Easy access, longer shelf life, promotion: ICRISAT finds reasons why rural India shifted to sugars & carbs

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics found that rural families rely more on processed sugary foods and carbohydrates than they do on protein- and micronutrient-rich food options.

The study in the journal Elsevier noted that many rural Indians are shifting away from traditional food systems due to a lack of accessibility. In addition, it was difficult for them to find the few protein- and micronutrient-rich options.

In the document, 74-year-old Alwala Narayya of Telangana’s Aurepalle recalled how his family switched from a diet based on sorghum.

We used to eat mostly sorghum, but now we eat rice instead because it is cheaper and easier. In the past, we also collected wild fruits and other food in the forest. “But now, they’re also harder to locate because there is less forest,” said Narayya.

The analysis of the rise in rural obesity and malnutrition added that people who migrate from rural areas to urban areas also change their diets as packaged food advertisements expose them.

“People also eat more sugary packaged food because they’re easily available and have a greater shelf life than fruits and vegetables,” ICRISAT reported.

The research recommended policy measures that would increase the nutrition-sensitive nature of food supply chains. In a statement to the press, Jacqueline Hughes (director general of ICRISAT) said that it was important to work with food processors to make millet and other nutritious products more appealing to consumers.

ICRISAT proposed solutions, such as educating people on nutrition and healthy foods and the importance of growing local varieties.

Shalander Kumar is the lead author. He said, “Solutions show that traditional farming systems have a role to play in ensuring people can access nutritious food in rural and near-by areas. ICRISAT looks to present more solutions in this area.”

According to the National Family Health Survey-5, the results of this study are important because regional imbalance in India is a problem. Stunting is more prevalent in rural areas (37%) compared to urban (30%) areas.

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