India's Obsession With Carbs, 7 Tips To Get The Best
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Like all civilizations that have existed since ancient times and consistently survived the onslaught of time, India has a huge culinary history spanning centuries. But one common thread that has been passed down generations is India’s love for carbohydrates. The consumption of rice and potatoes or other fruits, vegetables and grains—all of which are carbohydrates by the way—is not just a festive or ritual thing but a regular one, so much so that excess carbohydrate consumption now poses a major health risk for Indians. 

According to a study done by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and India Diabetes (INDIAB) over a period of 12 years (2008-2020), the diet of average Indians includes 60% to 70% carbohydrates. Not only is this quite far from a healthy balanced diet, but this diet also increases the risk of diabetes, obesity and even heart disease among the Indian population. These non-communicable diseases affect both quality of life and health parameters to the extent of being severely disabling and even causing death in extreme situations. 

The study says that if Indians as a population were to reduce their average consumption of carbohydrates to 50% to 55% and increase their protein consumption to around 20%, diabetes and other related health complications can be avoided. But while this sounds simple, the fact remains that Indians still do consume carbohydrates in high amounts not only because it is a necessity and more easily available, but also because we love the taste of carbohydrates.  

So, how do we change the trend as a culture and improve our national health status? Read on to find out. 

Video Credit: YouTube/Your Food Lab

The Reasons Behind India’s Carbohydrate Love

As mentioned before, India’s love for carbohydrates is not new, but an ancient practice. When human civilization first discovered agriculture, the first things we learned to grow were grains like rice, wheat and millets. Carbohydrates were seen as great sources of energy, and as our agricultural production increased, so did our dependence on carbohydrates. But this is not to say that carbohydrate consumption is all bad. In fact, if you look at Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine and health, then you will find that carbohydrates are quite healthy. 

Ayurvedic texts mentioned the use of Vrihi (rice), Godhuma (wheat), Yava (barley), Sr Dhanya (millets), Dal (lentils) as some of the most beneficial carbohydrates. Quite a lot of carbohydrate varieties were even recommended for health issues like Pitta Dosha, which can be managed with the consumption of rice, barley, coconut and sweet potatoes. So clearly, going by this ancient wisdom, eating carbohydrates cannot be the problem. 

The health problems associated with carbohydrates actually come from overconsumption and incorrect consumption. One of the main reasons behind both overconsumption of carbohydrates and incorrect consumption of carbohydrates is poverty. While proteins, even eggs and paneer, are more expensive, so are a wide range of fruits and vegetables. The huge poverty afflicted population of India is therefore dependent on cheap carbohydrates like rice and potatoes rather than other sources that are also high in proteins, vitamins and minerals. 

Another major reason behind both overconsumption and incorrect consumption of carbohydrates is the flooding of the Indian food market with cheaply available delicious carbohydrate dishes that we all know will do us more harm than good. For example, the most easily available roadside snacks are not only made with refined carbohydrates like maida and starchy carbohydrates like potatoes but are also deep-fried. Whether it be samosas or vada pavs, you know this to be true.  

How To Correct The Carbohydrate Course 

Despite all the problems with carbohydrate consumption, there are some easy ways to ensure that you get the best benefits from carbohydrates without overconsuming them or consuming them in the wrong way. Deal with these two core issues and you can actually continue to consume carbohydrates freely without worrying about chronic health conditions like diabetes showing up. Here are some tips you can use to correctly consume carbohydrates. 

1. Choose Whole Grain Options: Opt for whole grain carbohydrates such as whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, and oats. Whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals compared to refined grains. They also provide a steady release of energy and help in maintaining blood sugar levels. 

2. Portion Control: Be mindful of portion sizes when consuming carbohydrates. Balancing the amount of carbohydrates with other nutrients is crucial for a well-rounded meal. Focus on including a variety of food groups like proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats alongside carbohydrates. 

3. Eat Fiber-Rich Carbohydrates: Incorporate fiber-rich carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Fiber aids in digestion, promotes satiety, and helps regulate blood sugar levels. Aim for a diverse range of colorful fruits and vegetables to obtain a wide array of nutrients. 

4. Limit Added Sugars: Be cautious of added sugars present in processed and packaged foods. Excessive consumption of added sugars can contribute to weight gain and other health issues. Instead, opt for natural sources of sweetness like fruits and limit sugary beverages and desserts. 

5. Pick The Right Cooking Methods: Choose healthy cooking methods such as steaming, baking, grilling, or sautéing instead of deep-frying. These methods help retain the nutrients and minimize the use of unhealthy fats. 

6. Pair With Lean Proteins and Healthy Fats: When consuming carbohydrates, balance your meal by including lean proteins (e.g., poultry, fish, legumes) and healthy fats (e.g., avocado, nuts, olive oil). This combination helps promote satiety, stabilize blood sugar levels, and provide a well-rounded nutritional profile. 

7. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues. Eat until you feel satisfied, but not overly stuffed. Be mindful of emotional eating or eating out of boredom, and practice mindful eating by savoring and enjoying your meals.