The Benefits of a South Asian Diet

We hear so much about the Mediterranean Diet and often other cultural diets are either dismissed as “unhealthy”, or not mentioned whatsoever, despite having many benefits. Although by no means a full or extensive list, here are some of the benefits of a South Asian Diet, and why we should celebrate it:

● South Asian food is infused with flavour from herbs and spices. Many of these foods have been indicated by research to have beneficial properties, including

antioxidant, anti inflammatory and gut health and brain health supporting attributes.

● South Asian food contains many wonderful plant based dishes based on spinach, bitter gourd, cabbage and cauliflower, chickpeas and lentils, which are all a rich source of fibre and polyphenols

● South Asia has a rich history of fermented foods, including fermented breads, dairy products, vegetables and fish. Fermented foods are great for supporting gut health.

South Asian diets have come under scrutiny in the nutrition world, as they can be high in trans fats, salt, sugar and refined carbohydrates (as is the Western diet, I may add!). However, these simple swaps below may help to address these areas, whilst enjoying all the incredible nutritious benefits a South Asian diet provides:

● Try to have a wide range of colourful vegetables and fruit each day, adding them to curries, wholegrain rice and other dishes

● Aim to consume high fibre varieties of rice and bread, for example wholemeal chapati or roti and wholegrain rice. These help to support gut health, are lower in sugar and will leave you feeling fuller for longer.

● Reduce added salt when cooking and increase herbs and spices, if needed, to replace the flavour

● Swap refined cooking oils for healthier alternatives, such as coconut oil and olive oil

As a final thought, as nutrition practitioners it can be incredibly culturally insensitive to suggest a Mediterranean diet to individuals, when they have their own cuisines which have so many things to celebrate. Supporting individuals where they are at to make positive changes that support their health, whilst honouring their heritage is essential. We really need to decolonise nutrition and ensure that we are representing and catering for the foods and requirements of all the wonderful ethnic groups that make up this great nation.

A South Asian version of the Eat Well Guide has been created by registered dietitian Fareeha Jay, which can be a useful resource to share with your patients to support them to have a balanced and healthy diet. You can also view Fareeha’s recent webinar on our past webinars section of the website by signing up for our free membership:

Looking for more high-quality lifestyle medicine education? Make sure to explore our free CME-accredited webinars and the latest series of our Nutritank podcast.


Further reading:

Fareeha Jay’s South Asian Eat Well Guide: The Diverse Nutrition Association:

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