Medical News Today: What to eat on the Indian diet

By | March 28, 2019
Indian food is famous for its spices and range of dishes. Different regions of India have distinct cuisines, but most of them contain varieties of vegetables, legumes, rice, and breads that may help a person lose weight. Many Indian people do not eat meat.

The traditional Indian diet appears healthful. However, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes rates are steadily increasing in Indian populations. This is due, in part, to changes in the way that modern Indian people eat.

The Indian diet is increasingly high in calories, salt, and saturated and trans fats, as well as low in fiber. Despite these changes, it is possible to adopt a healthful Indian diet for weight loss.

This article will discuss the best ways to eat a balanced, healthful Indian diet.

Breakfast

Breakfast is an important meal for providing the body with energy to function through the morning.

For this reason, it is best to stick to breakfasts that contain a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber.

Carbohydrates

Indian diet breakfast option on a plate including idli and fruit.
A breakfast of oat idli with fresh fruit provides complex carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins.

Complex carbohydrates provide a lasting source of energy. They appear in foods such as wholemeal roti, oat idli, and brown rice.

Fiber-rich fruits also contain complex carbohydrates, and they are more sustainable when people eat them fresh and whole.

Include fruits in a healthful breakfast, as they also provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Bananas are rich in potassium and fiber, so they are a beneficial option to have with breakfast.

Protein

Protein is a useful nutrient for satisfying hunger. Breakfast options rich in protein include:

  • low-fat yogurt
  • other low-fat dairy products
  • beans
  • lentils

Fiber

Fiber is important for digestive health and can help offset hunger for longer. Vegetables and fruits are rich in fiber.

Including these foods may be particularly important because fiber intakes are currently low in Indian populations.

Meal examples

A good breakfast could consist of whole-grain roti, a vegetable dhal, and a side of banana.

An alternative option could be chana dal pancakes with low-fat yogurt.

Lunch and dinner

A healthful lunch or dinner should contain a mix of whole grains, protein, vegetables, fruit, and dairy.

Vegetables

Vegetables are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Mixing different types of vegetables, such as leafy green and root vegetables, will have the greatest health benefits.

Protein

Indian diet meal option consisting of a bowl of chickpea curry.
Good sources of plant-based proteins include legumes, such as chickpeas.

Protein is essential for the growth and function of cells, tissues, and organs throughout the body. Incorporating protein into a healthful Indian diet is fairly simple.

Most Indian diets are vegetarian. There are many good sources of protein for vegetarian diets, such as:

  • legumes
  • whole grains
  • nuts
  • seeds

Unlike protein from meat or fish, plant-based protein does not contain all of the amino acids that the body requires to function optimally.

This means that for vegetarians, it is useful to combine different protein sources to receive the right nutrition.

Alternatives to high glycemic index foods

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how carbohydrate-based foods affect blood glucose. Foods with a high GI cause larger spikes in blood glucose and are less healthful.

The Indian diet traditionally contains foods with a high GI. This includes chapattis, wheat rotis, jasmine rice, and white potatoes.

It is not necessary for people without diabetes to avoid these foods entirely, but restricting them could be a healthful option.

There are many alternatives to high-GI foods. Such alternatives include swapping jasmine rice for brown rice and using wholemeal flour to make chapattis.

Ghee is a common form of butter in Indian cuisine. Using large amounts of ghee in Indian cooking can lead to a high consumption of trans fats. These trans fats increase the risk of obesity and heart disease. It is best to limit the use of ghee when cooking.

Meal examples

Indian diet dinner option of cauliflower curry with wholemeal roti.
Vegetable curry with a wholemeal roti can be a healthful dinner option.

Curry is an excellent option for a healthful Indian lunch or dinner. It is best to keep the sauce light by using skimmed milk or cashew nut paste instead of the traditional coconut milk or cream.

The curry should contain a mix of vegetables and at least one rich source of protein. This could be one or a mixture of pulses, tofu, grains, and seeds. People can also add nuts to their rice for additional protein.

To accompany the curry, use brown rice, a chapatti, or a roti. These are good options that can provide a source of complex carbohydrates. It is best to use wholemeal flour to make the roti or chapatti. Limit or avoid the use of ghee when frying them.

Snacks and treats

Many Indian snacks are highly processed, high in sugars, or high in saturated fat. Choose healthful snack options, such as:

  • dried or fresh fruits
  • nuts
  • seed mixes
  • vegetable chaats, such as lentil or bean chaat
  • oat idli

Also, fruit is an excellent option for a dessert. Consume fruit either on its own or with low-fat yogurt.

Summary

Adopting an Indian diet can be a healthful way to eat. However, it may be necessary to avoid certain areas of the diet that are lacking in nutrition.

In 2011, new dietary guidelines that aimed to reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes among Indian populations came into force. These guidelines remain the current recommendation.

These guidelines include increasing protein and fiber intakes, reducing saturated and trans fats, and switching to carbohydrates with a lower GI.

By making healthful choices, such as adding protein wherever possible, the Indian diet can help people lose weight.

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