Most Indians eat unbalanced diet: Here’s what you should put on your plate to promote health and stay fit

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Most Indians eat unbalanced diet: Here’s what you should put on your plate to promote health and stay fit (Image credit: ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition)


Most Indians eat unbalanced diet: Here’s what you should put on your plate to promote health and stay fit (Image credit: ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition)&nbsp

Key Highlights

  • A balanced diet should include a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, legumes, nuts, etc
  • A healthy diet will support immunity, protect the human body against certain types of diseases
  • Latest guidelines from the ICMR-NIN will give you the basis of a healthy, balanced diet

New Delhi: A balanced diet is an essential part of leading a healthy lifestyle. It will supply the nutrients your body needs to function effectively. Consumption of proportions of different food groups will help prevent macronutrient and micronutrient malnutrition. Eating a balanced diet will also protect you against certain diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. However, a survey by Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Nutrition (ICMR-NIN) found that most people in India eat an unbalanced diet, indicating  that nutritional deficiencies are incredibly common in the country.

A healthy diet, well-balanced diet is, perhaps, the first denfence against diseases, including COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2. According to experts, an average person needs about 2,000 calories per day to maintain their weight, although the amount will depend on various factors such as their age, sex, and physical activity level. The latest guidelines from the ICMR-NIN recommend that an adult should eat a 2,000 calorie-diet per day. The ICMR-NIN survey showed that the actual intake is 1,943 calories in urban areas and across the country and  2,081 calories in the rural areas. The report, which highlights the first-ever break-up of the energy that Indians get from different food groups, also noted that these calorifically adequate diets hide major deficiencies.

What should you put on your plate?

Basically, your healthy plate should consist of a variety of healthful foods from different food groups, providing adequate amounts of nutrients required for good health. The ICMR-NIN’s revised plate, My Plate for the Day, will provide you food-based and easily understandable guidelines for creating a balanced meal.

The plate recommends sourcing of macronutrients and micronutrients from at least 8 food groups – with vegetables and fruits forming essentially half the plate of the recommended foods per day.

In an article published in Outlook Poshan, Dr Hemalatha R, Director, ICMR-NIN, and Dr K Damayanti, a Senior Scientist at ICMR-NIN), suggested that a balanced diet should provide around 50-60 per cent of total calories from carbohydrates, preferably from complex carbohydrates, about 20-30 per cent from total fats/oils and a minimum of 10-15 per cent from proteins. According to the experts, ‘My Plate for the Day’ provides typically 13.5 per cent calories or energy (E) from protein, 29 per cent E from fat and 56 per cent E from carbohydrates required to meet the 2000 calories need in a day.

food groups for a balanced diet

(Graphics source: ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition)

Benefits of eating a balanced diet

According to the ICMR-NIN, some of the benefits of regularly consuming foods in proportion as per the model plate are:

  • It improves immunity and resistance to infections.
  • It helps in the prevention of certain health conditions such as diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases like heart attack, stroke, and many others.
  • It helps maintain good microbial flora
  • It maintains appropriate alkalinity, thereby helps reduce inflammation and lower the chances of kidney stone formation.
  • It prevents insulin resistance and maintains appropriate insulin sensitivity and glycemic index.
  • It also prevents constipation by ensuring an adequate intake of fibre.
  • It prevents adverse effects of environmental pollution and toxins, including heavy metals and pesticides by working as a detoxifying diet.

The guidelines from the ICMR-NIN also recommend that individuals trying to lose weight may cut down on intake of cereals. However, the guidelines stated that the meal plan is not meant for any specific medical condition.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.

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