A good meal contains various important nutrients, required for a healthy and consistent growth. Food should be consumed not on the basis of its quantity, but on the basis of its content. Here’s what your food should contain:
Carbohydrates: Carbs may not have the best reputation out there, but nutritionists swear that they are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body. In India, most of the total daily calories are acquired from carbohydrates, specially from plant foods like cereals, pulses, and millets.
But, the meal would be incomplete without the addition of fiber, in both soluble and insoluble forms. Fiber assists in digestion,but most diets are deficient in this. Instead of consuming your fruits and vegetables as a beverage, try more to eat them.
Most fruits and vegetables (with the exception of corn and potatoes) and whole grains are foodstuffs with a very low glycemic index. This means that these edibles do not cause sudden spikes in sugar levels in blood, and can in fact, help maintain them.
The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) recommends around 30 grams of millets and cereals, along with around 100 grams of vegetables, preferably rich in starch.
Simple carbohydrate compounds like glucose and fructose are found in fruits, vegetables, and honey, lactose in milk, and sucrose in sugar. One the other hand, complex polysaccharides are starches present in cereals, millets, pulses and root vegetables, and glycogen from animal foods.
Proteins: Proteins should ideally make up 30-35% of your diet. This could be in the form of milk, pulses, leafy vegetables, white meat, sprouts, and even eggs. Protein is the main component that makes up your body cells, and also constitutes your skin, hair and tissues.
In fact, we burn more calories while digesting proteins than we do while digesting carbohydrates. Men are anatomically more muscular, and are usually heavier than women, hence they require more protein.
There should always be one good source of protein in every meal, and it may be in any form like whole dals, paneer, thirty grams of pulses, or even gram flour as per the NIN.
A recent survey done by the Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB) showed that 90 percent of people in the survey did not receive the recommended daily amount of protein.
This could be a result of the increased demand and consumption of fast foods, which have a high calorie and sugar count, and low proteins.
Fats: Fats are an abundant source of energy, stores vitamins and helps synthesize hormones.
According to the NIN, about one-fifth of your diet should consist of fats of all three kinds — omega-3 fats, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats. The vegetable oil used in domestic cooking is the biggest source of fat in our diets.
For the optimal fat quality, using a combination of a variety of vegetable oils is imperative. The golden rule is to not fear trying out different cooking oils. It is recommended to have a good mixture of various types of oils, for a balanced diet.
You could use a blend consisting of butter, olive oil, ghee, mustard oil, sesame, ricebran, groundnut, or even soybean oil for your meals. Depending more on unrefined, or cold pressed oils, or exclusively on refined oils, can be detrimental for your health.
Vitamins and Minerals: Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals support and maintain the body’s metabolism, cell production, nerve function, bone maintenance, and muscle growth.
Minerals are inorganic substances, hence minerals from plants, animals and fishes are easily absorbed by the body. Vitamins, on the other hand, are complex and fragile compounds.
These are very hard to preserve, and it is difficult to shuttle them, as they are easily destroyed while being stored or cooked. They are usually derived from fruits, oilseeds, nuts, and green vegetables.
Vitamin A, B, E and D, along with the minerals calcium and iron are vital for our body.
The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) recommends the daily consumption of green vegetables and fruits to be 100 grams each.