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What India should eat: 17 dietary guidelines by ICMR-NIN to avoid obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases Healthy Diet
Photo Courtesy: Unsplash/ICMRNINGuideline website

What India should eat: 17 dietary guidelines by ICMR-NIN to avoid obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 13 May 2024, 12:33 pm

India's top medical body Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Nutrition (ICMR-NIN) has released a set of 17 dietary guidelines to combat the rising risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular ailments, virtually offering a menu card to good health.

The guideline report said: "A balanced diet prevents all the adverse effects of nutritional deficiencies and also ensures optimal growth and development. It also minimizes the risk of diet related non- communicable diseases (DR-NCDs) occurring in later life."

"Appropriate dietary habits and physical activity through all the stages of one's life are essential for the maintenance of holistic health," the report said.

The medical body said the 17 dietary guidelines place firm emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention across all age groups, with special attention to the nutritionally-vulnerable segments like infants, children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women and the elderly.

The guideline indicated that around 56.4 percent of the total disease burden in India is due to unhealthy diets.

"Healthy diets and physical activity can reduce a substantial proportion of coronary heart disease (CHD) and hypertension (HTN) and prevent upto 80% of type 2 diabetes. A significant proportion of premature deaths can be averted by following a healthy lifestyle," the guideline said.

Photo Courtesy: Unsplash/ICMRNINGuideline websitePhoto Courtesy: Unsplash/ICMRNINGuideline website

The unholy nexus of processed foods, sugar and fat

The guideline mentioned that the world's most populous nation is witnessing an upsurge in the consumption of highly processed foods laden with sugars and fats.

Ringing alarm, the guideline said apart from an increase in consumption of highly processed foods, people are also reducing physical activity, along with the limited access to diverse foods, which is exacerbating micronutrient deficiencies and the overweight/obesity problems.

"Research indicates that unhealthy, highly processed, high-fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) foods have become more affordable and accessible than the healthier alternatives. Aggressive advertising and marketing of these unhealthy foods through different media channels, including social media, are seen to influence dietary preferences among both children and adults, leading to detrimental long-term effects," the report said.

The report further emphasized that people are spending a 'large chunk of family income' to buy such unhealthy foods.

Photo Courtesy: UnsplashPhoto Courtesy: Unsplash

'My Plate for the Day' recommendation

The ICMR-NIN  'My Plate for the Day' recommends sourcing macronutrients and micronutrients from a minimum of eight food groups, with vegetables, fruits, green leafy vegetables, roots and tubers forming essentially half the plate of the recommended foods per day.

The other major portion is occupied by cereals and millets, followed by pulses, flesh foods, eggs, nuts, oil seeds and milk/curd.

Intake of cereals should be limited to 45% of the total energy, while for pulses, eggs and flesh foods, the total energy percentage should be around 14% to 15%; total fat intake should be less than or equal to 30% energy, while nuts, oilseeds, milk and milk products should  contribute  to  8%–10%  of  total  energy  per  day respectively.

However, as per the data, cereals contribute to 50% to 70% of total energy per day.

Pulses, meat, poultry and fish together contribute to 6% to 9% of the total energy per day as against the recommended intake level of 14% of total energy from these foods.

Photo Courtesy: UnsplashPhoto Courtesy: Unsplash

What can make a 'Healthy Snack’?

An ideal healthy snack consists of vegetable or fruit salads adorned with seeds or nuts, topped with yogurt. Additionally, roasted or boiled beans, lobia, chickpeas, and peanuts can serve as nutritious snack options.

What is a balanced diet and why do we need it?

A balanced diet provides required calories, proteins, vitamins, minerals and adequate fibre.

A balanced diet is a wholesome and nutritionally adequate diet. It provides a variety of nutrients that perform a wide range of functions in the body.

A balanced diet can be achieved by eating diverse foods since there is no single food item with all the essential nutrients.

A balanced diet is needed for growth and development to sustain life, maintain health, optimum brain function, immune function, etc.

Nutrients must be obtained through a judicious choice and combination of a variety of foodstuffs from different food groups. Variety from wholesome foods is the key to achieve nutrient adequacy.

Physical activity is also essential for appropriate utilization of all nutrients from a balanced diet.

Exposure to sunlight for obtaining vitamin D is also recommended.

Photo Courtesy: Unsplash/ICMRNINGuideline websitePhoto Courtesy: Unsplash/ICMRNINGuideline website

What is a healthy eating habit?

Inclusion of non-starchy fresh vegetables and green leafy vegetables in every meal. Take at least 30 grams of fruits in every meal.

Consuming at least 50% of cereals and other grains as whole grains (minimally polished) for adequate nutrients and fibre.

All cereal (or millet) based diets are accompanied with adequate pulses or beans for good quality protein and fibre.

Consuming adequate quantities of nuts, oilseeds, fatty fish and restricting cooking oils to 25g to 30g per day.

Restricting meal frequency to two to three times a day.

Avoiding ultra-processed foods (UPFs) and foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS).

Avoiding sugar or restricting to 20g to 25g per day (adults).

Photo Courtesy: UnsplashPhoto Courtesy: Unsplash

Not snacking in between and consuming healthy beverages

Cautioning people on consumption of cold drinks, the medical body said: "Carbonated beverages contain phosphoric acid and may damage the enamel of teeth, and affect appetite if taken in excessive amounts."

"Synthetic soft drinks are not substitutes for water or fresh fruits and therefore should be avoided. Beverages like buttermilk, lemon water, whole fruit juice (without added sugar) and coconut water are excellent alternatives to synthetic drinks. Consumption of soft drinks or commercially available fruit juices increases one's sugar and salt intake and hence must be avoided," the guideline said.

The guideline said a normal healthy person needs to drink about eight glasses (approximately two litres) of water including beverages per day.

Limit salt intake

The guideline said increased salt (sodium chloride - NaCl) intake poses a health risk and may lead to hypertension and related heart diseases and stroke.

Photo Courtesy: Unsplash/ICMRNINGuideline websitePhoto Courtesy: Unsplash/ICMRNINGuideline website

Importance of walking/physical activity

A minimum 30–45 minutes brisk walk / physical activity of moderate intensity among adults helps in maintaining good health.

Regular physical activity of 60 minutes per day among children can prevent overweight / obesity.

Physical activity controls body weight, reduces fat mass, increases muscle mass and improves immune function.

Physical activity builds strong muscles, bones, joints and improves flexibility.

Being physically active can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis and certain types of cancer.

Avoid protein supplements

The guideline recommended people not to consume high levels of protein, especially in the form of protein supplement powders.

"Most athletes can get the recommended amount of protein through appropriate selection of food items. Protein powders are unnecessary and can cause harm," the guideline recommended.

"Prolonged intake of large amounts of protein powders or consumption of high protein concentrate has been associated with potential dangers, such as bone mineral loss and kidney damage," it said.

The guideline recommended that people should develop healthy eating habits and exercise regularly and be physically active to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.

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