Nowadays, obesity is so widely prevalent, that we tend to miss out on those who are thin and underweight. The term is often used synonymously with undernourished, but not all thin people are undernourished. A number of factors could be attributed towards being underweight - mainly genetic and hereditary.
Anorexia, eating disorders, hyperthyroidism, hormonal imbalance or other underlying medical conditions could also be causes for low weight in individuals. Gaining more muscle mass or lean mass is the key to gain weight ideally. The main concept behind weight gain is to consume more energy than you usually spend.
The surplus calories are then stored as ‘weight’ in the body. Weight gain diets should not only be caloric dense, but nutrient dense as well. The extra calories should come proportionately from carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Proteins: It is mainly the key to gain lean muscle mass. Good sources of protein which can be included in a weight gain diet include fish, chicken, eggs, soybean and soy products, milk and yoghurt, cottage cheese, sprouts, pulses and legumes, nuts and whole seeds (almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds), etc. Carbohydrate: It is essentially required to provide the body with energy.
If sufficient carbohydrates are not provided, then the body will use protein as an energy source, making it unavailable to build the required lean mass in the body. Carbohydrate sources that should be consumed in weight gain are whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, whole wheat pasta, rice, potatoes, whole wheat bread, multi grain bread, breakfast cereals, etc.
Fat: It is the most crucial nutrient, since an improper intake could lead to fat gain. The quality of fats consumed is very essential, along with its quantity. It is better to increase the consumption of MUFA (mono-unsaturated fatty acids) based oils rather than stocking up on the saturated fats. Rice bran oil, groundnut oil, olive oil, etc could be some of the options. Oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids are also highly suggested for consumption.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.