Avoid protein supplements, reduce salt intake, and include maximum food groups in your diet. Know more Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-recommended Dietary Guidelines for Indians.

Over 56 percent of India’s total disease burden is owing to unhealthy diets, according to estimates cited by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). However, eating healthy diets and ensuring adequate physical activity can reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease and hypertension cases, as well as prevent around 80 percent of type 2 diabetes cases. It is to counter this growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases and undernutrition, that ICMR has issued a set of 17 new dietary guidelines for Indians.

These ICMR guidelines guidelines for Indians, formulated after research, expert consultation and scientific review, provide recommendations for good health and prevention of malnutrition. Apart from basic recommendations such as consumption of a balanced diet laden with fresh fruits and vegetables, ICMR has advised people against the consumption of protein supplements to build muscle mass.

ICMR dietary guidelines on protein supplement consumption

Over the past few years, dietary supplements have gained immense prominence. People consume protein powders as healthy options to supplement lack of natural protein consumption. However, ICMR warns that protein powders, marketed as protein supplements, may contain added sugars, non-caloric sweeteners and additives, making them unviable for regular consumption.

The ICMR has urged people to obtain good quality proteins and essential amino acids through natural sources rather than investing in protein supplements to build muscle mass.

“Consuming high level of protein, especially in the form of protein supplement powders, is not advisable,” the guidelines highlight. “Research findings indicate that dietary protein supplementation is associated with only a small increase in muscle strength and size during prolonged resistance exercise training (RET). Protein intake levels greater than 1.6 g/kg a day do not contribute any further to RET-induced gains in muscle mass,” ICMR further notes.

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Prolonged intake of a large amount of protein powders is also associated with potential health dangers such as bone mineral loss and kidney damage.

Protein-rich foods
Add protein-rich foods to your diet. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Best natural protein sources, as per ICMR

As per guidelines, adequate daily protein consumption can be achieved through a balanced diet containing protein from plant and animal (meat, poultry, fish, egg and milk) sources. In a more specific suggestion, experts share that consuming pulses in a ratio of 3:1 or by substituting 30g of recommended level of pulses with 80g meat per day would improve protein quality for a normal person.

Some plant-based protein-rich food sources include pulses such as green gram, horse gram, black gram, chickpeas, kidney beans, soyabean and green peas. You must also consider including nuts and seeds such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds and more.

While underlining the importance of nutrition right from the mother’s womb to old age, the report also emphasizes on the role of factors such as physical activity, healthcare, safe waer supply, environmental sanitation, personal hygiene and socio-economic factors that impact nutrition and health. These guidelines are aimed towards achieving National Nutrition Policy goals.

What are 17 dietary guidelines for Indians by ICMR?

The guidelines have been drafted by a committee of experts led by Dr Hemalatha R, Director, ICMR and National Institute of Nutrition (NIN).

Balanced diet
A balanced diet can be the secret of longevity. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

1. Eat a variety of foods to ensure a balanced diet
2. Ensure provision of extra food and healthcare during pregnancy and lactation
3. Ensure exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continue breastfeeding till two years and beyond
4. Start feeding homemade semi-solid complementary foods to the infact soon after six months of age
5. Ensure adequate and appropriate diets for children and adolescents both in health and sickness
6. Eat plenty of vegetables and legumes
7. Use oils/fats in moderation. Choose a variety of oil seeds, nuts, nutricereals and legumes to meet daily needs of fats and essential fatty acids (EFA)
8. Obtain good quality proteins and essential amino acids (EAA) through appropriare combination of foods and avoid protein supplements to build muscle mass.
9. Adopt a healthy lifestyle to prevent abdominal obesity, overweight and overall obesity
10. Be physically active and exercise regularly to maintain good health
11. Restrict salt intake
12. Consume safe and clean foods
13. Adopt appropriate pre-cooking and cooking methods
14. Drink adequate quantity of water
15. Minimize the consumption of high fat, sugar, salt and ultra-processed foods
16. Include nutrient-rich foods in the diets of the elderly for health and wellness
17. Read information on food labels to make informed and healthy food choices.

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