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Different countries have their own cultural practices which keep on changing due interaction and modernization. Over years India’s cultural trends have spontaneously transformed. To date, Indians cultural practice is aftermath of blending between foreigners and India natives. This article focuses on nutritional and dietary practices of Indians. India is posed as a country composed of various countries that have same objective and destiny. Its diverse ethnic, linguistic, geographic, religious and demographic features reflect its reach history and shape in present and future. Recent studies show that India has more people than Europe, Africa and the entire western hemisphere. According to John (2010), India is the only second country to achieve a population of 1 billion people globally. Most of Indians leave in the villages despite of her been one of the upcoming economic power.
Background of Indians
Since gaining of her independence in 1947, India has continued to change. Never the less ancient history portrays her as having one of most interesting cultural practices. Many scholars say the present India is different as compared to before. Geographically, what Pakistan was before is now Bangladesh. India’s 1.2 million square miles (3.3 million square kilometers) is equal to about one third the land area of the United States. In far north, India is dominated by grand sweep of the Himalayas, Hindu Kush and Patkai mountain ranges which give way to the vast and fertile plain of the north which are fed by major rivers like the Ganges and Yamuna. These mountain ranges divide north from south marking the beginning of the Deccan plateau which makes up much of the southern India.
According to Sinha (2011), cultural identity of particular communities and regions forms an important source of diversity among the people of India. In India, a community is internally divided into a number of units, lineages, clans, gotra, phratry and moiety. Ethnic origins, religions, and languages are also major source of India’s cultural diversity. India is a country with incredible biological and cultural diversity. The existence of social divisions is almost universal particularly among the scheduled castes, tribes and to a slightly lower extent among the other communities. Additionally, there is probably more religion diversity in India than any where else on the earth.
Nutritional Preferences of Indians
During 1970s and early 1980s, India was advancing towards attaining adequacy in caloric intake according to India national nutritional monitoring bureau report. Survey by Sourabh (2011) indicate that Indians had portrayed a steady enhancement in caloric intake per head typified by an increase in taking of cereal grains as consumption of other food items such as milk, oil, and sugar remained largely unchanged. On the other hand, many of these surveys revealed disparities in the intakes of most foods between rural, urban and different socio economic groups. Contrast of food consumption patterns show a gradual decline in cereal grains eating between 1975 and 1995 which has not affected the average energy intake. This is largely the effect of progressive increase in the intake of protein and probably fats. The latter is due to phenomenal increase in the consumption of milk, milk products, other animal products (designated fresh foods), fats and oils. It is now recognized that components of the Indians’ diet such as cereals, pulses, tubers and vegetables have invisible fat in addition to the obviously visible fats consumed in the daily diet which exists within the integral part of the grain or food (Mari, 2010).
Study by Sourabh( 2011), show that twenty five percent of all available fat is consumed by the rural population while forty percent of all edible fat available in India is being consumed by five percent of the total population (that is twenty percent of the urban population that constitutes the urban rich). Daily energy in the diet can come from this invisible components and this level is adequate to meet the essential fatty acids requirements for both linoleic acid and alpha linolenic acid. Dietary fat intake based on house hold surveys show that the visible fat in poor rural diets is largely based on vegetables with negligible amount based on animal fats. The differences in fat intake between rural, urban, lower and higher socio economic groups are largely due to large differences in the intakes of visible fats except in the highest income groups where much of fat is from animal sources with the invisible fat intake.
Change in environment has contributed to decline in the energy expenditure in occupational activities (David, 2011). There are several other factors likely to contribute to the emerging burden of chronic diseases in India. Pollution of food sources by pesticides, chemical fertilizers and toxic contaminants is common in rapidly industrializing societies particularly when regulatory bodies are lax, enforcement agencies are weak, public awareness is poor and consumer organizations are ineffective. Globalization of trade encourages cash crops export resulting to movement of important micronutrients which are not available to the local population. Additionally, it promotes vulnerability with agricultural production being subject to the pressures of global free trade and competition.
Indians’ nutritional and diet practices are adversely determined by income. Studies show that the larger the degree of inequality (that is relative poverty) the poor the nutrition of the population. Previously it has been demonstrated that chronic nutrients deficiencies first affects the affluent classes within a population and then percolates through to other social classes. Since most of Hindus are vegetarian they risk suffering from protein energy malnutrition characterized by marasmus and kwashiorkor.
Nutrients deficiency diseases like anemia and protein energy malnutrition are caused by insufficient iron and protein body reserve respectively. Animal products are known to be the best source of these essential nutrients. These nutrients deficiencies are managed by giving the affected population adequate nutrition, supplementary foods like green leafy vegetables which are rich in iron, iron supplement drugs and teaching and counseling the affected population on nutrition. For the vegetarian, plant proteins like beans and cowpeas can be used to supplement animal proteins to prevent protein energy malnutrition (ASN, 2011).
Climate, culture and geography are some of factors affecting nutrition and diet diversity in India. In some instances, Indian foods complement each other. For instance, Tamil nadu rice complements lentils while maize bread also known as make ki roti complements Punjab and sarsonka saag. In addition, most of Indians’ meals comprise of species which help in improving flavor for proper Indian cuisine. Cooking oil used in north and south India varies. North Indians prefers mustard oil while south Indians uses coconut oil for cooking. Indians prefer not to keep left over meals. They eat fresh main meals together with fresh vegetable which vary from region to region. Hindu and Muslim in India have influenced nutrition practices resulting to blending of Indian cuisine. To sum up, Indians’ nutrition and dietary practices is as result of interaction between natives Indians, the British, Portuguese and Persian especially during the colonial era.
In conclusion, Indians comprises of different ethnic groups who interacted with the India natives to form the present India culture. These interactions had significant influence on the nutritional and dietary practices of native Indians. Finally, Indians’ nutritional and dietary practices diversity is dependent on religion, climate, culture and geography.
ASN (2011). Excellence in nutrition research practice. American journal of clinical nutrition, 4(2) 45-50.
David, A. (2011). Trade, taste and nutrition in India. Department of economic, Yale University, 1-57.
John, K. (2010). India: a history. Harper, New Delhi.
Mari, W. (2010). Nutrition, health and the culture of food preferences. Harvester press, New Delhi.
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Sinha, J. (2011). Indian culture: an introduction. Henry Stewart Talks Ltd, London.
Sourabh, B. P. (2011). Food preference and nutrition in India. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 1-66.