Wisdom, Teeth (A Guide To Dental Health)

The depressed toothbrush

Disclaimer: The following information is based on real experiences and may or may not apply to you. While its always better to seek the opinion of your dentist, its even more important to do your own research regarding your dental health.

As an important orifice for nutrient ingestion.. (sorry too prosaic, I mean, wordy..)



We consume food through the mouth but spend very little thought on what goes inside – I am not saying you have to be a culinary saint but a little balance will go a long way in ensuring good health. The phrase “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” implies the health of the horse can be estimated by looking into its mouth – same goes for us homo sapiens also.

It was maybe 6 years ago that I was eating chana (salted Bengal grams) and quickly the inside of my cheeks became inflamed and soon spread to my gums. For a next few weeks found it very difficult to eat anything spicy. Initially I thought it was a allergic reaction to the something in the packaged chana but it just didn’t go away – so the chana was possibly when my immune system put its hands up..

Cut to the dentist’s chair. I hate doctors spouting morality.

The guy didn’t have a clue about the condition – by this time it was extremely painful to the touch too.

“Do you smoke ?” No.

“Do you drink ?” Sometimes.

He gave me a look as if he didn’t believe my first answer and sort of implied I am person with loose morals hence I have been punished. He sent me off with some dental cream which unsurprisingly did absolutely nothing to help and I suffered on.

So next stop, Manipal Hospital on Old Airport Road.

( I was hesitant to come here because of my previous experience some years before this inflammation.

That time, my teeth had become very sensitive after having too many raw mangoes and the eccentric head of the department took one look and said I have to go for root canal treatment.

To add insult to sensitivity he used some sort of electric prod which sends a small current to check tooth sensitivity.

He calls one trainee dentist No. 1.

“This is what sensitive teeth looks like..” and prods my teeth. “OOOWWWWW”

He call another (good looking) trainee dentist No. 2.

“This is what sensitive teeth looks like..” and prods my teeth. “OOOWWWWW”

Repeat treatment one by one for trainees 3 and 4. ” More O’s and W’s.

Why couldn’t he call all of them at once ??

It would have been extremely funny if I was watching this on a sitcom, maybe Scrubbs.

(I joke not, this is what happened)

Finally the pain loving sadistic idiot tells me we can start root canal treatment right away. I demur, saying I will come back the next day, even take a appointment for the next day to escape from Hotel California. Did some Googling, bought one of those toothpastes which fix tooth sensitivity – Sensodyne , in one week I was munching away like a cow. )

So you can imagine my trepidation this time.

This time he takes one look and says – Ha! Lichen Planus. Lichen!?? What is this.. some Amazon rain forest ? What kind of eccentricity is it this time around ?

But turns out the guy was spot on this time. He explained its a auto immune disorder which I could believe since I am sort of a walking, talking auto immune disorder disaster area.

The diagnosis was correct (biopsy confirmed it) but the treatment was topical steroids which will only remove the symptoms which may recur any time. And thats the only line of treatment with allopathy.. and I don’t care for steroids with a healthy disrespect for allopathic medication as a first line of treatment because of its side effects.

So next stop, a homoeopathy doctor with expertise in auto immune issues. He understood my life history including a detailed understanding of the body parts where I sweat the most.  Gave me some of those white pills and sent me off saying *don’t* brush the gums. Initially I felt that there was some improvement but possibly it was a placebo effect – there was no real improvement.

I suffered along for many months this way. Google told me Aloe Vera gel may help. Couldn’t get oral gel but tried aloe vera juice. No effect.

Some months later I noticed my ears were fully waxed up. Ignored it until it became irritating.

(Ears?? You ask. Wait, I say. Everything’s connected.)

So I go to a ear doctor, possibly the first time in my life. Initially she gives me a liquid to put in my ears every night to loosen it up. When I go back after a week, its so impacted because of those silly ear buds she is unable to yank it out. Well then, she puts H2O2 in each ear one by one which bubbled away like a hot spring brook after which the wax comes out like ear plugs.

Immediately after removing the wax everything became unnaturally loud – probably my brain had yanked up the master volume and it took a few months to adjust. You will not believe – the door bell and the main door latch were most irritatingly loud.

A few days later I went swimming. Water gushed in into ear canals which had been drier than the Atacama desert earlier. Which meant exactly 6 hours later I got my first ear infection ever.

So I visited this old fashioned doctor who confirmed the ear infection but the diagnosis was too quick for him and left him unsatisfied. “Let me take a look at your mouth”, he said. “Lichen Planus”, I said, and so did my screams when he was poking around my gums.  “Hmmmpff”, he said. “All these new fangled names . People don’t massage their gums causing these issues. Just use your finger to brush your gums. It will hurt, it will bleed but it will harden your gums. Now get lost”, he said, now satisfied that he had earned his keep.

I liked the idea. Simple and painful and no steroids. So for the next one week I brushed my gums morning and night. I bled. It hurt like hell. It really helped – The lichens retreated under my stern fingering. Gums felt better in months. Atleast 50% improvement.

Then I came across this simple, great concept called oil pulling. Less complicated than it sounds – its a very old Ayurvedic practice which involves using a vegetable oil such as coconut, sesame (til) or even olive oil and swishing it like mouthwash for atleast 15 minutes without swallowing it.

People claim it’s the panacea for many ills including skin glow, but all this in my opinion is fantasy. It helped me in these ways –

  • Lichen Planus 99% gone after oil pulling for a month. I will not claim a cure, but this habit keeps LP completely away.
  • Removes a lot of phlegm from my airways.
  • A lot of people drink water or tea first thing in the morning – I believe that means you will ingest all the bad breath and bacteria- sounds logical that first thing should be to remove these out first – oil pulling reduces plaque and is supposed to round up all the bacteria
  • Good excuse for not being able to talk to my wife in the morning 🙂

I started flossing regularly too – started with every night and then reduced to once a week.

So to consolidate:

  • Oil pulling in the morning for 15 min with sesame (til) oil
  • Brush teeth
  • Brush gums with fore finger
  • Floss once a week

In a month or so Lichen Planus was under control and ever since.

(Aside: once I took some NSAID drugs for an injury the LP flared up real bad – avoid NSAIDs like the plague if you have oral LP, atleast make sure you let the doctor know you have LP)

Which leads us to….


Let’s start off with some self evident truths:

First off, based on what I know (happy to be corrected if wrong) there are exactly THREE inorganic food substances that we have consumed on a everyday basis for thousands of years..

  • Water
  • Salt
  • Baking powder / baking soda, maybe?

meaning rest of all food we consume comes from (organic) other life forms – from grains to vegetables and fruits, spices to meat. Think – only water and salt are not from life forms, rest everything is.

Second – what the only TWO substances that we are told to put into our mouth, but not swallow ?

  • Bubble gum / chewing gum
  • Toothpaste

As far as gum is concerned – I have often swallowed it without any ill effects. And the wrapper does not say do not swallow.

Which leaves toothpaste as the only substance that we are supposed to put in our mouths but not swallow.

Why does toothpaste packaging say:

  • Not for children less than 6 years old ?
  • Use only pea sized amount
  • Poison control warnings in countries such as USA ?

How is toothpaste ok for adults but not for small children ? Why only pea sized amount ? What will happen if I have maybe three pea sized portions ?

For this, let me relate the experience of a friend, lets call him VB. An extreme and rare situation, but important to understand.

VB bought and started using Colgate Total toothpaste which caused such a severe allergic reaction with rashes on his neck, face and body that he landed up in hospital in a pretty serious condition and doctors pumped him with steroids. An engineer and a logical thinker, he was able to eliminate alternatives and prove conclusively that it was the toothpaste that caused the allergic reaction to the incredulous and unbelieving doctors.

The lessons we can learn from VB’s experience are:

  • Doctors don’t know everything
  • Hell, if they know what they are supposed to know, that would be a good start
  • Ultimately, you are responsible for your health
    • Do you own research and develop your own diagnostic skills
    • Don’t self medicate – use the doctor for that
    • Avoid unnecessary medication especially pain killers
    • Ask the doctor about the effect of the medication

Further down this article I have listed out the toothpaste brands and their ingredients as details, but let’s look at what I have discovered:


  • All “Herbal” toothpastes have a large non-herbal component. Should they be even called herbal?
  • Vicco toothpastes may appear to be very “herbal” but out of 100g of toothpaste, exactly 20g only constitutes herbal extracts – so the rest of 80g is “excipients p.s.” which is the scientific term for – “this is herbal so I don’t care to inform you about the rest”. I was pretty surprised on getting a round 20g number for 18 herbal extracts !
  • The most popular chemicals are for both herbal and non-herbal toothpastes are:
    1. Sorbitol – bad
    2. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)  – very bad
    3. Silica – somewhat bad
    4. Sodium Saccharin – bad


  • Avoid Dabur Herbal toothpaste. It has Formaldehyde, which is poison even to breathe and they are putting this in toothpaste!
  • People with asthma have to take more care in toothpaste choice, preferably go fully natural as described later.


Behind the scenes

 If you think what-you-see-is-what-you-get applies to toothpastes, you can think again..

Unfortunately, it’s not necessary that the manufacturer has stated all the ingredients of the toothpaste on the tube, more so with so called “herbal” toothpastes.

A specific case in point:

Himalaya Dental Cream mentions these as the ingredients, other than herbal:

  • Sodium Benzoate IP
  • Bronopol IP
  • Saccharin Sodium IP 0.5%

None of these are “foaming” agents.. so how can this toothpaste foam at all ?

So I sent them an email:

—–Original Message—–
From: Jaimini Ram [jaiminixxxx@xxx.com]
Sent: Wednesday, Aug 29 2012 1:01AM
To: customer.service@himalayahealthcare.com [customer.service@himalayahealthcare.com]
Subject: ingredients in dental cream

I would like to know:

  1. what is the foaming agent used in Himalaya dental cream.
  2. Does it have Sodium Lauryl Sulphate or Sodium Laureth Sulphate.




To which they replied as:

Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2012 17:43:50 +0530
From: customer.service@himalayahealthcare.com
Subject: RE:’HDC=826-876′ ingredients in dental cream
To: jaiminixx@xxx.com
Dear Jaimini

Thank you for your email.

We wish to clarify that Himalaya Dental Cream uses Sodium lauryl sulphate as a foaming agent.


Ms. Tara xxx xxxx

Manager – Customer Service
The Himalaya Drug Company
Makali, Bangalore 562 123, India
T +91 80 2371 4444 · F +91 80 2371 4474

Toll Free No: 1800-425-1930 (9.00 am – 5.00 pm Monday – Friday)


Atleast Himalaya is responsive – but there is a big gap in what is mentioned on the toothpaste versus reality – anyone who is sensitive to SLS or SLES is in big trouble if they believe what is printed on the tube.


I also sent an email to Patanjali regarding their Dant Kanti but I never received a response:


From:  Jaimini Ram (jaiminixx@xx.com)
Sent: 23 June 2015 06:32AM
To: feedback@patanjaliayurved.org (feedback@patanjaliayurved.org)

Wanted to know some details about Dant kanti toothpaste – does it contain SLS or SLES ?

Only sodium benzoate and calcium carbonate is mentioned.

I am asking since I am allergic to SLS and SLES. If you are not using this what substance are you using as your foaming agent ?



which finally brings us to the climax..



Firstly, not everyone is allergic or sensitive to these chemical found in toothpastes.

If you have a toothpaste that works for you, that’s great.

When your dentist is all smiles when they see you every month, that’s when you should start investigating what is happening and what you can do to improve the situation.

I found some good resources on the net for an alternative to toothpaste:

The main ingredients being: coconut oil, baking soda and rock salt

What I have personally tried and found excellent is:

  • mix these and add as required until you get a good semi solid consistency
    • (virgin) coconut oil
    • baking soda
    • rock/sea salt – grind it in a mortar
    • add peppermint oil for fresh breath
  • add these as available:
    • turmeric
    • powdered clove
    • nutmeg seed– you can scrape it or powdered mace
    • cardamom, ground
    • star anise
    • powdered tulsi
    • powdered cinnamon
    • neem powder

    Keep in a glass jar at your sink, pour out a little on the toothbrush or into your mouth. In addition to the brush use your finger to brush your gums.

    Floss at least once a week.

    I found that plaque reduced dramatically than any standard toothpaste could have.


    • It will make your sink dirty and messy which you will need to clean each time
    • It’s a real pain to make this each time unless someone can do it for you

    I have come to the conclusion that for toothpaste manufacturers “cleaning teeth” is just one of the requirements – not messing up the sink too much as well as thickness so that it can come out of the tube evenly is a much bigger requirement

    I am lazy in preparing this concoction each time.. so instead I keep a mix of baking soda and common salt in a glass jar and sprinkle it on the toothbrush along with the toothpaste.

    Toothpastes and ingredients

Now lets look at the (artificial) substances that are present in popular brands of toothpaste – both herbal and non-herbal, to delve a bit deeper

In the list below, Dabur Herbal, Dabur Meswak and Himalaya Active are branded as “Herbal” toothpastes.

Chemical Present in Harmful Side-effects Source of information
Sorbitol Colgate Total

Colgate Active Salt



Dabur Herbal

Dabur Meswak


Himalaya Active

Typically used as sweetener as “diabetic-friendly”.

Used in toothpaste for mask the bitter taste of other ingredients


If ingested:

Irritable bowel syndrome

Gastro-intestinal issues

As little as 20g has caused diarrhea






Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) Colgate Total

Colgate Active Salt



Dabur Herbal

Dabur Meswak


Himalaya Active

Used in domestic cleaning products, shampoos and toothpaste for lather.


SLS in toothpaste implicated in canker sores

Reduces effectiveness of fluoride against cavities



PVM/MA Copolymer (Gantrez) Colgate Total

Dabur Meswak

Used as binding agent. Safe for very small amounts http://www.efsa.europa.eu
/sites/default /files/scientific_output/files/main_documents/3423.pdf
Silica Colgate Total

Colgate Active Salt


Dabur Herbal

Dabur Meswak

Himalaya Active

Used as abrasive to remove plaque– but it’s harder than teeth so your teeth will wear out sooner. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon_dioxide




Hydrated Silica Close-Up


Himalaya Active

Used as abrasive to remove plaque– but it’s harder than teeth so your teeth will wear out sooner. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon_dioxide




Carrageenan Gum Colgate Total

Dabur Meswak

Used as thickening and stabilizing agent


Implicated in tumour promotion if ingested

Sodium Hydroxide Colgate Total



Used in soaps, detergents, drain cleaners.


Corrosive substance.


Used to regulate pH of the toothpaste





Titanium Dioxide




CI 77891

Colgate Total


Dabur Meswak


Used as a colourant to make the toothpaste white, not your teeth!


Possibly carcinogenic when inhaled.


May cause a rare yellow nail disease if consumed


Dunkin Donuts is dropping its use in powdered sugar donuts



Sodium Saccharin Colgate Total

Colgate Active Salt



Dabur Herbal

Dabur Meswak


Himalaya Active

Used as an artificial sweetener to mask bitter taste of other chemicals


At one point in time was considered carcinogenic, but no longer.



Triclosan Colgate Total

Dabur Meswak

Used as anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent


Increases susceptibility to allergies, possibly carcinogenic


May alter hormone regulation


Banned in some U.S. states from being used in consumer products






Sodium Fluoride Colgate Total



Possibly prevents cavities


Ingestion in high does causes affects heart and circulatory system and affects calcium absorption.


Main reason for warnings to keep toothpaste away from children under 6



CI 77019

Colgate Total


Used as mild abrasive


Possibly safe



Pigment green (CI 74260) Colgate Total Used for colouring. Also present in acrylic paints


May cause serious birth defects in embryos



Lake Quinoline Yellow (CI 47005:1) Colgate Total Yellow food dye


Weak evidence for AHDH in children, mostly considered safe



Calcium Carbonate Colgate Active Salt

Dabur Herbal

Dabur Meswak


Used as mild abrasive, mostly safe in toothpastes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcium_carbonate


Sodium Silicate Colgate Active Salt

Dabur Herbal

Used as preservative for toothpaste. No details about toxicity available, possibly safe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_silicate


Sodium Mono fluoro phosphate Colgate Active Salt

Dabur Meswak


Fluoride carrier; protection from cavities


Safe in low doses



Sodium Carboxy Methyl Cellulose


Cellulose Gum

Colgate Active Salt


Dabur Meswak


Himalaya Active

Used as thickener in toothpastes


Relative low concentrations induces low grade inflammation and metabolic syndrome over long term.



Sodium Chloride Colgate Active Salt Common salt; Used as abrasive; safe NA
Sodium Bicarbonate Colgate Active Salt Baking soda; Used for teeth whitening and plaque removal; safe NA
Xanthan Gum Colgate Active Salt


Dabur Herbal

Thickening and binding agent


Linked to allergies for those with known sensitivity to gluten, soy etc.


Xanthan gum dust linked to respiratory symptoms



Benzyl Alcohol Colgate Active Salt


Found naturally in fruits, plants and teas


Used as preservative


Reported to cause skin allergies and unsafe in high concentrations only.



Pigment Blue (CI 74160) Colgate Active Salt


Used in paints and dyes


Can cause serious birth defects in embryos



PEG-32 Close-Up


Binds water; keeps xanthan gum uniformly distributed; as such safe – used as medicine in higher concentrations https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyethylene_glycol


Cocamidopropyl betain Close-Up


Used as thickener and foaming agent in toothpastes


Voted as 2004 Allergen of the year in USA

Zinc Sulphate Close-Up Used for reducing bad odours.


Unable to find safety date


Trace amounts considered safe for ingestion



CI 16255 Close-Up Provides the red colour for the toothpaste


May cause hyperactivity in children



CI 17200 Close-Up Provides the red colour to the toothpaste


Maybe toxic; no dependable sources



CI 77491 Close-Up Used for colouring;


Maybe toxic; no dependable sources

Glycerin Sensodyne

Dabur Herbal

Himalaya Active

Safe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycerol


Potassium Nitrate Sensodyne Preservative as well as possibly helps against sensitive teeth.


Possibly safe



Spray Congealed FD & C Blue Lake No. 1 Sensodyne

Dabur Herbal



Induces allergic reaction if you have even moderate pre-existing asthma


Also called Brilliant Blue FCF



Sodium Benzoate Dabur Herbal

Dabur Meswak

Himalaya Active

Food preservative


May trigger ADHD episodes.


Present in Coca Cola but being phased out



Formaldehyde Dabur Herbal Disinfectant


Highly toxic, highly allergenic and carcinogenic


Why is this in toothpaste ??





FD & C Yellow #5 / CI 19140 / Tartrazine Dabur Herbal

Himalaya Active

Food colouring


Causes allergic reactions in asthmatics and if you have aspirin intolerance



Excipients q.s. Vicco sugar free Generic name for natural or synthetic substance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excipient


Trisodium phosphate Pepsodent  cleaning agent, lubricant, food additive, stain remover, degreaser


poisonous if ingested








Menthol Himalaya Active Possibly ok in toothpaste https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menthol



Potassium Sorbate Himalaya Active Preservative


Possibly safe in toothpaste – poisonous in pure form

CI 43053 / Fast green FCF/ FD&C Green No. 3 Himalaya Active May cause tumours





  • Bye, Bye

    Hopefully this was a comprehensive and an objective overview of toothpastes so that it helps others out there!

    I researched on the toothpaste ingredients by taking a photo of the toothpastes, reproduced below:











News Article: Slowing down aging

Recent article in Times Of India regarding slowing down aging will less dependency on drugs:

“Our studies have shown that we could prevent about 82% of heart attacks, about 70% of strokes, over 90% of Type-2 diabetes, and over 70% of colon cancer, with the right dietary choices as part of a healthy lifestyle. The best drugs can reduce heart attacks by about 20 or 30%, yet we put almost all of our resources into promoting drugs rather than healthy lifestyle and nutrition”, Walter C Willett, professor at the Harvard School Of Public Health told TOI.

He told TOI that this diet needs to be combined with stress management techniques (including yoga and meditation), moderate exercise (such as walking), and social support and community (love and intimacy).

“In short — eat well, move more, stress less, and love more,” he said.


Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Anti-AGEnts-Eat-play-love/articleshow/47651295.cms

Maggi: Tasty bhi unhealthy bhi!

Watching the new channel debates over the last few days one would think that its been a pretty slow week new-wise or the newswala’s have had their head in the sand for a while. They were debating about the whole Maggi noodles fiasco. Looking shocked and betrayed (seriously, some of the anchors should be nominated for a filmfare award) that their beloved Maggi was found to contain 17 times the permissible limits of lead. Along with that ofcourse the entire can of MSG worms was also opened, lots of chest beating and dramatic statements like “can we ever trust Maggi again?”
I only had one question watching the whole tamasha; did you really ever think that Maggi noodles was healthy??
Seriously? At best best Maggi can be passed off as quick relief food when you’re in college and there’s no time or you’re running on your last 100 bucks of pocket money, or you’re a single working person who really couldn’t be bothered to whip up a three course meal after a long day at work. It CANNOT under any circumstances be eaten as a healthy alternative to regular home cooked food.
Some of us have even convinced ourselves that we can ‘make’ Maggi healthy by adding lots of chopped carrots and beans or paneer or egg (I’m going to admit I was guilty of this too)… but really who are we kidding here? If the basis of the dish is maida and taste maker that’s full of chemicals, preservatives and sodium that’s close to half your recommended daily sodium intake no amount of veggies is going to change that!

For those among my friends who say chalta hai…once in a while..the kids like it. Let me ask you, would you knowingly give your kids harmful chemicals once in a while? I think not. Might as well get off the high horse while you’re at it and let them also play with those cheap Chinese toys that contain lead based paint…same thing right?

OK down to the basics. Here is what Maggi contains that Nestle`has actually listed (the hidden gems like lead we can let the food administration guys find out for us).MaggiIngredients

Wheat Flour: Aka maida, refined wheat flour. Maida is made from the starchy part of the wheat grain, stripped of fiber maida contains very little nutrition and is typically bleached using flour bleaching agents like benzoyl peroxide.
Edible Vegetable oil: commonly considered healthy (most of us use vegetable oil for cooking), they are highly processed and involves pressing, heating, various industrial chemicals and highly toxic solvents. (will be blogging about this soon!)
Salt: Now interestingly it seems that in India sodium levels are not mandatory to mention on the packaging of foods, however the order in which the ingredients are listed is a good give away. Manufacturers are required to list the them in order of quantity. Salt is number 3 on the list of ingredients here- need I say more?

Wheat Gluten: This is the protein in wheat, its what makes the wheat dough sticky. Not too bad unless you suffer from non celiac gluten sensitivity (probably the most under diagnosed condition for most people, but that’s a topic for book by itself)

Mineral: Calcium carbonate and guar gum- calcium carbonate is commonly used in food as an anti caking agent, acidity regulator. Not good in large quantities. Guar gum: used to improve shelf life

Hydrolysed groundnut protein: This ingredient is basically the substitute for MSG. it provides the umami (savoury) flavour of the tastemaker that we all just love. it also contains glutamates …yes you heard me. so while Maggi can technically say no added MSG it does contain naturally occurring glutamates via this route! This is pretty much what keeps you coming back for more it is highly addictive and targets the same taste receptor that MSG targets.if you have eaten nachos, kurkure, lays…cant stop at one..its the umami!
Mixed spices: (onion powder, corriander, Chilli powder, turmeric, garlic powder, cumin, aniseed, fenugreek, ginger, black pepper, clove, nutmeg, cardamom): dehydrated onions and coriander I suppose, so it can last forever!
Noodle powder:(wheat flour, edible vegetable oil, salt, wheat gluten, calcium carbonate, guar gum) sugar, edible starch,
Edible vegetable oil
Acidifying agent (330): enhances the activity of anti-oxidants but is not an anti-oxidant by itself, used as a flavour enhancer, emulsifier and prevents foods from reating to metals like jams, soft drinks etc.
Potassium chloride: Used commonly as a salt replacement, flavour enhancer…you see where I’m going with this!
Colour(150d) -Caramel color- this ones debatable- while some say its ok, if it is prepared using ammonia it is carcinogenic
Flavour enhancer (635): Similar to the Hydrolysed protein targets that umani taste we love, typically used in foods that contain MSG
Raising agent (500ii) Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate- raising agent

The only conclusion I can come to is if I’m putting 400 calories of something into my body it had better provide me with better quality nutrition than Maggi.  Some real food maybe?

If you have something to add or say about this article I’d love to hear your thought.  Head on over to the comments section!

Maggi noodles: 2 minutes of fame to 15 minutes of shame

The News

20 years ago when something used to go wrong, the world used to “turn upside down”. (And then correct itself I suppose in some time)

Now under the lip smacking scrutiny of 24/7 News and social media when something goes wrong the world just goes flat like an bottle of Coke left opened. That is what happened to the MNC giant Nestle in the case of one of the most enduring brands, Maggi noodles.

Firstly, how many (definitely not me) were aware that the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government had a department called the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It was a epiphany for many, like discovering many years ago that there is something called the Election Commission when T.N. Seshan became its chief and discovered, like Spiderman, that not only he has great responsibilities but along with that, hey, great power.

So some obscure, unnamed lab worker in the UP FDA found lead and MSG in a randomly selected set of samples of Maggi noodles. I am sure she went to her boss expecting to be ignored and like other times have the report gather dust. But this time it was different. Clearly this time there was a chief who had his maa-ka-doodh and discovered that they had great power.

I am sure that somebody in Nestle was aware and informed of the situation in the UP FDA. But unlike these unlikely heroes, Nestle officials, in their hubris induced wisdom, assumed great power while shedding all great responsibility.

This is what the conversation would have gone like:

UP FDA: Hey Nestle, I found MSG and lead in your Maggi noodles.

Nestle: UP FDA who exactly ? Do you have an appointment ?

UP FDA: Listen, we have to go public with this..

Nestle: Oh yeah ? And who exactly is going to listen to you ? Never heard of you!

UP FDA: Lead, MSG. MSG, Lead. Please. We will take action.

Nestle: You and what army ?? Go away..

UP FDA: Ok.. Hello, Arnab Goswami ? I think the nation wants to know this..

And then the world went flat for Nestle because like Douglas Adams said, bad news travels faster than light, in the age of 24/7 news and social media. All news channels got their TRPs going with only 3 facts:

  1. MSG and lead found in Maggi noodles
  2. Lead was 17 times the permissible limits.
  3. Nestle makes Maggi before Madhuri Dixit or your mother cooks it.

Rest of it was posturing and apoplectic fits by the talking heads on TV and suddenly we discover every state has an FDA, that the National Consumer Forum can take action, that Army canteens feed Maggi to its soldiers (not any more), Future Group pulls it off their shelves and that Arvind Kejriwal can take action against a baddie MNC. The Delhi Lt. Governor must be heaving a sigh of relief for this break.

The funniest was Rajdeep Sardesai ending a talk show with “experts” saying, “Tomorrow I will still eat my cereals, but very very carefully”. Like what, “waiter, there is lead in my oats..” ?


So after all this hoo-haa, like our politicians I did some “introspection”.

In my parents generation, lead lined cooking vessels were pretty common. I remember as a kid before it became generally known that lead in food is bad, rasam was cooked in a lead vessel because it turned out tastier. I can vouch for that – there is a taste difference.

Till 10 years back lead additives were present in petrol and diesel and lead free house paints are a pretty recent phenomenon. Lead is possibly still present in sunscreen creams and water pipes made of lead are still around.

I looked up how lead ingestion affects us on wikipedia. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead#Biochemistry_of_poisoning)

The bottom line – “it interferes with cognition”. I could not understand the rest of the complex chemical processes described about calcium analogs and ion channels because of a lifetime of ingestion and inhalation of lead through rasam, petrol bunks and well painted homes. Not only that, veggies grown in sewage water could have lead in them, so do fish.

I realised through lead induced brain fog, that I grew up as a lead addict. Damn that lead, could have gone to IIT.

Fortunately, our bodies have the ability to excrete most lead and keep some of it which causes the interference in cognition.

The permissible limit (in India) as per news reports is 2.5 parts per million while it found found to be 17 times in excess – 42.5 parts per million by UP FDA. Kerala and Goa FDA found it to be within limits.

What about MSG ? Wikipedia to the rescue: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monosodium_glutamate

MSG is a complete eye opener. Its used as a taste enhancer, but:

  • One of the most abundant naturally occurring non-essential amino acid.
  • Present naturally in Tomatoes! Cheese! Potatoes! Mushrooms! Others!
  • US FDA (yes, they too have FDA) has recognised it as safe, so has Australia and New Zealand.
  • We humans produce it naturally in the gut! Yes!
  • No statistically significant negative effect has been found with “normal” amounts of MSG as food additive.
  • Lethal dose was 15-18g / kg of body weight in rats and mice. Extrapolating, I who weighs 67 kg needs to go to a shop and ask the flabbergasted shopkeeper atleast 1 kg of MSG and consume in a short period of time to commit suicide but with my taste buds in heaven…  I am sure there are easier ways.

So why exactly is MSG additives completely banned in India such that you cannot add it at all?

On one hand we know for sure that tobacco consumption causes cancer yet freely available on the other hand we find miniscule amounts of lead and MSG in Maggi with dubious negative effects and the whole world goes mad. The Joker, where ever he is, must be cackling his guts off.

So all in all, the Maggi mess is a big mystery.. call Byomkesh Bakshi, Batman, Sherlock Holmes, Mikael Blomkvist. Who threw rotten MSG laden tomatoes on Nestle and pump lead into them leaving them with egg on their face?

But what’s the point?

If you are worried about MSG and lead in Maggi noodles, you are barking up the wrong tree. What you should be more worried about is the wheat flour / maida and wheat gluten that constitutes most of your Maggi noodles, which is the killer in terms of increasing your blood sugar and bad cholesterol, and is implicated in a host of inflammatory and auto immune diseases. By the way do you know how MSG is manufactured? Using wheat gluten! That’s where the word glutamate comes from..

The other killer is excess salt – we take way too much salt than required anyway and in India it’s not necessary to list how much Sodium is present in packaged foods.

Now lets look at the forest instead of the trees.

  Maggi noodles is junk food. 

No amount of added vegetables is going to make it healthy, since the base is junk. I remember when my son was 4 years old we asked him to pass around Lay’s potato chips to visitors to our home – and he said – “please have some junk food..” because that’s what we taught him about potato chips. My wife corrected him in mock shock… but that is the unpleasant truth.

The thumb rule is more ready-to-eat a packaged food is, the worse it is nutritionally and health-wise. If you buy ready-to-eat paneer butter masala which you can pop into the microwave oven – BAD. If you buy basmati rice packet which takes 15 minutes to pressure cook – BETTER. With Maggi noodles and its 2 minute readiness is – BAD.

So take some time to think what goes inside your body. You take your car for servicing every six months and with good handling can last a decade. Our bodies are meant to last for 8 additional decades, but what servicing do we do for it?



So if tobacco is easily available, is it correct that Maggi noodles is being pulled off the shelves ? The difference as a friend pointed out is the misrepresentation. While the packaging for tobacco is clear about what’s inside, Maggi noodles is positioned and marketed as a healthy snack (without lead and MSG) for kids. Which is complete bull-stuff – harried mothers feel OK in giving it to their kids because they think its healthy because Madhuri Dixit says so. Regardless of lead and MSG, nothing can be farther from the truth.

I remember Shahrukh Khan during his 6 pack Om Shanti Om days exclaimed “Single-handedly try and bring the junk food industry to closure!” and now he advertises for Mango Frooti (Junk food!). Makes sense since public memory is short – must be all that lead interfering with cognition!

Maggi will recover, using these celebrities. When Cadbury’s chocolate was affected, atleast its brand, by the news of worms in it Amitabh Bachchan put his weight behind the correction campaign. When Coke was impacted by news of pesticide in it Aamir Khan came along and we saw how he visited Coke factories to allay our fears. Guys forget the pesticide and the worms – worry about what is the 99% problem with Cadbury’s Chocolate and Coke and Pepsi.. SUGAR!

So what we would like to see and I am sure we will never get – correctly presented and represented ads. Sure, I live in a dream world.

Something to wonder: Do you think if an image and health conscious person like Madhuri Dixit consumed any of the Maggi noodles she advertised for ??


Easy ideas to on how to include healthy foods to your diet

flax-seed-1Unless you’re living under a rock you’ve probably ready enough about flax seeds and how they are a healthy source of omega 3’s for vegetarians. Consuming whole flax seeds is a bit pointless since it just passes through your body without giving you much benefit, freshly ground flax seeds is what you want to consume. Flax seed oil is good too provided it is not heated and fresh (it tends to turn rancid pretty fast).
Add flax seeds the next time you make Chutney powder (molaga podi/chutney pudi)
Sprinkle freshly ground flax seeds on your oatmeal porridge, smoothie, yogurt, raita


Karipatta/ Curry leaveskaripatta
Now this ingredient is commonly used across Indian cuisine however I mostly end up picking it out of my sabzi or curry and placing it aside to be thrown later (which defeats the any nutritional purpose of adding it to the dish).
Karipatta is known to help in
-Lowering cholesterol
-Controlling blood sugar levels
-Preventing graying of hair, helps treat damaged hair
-Treating skin infections because it has anti fungal properties and has strong anti-oxidants that leave your skin looking healthier
-It’s good for digestion
-Cures diarrhea and,
-Is a great source of both iron and folate (folic acid helps your body absorb the iron in your food)

When you buy a fresh bunch of karipatta wash it and let it dry out for a day or two. it will start to look crispy as it dries out. Once it dries out remove the leaves from the stalk and pop it in a spice grinder and blitz it till it to form a powder. (how fine you grind the leaves is up to you)
Now you can bottle this powder and sprinkle it over your dals, sabzi, sambar, butter milk etc. you will consume it without having to chew through the leaves. Now you can include this wonder food in your diet and enjoy its many benefits.

Karipatta Chutney

This is my MIL’s recipe which I love but there are lots of different recipes for the same on the internet, just google it!


One small bunch of karipatta

2 tsp oil

1 tbsp urad dal,

1 tsp channa dal,

4 to 5 dry red chillies

1/2 tsp whole black pepper

tsp jaggery powder

2 pieces Hing OR 1/2 tsp if using powder. (I like to use the crystal hing (brand SSP) rather than the powder for this recipe

1 small lime size ball of tamarind (can replace with amchur powder)

Salt to taste

Fry urad dal, channa dal, karipatta, red chilli, black pepper in oil till light brown.
Put all of the above ingredients in a grinder along with salt, jaggery, tamarind/amchur and grind into into a fine paste. Add water to adjust the consistency to a thick paste.

Talk to me! Do you like this post? Let me know if you have any other healthy ingredients that you are trying to add to your current diet…do you have any special karipatta or flax seed recipes? Would you like me to feature any particular food ingredient in a future post?