Iranian vs. American
By Ali A. Parsa
February 12, 2002
What to eat and what not to eat? When to eat and how much? It is ironic that
these are still widely misunderstood questions in America even during Information
Age. The truth is that excess greed and unethical practices of some food producers
and marketers and the mainstream medica have mercilessly penetrated not only the
human minds, but also their bodies so deeply that it has become next to impossible
to correct the situation especially in the absence of effective public education.
A bit of history helps. Does anyone remember that in 1950's the American families
were adamantly against their children to drink coffee or tea for the fear of ingesting
caffeine, only to find out many years later that the so called soft drinks the kids
were drinking were actually loaded not only with excess sugar, but with caffeine
and even with some cocaine to make the addictive?
Recall also the recent testimonies by the giant tobacco companies that cigarettes
were not addictive.
We can add to that the on-going ridiculous snake oil claims such losing weight while
eating all you want without exercising; the dangerous side effects and such as obesity
and diabetes aside from their exorbitant costs and you will find it very difficult
not to feel sorry for the innocent public that is being exploited to bankruptcy both
financially and health-wise.
I always find it amusing to compare the Persian culinary habit with that in America.
As an example, in grocery store check-out line in America, I often see people buying
only a single tomato, a single cucumber, peach etc., each in a separate plastic bag!
Then I think of what reaction such shoppers would face from the store keeper and
the public if they do this in Iran! They would probably be laughed at, ridiculed
and refused service or given that item for free by the shop owner since that saves
him money and time
Who would buy a single tomato, a single cucumber or a single peach when those items
cost 300-2000% less than they cost in America? Moreover, cheap fruits and vegetables
sold in Iran beat their American counterparts. This is even true about organically
grown fruits and vegetables in the U.S. and their skyrocketing prices.
On the other hand, here in America, at certain shops in most cities one finds the
prices of ground beef, chicken, pork, and organ meats far cheaper than those of fruits
and vegetables. Since the chief determining factor for what people eat is the price,
in the long run, cheap vegetables and fruits in Iran happen to be a blessing whereas
cheaper meat and meat products in America can be considered a curse. In short, as
far as I know we are mainly been fruit and vegetable eaters, whereas Americans gorge
themselves mainly with all kinds sugar, meat and meat products.
I once read a book by a British physician(left the book in Iran and don't recall
the author) comparing the diets in the so called third world with that of Western
world. He had concluded that simplicity, low meat consumption and heavy consumption
of starches, fruits and vegetables in the third world was superior and saved them
a lot of health problems specific to Western world that makes them candidates for
surgical operations and type two diabetes.
He had also found that the rich people in the third world who had mimicked the Western
diet faced the same problems as the people in the West. So, the ones who could not
afford meat were healthier at the end. This reminds me of the fate of affluent people
in Roman Empire who thought they had the novel idea of using lead pipes for plumbing
in their mansions and their contracting lead poisoning whereas the poor who could
not afford that luxury survived.
This is a reason to rejoice for those who confront inferiority complex because they
are not able to put up with the Joneses and consume excessively rich foods. It also
appears that older cultures have, through centuries come up with more sensible eating
habits than the so called modern world. In fact an Iranian nutritionist at a well-known
American university had come up with such conclusion about Iranian and Middle Eastern
diets. The recent scientific data on antioxidants have further proved that heavier
consumption of fruits and vegetables is the best way to ward off many ailments including
Stating these facts, of course is not to say that taking the consumers for long rides
is not common in Iran. It is, but far less people fall into such traps.
Confusing messages in eating habits of the West is also adversely affecting the developing
world because for a long time the world has developed the habit of following the
West even if the latter jumps off the cliff. I recently have had a request to take
some liquid protein for a young man who is getting into body building in Iran and
has heard the diet in the media. The most devastating adverse effect of excessive
greed, the mad-cow disease is the defiance of the nature's law that there is a difference
between the diet of carnivores and herbivores. Welcome to the modern world where
making the most money in the shortest possible time and by any means is the main
During some fifty years of exposure to America, I have seen the most contradictory
claims about such things as eggs, butter, margarine, meats, vegetable that leave
the public totally confused and a more fertile ground for exploitation. Those who
say this is how the capitalistic system and market economy works, I say bull! Capitalism
is the best system provided that it has human face and keeps unethical practices
in check. In the absence of informed public all systems are the same and hypocrisy
and deception prevail and the public is the loser.
As a friend of the Americans, I feel sad to see a country with the most obese people
who eat because the food is there, but they do not exercise even though they have
the space! Recently 60-minute showed some people who are so fat they are selling
their possessions to attend a weigh losing club in North Carolina for a few months
a year at an exorbitant price. They do this in spite of scientific reports that about
90 percent of the ones who lose weight gain it back after they get out of their expensive
To me, most of these so called weight loss programs are nothing but health and wealth
loss programs-not speaking of the time loss. Yet I have noticed that the same people
drive for ten minutes in a store parking lot so they find a space by the entrance
and do have not walk for 2-3 minutes.
This reminds me of the saying fool and his money soon part. My late mother in Iran
used to say as long as there are fools in the world one should not expect to find
beggars - Taa ablah dar jahaaneh, mofles dar nemimaaneh! I qualify that traditional
advice by saying that if the jobs related to harmful or unnecessary changes in food
and diet are eliminated, the unemployment rate in the U.S. would be about twice as
high as its present rate. My mother used to refer so this kind of useless or dead
work as pouring water in a mortar and beating it with a pistil! Or, koobidaneh
aab dar havan!
I also remember an expression I read in America in which I change the word happiness
with food. It goes like this:
If health was a thing that money could buy,
A poor would not live and a rich would not die!