By Rubaiya Hassan
Many of us are intimately familiar with the health challenges faced by our parents and elders. We’ve witnessed their struggles, their battles with various health issues, and their resilience in the face of these adversities. But amidst these experiences, a lingering question often arises: Do we, the next generation, ever pause to wonder if we are destined to face similar health concerns?
As we navigate our lives, observing the health journeys of our parents and older family members, it’s natural to question whether we might walk a similar path. Their battles with conditions like diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, and other health issues often prompt reflection about our own potential vulnerabilities. This introspection raises vital questions about our future health and the potential inheritance of these health concerns. The young generation today ponder over the health challenges within our community, often questioning if the traditional and cultural foods we cherish might be contributing to our health issues. However, it’s crucial to clarify that the traditional Bengali diet, rich in the combination of rice, fish, and vegetables, is, in fact, one of the healthiest and most balanced diets worldwide.
The traditional Bengali diet embodies a nutritional goldmine—it’s gluten-free and offers abundant omega-3 fatty acids, essential minerals, and a variety of vitamins. However, a noticeable shift has occurred within the Bengali American community. The transition from this wholesome traditional diet to more oil-rich and processed foods, such as biryani, chilli chicken, and mutton kasha, has resulted in a departure from the healthful aspects of the traditional Bengali diet. This dietary shift has led to rising obesity rates, an increase in lifestyle diseases like diabetes, and an upsurge in heart-related problems.
It’s important to understand that the solution lies in a reconnection with the essence of the traditional Bengali diet while making some thoughtful adjustments. To preserve the healthful aspects, consider reducing rice intake and incorporating more vegetables and salad-type dishes. Additionally, minimizing the consumption of fats and harmful dairy products such as milk, butter, and cheese is essential. Instead, opt for more yogurt, homemade ghee in moderation, and beverages like buttermilk, especially during summers. Reducing the intake of red meat and occasionally enjoying stews made from country goat meat can be a healthier alternative.
It’s essential to recognize that a typical Bengali diet is inherently a healthy one. By reintegrating the core elements of this diet while making necessary adjustments, individuals can maintain a healthy lifestyle. The emphasis should be on preserving the wholesome essence of traditional Bengali cuisine while aligning it with a more balanced and health-conscious approach. The transformation towards a healthier lifestyle doesn’t require abandoning our cultural roots; rather, it involves cherishing and modifying our traditional diet to meet contemporary health needs. It’s about celebrating the legacy of our heritage while adopting healthier dietary practices to ensure a vibrant and robust future for the Bengali American community.