Just like any developing nation, our diets have been continuously evolving and has seen a paradigm shift in the past few decades. On one hand, we are consuming more calories than ever with an increase in the daily consumption of fats and sugar and on the other, malnutrition is still a severe problem In India.
Take a look at these statistics and studies (and some of them may come as a shock to you):
- India has the second highest number of obese children in the world after China. 14.4 million children in the country have excess weight.
- India leads and is home to 102 million underweight men and 101 million underweight women, that is 40% of the global underweight population.
- According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), one-fifth of Indian women, or 20.7 %, in the age group of 15-49 are overweight.
- Over half of women of reproductive age — 51 % suffer from anaemia, which is a serious condition that can have long-term health impacts for both mother and child.
- About 21 percent of children under 5 is defined as ’wasted’ or ‘severely wasted’ — meaning they do not weigh enough for their height.
From a country using natural ingredients, fresh produce, traditional superfoods and a sit-down meal culture, what changed in the way we eat causing us to reach this tipping point? A recent article shed some light on the eating patterns of Indians and how most of them eat unbalanced diets.
A well-balanced diet comprises of nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and micronutrients from various food groups. With the ever-evolving Indian diets and factors like income, food prices, convenience, personal beliefs, availability and traditions, Indians are eating fewer nutrients from all these food groups.
The recently released National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-16 by the health ministry revealed that 47% (less than half) of all women consume dark green, leafy vegetables daily and another 38% eat them only once a week. The NFHS-4 showed that only half (45%) of women eat pulses or beans daily and an equal percentage consume them weekly. Milk or curd is consumed daily by 45% of women and weekly by 23%. 7% never have either milk or curd and 25% consume these dairy products only occasionally. The pattern of food consumption by men is similar to that of women, but men are slightly more likely than women to consume milk, curd, fruits, chicken, meat, fish or eggs regularly.
Low intake of these nutrients predisposes an individual to poor heart health, diabetes, obesity, lifestyle disorders and metabolic disorders.
How can we change this?
Don’t ignore the risks of unhealthy diets: Eating too much or too little, not focusing on balanced meals and nutrients are related to developing deficiencies that turn into disorders and diseases in the long run. Focus on traditional meal pairings, a good ratio of protein and carbs in a diet, healthy fats and the recommended allowance of vitamins and minerals meal-to-meal, day-to-day.
Equality between the nutritional requirements of men and women: Providing men with optimum nutrition is as important as nourishing the nation’s women. Women tend to consume lesser milk and milk products, meat, poultry and eggs etc. The low socio-economic status, gender inequality, their reproductive role etc. predispose them to poor diet and deficiencies.
Provide healthy and affordable food for all: Along with battling obesity and undernutrition at the same time, we need an adequate food system capable of delivering healthy food at affordable prices to everyone.
Teach children about nutrition and making the right food choices: Educate children about where the food they eat comes from, the difference between natural produce and junk food, how different foods get digested differently in the body and how we should nourish our bodies to gain maximum potential.
Focus on adolescent girls and women: Focusing on nutritional requirements in early stages of life is crucial to tackling the health of the nation. Healthy girls in the society give birth to healthy babies and in turn reduces cases of stunting, malnutrition and infant mortality.
Good health is a key criterion for human well-being and economic growth of the nation. The choice towards a healthier nation starts with every individual ensuring to nourish himself, his family, his community and everyone around him.
Akansha, founder & consultant at Beyond the Weighing Scale, is adept to speak about nutrition, health, lifestyle management & physical activity. She’s a popular food columnist, a passionate foodie, a health enthusiast, an avid traveller and a happy yogi