What do Indian women think about eating fruits and vegetables? Research insights to address malnutrition

Young tribal women in Maharashtra believe indigenous green leafy vegetables are dirty and not good to eat. These and several other barriers were studied by a team of researchers in Maharashtra, India. Micronutrient deficiency is high among women in India. Rural Indian women know fruits and vegetables are beneficial and increased intake will address this deficiency, but there are many barriers to consuming these foods. This study in Wardha, Maharashtra titled ‘Barriers and Facilitators to Fruit and Vegetable Consumption among Rural Indian Women of Reproductive Age’ was conducted among women aged 18 to 40 years from 8 villages surrounding the city of Wardha from June 2015 to November 2015. The data was collected through focus group discussions and one-to-one interviews, besides observations.

Interestingly, the findings of the study imply that education programs to increase knowledge, of health benefits of fruit and vegetables, are unlikely to be effective on their own. However, changing women’s attitudes to indigenous vegetables and skills on preparing these foods, may be an effective strategy.

Dr R Rengalakshmi, Director of the Ecotechnology Programme at MSSRF and one of the authors of this paper says “The dominant barriers are work load and time pressure. Because of too much work and time pressure, women tend to eat what they have and fail to concentrate on the nutrition perspective. Other factors which equally prevent them from eating vegetables and fruits are also steeped in culture. Many Indian women eat food after men and children in their homes eat, which is mainly leftover food.”

This research is part of the research generated by the Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) research consortium funded by UK Aid from the UK government and was published in the 'Food and Nutrition Bulletin'.The paper can be accessed here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0379572118816459