By Azad Hussain
The lifestyle of a region’s inhabitants is deeply intertwined with its unique culture, environment, and traditions. In Kashmir, the lifestyle of indigenous people is influenced by cultural practices, culinary traditions, and climatic factors. While this lifestyle has its own charm, it’s essential to examine how it impacts the health and well-being of those living in the valley.
One of the most defining aspects of any culture is its cuisine, and Kashmir is no exception. Food habits in Kashmir reflect its diverse culture, with influences from Central Asian, Persian, and Indian culinary traditions. Kashmiri cuisine is renowned for its richness and depth of flavors, offering a unique blend of sweet and savory tastes. However, it’s important to note that when the cuisine is delicious and rich, it can also have health implications.
The “Kashmiri Wazwan” is a feast fit for royalty, comprising numerous dishes such as kebabs, ristas, roganjosh, and various meat preparations. While it holds significant cultural importance, especially during weddings and other celebrations, it’s crucial to consider its impact on health. Medical experts have conducted research highlighting its high oil content and caloric value, suggesting that overindulgence can lead to various health complications.
Spices are integral to Kashmiri cuisine, contributing to the rich and complex flavors of the dishes. While these spices are delightful to the palate, they can sometimes be harsh on the digestive system. Spicy foods are a staple in Kashmiri cuisine, which, as medical experts emphasize, can have negative health consequences. Excessive consumption of spicy foods can lead to health issues.
Kashmiri “Noon Chai” or salt tea, brewed with a pinch of baking soda, turns pink and is beloved among Kashmiris. However, what’s less known is that excessive consumption of Noon Chai can lead to various health problems, according to medical research. The high salt content can also contribute to health issues, and in some cases, excessive intake of Noon Chai containing nicotine might even have carcinogenic effects, as suggested by some studies.
Medical research has shown that many diseases are intricately linked to one’s dietary habits. It’s not just specific dishes but also overall dietary patterns that need consideration. According to experts, a diet high in salt, oil, and spices can lead to a range of health problems and disorders. Therefore, it’s imperative to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet with portion control to take care of one’s health. A balanced diet should ideally consist of a variety of food groups, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These components provide essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals necessary for overall health, whereas a diet dominated by rich and heavy foods can lead to health issues.
Daily physical activity is another vital aspect of a healthy lifestyle, and a significant shift has occurred over the years in Kashmir. Traditionally, Kashmiri people engaged in physical labor, whether through agriculture, artisanal crafts, or other activities. This kept them active and physically fit. In earlier times, the Kashmiri lifestyle was characterized by hard work and physical exertion. People were actively involved in farming, herding, and other labor-intensive occupations. This physical activity helped maintain their metabolism, fitness, and reduced the risk of several life-threatening diseases.
However, with modernization, the nature of work has changed. More people are now engaged in sedentary jobs, which can have detrimental effects on physical health. In urban areas, offices and workplaces often require long hours of sitting at desks, contributing to a sedentary lifestyle. This shift towards desk-bound jobs has been associated with an increased risk of health problems. Even in sectors like agriculture, where physical exertion was once commonplace, there’s a growing reliance on outside laborers. Moreover, the shift from traditional farming practices to more mechanized methods has reduced the physical demands of agricultural work. While this may increase efficiency, it also means that people engage in fewer physical activities.
Harsh winters in Kashmir pose another challenge to maintaining physical activity levels. Many businesses shut down for nearly three months during the winter season, leaving people idle at home. The extreme cold and snow make outdoor activities difficult, and this lack of physical activity can result in health problems, including weight gain and decreased metabolism.
The decreased level of physical activity in daily life is a concern not just in Kashmir but worldwide. Lack of exercise is a major risk factor for numerous chronic health conditions. To combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, it’s essential to incorporate regular physical activity into daily routines. One effective way to do this is by walking or cycling for daily commutes instead of relying solely on motorized vehicles.
While the indigenous Kashmiri lifestyle is deeply rooted in culture and tradition, it’s crucial to recognize how it impacts the health and well-being of the region’s inhabitants. The delicate balance between culinary delights and health considerations needs to be addressed. Similarly, promoting daily physical activity as an integral part of life can help combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. In Kashmir, maintaining health and well-being requires adopting a balanced diet, practicing portion control, and incorporating physical activity into daily routines. By embracing these changes, indigenous Kashmiris can preserve their unique way of life while ensuring a healthier and happier future for themselves and generations to come.
(Email address: Azadhussainganie91@gmail.com)