes as well as your tummy. Salads also help in satisfying your midnight cravings and provide a healthy alternative to cookies and potato chips. The other great thing about salads is that they are not monotonous. It is not always about cucumbers and tomatoes, you can experiment with your salads and there are thousands of salad combinations which can be tried.

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Unlike certain foods, which are good for westerners but don’t suit Indians climate Salads are the perfect for the scorching heat in India. Since there is no cooking involved in salads you need not worry about adding heat from your oven!

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Another great foreign influence is the introduction of fruit juices and certain ice creams with fruit salads. Fruit juices and ice creams are perfect for our tropical climate and are advised by many doctors for patients and children with less appetite. Soups are a positive influence on our body and it is the perfect meal for sick people and also serves as a great appetizer.

The Bad

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Everyone knows that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In most urban Indian families, cereals are the common breakfast foods given to children. Cereals are generally considered to be good for health and are served to the whole family. But in reality cereals are not exactly good. Some of them have heaps of sugar and salt which can entirely ruin your diet and might be a bad choice especially for kids. Instead of cereals the more sensible thing would be to eat oatmeal which is definitely one of the world’s healthiest breakfasts.

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Chocolate, especially the dark variety is often advertised as a healthy food which is true in the sense that it gives immediate energy but they also have a negative side. Chocolate contains large amount of butter, sugar and cream, which can hamper your diet negatively. Occasional chocolate consumption is fine but over reliance might cause severe problems.

The Ugly

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There are certain western foods which are actually a curse and should never have been encouraged. Mcdonalds and Pizza outlets like Domino’s entered the Indian market in mid 90’s and have effectively been the primary source of making the next Indian generation predominantly fat and unhealthy, especially the middle class urban children. These fast foods have high fat content and a very high energy density. Energy density refers to the amount of calories an item of food consists in proportion to its weight. Foods with high energy density have a detrimental effect on the human brain. The human appetite was designed for low energy density foods and foods like Pizzas, Burgers and fries are extremely unnatural and has severe effects on the human body especially children. Our bodies were never designed to cope with high energy density foods and that is the reason why fast food is contributing to a major rise in obesity. Fast foods can also clog the arteries and can result in increased blood pressure and heart attacks. Fast foods are high in saturated fats and low quality fats.

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Our body requires fiber and other healthy fats. Fast foods represent a diet which is entirely unnatural and requires a serious consideration. They are as bad as smoking and drinking to health and should be restricted and curtailed before it becomes an epidemic.

All foreign foods are not bad foods. But we have enough nutrients in our own food and it is important that we understand our own bodies and eat accordingly and lead a healthy and happy life!