Is vada pav safe to eat? (Health risks)
Is vada pav safe to eat?
In this article, we will discuss whether vada pav is safe to eat, its associated health risks, and the ways to prepare a nutritious and healthy vada pav.
Vada pav is a popular street food that originated in the Indian state of Maharashtra, especially in the city of Mumbai. Today it has become one of the cheapest, tastiest, and beloved fast foods across India.
Is vada pav safe to eat?
No, it is not safe to eat, as it contains a deep-fried potato fritter made of smashed potato stuffed in gram flour and deep-fried to enhance the taste. Also, potatoes and the white bread bun used to sandwich fried potato fritter are rich in carbohydrate content. All these ingredients can potentially lead to an increase in calories, glycemic index, and trans fat, resulting in obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases (1,2,3,4).
Moreover, the use of baking soda in white bread buns along with the spicy seasonings with chutneys leads to obesity and bad cholesterol increase as well as digestive complaints such as acidity, flatulence, bloating, and negative effects in inflammatory bowel disease patients (5,6,7,8). Despite its serious health effects, vada pav has been relished as an iconic tasty food over the years.
What is vada pav made of?
Vada pav consists of a fried potato fritter sandwiched between a bun and seasoned with various spices including mustard seeds, turmeric, and chillies. It is typically served with spicy, sweet, mint, date, garlic or ginger chutneys, and fried chillies. Variations of vada pav can include different flavours such as Schezwan, cheese, and grilled vada pav.
Is vada pav a junk food?
Yes, vada pav is a junk food. Foods that are highly processed with low nutritional value and often high in calories, sugar, salt, preservatives, and unhealthy fats are regarded as junk foods.
Studies among children and adolescent students have reported that the consumption of junk foods leads to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc., and alarms for spreading awareness on the adverse effects of consuming junk food along with promoting physical activity and a healthy balanced diet (7,8).
What are the health risks of eating vada pav?
Popularly known as an Indian burger, each serving of one piece of vada pav provides about 200 calories, which is mainly attributed to the significant levels of trans fat generated during deep frying of potatoes, besides the high carbohydrate content of both potato and all-purpose flour in the white bread bun.
Consuming foods rich in trans fat and carbohydrates is associated with an increasing risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. An 8-year-old study has demonstrated an association between the consumption of fried potatoes and a higher mortality risk (1). Similarly, a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and hypertension has been reported among those who frequently consume French fries (2). High-fried foods can also lead to acrylamide-triggered anxiety and depression due to lipid metabolism disturbance and neuroinflammation (3).
Furthermore, the repeated use of oil in frying generates free radicals, trans fats, and other compounds that are harmful to health. With each use, the oil’s smoke point and nutritional value decrease accompanied by a rise in off-flavours due to the release of harmful compounds such as lipid oxidation products and polycyclic aromatic compounds, which can potentially contribute to heart disease and cancer (9,10).
Additionally, the health risks associated with contamination by microorganisms, pesticide residues, chemical additives, parasites and environmental pollutants cannot be ignored for this street food.
|Vada pav ingredient||Composition||Health effects|
|Potato and white bread bun||High in carbohydrates||High glycemic index, obesity, diabetes and hypertension|
|Deep-fried potato||High levels of trans fat, sodium and harmful compounds including acrylamide, hydroxymethylfurfural, lipid oxidation products, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons||Inflammation, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, anxiety, depression and increased risk of premature mortality.|
|Spicy chutneys, seasonings and chillies||
Acidity, flatulence, and bloating
Increased risk of obesity with high levels of low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol)
Has negative effects on people with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases.
How to make vada pav nutritious and healthy?
This delicious street food is not just a snack, but a sentiment of many vada pav lovers. Therefore, we can explore ways to modify the ingredients and preparation methods to avoid potential health risks and increase the nutritional value, making vada pav a healthy and balanced diet. Here are some suggestions:
- The white bread bun can be replaced with wheat or whole-grain bread or bread formulated with plant-based functional ingredients (11).
- The gram flour-stuffed potato can be baked or vacuum-fried or air-fried rather than deep-frying in oil (12).
- The other spicy ingredients and condiments can be supplemented with fresh fruits, vegetables and/or lean protein sources.
In this article, we have clarified if vada pav is safe to eat highlighting various health risks associated with eating vada pav. We have also provided some alternate ways to prepare vada pav to make it a nutritious and well-balanced diet. In my opinion as a food scientist, I suggest preparing vada pav at home with the suggested modifications in the recipe rather than frequently consuming street food vada pav, which can be unhygienic, unhealthy, and less nutritious. This can be done by gradually reducing the frequency of consuming street food vada pav and shifting to homemade vada pav over time to stay healthy and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
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