Rujuta Diwekar is at it again.

She has put up a post on Facebook (screenshot below). In her post, while praising traditional Diwali sweets’ virtues, she implies that traditional and home-cooked food is superior merely because it is traditional or home-cooked.

This is a DANGEROUS misconception!

Let us be clear. foodnetindia is in no way, shape, or form, saying that all traditional Indian food is unsafe or unhealthy. We ARE saying that Ms. Divekar’s broad generalization that traditional or home-cooked is healthier and safer BECAUSE it is traditional or home-cooked is dangerous because she fails to account for several important factors.

For example, in her post, Ms. Diwekar says that when you air fry chakli instead of deep-frying it, you are fixing something that isn’t broken. Here, she ignores the fact that a large number of her readers use vegetable oils for cooking. Most vegetable oils are fairly rich in Omega 6 fats, which, when subjected to the high heat of deep frying, oxidize and become toxic. Consuming food fried in this kind of oil increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, and more.

This is not the first time that Ms. Diwekar has propagated this misconception. In an earlier opinion article published by NDTV, Ms. Diwekar correctly advised mothers to avoid feeding their kids “packaged cereals (including oats), no juices, breads, noodles, etc” for breakfast since they are low on nutrition and harmful. However, she then made the highly problematic recommendation that mothers feed their kids foods like Poha, upma, thepla, khakra, and paratha, among others.

Food like Poha, upma, or (Rava) idli contain mostly simple carbohydrates and, therefore, when used as a meal replacement by themselves, are a nutritionally inferior option than several packaged foods. I would argue that many processed and packaged breakfast replacements are nutritionally superior to these.

Deep fried foods like dosa and wada, on the other hand, have a toxicity problem because, as mentioned above, most Indian households use PUFA rich vegetable oils for cooking that, when subjected to high heat oxidise and become toxic.

Ms. Diwekar has to modify her dietary recommendations to take into account the actual practices in Indian kitchens. Unless she does so, her advice is going to make her hundreds of thousands of followers very sick, and might eventually lead to lifestyle diseases responsible for poor quality of life and an early death.

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