Indian cuisine is known for its vibrant spices, fresh herbs and wide variety of rich flavors.
Though diets and preferences vary throughout India, most people follow a primarily plant-based diet. Around 80% of the Indian population practices Hinduism, a religion that promotes a vegetarian or lacto-vegetarian diet.
The traditional Indian diet emphasizes a high intake of plant foods like vegetables, lentils and fruits, as well as a low consumption of meat.
However, obesity is a rising issue in the Indian population. With the growing availability of processed foods, India has seen a surge in obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
This article explains how to follow a healthy Indian diet that can promote weight loss. It includes suggestions about which foods to eat and avoid and a sample menu for one week.
Traditional plant-based Indian diets focus on fresh, whole ingredients — ideal foods to promote optimal health.
Why Eat a Plant-Based Indian Diet?
Plant-based diets have been associated with many health benefits including a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers such as breast and colon cancer.
Additionally, the Indian diet, in particular, has been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe this is due to the low consumption of meat and emphasis on vegetables and fruits
Following a healthy plant-based Indian diet may not only help decrease the risk of chronic disease, but it can also encourage weight loss.
What Food Groups Does It Include?
The Indian diet is rich in nutritious foods like grains, lentils, healthy fats, vegetables, dairy and fruits.
The diets of most Indian people are heavily influenced by religion, particularly Hinduism. The Hindu religion teaches nonviolence and that all living things should be valued equally.
That’s why a lacto-vegetarian diet is encouraged, and eating meat, poultry, fish and eggs is discouraged. Lacto-vegetarians do, however, eat dairy products.
A healthy lacto-vegetarian diet should focus on grains, lentils, dairy, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats like coconut oil.
Spices such as turmeric, fenugreek coriander, ginger and cumin are at the forefront of traditional dishes, adding rich flavor and powerful nutritional benefits.
Turmeric, one of the most popular spices used in India, is celebrated for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anticancer properties
Turmeric has been found to fight inflammation in the body, improve brain function and reduce risk factors of heart disease.
There are many delicious foods and beverages to choose from when following a lacto-vegetarian diet for weight loss.
What to Eat
Try incorporating the following ingredients into your daily meal plan:
- Vegetables: Tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, mustard greens, okra, onions, bitter melon, cauliflower, mushrooms, cabbage and more
- Fruits: Including mango, papaya, pomegranate, guava, oranges, tamarind, lychee, apples, melon, pears, plums, bananas
- Nuts and seeds: Cashews, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, watermelon seeds and more
- Legumes: Mung beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, lentils, pulses and chickpeas
- Roots and tubers: Potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams
- Whole grains: Brown rice, basmati rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, barley, corn, whole-grain bread, amaranth, sorghum
- Dairy: Cheese, yogurt, milk, kefir, ghee
- Herbs and spices: Garlic, ginger, cardamom, cumin, coriander, garam masala, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, fenugreek, basil and more
- Healthy fats: Coconut milk, full-fat dairy, avocado, coconut oil, mustard oil, olive oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, ghee
- Protein sources: Tofu, legumes, dairy, nuts and seeds
Meals and snacks should focus on fresh, whole foods flavored with herbs and spices
Additionally, adding non-starchy vegetables like greens, eggplants or tomatoes to your meals will provide a boost of fiber that can help you feel satisfied for a longer period of time after eating.
What to Drink
An easy way to cut back on excess calories and sugar is to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and juices. These drinks can be high in both calories and sugar, which can negatively affect weightloss
Healthy beverage options include:
- Sparkling water
- Unsweetened tea including Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri teas.
Choosing foods and beverages that are highly processed, loaded with sugar or high in calories can sabotage your weight loss efforts.
Not only are items like candy, fried foods and soda not good for weight loss — they aren’t good for overall health.
Eating too much processed food and products laden with sweeteners can increase the risk of chronic diseases.
For example, drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, fruit punch and juices every day has been associated with increased risks of diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Plus, consuming unhealthy foods can make it harder for you to lose fat and maintain a healthy weight.
For optimal health, minimize the following foods or avoid them altogether:
- Sweetened beverages: Soda, fruit juice, sweetened tea, sweet lassi, sports drinks
- High-sugar foods: Candy, ice cream, cookies, rice pudding, pastries, cakes, sweetened yogurt, high-sugar cereals, digestive biscuits
- Sweeteners: Jaggery, sugar, honey, condensed milk
- Sweetened sauces: Salad dressings with added sugar, ketchup, barbecue sauce, sweetened curries
- High-fat foods: Fast food like McDonald’s, french fries, chips, fried foods, bhujia
- Refined grains: Products including white bread, white pasta, biscuits
- Trans fats: Margarine, vanaspati, fast food, highly processed foods
- Refined oils: Canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil
Although it’s perfectly fine to enjoy an occasional treat, limiting the foods and beverages listed above is best for overall health.