Happy Women’s Day fam! Trust you have received all the retail discount coupons and restaurant tasting invites well in advance this year. Well, we have nothing against celebrations. But sadly, amid it all, we keep missing out on some of the most important conversations. After all, the day can very well be dedicated to throwing light on some of the actual issues faced by real women, right?
Women’s health, for instance, is a rather pressing issue at the moment. The recently released NFHS5 data is proof enough. It paints a very poor picture of women’s health in India. So many of us are malnourished. Every second woman in the country is anaemic implying that 50-55 per cent of women in India are having low haemoglobin. At the same time, adolescent obesity among women is on the rise as well.
In a recent conversation that we had with expert nutritionist Dr Meghana Pasi, she elaborated on how more and more women in India are falling prey to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). She explained, “These are chronic degenerative disorders like hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular issues. In fact, we are soon going to become the diabetic capital of the world.”
Quite evidently, there is a huge nutritional gap that needs to be addressed ASAP. For this purpose, Dr Meghana is currently working in collaboration with Arogya World for their MyThali programme. It is an awareness initiative for women on the importance of balanced meals. It aims to sensitize women about the right potion (quantity) and Poshan (nutrition), which is required for maintaining good health. In a recent chat with POPxo, Dr Meghana talked about the importance of having a balanced meal and helped us with an insight into what’s actually a balanced meal. Here are the excerpts.
As per a study by Arogya World, “Non-communicable diseases (NCD’s), which include heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic lung diseases, are leading cause of death worldwide.” As per the study, the NCD burden is massive in India as well where “20% of the population has one NCD, 10% more than one, and 50% dies from NCDs.”
Add to them, the added burden of malnutrition and anaemia and you’d know how poorly our women are fairing. You yourself must have seen your own mother skipping meals or having rather incomplete ones at odd hours during the day. All of this just increases this nutritional gap and high time we address the problem. "Of course, in terms of nutrition and health, India is really falling behind in comparison to other developing countries,” Dr Meghna says.
She further adds, “Listen to your own body. Find out time to understand why you are having that persistent back pain or stressed out, or if your muscles have been compromised. If you don't reflect on these issues, very soon you are going to fall prey to a number of degenerative disorders.
With the My Thali program, Arogya world is trying to make women challenge themselves and have at least one balanced meal per day. Dr Meghana explains, “The idea is to give them a head start and it’s very simple. Start with your lunch thali which should typically comprise of a bowl of sabzi, 1 bowl of dal/chicken curry/egg curry/ sprouts, rajma, etc., half cup of salad, and half a cup of curd. We basically need all the 5 major food groups in a meal and once you have mastered that you can balance each one of your meals in the same way.”
Dr Meghana gives a very simple analogy to explain nutrition. She says, “Think of the major food groups as your five fingers. Together they make one strong fist. Similarly, together these 5 major food groups work to make one balanced meal.” Here are the 5 major food groups:
The general misconception remains that carbs are fattening. However, the truth is that they are very very important because nearly 50 per cent of your energy comes from carbs. We get carbohydrates from the pulses, roots veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, pumpkin, grains, and millets like jowar, ragi, and bajra. she explains, “You should aim at having a mix of all these healthy carbs and try and avoid simple carbs such as processed and refined sugar. Alternatively, the complex carbs that you get from whole grain and veggies give a lot of fibre that’s difficult to digest and thus doesn’t give a glucose or sugar rush. So avoid sugar, maida, ice creams, and pastries but do not avoid the complex carbs. They are healthy for the heart, gut, and they are a very good source of energy.”
While we are well aware that proteins are good for our muscles and bones, they are very very important when it comes to immunity. They also help in building haemoglobin. In a vegetarian diet, proteins are found in soya, quinoa, dals, pulses, legumes. Meat, chicken, egg, fish are some of the very good non-vegetarian sources of protein.
When it comes to the everyday protein requirement, Dr Meghana has some added advice for vegetarians. She says, “You have to be careful in pacing out the protein. Have protein in each meal. Munch on nuts instead of chips and fried snacks. Include a lot of milk and milk products in your diet.” She further adds, “When it comes to protein intake, vegetarians are considered to be at a disadvantage because of the lack of amino acids in their diets. However, you can easily make up for it by mixing your pulse and cereal together. Thus, khichdi is a very good option in that regard.’
Fresh fruits and vegetables are a powerhouse of nutrients and come packed with a lot of antioxidants. You get all your vitamins ACE and a lot of minerals like iron, magnesium, and calcium from them. That said, Dr Meghana insists on eating locally sourced and seasonal fruits and veggies.
She further shares, “Include as many vegetables in your meal as possible. You can add them to your sandwiches, wraps, soups, and salads. Additionally, have at least 2 fruits a day and avoid imported or exotic variants.”
“You need to have at least three servings of milk or milk products in a day,” says Dr Meghana. She adds, “Add a bowl of curd or half a glass of buttermilk or lassi to your meals. You can also have a yoghurt-based breakfast smoothie or a sandwich made with a hung curd dip.”
Fats are very important for the body because they help in lubricating your joints, and are important for your hormones, brain development, and nervous system. That said, Dr Meghana says that out of all the food groups, fats are the least important. This is because you're already eating fats while aiming for other food groups. She further shares that 4 tsp or a tsp ghee is recommended daily allowance for an adult and you should avoid having any more direct fats than that. Also, she insists that we keep a variety of oils in the kitchen and should keep varying them when it comes to everyday consumption.
Lastly, Dr Meghana insists that all the nutrients are very important and thus stands against any fad diets that require you to eliminate any of these food groups from your diet. “All these food groups have different functions and work together to nourish your body. Thus, we need to focus on all of them and any meal can become a balanced meal if you are aware of what and how much of these nutrients should go in the meal.”
You can visit Arogya World’s website for further details on the portion, nutrition, and meal plans.
Featured Image Courtesy: Arogya World for their MyThali campaign.