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PCOD and Indian diets: Why women need to eat more proteins and veggies

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

For thousands of women in India, Polycystic Ovarian Disease or PCOD is a painful, traumatic and humiliating reality. Irregular, absent or painful periods, excessive acne and facial hair growth, and mental health effects like mood swings and depression are just some of the symptoms of PCOD, which results from hormonal imbalances affecting the functioning of the ovaries.

While estimates suggest that one in three Indian women have PCOD, I have seen in my practice that taboos surrounding women’s reproductive health mean that there is little awareness around this condition. What’s most troubling about this is that so few women are aware of the everyday changes that could help manage the severity of this condition.

While the exact causes of PCOD are not known, elements like diet, body weight and stress play a key role in how this condition manifests in women. The three corners which need to be tackled for PCOD are unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise and high stress levels.

The role of diet

Diet plays a major role in the onset and severity of PCOD, because insulin resistance is one of the major contributing factors in this condition. In insulin resistance, the cells of the body cannot properly utilize insulin, which impacts the body’s ability to process sugars.

Unfortunately, the variety and nutritional value of our meals have suffered. The average plate of food should consist of one cup of grains, one cup of protein, and a double portion of vegetables. However, most women fall short on proteins and the variety of micronutrients coming from vegetables.

One constant refrain I hear from patients is, “I don’t like vegetables”, or that “proteins are difficult to cook.” Many others only like one or two vegetables. As a result, people often forsake healthier vegetable options like gourds, which are packed with nutrients but add far less calories.

While meat can be difficult to cook for some, cooking dals – rich vegetarian sources of proteins – is actually pretty easy. Women must make it habit to have enough protein in every meal they have.

Variety is disappearing

The biodiversity of our country is fantastic, offering so many options besides starchy vegetables like potato. However, recent surveys have found that the number and variety of vegetables bought by people is steadily declining.

Research has also found that Indians are eating less protein than they did 25 years ago. Indeed, 73% of the urban rich are protein deficient, and 93% of them are unaware of their protein needs. Protein plays an important role in managing PCOD since it boosts metabolism, impacts blood sugar control and insulin regulation, and also contributes to the production of important hormones.

The bane of processed foods

Another major change in our diets involves the massive increase in processed and commercially produced food. This automatically ups the calorie intake, while reducing the nutritional value of food. Even a simple food like idli, when made at home contributes 30 calories. But outside, each idli could carry up to 80 calories, because they are bigger in size and processed differently.

While there is no cure for PCOD, mitigating its severity is within reach. For that, we must return to the richness and diversity of our traditional diets.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.



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Diet, exercise and sunlight: Three factors women shouldn’t ignore for good bone health

Dr. Dharini Krishnan

Dr. Dharini Krishnan
11 January 2021

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

Barring a significant injury or fracture, we rarely tend to think about bone health. Yet, for women, particularly those who are middle-aged or older, this is a vital concern because of the risk of osteoporosis.

In 2013, it was estimated that there were 50 million Indians who were osteoporotic or having low bone mass. Some studies have found that the prevalence of osteoporosis could be as high as 42.5% in women over the age of 50.

Osteoporosis and health complications

Eat Breakfast

Osteoporosis comes from the Latin for “porous bone”, and is a condition where bone tissue loses its density, and becomes weaker and more fragile. Such bones are easily susceptible to breaks, resulting in pain, disability and loss of functionality in everyday life.

Bones, which form the primary supporting framework of the body, grow from birth till our early twenties, which is the period of peak bone mass. Bone is an active tissue that undergoes regular replacement in conditions of health.

In osteoporosis, however, bone formation is outpaced by bone loss, leading to porosity or thinness of bone tissue and brittle bones. Such bones could easily be fractured even in the absence of significant trauma. Such fractures tend to reduce mobility and lead to increased hospitalization and dependence on others.

Why osteoporosis affects women more

Women are particular at risk for osteoporosis because they have lesser bone mass to start with. The geometry and structure of bone have also been increasingly recognized as important risk factors for fracture.

The risk of osteoporosis significantly rises during menopause because of the hormonal changes women undergo at the time. This is because estrogen plays a significant role in maintaining bone health, and the secretion of this hormone falls drastically during menopause.

The importance of protein and calcium in the diet

Skin Care

For some time now, awareness of the importance of calcium for bone health has been growing. Hence, women are advised to consume sufficient amounts of dairy, green leafy vegetables, soya products and nuts.

What many don’t realise is that sufficient levels of protein are just as important for strong bones. After all, protein makes up roughly 50% of bone volume and about one-third of its mass. Daily intake of protein is also necessary to provide the raw materials for bone formation. Unfortunately, research shows that the levels of dietary protein consumed by Indians are actually reducing.

For non-vegetarians chicken, fish and eggs are good sources of protein. For vegetarians, pulses are one of the primary sources of protein, along with dairy products. Daily intake of protein in at least two major meals of the day, particularly in healthy forms such as sambhar or dal is, therefore, vital.

The role of exercise and sunlight

Eat Breakfast

Bone health also requires good muscle health. This makes it necessary to undertake moderate exercise as often as possible. A 45-minute walk six days a week as well as resistance training using the body weight, such as surya namaskaras, can go a long way to building muscles. Importantly, the body also requires Vitamin D to mobilize calcium for bone health. Hence, exposure to peak sunlight between 11am and 3 pm at least twice a week is also vital for bone health.

Osteoporosis can be a serious health problem that disrupts life and limits mobility, particularly for women. However, a healthy diet, rich in calcium and protein, together with exercise, can go a long way in maintaining bone health.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 

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