Obesity and Good Whole Mexican Food


Mexico is now the country with the highest obesity rate in the world according to a UN report recently. El Paso has been on the list of top 10 fattest cities in the United states for the last few years.
A large population of El Paso is the fusion of Mexican and American culture. El Pasoans do not care for the TexMex food here as they have grown with the smell of chile roasting and flavor of authentic Mexican food.
Mexican food high in fat, sugar and calories is often considered a large factor for obesity in El Paso.
It is now that we have modern medicine to keep the obesity related diseases in control but that was not the case 75 to 100 years ago. Before the isolation of insulin in 1922 if people developed diabetes they all died with it early. There were no cardiac bypass surgeries and treatments for common cancers were not as effective as today. There were no statins, the highly effective drugs to treat cholesterol or the many oral medications now available to treat diabetes and high blood pressure.

If indeed it is the Mexican food culture contributing to obesity then Mexican population, without the modern medicine, would have been close to extinction about a 100 years ago.
The Mexican party foods and snacks that in the past were enjoyed in small portions and eaten occasionally in fiestas are now the daily main meals with ever increasing portion sizes. Carrying soda and other sweetened drinks to be consumed throughout the day cannot be a part of Mexican food history.
If El Paso or Mexico had followed a true mexican food culture neither of the places probably would have made it to the top of obesity charts. Same is true for the rest of world where various food cultures are loosing battle to the processed & fast food culture. The result is a world wide obesity crisis.

In El Paso, the processed food/fast food culture is combined with numerous other social issues i.e. large percentage of population with low health awareness, low socio-economic status and education level, lack of health insurance, lack of good city planning to allow for bike paths, sidewalks, neighborhood parks etc.

Home cooking, from scratch, is not popular in the processed food culture. There is an overabundance of prepared food all around us in the form of fast food restaurants and prepared food items in grocery stores.
The home cooked food for last couple of decades is increasingly “made in food factory & assembled at home”. A home made bean burrito very commonly would be store bought tortillas, cheese, refried canned beans all heated and bundled into a burrito at home. Is that burrito truly home cooked one has to ask.

Counting calories and carbs, avoiding certain foods and increasing the intake of others does work in improving dietary habits. Most people who are able make these good changes successfully in their diets are already quite health aware and motivated.
To the unmotivated the same idea may be quite unappealing and would take the fun out of the food.
On the other hand love and respect for a food culture is something all may be able to share. The carbs and calories often fit in place in right numbers, unintentionally, if foods are consumed according to the traditions. The smell of freshly home made corn tortillas that fills the kitchen not only makes the food more delicious but also gives a feeling of connection with the culture. After one gets used to the good wholesome home cooked flavors there is a slight hesitation in buying that pack of tortillas made with ten different ingredients and packaged in plastic. Even though the home made tortillas are more delicious the portion size may automatically get limited as it takes some effort to make those tortillas. If one eats simple whole foods for daily meals such as beans, vegetables & whole grain soups etc, the occasional taco will taste more delicious. Learning about the food history also allows us to explore the variety of foods enjoyed by this old and complex culture and introduces fulfilling ways of cooking and dining at home rather than in a drive through.
Again, the motivated may start learning and adopting any food culture with enthusiasm but even the unmotivated will, at least, not throw away the idea completely.
And every change begins with an idea.