From all parts of the country, large crowds attended the five-day national festival of non-toxic food and other eco-friendly items and we hope this green Lanka perception will not end there or with the National New Year but continue to produce smart generations.
In January last year, President Maithripala Sirisena launched a major food production mission whereby Sri Lanka could produce the nutritious food we need at affordable prices without wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on imported junk food or processed rubbish. Despite widespread complaints that the agricultural sector is in a mud hole with thousands of tons of rice being imported while the Paddy Marketing Board has sold huge stocks of paddy to a controversial liquor company, government leaders say they have made amends through the national food production programme.
The message to Sri Lankans is that more than eating till the stomach is full, we need to eat wisely. Both Western-qualified and Ayuruvedic nutritionists tell us that the old saying or practice of “Bada Pirenna Kanna” (Eat till the stomach is full) is unhealthy and may lead to stomach ailments or even obesity. That is why it is necessary for the government, schools and food-related movements to educate the people, especially children on how to eat wisely — meaning a protein-rich diet with little starch and less sugar.
Modern food scientists say that those who take too much starch and too much sugar often come to a point where they are suffering from malnutrition though they may be in the heavyweight category. We need to make a choice or strike a balance between taste and nutrition. Sri Lanka has been blessed with thousands of varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs and grains that are rich in food value.
For instance according to the alternative medicine proponent Dr. Joseph Mercola, Murunga leaves have been used as part of traditional medicine for centuries and Ayurvedic medicine associates murunga with the cure or prevention of about 300 diseases.
Murunga or the drumstick tree, sometimes described as the “miracle tree,” has small, rounded leaves that are packed with an incredible amount of nutrition: Protein, calcium, beta carotene, vitamin C and potassium.
Dr. Mercola says Murunga is known to have been used medicinally and as a food source for at least 4,000 years. Murunga grows rapidly and that makes it appealing for impoverished areas. It also could be harvested throughout the year.
Dr. Mercola practices what he teaches. He says, “personally, I grew a Murunga tree for two years and I can attest to the fact that it grows like a weed. For those living in Third-World countries, it may prove to be a valuable source of nutrition”.
There are many reasons why Murunga is being hailed as a super food. It has a rich nutritional profile with the leaves being loaded with vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids and more. Some 100 hundred grams of dry Murunga leaf contains nine times the protein of yogurt, 10 times the vitamin A of carrots, 15 times the potassium of banana, 17 times the calcium of milk, 12 times the vitamin C of oranges and 25 times the iron of spinach.
Dr. Mercola also says Murunga also full of antioxidants including vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin, and chlorogenic acid. Studies have found that chlorogenic acid helps to lower blood sugar levels. It is also known to be helpful in cancer prevention. Further, in a study of women taking 1.5 teaspoons of Murunga leaf powder daily for three months, blood levels of antioxidants increased significantly.
Murunga leaves are also known to reduce inflammation, maintain healthy cholesterol levels and protect against arsenic toxicity. Not only that Murunga seeds have even been found to work better for water purification than many of the conventional synthetic materials in use today.
With such a miracle tree giving us wonder food and freely growing all over our country there could be serious questions about the intelligence quotient of those who reject or ignore this super food and take delight in imported junk food or processed rubbish.