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Diet to reduce disease risk

New ICMR guidelines on non-communicable diseases focus on food groups

Diet to reduce disease risk

Unhealthy diet is responsible for 56.4 per cent of NCDs that include heart diseases, cancers, diabetes and hypertension. Rising consumption of processed food has emerged as a significant factor behind these NCDs. ISTOCK



Renu Sud Sinha

Eleven-year old Raghav is pre-diabetic. Born through IVF, he is an over-pampered child, who has become insulin-resistant due to over-eating. He is part of the rising childhood obesity cases that are driving the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in India where, ironically, undernutrition and anaemia also remain public health issues.

Menu that can be helpful

  • Eat 60-70 gm cereal per meal. One roti is roughly 30 gm (6 tsp) flour; 30 gm of cereal/millets (raw) amounts to 90 gm (approx) in cooked form and has 100 calories.
  • 30 gm (6 tsp) of raw daal is equal to one cooked bowl (100 cal) of boiled daal. Kids need only 15 gm (3 tsp) a day (quantity may vary in case of deficiencies).
  • In the absence of green leafy vegetables in summers, use a lot of fresh coriander/mint leaves or as chutney; don’t throw away beetroot leaves. You can also use dry methi leaves.
  • Starchy fruits and root vegetables are carbohydrates and should be considered as cereals in the diet.
  • Keep portion control in mind, particularly while eating fruits. Avoid juices.

Unhealthy diet is responsible for 56.4 per cent of NCDs that include heart diseases, cancers, diabetes and hypertension. Rising consumption of processed food has emerged as a significant factor behind these NCDs.

The National Institute of Nutrition, in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), has recently released Dietary Guidelines for Indians 2024, focusing on food groups rather than nutrients. Reiterating that a balanced diet and physical activity can substantially reduce heart diseases, hypertension and check Type 2 diabetes by at least 80 per cent, these guidelines provide comprehensive and practical recommendations.

Mohali-based nutritionist Neelu Malhotra says that since the first set of guidelines were published in 1998, there is hardly any difference in recommendations, “but revisions are necessary because of misconceptions fuelled by social media”.

The guidelines recommend an ideal plate of 2,000 calories a day (1,200 in case of diet restriction), but consumption should be strictly based on individual requirements and parameters, including weight, age, gender, activity level, etc. It should have various food groups, including vegetables (400 gm, also green leafy and root vegetables), fruits (100 gm), cereals (250 gm), pulses, eggs and meat (85 gm), nuts and seeds (35 gm), fats and oil (27 gm) and milk/curd/paneer (300 ml).

Despite cereals/millets being the mainstay of Indian diets, fibre remains low in our diets as we eat more refined food. The rising cost of pulses and meat has limited their availability for many. Malhotra recommends unpolished cereals, millets and whole grains like barley and ragi, as wheat has less fibre than other cereals.

The 17 guidelines have addressed detailed diet requirements for various groups, including infants, pregnant and lactating women and the elderly. The 148-page booklet is available on the ICMR website. It contains advisories on limiting intake of high fat, sugar, salt and processed foods, exclusive breast feeding for first six months and only home-cooked food for infants, reading food labels, etc. This handbook also has diet charts, healthy recipes, appropriate cooking methods and information on cookware and even on measuring katoris and spoons.


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