India is a country rich in flavours, spices and foods. Each part of the country has a rich food heritage that spans the ingredients used, the cooking techniques and the combination of flavours. And along with the exorbitant number of food cultures and sub-cultures, come the myths. Myths that pour out of every corner of the country. I picked 6 that have travelled the length and breadth of India.
Indian parents are obsessed with making sure their children drink lots and lots of milk. Milk is, of course, a wonderful source of calcium, protein and also important minerals like phosphorus and magnesium. But more than 2 cups a day could lead to iron deficiency and anemia. But less than 2 cups and their vitamin D levels could drop, because milk is an important source of this vitamin. Filling them up with too much milk also means they won't have enough appetite left to eat the remainder of a balanced diet. So let them drink milk in moderation.
Lady's fingers will get you 100/100 in Maths
Kids in almost every Tamil family have heard this line from their parents at dinnertime! I'm not sure if it's just to cajole a child into eating the slimy vegetable or the subtle pressure to get a perfect score in Maths, but there is a wee bit of truth in this belief. The good carbohydrates and antioxidants in bhindi can actually offer protection to the neurons in the brain. Also, the polysaccharides (long carbohydrate molecules) are thought to open up the arteries like Viagra does, earning it the names 'green Panax' in Japan and 'plant viagra' in the US. So even if it doesn't get your child a 100/100 in Maths, there are plenty of reasons to continue eating okra.
Just delivered a baby? Eat ghee
Many north-Indian families ensure that new mothers are fed ghee-laden laddoos, post delivery, to help their bodies heal. In all fairness, ghee is a rich source of vitamins A, D, E & K. The body can best absorb all fat-soluble vitamins from ghee. Besides, the good news about the fat in ghee is that it is free of trans fats and hydrogenated fats, the real terrors when it comes to heart disease. But all this is true only for homemade, pure ghee. There's no saying what preservatives and processing the store-bought varieties use. While 1-2 tbsp of ghee is good for the new mother, more than that is just excess calories, which are better expended on other calcium and protein-rich foods.
Fair, fair baby
There's no escaping the fact that we're a country obsessed with fairness. And this obsession begins during pregnancy itself. Most pregnant women, at some point during their pregnancy, have been advised to drink milk with saffron strands dissolved in it so that the baby is born with a fair complexion. While saffron as a spice does have medicinal properties like helping with insomnia and heartburn, your baby's complexion will depend entirely on the genes he/she inherits from you. So go ahead and add that expensive saffron to the risotto or kheer, but don't expect it to bleach the baby's complexion.
Cold causes cold
As a child, each time I caught a cold (which was quite often), my people would sit me down and answer questions from a checklist: Did you eat ice cream? Cold drinks? Ice? I would be so mad at this mini court-martial. I wish I had the scientific knowledge I do now. The fact is that eating cold food does not cause a cold. Cold is caused by Rhinovirus that is transmitted by germs left behind on surfaces like computer keyboards, doorknobs, or dishes and spoons. Coming in contact with these surfaces and then touching your nose or mouth is what causes a cold. So don't deprive kids of the joy of an ice cream for fear of cold.
Drinking water causes gas
Sounds strange? I know people who believe so. Sure, water is a mix of hydrogen and oxygen, but that doesn't mean that the water going inside the body will magically transform itself into gas bubbles in the stomach. Water is essential to good health and a minimum of 8 glasses per day is required for the normal functioning of the body. However, if you drink a lot of soda, or worse, diet sodas (the artificial sweeteners cause even more bloating), the carbonated drinks may cause gassiness and bloating. Another explanation is that if you gulp down too much water the old-fashioned Indian way (lips not touching the glass rim), you might end up swallowing a lot of air along with the water.
Know of any other myths? Do write in about myths you've come across and if you want a scientific explanation for them.