Millets and India’s Twin Nutrient Disorder

India has a twin nutrient disorder. First it is fighting hunger. India stands at 100/119 countries in the global hunger index. On the other hand India also faces the challenge of obesity and hidden hunger.

This twin challenge needs to be addressed through a revamp in the dietary habits.

  • The journal Global Environmental Change suggests that a shift to wheat, millets and maize from polished rice, to chicken and legumes from beef and eggs, along with leafy vegetables and coconut could reduce India’s micronutrient deficiencies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The studies show that nearly three-quarters of Indians consume less than the ideal number of calories a day, and more than half have protein deficiency. The deficiencies of micronutrients were more prevalent. Nearly nine in 10 Indians are iron-deficient, 85% do not meet the required intake of vitamin A, and two-thirds have zinc deficiency.
  • Urban households had increased deficiencies compared to their rural counterparts. The researchers have contributed this to greater diversity of cereals in rural areas.
  • The researchers found that the rice-based diets of south and east India make the people in these areas more vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies than people elsewhere.

The research also proposes steps to address this micronutrient deficiency by reducing the intake of rice and meat and replacing them with coarse cereals such as bajra and ragi, along with legumes, dark, leafy vegetables, and coconut. These dietary changes could also provide an additional benefit of reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in India by up to 25%. [The Hindu]

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