13 Oct 2011

Fruity lore

Unfolding the newspaper yesterday morning, I was taken aback by the front-page headline declaring the guava as the healthiest of fruits.

While my grandparents praised the guava, I had not realized that it was the healthiest. And what is a ‘healthy’ fruit anyway ? Fruits have always been food for Indians, eaten for nutrition and health. I was curious to understand how the humble guava became topper. Reading on, I learnt that ‘healthy’ in this case was a measure of the abundance of antioxidants in the fruit. That a certain institute had evaluated 14 fresh fruits commonly consumed in the country and found that the guava contained the highest quantities of anti-oxidants.

We consume fruits for their food value – as a source of energy, roughage and essential micro-nutrients. Anti-oxidant content is only one of the several means of identifying a fruit as superior to others. The headline almost portrays the guava as the best fruit available for the common man, the manna from heaven for the millions of Indians who toil to eat one square meal a day. At the other end of the economic spectrum, this news also strokes the upwardly mobile urbanite, well-fed enough to choose food items by their antioxidant content.
A dearth of sensational news on this particular day had catapulted the humble guava to front page ‘breaking news’. How casual our news reporting has become. Context management, controlling the availability of information, dearth of knowledge and at times, ulterior motives and common agenda end up influencing readers - Firing up imaginations, fueling passions and nurturing fads. Driven by such stupendous discoveries, the guava will become ‘cool’ and too hot to be digested by the common Indian. The aam admi will learn to be satisfied with cheap mangoes.
This news item also underlines how as a nation, we remain far behind leading-edge research. Although early studies abroad suggested that antioxidants may promote health, large clinical trials have since been unable to establish benefits and instead suggest that excessive supplementation may be harmful.

Anyway, I am hoping that someone abroad hasn’t already filed for a patent on the guava genome, preparing to consign the bicycle-borne guava seller by our roadside to history. I am reminded of the travelling fruit hawker from my childhood, trudging down the lane with a large cane basket on his head, crying ‘panifal singara’.

Water chestnuts, anyone ?

No comments: