Dietary Patterns and Vegetarianism in India

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Source: This post “Dietary Patterns and Vegetarianism in India” is created based on the article, what vegetarianism means in India published in Indian Express on 14th June 2024.

UPSC Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 2 – Social Issues – Issues associated with health

News: The article examines the dietary patterns in India, particularly focusing on the consumption of vegetables, fruits, pulses, and milk.

Key Findings from the Survey on Household Consumption Expenditure (2022-23)

Expenditure on Food Items: The average monthly per capita spending in rural India on vegetables (₹202.86), fruits (₹140.16), and pulses (₹75.98) is lower compared to milk and milk products (₹314.22). In urban India, the spending is higher on milk (₹466.01) than on vegetables (₹245.37), fruits (₹245.73), and pulses (₹89.99).

Regional Variations: Surprisingly, in “vegetarian” Rajasthan, per capita expenditure on vegetables, fruits, and pulses is below the national average. In contrast, the Northeastern states have higher per capita vegetable consumption than Gujarat, known for its Vaishnav-Jain population.

Milk Primacy states: States where the average household spends more on milk than on eggs, fish, and meat are primarily in North, West, and Central India. These include Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, and Karnataka.

Non-Vegetarian States: States with higher expenditure on eggs, fish, and meat than on milk include Kerala, Goa, West Bengal, the Northeastern states, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh. These states often have significant tribal populations and a cultural preference for non-vegetarian items.

Why India is lacto-vegetarian state?

Milk Consumption: Indians are predominantly lacto-vegetarian, meaning they consume milk and dairy products even if they avoid other animal-origin products. This distinguishes them from vegans, who do not consume any animal products.

Nutritional Perspective: Milk and dairy products are rich in essential amino acids that are lacking in plant-based proteins. This makes milk a crucial part of the Indian vegetarian diet, ensuring nutritional adequacy.

Why Milk has been given Nutritional Significance in India?

Protein Source: Milk provides a balanced combination of essential amino acids that are crucial for human health. This makes it an important dietary component for those who do not consume meat, fish, or eggs.

Cultural and Nutritional Balance: In India, milk is traditionally associated with purity and good health. It serves as a practical alternative to ensure nutritional balance in a predominantly vegetarian diet.

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