Benefits of having a high protein breakfast | Prolicious

Breakfast is special in that it marks the end of a period of fasting (after a night of sleep). If you eat your first meal of the day after your longest duration of sleep, within 2 to 3 hours after awakening, and if your meal involves food or beverage from at least one food category, you are considered a breakfast eater. Breakfast should give at least 15% of your daily caloric requirements.

There have been numerous studies that demonstrate the value of eating breakfast. Breakfast has long been regarded as the most essential meal of the day, with benefits ranging from keeping us fuller for longer and nibbling less during the day to boosting higher energy levels. If your breakfasts consist of high-sugar cereals and spreads, or carbohydrate-rich pastries, you’re not getting any breakfast advantages. Many nutritionists advocate protein-rich foods to power your day and keep you feeling satiated for longer.

Throughout the day, you’ll consume fewer calories

A study comparing the hunger levels of persons who ate a high-protein breakfast vs those who ate a low-protein meal found that protein may assist to block the number of hunger hormones that reach your brain, such as ghrelin. It’s also why, when trying to lose weight, many people try to increase their protein intake.

Control your blood sugar levels

If you have breakfast but are still tired by 10 a.m., it’s possible that you’re not eating the correct morning items. Large amounts of refined sugar are commonly found in toast and cereals, causing an increase in blood sugar levels, followed by a blood sugar crash.

Increase the intensity of your workout

Protein is a component of every cell in our body and aids in the creation of muscular mass and the preservation of proper bones. It’s made up of amino acid building blocks and is necessary for cell growth and tissue healing. Many athletes rely on protein to increase muscle protein synthesis and will frequently drink a protein shake or protein bar before working out to help decrease the negative effects of exercise on their bodies.

Assist you in losing weight

Many young Indians skip breakfast, which may be counterproductive to their weight-loss goals, as research shows that dietary protein suppresses hunger and thus provides fullness between meals. Furthermore, when compared to other diets, meal replacement programs have been shown to result in better weight loss.

Improve your mood

Have you been feeling a little flat lately? Our brain is “conscious” of our gut microbes, according to studies, and these bacteria can affect our perception of the environment and modify our behavior. Your brain will work at its best if you eat a protein-rich breakfast. Protein consumption raises levels of tyrosine, an amino acid that creates norepinephrine and dopamine, which give you energy and improve your mood.

Khakhra, a typical Gujarati-Indian food, is a circular snack of joy. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. The presence of proteins adds to its nutritional value. Dietary fiber can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy blood sugar level. It’s also good for digestion. When wheat is combined with other tasty spices like fenugreek, cumin, and ajwain, its nutritional value is increased.

Prolicious khakhras are not only delicious but absolutely healthy! Bring home the bundle of happiness that is also high protein and gluten-free. Health and taste, the best of both worlds!

Best Evening Snacks to Fulfill Your Food Cravings | Prolicious

It is critical for physical health to eat meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day. If you enjoy binge eating your favourite snacks at any time of the day, you’re at just the right place!


Millets, cereals, and nuts are the most common nutritious snacks that deliver quick energy. Khakhras in India are also a very common evening snack. These snacks could be the best snacks to eat in the evening.

1. Fresh Fruits

 Fresh fruit is inherently sweet and a good alternative for satisfying a sugar appetite. Fruit is not only delicious, but it is also a very healthy snack. It contains prebiotics, antioxidants, and healthy plant chemicals while only containing a few calories. Fruit consumption has also been linked to improved health and a reduced risk of ailments such as heart disease and obesity.  According to a 2015 study, consuming 300 grammes (or four servings) of fruit each day cut the risk of heart disease by 16%. Try dipping your fruit in dark chocolate or making a mixed fruit salad to make it feel more special.

2. Greek Yogurt 

Greek yoghurt is creamy and decadent, but it’s also quite nutritious. It has more protein and less sugar than conventional yoghurt, as well as calcium, B vitamins, and healthy bacteria. It’s a fantastic diet for bone and intestinal health because of the nutrients it contains. Furthermore, adding fruit to your Greek yoghurt may bring additional health advantages and nutrients.

3. Mixes with nuts and dried fruits 

With delectable nuts and dried fruit mix, you can boost your body’s nutritional profile. Trail mixes act as superfoods, providing quick energy while also making up for the protein and vitamins lost during your hectic activity. Furthermore, these are frequently regarded as the greatest snacks for weight loss.

4. Healthy multigrain snacks 

Enjoy a protein-rich diet while snacking on nutritious multigrain snacks. These scrumptious bars, made with healthy grains, are the perfect nighttime snacks to compliment your training routine. They are low in calories, abundant in protein, and provide energy nearly immediately.

5. Dates 

Dates are a pitted fruit that is commonly eaten after being dried. They’re really sweet and have a lot of sugar in them. They do, however, contain a lot of antioxidants, as well as fibre, potassium, iron, and a variety of other useful plant chemicals. If you have a sweet tooth, a few dates can help you satisfy your appetite while also giving your body other nutrients. If you’re looking for a sweet and crunchy treat, try stuffing dates with almonds.

6. Khakhras 

Khakhras, the greatest of both nutritious and tasty snacks, can keep your taste buds delighted. They come in larger packing as well as standard-sized packets that are convenient to transport. Khakhras are nutritious snacks to make your monotonous day a cheerful one if you travel frequently and for lengthy periods of time. If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to your favourite cookies or biscuits, go no further than our list of the greatest evening snacks. You can purchase one or all of these items based on your preferences. You can also pair up your favourite flavoured khakhra with chutney, dahi, sauce, and so many more things. 


Prolicious khakhras come in a wide range from garlic bread khakhra, schezuan khakhra to pani puri khakhra. You can have these on your own or pair them up with your favourite sauce! Login to prolicious.com and get your hands on the most amazingly delicious yet unbelievably healthy khakhra ever!

Best High Protein-Rich Snacks for Vegetarians

What a great world it is to be able to snack. As you munch down on your ninth chocolate chip cookie, nibbling can leave even the healthiest of diets in the dust. Well, that’s a story in almost every house, are we right or are we right? Despite the jokes, snacking is often viewed as a bit of a pain when it comes to keeping a healthy diet, as snacks invariably end up being something sweet or a little bit sinful. Protein-rich foods keep you fuller for longer, burn fat while keeping lean muscle, and help you repair and develop muscle. Proteins should account for 20% of your entire daily calorie intake. While poultry and fish are the best sources of protein, vegans have a lot of options as well.

The chilly winds are becoming more powerful by the day; if you’ve taken care of your apparel, you might want to consider your diet as well. Over the drizzling monsoon and the chilly winters, you ideally shouldn’t eat all you ate during the summer. Your metabolism slows down, you crave snacks all the time, and many of us gain a lot of weight by the end of the season. Weight reduction during this season may be difficult, but if your diet is full of nutritious foods, you won’t have to worry as much. Make sure you’re getting enough protein to keep you satisfied. When you’re full, you’re less likely to eat mindlessly. Weight loss is aided by eating in moderate portions. Summer munchies were plentiful; now it’s time for winter vegetables, nuts, and seeds to take centre stage. Let us give you some ideas that will keep you healthy and happy!

Peanut Butter – Oh, peanut butter, my delectable nutty companion. Peanut butter may be the most delectable food on the earth, but despite being a fantastic source of protein, its major drawback is its high calorie content. A decent vegan peanut butter can have over 30g of protein per 100g, which is a huge quantity and ideal for adding to your diet. That leaves the caloric elephant in the corner of the room, ready to spoil the party. But fear not, because there are now a plethora of low-calorie, high-protein peanut butters on the market, some with as little as 45 calories per serving. That’s just enough protein to satisfy your hunger without making you feel bad.

High Protein and Gluten Free Khakhras – Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. The presence of proteins adds to its nutritional value. Dietary fibre can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy blood sugar level. It’s also good for digestion. Diet Khakhras are high in protein and gluten-free, which helps to keep calcium levels in balance.

Almonds – There’s no need to overthink things every now and then, so get back to basics with a handful of almonds for added protein. Nuts like almonds are a simple and inexpensive method to get more protein on the fly. They will make you feel fuller, but due to their high calorie content, keep your servings minimal.  Almonds also help to protect your heart from cardiovascular disease and stroke since they contain phytonutrients.

Sunflower Seeds – Sunflower seeds are another excellent source of wholefood protein. Because of their high protein and low carb content, sunflower seeds check a lot of boxes, but the benefits don’t end there. Vitamin E, which is abundant in sunflower seeds, protects against ageing and is necessary for optimal organ function. They also contain a significant amount of antioxidants. It’s a win-win situation with sunflower seeds!

So there you have it: four super-healthy, super-tasty vegan snacks that are packed with protein to keep you going all day. There are a myriad of ways to obtain more protein to feel satiated for longer, from wholefoods to powders to protein-packed snacks. Grab the  best protein snacks on Prolicious.

Replace Routine Breakfast with High Protein and Gluten-Free Khakhra

Crunchy… Munchy… A burst of flavours… These are a few words that describe the awesomeness of a Khakhra. On busy mornings when you don’t have time to grab toast or parathas for breakfast, having some Khakhras on hand can come in useful. Talking about breakfast, have you ever considered the kind of breakfast that you consume? Is it healthy? Does it provide you with enough protein to kick start your day? Is it fat-free? There are just endless factors a fitness freak has to take into consideration while choosing their breakfast. 

Breakfast is rightly referred to as “the most essential meal of the day.” Breakfast, as the name implies, is a meal that breaks the overnight fast. It replaces your glucose supply to help you feel more energised and alert while supplying other vital nutrients for optimal health. You may not have eaten for up to 10 hours when you wake up from your overnight nap. Breakfast refills your body’s energy and nutrient supplies.

Several fitness fanatics have gone gluten-free in their diet over the years. Let us begin with defining gluten. It is a type of protein found in wheat that functions as an adhesive and has unique viscoelastic properties which imparts elasticity to the dough and helps it rise and keep its shape. Gluten can trigger adverse inflammatory, immunological and autoimmune reactions in some people. The spectrum of gluten related disorders includes celiac disease in 1–2% of the general population, non-celiac gluten sensitivity in 0.5–13% of the general population, as well as dermatitis herpetiformis, gluten ataxia and other neurological disorders.  People who have these problems avoid eating roti, paratha, pizza, and other similar foods. In fact, they avoid consuming the majority of the items we consume daily. They opt for the gluten-free version of the same cuisine instead. However, if you think that eating gluten-free limits your dietary selections, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

One such snack full of surprises is the very popular Khakhra! Wondering what a khakhra is and how it can change your breakfast game for you? The popular Gujarati-Indian snack, Khakhra, is a round snack of happiness. It is high in carbs which are a great energy source for our body. Its nutritional value gets enhanced by the presence of proteins. Dietary fiber can help you lose weight and keep your blood sugar levels in check. It also helps with digestion. Vitamin B, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, and antioxidants are abundant in this food item. The nutritional value of whole grains increases when it is blended with other flavorful spices such as fenugreek, cumin, and ajwain. 

Usually, khakhras are made up of whole wheat that include high levels of gluten and hence, are considered to be on the unhealthier side of the chart. Khakhra, when prepared using  Besan, Urad Flour, Chawli Flour, Mung Flour, peanut flour turns into a high protein and gluten-free dish. Including this in your breakfast, or rather, replacing this as your breakfast can even satisfy your soul while helping you run those miles without losing any breath. For those with wheat allergies or celiac disease, Khakhra is a great source of complex carbs. As compared to other grains, Khakhra prepared from legumes is exceptionally high in protein. The essential amino acids like lysine, methionine, and cysteine are the most important building blocks of muscles and tissues. 

You’re nibbling unhealthily in between meals if you’re trying to lose weight or are overweight. By eating high protein Khakhra, you can keep your salt cravings at bay while becoming a stronger version of yourself. Carry a bag of Khakhra in your purse instead of consuming a bag of potato chips.

At Prolicious, our main goal is to encourage and ensure healthy living for you and your loved ones. Our fun range of high protein and gluten-free Khakhras is the perfect breakfast partner you can ask for as it gives you the nutrients you need while tasting OH-SO-AMAZING! Grab your packet of Khakhras now!

Protein Crackers: Perfect choice for pre & post workout

Protein is one of the body’s essential nutrients that is responsible for body composition, providing energy, and maintaining metabolism. The lack of protein in one’s body can lead to muscle cramping, soreness, and weakness. However, we rarely pay attention to protein intake daily. Even the reports suggest that we spend less than one-third of our budget on protein-rich foods. We need to understand that good quality and quantity of protein are essential for better development and have lifelong implications.

A good source of Protein has the following benefits:

Helps in weight loss: Protein helps keep you fuller for longer, thereby reducing your appetite and boosting your metabolic rate, allowing your calories to burn faster.

Increases your strength and muscle mass: Protein helps build a muscular body and boosts power in your body. Lowers down the risk for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.

Benefits of Protein

How to Increase the Protein Intake:

Both animal-derived protein and plant-based alternatives are considered good sources of Protein. However, if you are someone who is trying to consume less meat or already a vegetarian or vegan, you need to find plant-based proteins that can fulfill your daily nutritional needs. 

It’s also essential to cut down on animal-based proteins due to rising environmental concerns, cruelty involved, and various health issues. Plant-based proteins tend to be low in saturated fat, high in protein, rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 

All things considered, including a mixed variety of high protein vegan diets in our day-to-day life is now not an issue of concern. Peanuts, Beans, Lentils, Soy, Lupin beans, whole grains such as oats, brown rice, and flax seeds are all considered good sources of Protein. Many companies are on the rise in the plant-based protein segment. 

Prolicious is one such company that focuses on fulfilling an individual’s daily requirements through its products. Together with the nutritionists and food technologists, they have developed intelligent products that are vegan and make high-protein diets worry-free.

Protein Crackers Flavor

High Protein snacking strategy

Protein helps you stay fuller for longer, and you must make better food choices during your snack time. Healthy snacks rich in Protein provide you with much-needed energy between meals, helps in decreasing your appetite, and prevent overeating throughout the day.  

Prolicious snacks make it easy for you to stock your bags with foods that can be consumed on the go and won’t fill you with any regret. With the Prolicious protein crackers, you are sure to beat the temptations of candy bars and keep yourself fit and active throughout the day. It is undoubtedly a perfect choice for your snacks. 

The Protein Crackers by Prolicious are made using Dal flour of different varieties such as Besan, Urad, Mung. Along with it, peanut flour and Palmolein oil are used to provide an enriching experience, while salt and spices are added to deliver a savory finish. The product comes in three different flavors depending on the kind of seasoning used. The products are rich in protein and contain high amounts of fiber, and are trans-fat-free. 

A single serving of 50g includes a whopping 15 grams of protein to keep your body solid and complete with all the essential nutrients. Every serving that you munch on yields 25% of your daily protein intake. 

You don’t want to sabotage your healthy diet meals just because of snack cravings. It’s time to go and try out these healthy, delicious, vegan, and high protein Food by Prolicious and stock your pantry…..what are you waiting for????

EXERCISE FOR HEALTH

Every person must exercise. So many young adults today have insulin resistance and are at risk of developing diabetes mellitus, particularly if one or both of their parents are diabetic. And you know,  if we adopt healthy lifestyles i.e. eat the right foods at the right times in the appropriate amounts, exercise daily and have adequate and healthy sleep, not only can we prevent diabetes but also reverse it .

We can say exercise consists of physical activities that are planned and structured. We repeat the same movements many times or do the activity repeatedly for a specific length/period of time. It helps us to become physically fit.

What does physical fitness mean? Physical fitness means we are able to perform physical activities in a sustained manner with ease and agility and do not feel fatigued within a very short time. It implies that our muscles are strong enough to work against resistance and also have endurance i.e. they are able to contract repeatedly during a given period of time without one’s feeling exhausted. Also the joints should be flexible through a full range of motions. Fitness includes having a good /healthy body composition, have speed, agility and balance, also have good resistance to infection and if injured be able to recover as quickly as possible.

How do we ensure that we are physically fit? By being physically active and to the extent possible incorporating physical exercise in our daily routines.  Physical fitness needs to be developed and does not happen if we exercise sporadically. Exercise should be part of our routine as much as eating and using our cell phones are.

What are the benefits?

Before doing any exercise, it is important to do warm up exercises. These involve simple bending and extending different joints. Doing so helps to improve flexibility and prepares the body for undertaking exercise. Warm up exercises are generally done for 5 to 10 minutes and are not strenuous. Similarly cool down exercises are to be done after the exercise regime/set of exercises is completed for 5 to 10 minutes. These should be an integral part of every exercise regimen.

We can classify exercises as follows:

  1. Isometric exercises – Muscles of thigh and leg muscles are contracted without moving the knees or hips. Usually carried out for rehabilitation /special purposes. No special equipment is needed and there is minimal chance of injury.
  2. Isotonic exercises – Muscles and joints are moved, or their length is increased like bending/stretching the limbs. Sit ups and push ups are examples of such exercises. Such exercises help to improve circulation. In weight training such exercises can be done with dumbbells.
  3. Isokinetic exercises – Machines are used while exercising, to control the range and speed of motion. These are a combination of isometric exercises and weight training eg working out on an exercise bike set at a particular speed.
  4. Strength building exercises – These are basically isometric, isokinetic and isotonic exercises. They help to improve muscle strength and mass, bone strength as well as improve metabolism.
  5. Aerobic exercises – These are also called cardio exercises, because they are useful for cardiovascular conditioning. With aerobic exercise, the heart rate increases as does the rate of breathing that should be sustained through the exercise session. This helps to improve fitness of lungs and heart. Familiar examples are walking, jogging, running, spinning, skipping, bicycling, aerobic dancing, etc. This form of exercise involves moving the muscles rhythmically in a sustained manner. Another example is use of cardio machines. Aerobic exercise helps us to burn energy, and in weight loss as well as weight maintenance.
  6. Resistance exercise – Muscle groups are moved against exercise or applied force or weight or gravity. This helps to improve muscle mass and strength, with practice and perseverance. In the beginning many individuals particularly older persons or those who are obese or who have less muscle mass may find it difficult to do these exercises.
  7. Weight-bearing exercise – Groups of muscles are moved against resistance/applied force/weight/gravity. These exercises help to improve bone mass and to condition the body and give it strength. It is useful for postmenopausal women and persons having osteoporosis. However, person doing this exercise should do so with caution, not have jerky movements as there is risk of injuries. These exercises can be performed in bouts for short periods of time, as they cannot be done for long periods. E.g. weight lifting.
  8. Flexibility exercise – These are activities or exercises that are used to preserve or extend range of motion around a joint. Such exercises involved rotating or flexing the extremities. Yoga is an example; most people are familiar with. Zumba, pilates, tai chi and dancing are included as well.
  9. Balancing and stretching exercise – These exercises combine activities that aim to increase lower body strength while also trying to reduce the risk of falls. The focus is on harmony and helps the person to relax besides improving physical stability and flexibility. Yoga, dancing, gentle stretching, and tai chi are all balancing and stretching exercises. Such exercises are associated with less risk of injuries.
  10. Cardiac exercise – These are body movements that increase the heartbeats and improve the efficiency of oxygen uptake, enhance fitness, and can help to reduce/prevent cardiac disorders or diseases. Exercises like brisk walking, jumping, and cycling are examples. If endurance exercises are done, lower speed and intensity should be used and if done at faster speed and high intensity, it should be not be undertaken without guidance and supervision.

Exercise for specific target age groups: Children and teenagers can undertake and sustain exercise or physical activities for quite a long period of time eg 60 minutes. However, many adults particularly older persons may not be able do exercise for more than 30 minutes. Of course, those who are very physically fit and are used to exercise may be able to sustain it for longer periods. One group which should be considered is pregnant women, who should be advised moderate amount of physical activity daily. Persons with health problems also need to be given exercise prescriptions that are different from those we recommend otherwise. Persons having asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis or even they are simply obese, need to be evaluated for their ability to undertake exercise first and can be given exercise prescription that is approved by their supervising physicians. For such individuals, simple walking preceded by warm-up exercises can be prescribed.

We have used the word moderate and vigorous when talking about physical activity. Based on the intensity, physical activity is classified into three levels:

The World Health Organization in 2010 has given recommendations for different groups are follows:

If an elderly person has poor mobility, he/she should do exercise at least thrice/week in order to enhance balance and prevent falls. Twice in a week, the individual must do muscle strengthening exercises. There may be persons whose health condition does not allow them to undertake any of these activities. Such persons should do whatever physical activity is possible.

In addition, the American Heart Association states that one should spend less time sitting and even light intensity activities can be useful to offset the risks due to being sedentary. Also, one should gradually increase the amount and intensity of exercises.

A few words about yoga will not be out of place. Yoga is not just physical exercise and performing physical postures. In addition to these it helps one to achieve breath control and metnal focus and besides physical fitness by improving muscle tone and strength, improving flexibilityand health, it will help enhance mental and spiritual health. Other physical benefits are improvement in respiration, and vitality in general.

Unbox appetite/ Lunch box

Unboxing the lunch natuarlly stimulates the gastric juice and exhilirate the taste buds. Finding the favourite food multiplies the pleasure of eating from the tiffin box. It is to be enjoyed and shared with the peer group. Lunch box cuisine varies with age, meal time at the work place, food culture (of the family as well as of the peers) and also the time availability of the time and the cooking skill of the person who cooks the food and pack the box. On various occassions, it is packed for the long journey. While writing I am recalling my lunch box and I am sure you must be in the same state with your tiffin.

Let us plainly understand some of the basic concepts and characteritics of the tiffin/lunch box or khane ka dabba.

For the young children

Lunch box for the children is a hidden treasure to be revealed during recess time. What it should contain and what are important concerns:

  • Box itself need to be attractive and comfortable enough to carry and open.
  • Inside the food should be eye appealing by shapes, colour and texture and also familiar, e.g. spinach paratha or vegetable sandwitch can be cut into triangles, square, ractangles, round. Add green peas, red carrort or green spinach and yellow corn for colour flavour and texture
  • Give different foods on different days and avoid too many varieties on the same day. Children often find difficult to eat many things at a time and when they are in hurry to finish lunch and go for play during short period of recess
  • Food should be clean, safe and easy to eat. It is likely that children do not eat if the food is tToo hard to chew, too spicy or Clean food and clean boox, spoon is of utmost important
  • Be very careful about using sugar, salt and fat/oil in food preparation (high fat high sugar and high salt or HFSS). Regular consumption of HFSS may ruin the health of the children or lead to obesity.
  • Recipes in lunch box should be nutrient dense and at the same time easy to consume and favourite, e.g. dal paratha with vegetable or spinach paratha with dry dal.
  • Children spends several hours in school hence the lunch box items should not be treated as snack rather a complete meal. Therefor food preparation should be like a meal and should provide one third of the day’s requirement of the energy and nutrients
  • Staple cereals, sources of good quality protein, and fruit/vegetable/nuts or seeds should be included.
  • The meal should be filling enough so that the child should not either feel hungry or overfed to avoid nutritional gaps and hinderance in his or her performance.
  • Packed lunch should be dry or semi solid. Avoid liquid or oily preparations to avoid spillage in school bags on books etc.
  • Food should be palatable enough even when cold or dry. For example, noodles, dosa are unpalatable when cold. Salads are not a good choice for packed lunch for school children it gives low energy and takes time to consume. Whole fruits are a good choice.
  • Food should not become soggy, mushy, mixed up, or ferment in lunch box

For adults

Basic characteristics are almost same, the difference lies in the situations like who prepares the lunch box food. If a lady of the house cooks and packs the food for the husband or any other person who is unaware is a different matter than who cooks and pack and know what is inside.

But certainly, peer group appreciation, sparkling eyes and mouthwatering on opening the lunch box are still the critical deliberation

Outshine in Old age

Life begins at 60 is a famous proverb. It speaks volume. After 60, we may be free from some of the liabilities but we are never free from the race of breath in and breathe out. So, my friends this life stage also have its own beauty and inherent characteristics. Each stage mirrors your previous years of life and old age is a true reflection and reminiscence of that.

A gentleman in his 70s can walk, play, and does all his personal, professional as well as household chores by himself. For him age may just a chronological number. Another woman in her 40s only continues to grumble for aches and pain and blames her age. Both are live examples in our population at large and give us insight to look deeply the scenario of the term “old age”.

World Health Organization (WHO, 2014) defines 60+ years to be referred as the older or elderly persons. Further classification can be done – oldest old (normally those who are 80+) and centenarian (100+) and even super-centenarian (110+).

Age continues to increase in numbers after birth and aging is a natural (normal) biological process that may slow down certain cellular and physiological processes in the body. The rate of deceleration varies in different population for myriad factors. No doubt certain past experiences can’t be reversed but careful attention at early stage is warranted.

Though it is hard to pinpoint the day aging begins but the neglect or the misuse of the body for any unprecedented reason may increase the vulnerability of the body for illnesses, diseases, infections, accidents, or traumas that have a cumulative effect on health and nutritional status later in life. On contrary, perseverance in taking care of the body in given 24 hours along with active life and positive attitude stimulate smooth sailing. Physical, physiological, psychological conditions, social prestige, financial status, personal life style, family composition, family support are the factors which drastically influence health of the elders. Further loneliness, boredom, depression worrying and lack of food accessibility including restricted food intake for any degenerative chronic disease seriously affect the health outcome. Hence it is crucial to address these factors along with seeking help from friends, family or other community services are effective ways to enhance health and quality of life of elders.

Natural bodily Changes in Elders and Associated Problems and Solutions

Functions of most systems and organs diminish with progression of the adulthood. Apparently, these are visible in the speed and robustness in the physical activities, body contour, skin texture and mental turgor. Invisibly there may be less delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues of body, decreased elasticity of the cell membranes, poor absorption of nutrients and diminished digestibility of food, frequent nutrient deficiencies, altered distribution of body fat and low muscle mass and low blood supply to different types of muscles. Waist to hip ratio also increases. There may be lack of protein synthesis in the body which impacts voluntary muscular movement. Loss of muscle mass and the reduced muscle strength and function are referred as sarcopenia. It is not always related to body weight. Obese persons can also be sarcopenic.

Many older persons have frequent aches and pains in different parts of the body and there is high risk of frequent falls and fractures. Arthritis, rheumatism, osteoporosis, and other related problems are common in senior citizens. Regular walk, mild exercise, and sun bath support bone health. Resistance exercises improves muscle mass, reverse sarcopenic effect and thereby strength of the body. Dehydration and dryness are common among elders and need constant attention. Therefore, elders need more water than young adults due to decreased thirst mechanism. Elder man needs 2.8 liters of water then a woman in the same age may require 2.5 liters only. More physical work and hot weather increases the fluid requirement. Maintaining the balance in the body fluids, electrolytes and acid-base is critical in old age. Low /high sodium or potassium may be hazardous in certain clinical conditions like high sodium in cardiac disease and potassium in kidney problem. There are marked changes in kidney function that may be due to reduced number of nephrons and reduced glomerular filtration rate (GFR). It may also be due to imbalance in water, electrolytes, and protein intake.

Immunity though is very important in every age but cannot be ignored in old age for better health and fast recovery from any setback. Poor nutrient intakes impair the immunity hence adequate intake of protein, energy, vitamin A, C, E and minerals like copper, zinc, iron, and selenium helps to synthesize immune system components like antibodies, neutrophils, and T- cells. There is decreased secretion of saliva, gastric juices, and stomach acid and digestive enzymes coinciding with loss or altered sensations of taste and flavour which restrict the nutrient absorption. There is slow movement of food in the alimentary canal resulting in constipation. Use of laxatives to prevent constipation should be discouraged because they interfere with absorption of important nutrients. Judicious selection of food may improve the digestion. Elders often face denture problems or swallowing of food that affects the food intake. Soft and soggy textured food may make swallowing easier. Worry and heavy curry and eating at erratic time can exacerbate the problem of indigestion and other health problems. Circulatory system is affected in terms of losing the elasticity of blood vessels and pooling the blood in feet and legs causing edema. Oxygen carrying capacity is reduced by low production of red blood cells. Further pressure on the heart is increased due to narrowed arteries that often result in cardiac problems.  Frequent episodes of headache, vision disturbances, loss of balance, confusion, dizziness for no specific visible reason need attention and connect with the doctor. It is important to know the effects and side effects of medications that are prescribed for the older person.

 Besides all other changes many elders tend to suffer from the loss of hearing and vision and fine and gross motor control (holding and handling of objects).

Among women there is reduction of estrogen during menopause (cessation of monthly periods) and increase in prolactin may lead to fat accumulation.

The loss of short-term memory and disorientation is commonly observed that is due to poor nerve transmission.

Many elder persons are frail which calls for extra concern because the frailty is cumulative decline in multiple physiological systems. The frail person exhibits weakness, exhaustion unintentional weight loss and slowness and clumsiness in various motor and physical activities. Frails are highly susceptible for high morbidity, disability, hospitalization, and mortality.

Factors affecting nutrition of elderly people

Nutritional requirements of elders

 Energy requirement gradually decreases with age due to reduced BMR and physical activities. With age, anabolic rate reduces and catabolic rate increases that leads to degeneration. Repair and regeneration of newer cells occurs at a slower rate. The heart slows down and its ability to pump blood is less compared to a young adult. Consequently, older people have less energy and stamina to work.

Protein requirements are higher 1.0-1.5 g/Kg of body weight. Adequate intake of good quality protein is warranted to avoid loss of muscle mass and support muscle protein synthesis. It is necessary to consume enough carbohydrate and fluid (water) along with protein. Adequate intake of vitamin A, B complex, C, D, E and K as well as calcium, magnesium, selenium, zinc, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium, is must. Sufficient dose of folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6 helps to prevent cognitive decline. Additional amount of fiber which is obtained from several plant foods is highly appreciable not only to prevent constipation but also many complications of chronic diseases.

In addition to the recognized essential nutrients, consumption of phytochemicals will have additional benefits for being anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, and anti-mutagenic and prevention of many chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Consuming diverse variety of plant-based foods including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, spices and herbs in suitable forms would be beneficial as they would provide both micronutrients, phytochemicals and at the same time enhance taste, flavour, appearance, and texture in the diet.

 Dietary guidelines for elders: 

  • Higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy, and whole grains may delay muscle strength and cognitive decline which is common in advanced age.
  • Older persons have small appetite: hence small, frequent, and nutrient dense (especially micronutrient) foods should be included. Major meals can also be small and with few dishes. Variety of ingredients can be added in one dish only.
  • Invite friends and relatives to share meals with the elderly person.
  • Nourishing, digestible, easy to chew and easy to swallow foods and beverages are preferred. Milk shakes, fruit yogurt, biscuits, pancakes, idli etc. can be good choices.
  • Try to make meal platter or dining table more welcoming and attractive. Offer familiar, well liked foods.
  • When an elderly person has poor appetite or complains about digestive problem(s), it should be taken care.
  • Ensure 4-5 serving of fruits and vegetables and cut down on fried foods containing trans fats
  • Add full cream dairy products. The fat is easily digested, cream increases energy and calcium content of the diet. It can also facilitate the peristalsis.
  • Add some amount of butter to vegetables and bread etc to increase energy content and enhance flavour of the diet.
  • Consume fat from whole foods such as nuts, seeds, beans, and fatty fish to get high in ω-3 and ω-9 fatty acids
  • Avoid refined fats and fatty spreads
  • Emphasize healthy traditional vegetable- and legume-based dishes.
  • Limit traditional fat rich dishes and heavily preserved/pickled dishes.
  • Ensure adequate intake of fluids preferable in the form of gravy in the vegetable or pulse or meat preparation, soups, and other beverages. Of course, regular, and adequate intake of water is advisable, especially in hot weather. Adequate fluid intake is necessary for maintaining body temperature and functioning of digestive system. It will reduce constipation which is quite common in this age due to reduced motility of the intestine and reduced physical mobility.
  • Fluid intake may be inadequate because of decreased thirst sensation and reduced ability to conserve water and because they want to avoid frequent urination. Reliance on laxatives, use of prescribed diuretics, infections, immobility and excessive use of caffeine or alcohol put the person at risk of dehydration.
  • In case of medical problems such as kidney disease, fluid intake and output should be monitored and fluid intake should be determined in consultation with the doctor.
  • Some signs of dehydration are mental confusion, decreased urine output, constipation, nausea, lack of appetite, dry lips, and elevated body temperature.
  • Include natural sources fibre (non-starch polysaccharides) such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to reduce constipation. It will also help to control better blood sugar control.

Nutritional deficiencies and Related Problems in old age

Nutrition is an important determinant of health in the elderly especially those who may have any illness. Importance of nutrition has been increasingly recognized as a significant factor for persons older than 65 years of age. Malnutrition in the elderly often goes undiagnosed. Common indicators are involuntary weight loss, abnormal BMI, decreased dietary intake and deficiencies of specific micronutrients. Presence of morbidity such as diabetes, heart disease etc. increases the risk of malnutrition. Often the weight loss goes unrecognized, because since some weight loss is expected as muscle mass decreases. Isolation and depression exacerbate the problem. Elderly population has commonly been found to have cobalamin (vitamin B12) and folate deficiency. Intakes of protein and calcium may be low and vitamin D deficiency can occur since the person may not be exposed to sunshine. There may be increased risk of falls and fractures. Low vitamin D status has been linked to higher risk of decline in cognition as well as muscle strength, low moods, and depression.

Low intake of B vitamins, especially folate, B12 and B6 may increase risk of low functionality, cognitive decline, heart disease and stroke. Inadequate intake of dietary protein has been linked with poor muscle function and decline in physical capacity leading towards sarcopenia.

Lower intake of energy and protein rich foods for prolonged period results in PEM and older person become frail and finds difficulty in walking and maintaining balance. Intake of other nutrients like B- vitamins, iron, calcium, zinc and electrolytes also affects the degree of malnutrition and body functioning. PEM not only affects the physical stature but also the mental functioning.

Elders who have limited access to food, living alone, low income and poor transport facilities are vulnerable to PEM. It is important that the elderly live the last stage of life with dignity and have as good a quality of life as is possible.

Exercise in old age:

Exercise is essential to increase muscle strength and muscle mass in older persons to maintain their functional status and independence. Certain aerobic and strength-training exercises are appropriate for individuals age 60 and older. If not done in earlier life they must be undertaken under able guidance and always first be discussed with one’s health care provider. Older persons can do stationary cycling regularly and strength training 2 to 3 days a week, with a day of rest between workouts.

Before undertaking exercise, or before a dietitian advises exercise, it is important that the elderly person be first evaluated for ability and risks by a physiotherapist, who can then advise the type of exercise, its frequency, duration, and intensity.

Besides muscle health, exercise helps a person to feel fresh, improves insulin sensitivity and improves mood. In addition, for those who can go out of the home for exercise, it provides a great opportunity to make friends.

Regular consumption of dairy products, ragi flour, sesame seeds, sweet lime, guava, amla, egg etc. can fulfill the increased demands for protein, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin C. Plain safe drinking water, soups and juices are good. The combination of rice, pulses and one GLV and starch vegetable will do better than fried fast foods. Milk, fruits, and nuts in different forms can be given to provide nutrients and improve digestion. Inclusion of complex carbohydrates, protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin A and C rich in the diet and exclusion of salt, sugar, refined and processed foods and saturated and trans-fats are essential for good cardiac health.

Various physical challenges necessitate special attention like modifying the texture of food or supplying appropriate cutlery.

Regular contact with friends and relatives, through visits and telephone calls, can help prevent these problems. Mental exercises and involvement also support the cognitive functions and attentiveness.

Life Begins in the Womb: Treasure it and nourish it

Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful experiences in a woman’s life time. The whole family anxiously looks forward for the birth of a beautiful and healthy baby. The baby is the fruit of her life- a life giving birth to another life. Couples often plan their babies but a large percentage of pregnancies in India are unplanned. Lifestyle and nutrition during pregnancy is often of great concern, but the preparation and care done before in pre-pregnancy or pre-conception period is critical because it lays a strong foundation for a healthy pregnancy without any problems or complications, and a favorable and successful pregnancy outcome.

Conception begins with the fertilization of the ovum by the sperm to form a zygote. After fertilization, cell division occurs very rapidly and forms a blastocyst which is implanted in the inner lining of the uterus i.e. the endometrium. Thereafter the embryo is formed followed by the formation of different organs and tissues, each of which have specialized functions. Growth and development of all of these continue throughout. Good maternal nutrition is imperative at every stage of pregnancy, everyday being important.

Oxygen and nutrients are reached to the foetus through the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord also picks up the waste from the foetus and gets rid of through the mother’s body via the placenta. The placenta is a special organ that is formed which connects the mother and foetus. It synthesizes many important compounds including hormones that are important for maintaining the foetus and ensuring a healthy pregnancy. Hence placenta is can be called the foetal life line.

 

7-month fetus in womb

The entire period of 9 months of pregnancy is divided into three trimesters each having typical features that are shown in the table.

Table Typical features of each trimester of pregnancy

Typical featuresI TrimesterII TrimesterIII Trimester
Periods in each trimesterConception to 12 weeks13 – 28 weeks28-40 weeks (birth)
Expected gestational weight gain (Kg)0.6- 1.03.0-3.56.0-8.0
Changes occurring in pregnant womanMissed menstrual periods

Risk of morning sickness, Possibility of headache

Food cravings/ aversions or pica (craving for eating non-food items like mud, chalk)

Frequent urination, Constipation

Weight loss or gain or no change may occur

Some women may experience general aches and pains

Darkening or itching of the skin in some sensitive parts of body

 

 

More pressure on abdomen may cause some discomforts in women in walking, sleeping, bowel movement

 

Changes occurring in the foetusFormation of all major organs and tissues particularly the neural tube, spine and brain begin to form

Formation of eyes

Development of blood vessels

 

Bone marrow begins to make blood cells.

Facial features appear

Taste buds appear on tongue.

Footprints and fingerprints are formed.

Hair growth begins on head.

Lungs are formed, but do not function yet

Sexual organs begin to form

At 11 weeks all organ systems are functioning

Kidneys begin to function and make urine

Fine hair begins to grow on the head

Downy hair

a protective waxy coating on the whole body (vernix) develops

Foetus gains weight steadily, body fat increases.

and is getting bigger

Lungs mature

Limbs are fully formed with finger nails and toenails

Baby’s organs begin to function, although lungs and kidneys are fully mature.

Baby may turn into a head-down position for birth.

 

Stretch marks on skin

 

 

Crucial micronutrients needed during each trimesterDHA, iron, calcium, folic acid, vitamin D, proteinDHA, iron, calcium, folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B6, choline, vitamin B12, proteinDHA, iron, calcium, copper, zinc, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B6, choline, vitamin B12, protein

Physiological Changes during Pregnancy

  • Generally, in a well-nourished mother, body weight is increased by about 8-12 Kg in 9 months of pregnancy. GWG is comprised of weight of the foetus, amniotic fluid, placenta as well as the weight gain of the maternal tissues like uterus and deposition of adipose tissue. Weight gain usually occurs in the second and third trimesters. It is greatly influenced food and nutrient intake, level of physical activity and medical condition (if any). Low weight gain increases the risk of intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) and mortality of the foetus or neonate.
  • There is about 45-50% increase in blood plasma volume for the formation of new red blood cells (RBC) and to facilitate oxygen and nutrient supply to the foetus and for newly formed maternal tissues. This is one of the causes of natural fall in the haemoglobin level (by 1-2 mg/100ml) causing anaemia in pregnant women if additional iron and protein intake is low.
  • There is increased oxygen demand for tissue development is naturally compensated by improved efficiency of lungs, cardiac output and increased BMR.
  • Gastro intestinal motility is slowed down which is advantageous to allow more time for absorption of the nutrients. This improves absorption of iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and other nutrients.
  • Renal functions are also altered in order to excrete metabolic wastes of both mother and foetus and sodium retention increases.

Nutritional status of the pregnant woman is often governed by the numerous factors.

Nutritional Requirements during Pregnancy

Nutritional requirements during pregnancy are different in the three trimesters and vary with age, body weight, body size; dietary pattern and nutritional status of the mother during her adolescence and pre-pregnancy period.

Energy: Energy cost of pregnancy (kcal) relates to the energy deposited in the form of tissue deposition, gestational weight gain and increase in BMR.  It is much higher need of energy in 2nd and 3rd trimesters that relates to the additional need of 350 kcal/d and 600 kcal/d respectively. Since energy needs as recommended by Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Nutrition (ICMR-NIN, 2020) for a woman is according to activity pattern that is sedentary, moderate, and heavy activity and a healthy woman require 1660, 2130 and 2720 kcal/d. when the same woman gets pregnant additional energy needs can be added, e.g. a office going pregnant woman would require 2010 kcal/d in second trimester and 2260 kcal/d in third trimester.

Protein: A normal woman need 45.7g of protein per day. During second trimester additional protein requirement would be 9.5 g/d that will be 55g/d and in third trimester it will be 67.5g/d. Additional protein intake will take care of the physiological changes occurring in the body such as expansion of blood volume and protein deposition in foetus, uterus, and placenta and breasts; for the formation of new cells, enzymes, hormones, antibodies, muscles, collagen, skin, blood, bones etc.

At the same time, protein, and energy ratio (PE ratio) is also important. Protein quality of the foods consumed is equally important but protein supplements during pregnancy are not advisable as they disturb the PE ratio and there may be adverse consequences.

Fat: A pregnant woman is required to consume 30g fat/d. Besides quantity of fat intake, the food sources and quality of fats are extremely important. Hence it is necessary to ensure adequate intake of DHA and long chain polyunsaturated (LCPUFA) is crucial for the foetal development of brain and retina. Fat plays important role in functions and formation of the cell membranes, hormones, and other biological compounds. Omega-3 fatty acids also play a role in determining the length of gestation, maturation of organs. Experts suggest consumption of 100-200mg DHA per day, to support optimal pregnancy outcome.

Micronutrients:  Supply of micronutrients from the peri-conceptional period throughout pregnancy is crucial. Requirements for most vitamins and minerals are increased significantly. Adequacy of iron, folate, and vitamin B12 are very crucial at the time of conception and throughout pregnancy for RBC production and sustained cell division for enlargement of uterus, growth of placenta and foetus. Increased requirement of B- vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid supports energy metabolism.

In the first 28 days after conception there is formation and closure of neural tube (precursor of the brain and spinal cord) and folate is essential for closure of it. This closure is very important for maintaining brain development. Hence folic acid requirements are significantly increased to 570 µg in pregnancy. Like folic acid, vitamin B12 is required for normal cell division and cell differentiation and for development and myelination (formation of cell membrane of the nerve cells) of the central nervous system. Vitamin B6 facilitates several metabolic processes in nervous system via biosynthesis of neurotransmitters. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) helps to release energy from macronutrients for the formation and functioning of the skin, lining of the digestive tract, blood cells and other vital organs in the foetus. 80mg of vitamin C is needed for formation of collagen, connective tissues, cartilage, muscles, and the lowest layer of skin.  Energy is critically required for cell division and development and later by the foetus as it becomes active. Choline (Betain is a precursor of choline) is a lesser known nutrient but it is critically involved in methylation (donation of methyl group) to homocysteine to form methionine, formation of memory part in hippocampus (brain part), formation of acetylcholine and normal membrane functions.

Since the foetus depends fully on maternal vitamin D supplies. 25(OH)D readily crosses the placenta and it is activated into 1,25(OH)2D by foetal kidneys. Also, vitamin D is important for maintaining maternal calcium homeostasis. However, vitamin D supplementation for pregnant women is not recommended by the World Health Organization.

During pregnancy vitamin A requirements are increased to 900µg/day for growth, cell differentiation, formation of epithelial lining and immune system as well as vision. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant and hence protects against oxidative stress and protects the intrauterine growth. Vitamin K is needed for formation of prothrombin that has a role in blood coagulation. It is very crucial in neonates. Women on anticoagulant therapy need to be cautious of this vitamin.

Minerals in pregnancy

Iron is critical during pregnancy hence its requirement is increased from 29 to 40 mg /day for synthesis of haemoglobin (important for transporting oxygen to the developing foetus), myoglobin and certain enzymes expansion of blood volume, synthesis of maternal organs, storage of iron in the foetal liver and loss of iron through blood loss at the time of delivery. Iron is also required for neurological development. During the last trimester, the foetus accumulates considerable amount of iron that will be used in the first six months of postnatal life (when the baby is breastfed and milk is a poor source of iron

A pregnant woman needs 250 µg/d iodine to produce foetal thyroid hormones (as the foetal thyroid begins to function only around the twelfth week of gestation); development of normal brain development and maturation of brain cells and for growth, formation and organs and tissues as well as metabolism of glucose, proteins, lipids, calcium and phosphorus, and thermogenesis.

Calcium requirement is 1000mg/day during pregnancy which is same as normal woman because maternal absorption is increased in correspondence to the foetal demand. Calcium is maximally deposited in foetus during the 3rd trimester. Adequate maternal intake not only to supplies adequate calcium to the foetus but also to maintains the maternal bone reserves.

Zinc is also important for structural, metabolic, and immune functions that include cell growth, development, and differentiation. It also supports brain development. Its retention increases with the progress of pregnancy.  Zinc is important for nucleic acid metabolism, participates in DNA synthesis (thus is important for protein synthesis) and formation and stabilization of enzymes hence its requirement is also increased during pregnancy @ 14.5mg/d. Plasma copper concentrations progressively increased during pregnancy and return to normal after delivery.  This increase relates to the synthesis of ceruloplasmin, due to altered levels of oestrogen.

Effect of Nutritional deficiencies 

Single nutrient deficiency is uncommon and multiple nutrient deficits during pregnancy results in of intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). It alters the rate of growth and development of the fetal organs and tissues. Nutrients are diverted to some important organs such as the brain at the expense of other organs (liver, pancreas, and muscles). These organs are compelled to adapt. There are many scientific evidences that indicate that nutrient deficiencies may contribute to the development and progression of several metabolic disorders in adulthood or manifestation of non- communicable diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic disorders (obesity, type 2 diabetes), cardiovascular disease, and cancer are of “foetal origin”. Hence, we can say that the “impact of foetal under nutrition persists throughout life”.

Nutritional challenges exerted by maternal nutrient intake during foetal development influence foetal growth, birth weight, and foetal survival and more importantly have long term implications in terms of functional, metabolic capacity and the risk of chronic, non-communicable diseases in later life of the off spring. Generally, the foetus adapts to the nutritional imbalance by metabolic structural and functional changes. Any nutritional imbalance brings profound changes in maternal and foetal metabolism and physiology.

Protein energy malnutrition is common among pregnant women for various reasons that result in low maternal blood volume, reduced growth of placenta and the foetus, oedema and growth retardation. Deficiency of essential fatty acid like omega -3/DHA impair the brain development particularly the visual acuity.

Deficiency of folic acid is linked to higher risk of several adverse outcomes of pregnancy such as spontaneous abortion, low birth weight, pregnancy-induced hypertension, neural tube defects, and preterm delivery. Children born to B12– deficient mothers may show developmental abnormalities and anaemia. Vitamin A deficit not only leads to foetal growth retardation but also in low birth weight. Deficiency of choline may raise the risk of preeclampsia, premature birth even maternal and neonatal deaths.

Maternal anaemia during pregnancy is associated with neurological defects, low birth weight, perinatal, maternal, and infant mortality as well as higher risk of premature delivery. Hence iron supplements are generally recommended to improve the pregnancy outcome.

Iodine deficiency increases the risk of spontaneous abortion, perinatal mortality, birth defects and neurological disorders. Maternal deficiency of iodine during pregnancy results in foetal hypothyroidism that can cause mental retardation (cretinism). Deficiency in later stages of pregnancy has less severe impact than in the early part of pregnancy. WHO has stated that iodine deficiency is a preventable cause of brain damage? UNICEF recommends that antenatal supplements including zinc, iron, and folic acid to be given to pregnant women in developing countries because they are likely to have low dietary intakes of these micronutrients.

Dietary Guidelines for Pregnant Mothers

  • Eat well – balanced meals with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Increase intake of folate and iron rich foods along with vitamin C rich foods
  • Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin A rich foods
  • Increase intake of complex carbohydrate foods
  • Eat whole fruits instead of fruit juices
  • Ensure that the RDA for protein is met by good quality protein sources such as egg, milk, oily fish, and pulses
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking, tannin rich foods like tea, coffee, cola beverages, high fructose corn syrup, sugar -sweetened beverages
  • Avoid ultra-processed and packaged foods
  • Reduce intake of salt, sugar, and refined foods (refined flour, refined sugar, and refined oil)
  • Regularly drink 8-10 glasses of water or fluids like buttermilk (without salt) or milk
  • Avoid skipping meals
  • Eat small size meals at a time and eat several times a day, preferably at regular timings
  • and consume freshly prepared meals
  • Pregnant women should do regular exercise like walking. Before undertaking heavy exercises in a gymnasium, the mother should consult her obstetrician.

Dietary Fiber

Traditionally the Indian population’s diet consisted of surviving on dal/chhole or rajma, roti / unpolished rice. Often people ate parboiled rice and subji and cucumber or salad. Frequently, chutney was also included in the meal.
All over the world it has been found that people who ate whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables as per the season, had less health problems, particularly non-communicable diseases like diabetes mellitus and heart disease. Unfortunately, we have changed our dietary habits and with this, more and more people have developed diabetes. Do you know that India is home to the second largest number (77 million) of adults with diabetes worldwide? Initial studies highlighted that there were differences between diets like the ones our older generations consume. Research on why these differences existed revealed that their diets contained something that had been overlooked and that was fiber or what we call dietary fiber.

Dietary fiber (commonly called roughage or bulk) acts like a brush in our gastrointestinal tract, helps to remove the waste and toxins from our bodies and significantly reduces the risk of several health problems ranging from constipation to cancer.

DF are also referred as non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) which are carbohydrate fraction excluding starch and free sugars. Since NSP are not digested hence they do not provide calories whereas starch and free sugars are digested thus provide calories. NSP content of cereals is comparatively low but once the starchy portion in some cereal by-products has been separated away the NSP content is greater. NSP is present in cell wall of the grain and is mostly present in the bran or husk.

Dietary fiber is primarily present in a variety of plant foods in various forms and in varying amounts. DF includes components like cellulose, hemicelluloses, lignin, gums, mucilage, fructo-oligosaccharides, pectin, and other associated minor substances. Each type of fiber differs from each other in its physical form (particle size), water holding capacity and chemical composition. Hence, they have different physiological action(s) on the body. These characteristics are evident in the functional changes that occur during cooking and digestion. Three major mechanisms are believed to be responsible for the benefits of DF, including bulking, viscosity, and fermentation.

In general, DF is divided into two types:

  1. Soluble Dietary fiber (SDF) which dissolves in water
  2. Insoluble Dietary fiber (IDF) which does not dissolve in water

Soluble Dietary fiber (SDF): SDF are soluble in water and form a gel-like material. They include non-cellulosic polysaccharides such as pectin, β-glucans, gums, mucilage, guar gum, gum-Arabic and arabinoxylans. Most of the SDF are fermented in the colon by the bacteria; increase viscosity of the contents in the gut/intestines and exhibit prebiotic effect.

Some of the SDF are fermentable fibers which promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine. These bacteria in the colon, produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA), which bring favourable changes in the gut thereby they confer numerous beneficial effects and thus improve our health.

The SCFA also play an important role in regulating metabolism, inflammation, and development of disease. They have been found to be anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic and antimicrobial. They also have a role in maintaining homeostasis (equilibrium) in the gastrointestinal tract and of the immune system.

Hence, they delay gastric emptying, regulate blood glucose levels, lower serum cholesterol levels, thereby help normalize stool formation by softening hard stool in constipation and firming loose or liquid stool in diarrhoea.

Soluble fibre is present in foods like oats, apples, citrus fruits, psyllium (isabgol), barley, flaxseed etc. Soluble fiber can help lower total blood cholesterol levels and lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. Soluble fiber can provide us with 2 kcal/g.

Insoluble Dietary fiber (IDF): IDF is not soluble in water and consists mainly of cell wall components and includes cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. In plants, cellulose gives rigidity and strength to plant cell walls. It is present in bran of cereals, millets, and pulses as well as nuts, vegetables (green leafy vegetables, immature /green beans), and fruits.

It provides bulk to the food and gives satiety and several health benefits such as weight management. It promotes movement of the material through the digestive system, and increases stool bulk and is helpful for persons who either have constipation or irregular stools.

The amount of soluble and insoluble fiber varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods. Insoluble dietary fiber is also acted upon by the bacteria in the large intestines or colon.  Including enough insoluble fiber in the diet could also help to manage blood sugar and reduce risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

 So the benefits of a high-fiber diet are:

  • Normalizes bowel movements by increases the weight and size of your stool as well as softening it. Bulky stools are easier to pass, and decrease chance of constipation. Conversely, for a having loose, watery stools, fiber may help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to stool.

 

partial view of woman holding paper made large intestine on grey background
  • Helps maintain bowel health, reduces our risk of developing hemorrhoids (piles) and problems like diverticular disease, colon cancer as well as blood pressure and inflammation.
  • Aids in achieving healthy weight. This is because foods that are high in fiber foods are more satiating and tend to be more filling. So we will not feel hungry soon as we do in case of low-fiber foods, so we are likely to eat less often and stay satisfied longer. Also more fiber generally means that the energy density of the food will be less i.e. they will be less “energy dense,” i.e. they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
Female leg stepping on weigh scales. Healthy lifestyle, food and sport concept.

To reap the physiological effects of the fiber, several form of fiber like bran (wheat bran, oat bran, apple fiber, soy bran, etc.), guar gum, β-glucans are used by food processors to develop innovative, health promoting or functional products by modifying the texture, rheology and other properties of food systems and improve the marketability of food products. For example, bran is added to the wheat flour while making noodles. Other fiber rich cereal products in the market are whole grain bread, biscuits, and steamed bread etc.

Recommended intake of dietary fiber

The Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Nutrition (ICMR-NIN, 2020) has recommended safe intakes of dietary fiber – as 40 g/2000 kcal. Even children in the age group of 1-9 years should consume fiber containing foods that can be in the form of fruits, green leafy vegetables and other vegetables along with whole pulses and whole grain cereals and millets, instead of refined foods.

 

Although there are no negative effects of dietary fiber, but in some people, it may cause abdominal discomfort because of flatus formation. Excessive intake of DF > 60g/d can lead to flatulence, abdominal distension and even diarrhea. Hence fiber intake should be gradually increased giving the gastrointestinal tract enough time to adapt. Drinking plenty of fluids is advisable along with consumption of high fiber diet in order to soften the fiber. Excess dietary fiber may reduce absorption of some minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, and zinc. Some evidence suggests consumption of fiber along with fluid and some fat is more beneficial as it promotes the smooth flow in the alimentary canal.

Dietary sources of dietary fiber

Ingredients for the healthy foods selection. The concept of healthy food set up on dark stone background.

Any food containing 2.5 g fiber /serving is considered a good source of DG. Animal foods including dairy do not contain any fiber. Fruits (sapota, pears, and oranges), vegetable (corn, peas, jackfruits, and broccoli), pulses (whole Bengal gram, green gram lentils, chickpeas, beans), and whole grains (wheat, maize, millets) are known to contain good amounts of DF. Though spices are consumed in lesser amounts but contain high amount of dietary fiber such as coriander seeds, and cumin seed. Flaxseed is an excellent source of DF containing lignan and used in several diseases. We must remember that milling, peeling and overprocessing the food strip away not only the DF content but the beneficial effect of that food item itself.

EAT WHOLE GRAINS AND RAW FRUITS/SALADS FOR WHOLESOME BODY, HEALTH AND WELL BEING

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