World Obesity Day 2018: Is the Indian diet responsible for the country’s overweight epidemic?

World Obesity Day 2018: Is the Indian diet responsible for the country’s overweight epidemic?

The humble dal-chawal combo with a little ghee on top won’t do us any harm, right? Well, this is what we all Indians feel and think that it is the influence of the western diet, the dependency on junk that is making us fat. Of course, there is no denying that the high-calorie, high-carb, high-fat junk makes our middle grow out of proportion but we know that even following the staple Indian diet have made many pile on the kilos. No, don’t get us wrong we are not criticising the Indian diet even one bit. It is one of the healthiest diets you can have and recommended by experts globally to lose weight and keep blood sugar in control, only if it is done correctly.

Let’s take a closer look at a regular Indian thali. It basically consists of: rice, chappati, two bowls of vegetables (sometimes three), one bowl of dal, papad, pickles, dahi and to round it up with a dessert. Well, some diet watchers might want to let go of the dessert. A non-vegetarian thali might have a serving of chicken or fish in place of a vegetable. By the look of it, the Indian thali which is more or less the same in most households appears to be a humble combination of the right carbohydrates, proteins, fats along with the other macro and micronutrients and tasty too. It is hard to believe that we Indians can go wrong with this diet and house obese individual. But we do. India is touted to the diabetic capital globally with obesity being a chief contributing factor and it astonishes us more because the Indian diet comprises of the right mix of fibre and carbohydrates with most Indians being vegetarians.

So, what goes wrong with us Indians with this humble diet that we put on weight just like magic and are prone to several lifestyle disease? Well, there are certain loopholes in the Indian diet that we don’t speak about. To top it the Indian eating habits like – eating in excess and lacking sensibility in choosing the right foods make us fat, sadly.

Here are a few reasons that make the Indian diet a fat-diet, if done the wrong way:

They are high-carbohydrate and have a high GI: While most traditional diets globally are centred on carbohydrates, particularly cereals, Indian diets tend to have multiple carb staples—rice, wheat, potatoes, pulses. A sharp increase in the consumption of refined carbohydrates since the 1960s has contributed to the epidemic of obesity in India says a study. Many vegetables and fruits are high in GI which Indians eat generously which spells a doom for them. The carbs that we include in our diets the most are potatoes, wheat, rice, pulses that affect the glycaemic index which results in raised blood sugar levels. Some raw vegetables containing carbs that are very healthy when they are uncooked but the moment they are fried, spiced or cooked in any form the GI levels reach its peak. Undoubtedly these are the main cause of a heart problem, strokes, slow metabolism, weight gain and diabetes for Indians. So, moderation and cooking with less oil and baked foods can actually do Indians a whole lot of good.

Indians eat more than needed: Most Indians think that if your diet is rich in veggies and pulses you can eat to your heart’s content, well no, period. A large-scale scientific study done in the recent past with nearly half the participants who were lifelong vegetarians saw that the rates of obesity and heart disease were similar to those found among non-vegetarians. In fact, the rates of diabetes were actually higher among the vegetarians. This is because the concept of vegetarianism is different among Indians, who eat large amounts of high-glycemic carbohydrates, potatoes, fry food frequently and reuse the oil, and do not include enough raw foods, salads and fruits, which must be central to a good vegetarian diet. Practising moderation should be the aim.

Less protein more carbs: Since most Indians depend no vegetarian sources for nutrients pulses, tofu, soy, beans, milk, mushroom and paneer do not provide the body with enough protein or complete essential amino acids. Proteins are not only the building block of your body but are also tough to digest, which is why the body requires more calorie expenditure to digest proteins, leading to weight loss. This is also a reason why many vegetarians are obese when compared to their meat-eating counterparts.

So, listen up if you want to stick to your dal-chawal-sabzi combo and still lose weight, control blood sugar and fight obesity, learn the art of eating in moderation and choosing foods that are low on GI index. Doing some household chore can also help you lose weight. 


Published: October 11, 2018 11:20 am | Updated:October 11, 2018 11:26 am