New Delhi: As the Rashtriya POSHAN Maah (Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition), also known as National Nutrition Month, enters its sixth year with an overarching theme of reducing undernutrition levels among children and women, NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India spoke to Dr Ishi Khosla, Clinical and Public Health Nutritionist and Author of 4-G Code to Good Health, about the significance of traditional Indian foods to improve gut health and combat multiple lifestyle diseases. The expert also discussed how the indigenous food items can help meet the nutritional targets.
Improving Gut Health To Combat Anaemia And Lifestyle Diseases
The conversation on gut health is essential to any conversation about health, Dr Khosla said.
The gut determines how healthy or sick we are and how malnourished or well-nourished we are. What goes on in the gut is controlled by the gut flora, the gut microorganisms, and the tiny bugs that reside there. They control our entire health status.
Dr Khosla said that it’s important to pay attention to women and children because they are more vulnerable to the vagaries of the gut.
Women particularly, with their hormonal changes throughout their life cycle, be it menstrual, pregnancy, lactation, or menopause, in all these phases, there is a high risk of having gut-related issues.
Dr Khosla said that there are various key areas people need to focus on to improve their gut health:
- Remove the trigger foods and understand what is bothering the gut. Urban diets with chemicals, pesticides, preservatives, excessive sugars, and colours need to be replaced in the body with the right kind of food items.
- Some healthier grain options include millets like Ragi, Bajra, Jowar and healthier varieties of rice. They help the gut microbiome flourish.
- Replace refined oils with healthy fats in the diet. Following the rainbow diet is an add on.
- Add probiotics and prebiotics to the diet to improve the ‘good’ bacteria in the body. Some of the options include yoghurt, fermented food, and drinks like pickles and kaanji.
- Replace the sugary items with jaggery.
- Include leafy vegetables and a handful of nuts, seeds, and Chanas in the diet.
- Ensure meeting the deficiencies in the body, such as vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folic acid with supplements.
Dr Khosla emphasised dedicating one meal to vegetables, fruits, and sprouts to add the right nutrients to the body and prevent anaemia and a whole range of lifestyle disorders. The nutritionist added,
If you respect your gut, you have a solution to most of the health problems.
Five Groups of Nutrition Our Body Needs
Dr Khosla laid down five important groups of foods that are essential for combating multiple diseases like osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, auto-immune problems, etc.:
- Carbohydrate-rich food, which includes grains and cereals.
- Plant protein-rich food, which includes lentils, sprouts, chanas, beans, and rajmas.
- Dairy-rich products include milk, paneer, and yoghurt.
- Animal protein-rich food includes fish, chicken, and eggs.
- Good fats and oils include nuts, seeds, homemade ghee, butter, coconut oil and sesame oil.
Dr Khosla further detailed out a five-step process to divide these food groups into diets. It starts with planning the day and time with respect to food, exercise, and supplements. Following this, most of the meal should be consumed before sunset, as the digestion weakens after that, she said. Further, one needs to plan the hunger time and keep healthier options for that, Dr Khosla said. Lastly, dedicate one meal to protein-rich foods, either animal or plant protein, and one to protective foods, which includes vegetables, fruits, sprouts, probiotics, prebiotics, and spices. Having an adequate amount of water and fluids for hydration is a plus, she said.
Dr Khosla said that there is no magic diet or formula to become healthy; it’s a journey. The good news is that the number of people working on improving their dietary habits has increased compared to previous years.
The Nutritional Goals And Food Habits: Rural vs. Urban
Dr Ishi Khosla highlighted the importance of the traditional Indian diet and its health benefits over the new and emerging food alternatives that most of us run after. The urban population has wide options, but most of those may not be good for health. However, the rural people may have limited access, mostly to food items they grow locally, but those options are better for health, she added. Talking about the advantages rural people have in terms of food items, Dr Khosla said,
The rural population is at an advantage as their food is produced in a less toxic environment; they are not exposed to harmful products that we are exposed to in the urban population, particularly things like preservatives, trans fats, excessive sugar items, and much more. They eat simpler and better food.
Talking about the significance of the traditional Indian diet, Dr Khosla said,
The traditional Indian diet includes dal-chawal, millets, vegetables, and fruits that are locally grown, and that is pretty much all we need to build a resilient body. The problem comes in the urban scenario, where we do too much to our dietary habits.
The clinical nutritionist said that rural people consume healthy, unprocessed grains. Sugar is replaced by jaggery in the rural diet. They receive their protein portion from lentils, pulses, sattu, etc. In fruits, Indian gooseberries, blackberries, cranberries, falsa, and sea buckthorns are available in several rural areas. Besides, they consume better kinds of fats in the form of homemade ghee, mustard oil, and sesame oil. These food items are exotic for the urban population but are indigenous in rural areas. Milk and dairy products are far purer in these areas compared to the urban area, where people are exposed to the commercially produced adulterated items.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – theLGBTQ population,indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the currentCOVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water,SanitationandHygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fightmalnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health,adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues likeair pollution,waste management,plastic ban,manual scavengingand sanitation workers andmenstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India wheretoiletsare used andopen defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched byPrime Minister Narendra Modiin 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.