A framework to think about macronutrients in Indian food02 Aug 2020
Eating nutritious food as far I understand means getting adequate amount of macro nutrients and micro nutrients
- Micro nutrients: vitamins like A, B complex, C, D etc and minerals lik Zinc, Iodine, Iron etc.
- Macro nutrients: Carbs, fiber, proteins and fats. Note that fiber is one kind of carb.
Here, I’m only focussing on proteins and fibers. Why not others?
- For the micro nutrients, hopefully you have enough diversity in your food and that will satisfy your body’s needs for them (and more importantly, the subject is beyond my knowledge)
- Not talking about carbs/fat because 1) I feel it is okay to miss the carb/fat intake guidelines to some extent 2) Unless you are doing something unnatural it is hard to be low on carb/fat intake
All foods have some health benefits. At the least they fill our bellies and help with hunger. Generally Health/food blogs mention that so-and-so food is rich in certain vitamins, is rich in proteins, la-la, woo-woo etc. Often you see statements like this – “One cup of
<x> provides 28% of your daily protein intake. It contains 43% of your fiber intake”. Ok, but how much protein should I take? Is it the same for someone that weighs 85 kilos and someone that weights 60 kilos? Is this food good enough for a 60 kilo person that is trying to bulk up? So here I present what I believe is a good framework to think about macro nutrients.
Based on how much you weigh and whether you want to lose/gain/stabilize your weight, you need to consume some amount of calories. And similarly based on your goals you should have a protein target. The standard guideline is 0.8gm per kilogram of your body weight. But this is often the minimum and many people recommend more than this – something like 1gm/kg or 1.25 gm/kg. The fiber recommendation is typically around 30gm per day and seems uncontroversial.
Let’s say that 1500 kCal per day is your target calorie intake and 1 gm/kg is your magic number for protein intake. So a 60kg person should try for 60gm of protein and 30gm of fiber per day on an average. That is, 100 kCal of your food should on an average have 4gm of protein and 2gm of fiber. This should be your framework to think about food.
Nutritional value of some popular indian foods
- In the below table I show
- Animal based foods in blue
- Grains in brown
- Other plant based foods
- Others in black
- The nutrition facts might be a little off, but good enough to give a rough idea.
- Overeating anything can be a problem. If you are making it habit to eat something everyday, do some research if it’s safe. E.g - too much soy might not be good
|Food||kCal||Protein gm||Fiber gm||Protein gm/100kCal||Fiber gm/100kCal|
|Chicken breast 100g||165||31||0||18.8 ✅✅||0 ❌|
|Egg||70||6||0||8.5 ✅✅||0 ❌|
|Paneer 50gm||150||10||0||6.6 ✅||0 ❌|
|Curd 100gm||98||11||0||11 ✅✅||0 ❌|
|Moong daal (uncooked 100gm)||350||24||16||6.8 ✅||4.5 ✅✅|
|Soy chunk (meal maker 50gm)||340||51||13||15 ✅✅||3.8 ✅✅|
|Most non starchy vegetables(100 gm raw)||30||2||3||6.5 ✅||10 ✅✅|
|Potato (100 gm raw)||77||2.2||2||2.8 🆗||2.6 🆗|
|Most cooking oils (1 tablespoon, 13 gm)||130||0||0||0 ❌||0 ❌|
|White rice (uncooked 100gm)||356||7||1.3||2 🆗||0.37 ❌|
|Brown rice (uncooked 100gm)||370||8||3.5||2.2 🆗||1 ❌|
|Fox tail millet (uncooked 100gm)||393||12||9||3 🆗||2.2 ✅|
|4 whole wheat rotis/phulkas||350||10||10||2.9 🆗||2.9 ✅|
- Animal based products have a lot of protein and zero fiber
- Rice is the worst thing you can eat. Most other grains like wheat, millets give decent amount of fiber, protein
- Soy based products have amazing levels of protein and fiber
- I gave moong daal as an example lentil. Most lentils have similar amount of protein. Note that certain lentils like toor dal/urad dal lack fiber, but protein wise they are similar.
- Non starchy vegetables contain good amounts of protein and fiber.
- But note that for vegetable curries, based on how much oil you add, you might get all your energy from cooking oils which pure fat (+ micro nutrients).
- Example – bhindi curry with 500gm bhindi + 2 table spoons oil => 330 calories from bhindi and 260 calories from oil. So 4gm of protein/100cal and 6gm fiber/100 cal. And if you eat this rice, you will lack nutrition.
- Chicken biryani with a lot of chicken is nutritious.
- Paneer biryani with a lot of paneer – Falls short, but okay. Certainly not great
- Vegetarian biryani – complete disaster because you are eating rice, oil and some veggies here and there. However if you add a lot of soy chunks, it’s a good meal.
- X biryani without of a lot of X: Disaster
- Curd rice : Okay (thanks to the curd)
- Rice and pickle : Disaster
- Just daal: Great
- with rice: Okay (also depends on how much daal and how much rice)
- with phulka: Good
- with Fox tail millet: Good
- Palak paneer: Depends on how much oil.
- just curry: Great
- with rice: Will fall short
- With phulka: Good
- non-starchy-vegetable curry:
- Just curry: Good
- curry + rice: Depending on how much oil you add, this can vary from okay to good.
- curry + phulka : Good
The conclusion is that
- Most foods are nutritious if you don’t eat them with rice.
- Dont forget that when making vegetable curries, oil can give upto 30-50% of all your calories
- Lentils, dairy and soy are amazing