India is becoming a hub for healthy eating for the Indian middle class, with the country now boasting some of the world’s most popular vegetable varieties.
The country also boasts one of the most diverse food ecosystems in the world, with a wide variety of plant-based foods.
The most popular vegetables among Indians are tomatoes, cauliflower, and eggplant, according to a new report by the Centre for Food Research and Development (CFRD).
It found that the country has about 40,000 varieties of vegetables, and about 20,000 of these are “indigenous” varieties.
It said the country’s food system is in its infancy and that it is still in its developmental phase.
“The food supply chain is still being developed,” said Dr Shilpreet Singh, one of four senior researchers involved in the report.
“But our findings indicate that the Indian food supply system has improved in recent years and we are confident that it will continue to do so,” he said.
It’s an important development, given that the nation is still struggling with food shortages, the report said.
“Many of the foods consumed in India are not the main staple food of the population, and many of these foods are grown and consumed by the poorest sections of society,” Dr Singh said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 40% of the food produced in the Indian subcontinent is not suitable for human consumption, and around 70% of Indians have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
It also found that around 40,400 people die annually from starvation due to poor nutrition.
“Indians are the worlds second largest food consumers, and a growing number of people around the world are also consuming food on a regular basis,” Dr Vijay Sharma, a co-author of the report, said.
There are more than 50 food stores in India, with some offering fresh vegetables and fruit.
According the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the number of fresh fruit and vegetables is on the rise.
“India is now home to some of these fruits and veggies, but the majority are imported,” Dr Sharma said.
The report found that, on average, Indian children eat more than one serving of vegetables per day.
The researchers found that about one-third of all Indian children have consumed more than 10% of their daily recommended daily intake of fruits and fruit, while more than 20% of children consume more than 40% and the remaining were eating less than 25%.
Dr Sharma pointed out that India is also home to a large population of vegans, who consume no animal products, but do not eat dairy products or eggs.
“There are many other countries where people who are vegan have very different food choices,” Dr Suresh said.
This is in stark contrast to many Western countries, which often offer vegans food, and often don’t have an adequate supply of fresh vegetables or fruits, he said, adding that India has also seen a boom in the consumption of non-vegan products.
“We are seeing a trend of vegarians and vegan diets,” Dr Shilshed said.
But there are some restrictions on these diets in India.
The government has not set any guidelines for how many servings of vegetables a person can eat.
Dr Sharma noted that the amount of vegetables consumed in the country is based on the availability of land.
The average amount of land is about 2.5 acres, according the report: “If the land was bigger, then it would be a lot easier to produce vegetables,” he added.
“If we only had enough land to produce 100,000 kilograms of vegetables for a year, then this would be enough to provide a decent portion of our food to the entire population,” Dr Shiva said.
“India has a very diverse food ecosystem, and it’s important to understand this,” Dr Shankar Nair, a consultant at the Centre of Food Research & Development (CFRD), said.
India has the third highest percentage of food deserts, after the US and China, the researchers found.
India has the fifth highest rate of infant malnutrition in the World, according a recent report by CFAO, which noted that more than 70% infants under 5 years of age in India die of diarrhoea.
The study also noted that India had the third-highest rate of malnourishment among African countries.
The food security crisis, coupled with the high costs of providing nutrition to the poor, have been a major issue for the country, Dr Nair said.
As India’s economy continues to grow, Dr Sharma and Dr Singh hope that more people will realise the importance of eating plant- based foods.
“People are beginning to realise the benefits of eating a plant-rich diet, and as people become more aware of this, more and more people are beginning in their own households to try it,” he told The Straits Times.
“I hope the government will help people find the right balance between these two,” Dr Naidu said