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10 Indian Dietary Habits Harming Your Health
  • Arati Shah

  • 03, Oct. 2019

10 Indian Dietary Habits Harming Your Health

A combined study by the Indian Council of Medical Research, Public Health Foundation of India and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation 2016 found thatthe total disease burden in India is increasing due unhealthy diet. There is higher incidence of obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure andhigh cholesterol, which mainly contribute to heart diseases, stroke, and diabetes. India has particularly been witnessing an alarming rise in the incidence of diabetes according to the International Journal of Diabetes in Developing Countries. Unhealthy diet is a modifiable risk factor and the prevalence of diseasecan be reduced with a healthy balanced diet. An expert Indian fitnsess nutritionist specializing in planning balanced and healthy diets can also help modify the risk factors for health or help change the dietary habits harming your health. 

You are what you eat. Certain Indian eating habits make us more prone to health issues in comparison to our Western counterparts.So, what are these eating habits? 

1. Excess carbohydrates in the diet: 

Indian traditional diets are generally centered around carbohydrates. Carbohydrates coming from cereals like rice, wheat, millets, etc and vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam etc, are the major contributors of carbohydrates in our diets. The average Indian, whether rural or urban, consumes more carbohydrates in the form of cereals than recommendedAlso, there is an increased consumption of foods made up of refined flour (carbohydrates). These foods are high in glycemic index (GI) which raise blood sugar levels quickly and are associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease and diabetes in the long run.  

2. Flawed vegetarian diets: 

India might be amongst the highest fruit and vegetables producing countries, but the consumption of this produce is far less. The intake of carbohydrates in the form of fruits and vegetables is less where the dietary choice is leaning more towards cereals. In a largely vegetarian country, fruits and vegetable account for only 9% of total caloric intake. Ironically, vegetarians worldwide are more fit with normal lipid profiles and low incidence of cardio vascular disease, than Indians. In a large-scale scientific study (Enas 2005), it was found that the prevalence of obesity andcardio vascular disease was similar in vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indian participants. Infact, the incidence of diabetes was actually higher amongst the vegetarians. This is because Indians eat large amounts of high-glycemic carbohydrates, potatoes, sugar, and fried food using reused oil. They do not include salads, fresh fruits and vegetables that are a must for an ideal vegetarian diet.  


3. Less Focus on Protein: 

Protein is important for building muscle mass, tissue building, synthesis of hormones, enzymes, etc. Above these functions it has a huge role to play in the satiety of an individual. The average Indian consumes far less protein both, plant and animal than is necessary in a healthy diet. The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data 2011-2012 showed that lentil intake is half of what is recommended and there are no soy foods in the diet. 

4. Quantity and Quality of Fat: 

Fats are the main sources of energy for the body, but the type of fat and the total amount of fat consumed daily play an important role in maintaining the health status. The main sources of fat in a typical Indian diet are vegetable oils, ghee, butter, milk and milk productsTrans Fat (the most harmful kind of fat) and saturated fat consumption is more than what is recommended which is contributed by deep fried foods, intake of the vanaspati ghee, commercially available snacks, bakery products, etc. This has contributed to the increased prevalence of obesity, dyslipidemia and cardiovascular disease in India.Dietary n-3 PUFA are of two types – the precursor, ALNA, which is available in plant sources, especially green leafy vegetables and some vegetable oils, and LC n-3 PUFA which is only present in marine fish and certain types of seaweed. The intake of marine fish in Indian diets is very low except in specific coastal regions, and, therefore, the average intakes of LC n-3 PUFA are negligible 

5. Excess salt: 

The average Indian, on an average, consumes almost 10 grams of salt per day, which is double the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations of a maximum five grams each day. The high salt consumption in the country could be because of preference towards pickles, papads, processed, packaged and fast foods. About 1.65 million deaths occur every year due to heart diseases caused by consuming more than 5 grams of salt per day. 

6. Unhealthy snacking: 

Snackingin between meals is a major Indian habit. Indian snacks such as sev, samosas, vadas, bhajias, namkeens and biscuits are made out of highly refined and processed foods like maida, sugars, salt, refined oils and many use oils with trans fats. All of these when taken in excess increases the prevalence of obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc. 

7. Indian celebrations: 

India is a land of festivals and each festival is centered around “food”- particularly high calorie, high carbohydrate, high sugar and high fat sweets and savories. A variety of buffet options in marriages that are extended for 4-5 days sometimes alsocontribute to unhealthy eating. 

8. Love for Caffeinated Beverages: 

Tea and coffee are considered to be stress relievers, but if taken in uncontrolled proportions, they can have harmful side effects. In India, these drinks are often accompanied with unhealthy snacks like bhajias, biscuits, cookies, wafers, fried puris, kharis and pastries. More the cups, more the sugar intake andfat due to whole milk which contributes to obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. The other harmful side effects that might be disturbing are acidity, insomnia, loss of appetite, constipation, anxiety.  

9. Improper Major Meals Size: 

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and should be kept as the largest meal. In India, this most important meal is often neglected. A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Cardiology including female volunteers showed that skipping breakfast increases the risk of hardening of arteries. Also, skipping breakfast leads to unnecessary overeating during lunch and dinner contributing to excess calorie consumption and hence obesity. 

10. Late Night Dinners: 

Most Indians living in urban areas consume tea or drinks with snacks on reaching home from work instead of having dinner. This leads to a very late and heavy dinner. Late dinners are followed by sleeping and this increases the incidence of acid reflux at night. Dinners with high carbohydrate and fat content leads to increased fat deposition and vulnerability amongst people especially with insulin resistance.  

These are some dietary habits that have led us to becoming the world capital of diabetes and heart disease. These food habits are major contributors of obesity which is rising. Hence, improvement in dietary habits and weight through weight loss programs with the best nutritionist in Mumbai  might be beneficial in improving the overall health of an individual.