We at Lifezen Healthcare put our faith in life is not just living, but living in a healthy body.
Our physical growth, mental development, maintenance of normal body functions, physical activity and health all we obtain through nutrition that our food contains. Thus nutritious food is required to sustain life and activity. Again requirements of essential nutrients vary with age, gender, physiological status, physical activity and geography. A balanced diet is advisable as both lower intake or higher can lead to under-nutrition (deficiency diseases) or over-nutrition (diseases of affluence) respectively.
Let’s go to history
The word nutrition first appeared in the year 1551 and comes from the Latin word nutrire, meaning “to nourish.” If we go back to history, food has always been one of the prime concerns for all rulers and governments.
Since 1982, The Food and Nutrition Board of the Indian government's Ministry of Women and Child Development, organises National Nutrition Week every year from September 1-7. This week is observed aiming to raise public awareness of the numerous advantages of a balanced diet and active lifestyle.
Change in food quality and quality of life
Better nutrition is related to improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of several chronic diseases, and longevity. Adequate nutrition makes you more active and hence productive, incase of children a healthy diet helps them learn better.
The shift of food preference from traditional to 'modern' food stuff, changing cooking practices, high frequency of processed and ready-to-eat foods, junk foods and 'health' beverages have affected people's perception of foods as well as their dietary behaviour.
Energy-dense foods and those with high sugar and salt content pose serious health risks. This is one of the major reasons for the increasing number of overweight and obese people,several chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol.
Mindful eating habit is necessary for every individual in order to live a healthy lifestyle and avoid diseases. While a poor quality meal may increase the risk of sickness and morbidity, a balanced and diverse diet enhances quality of life.
Malnutrition - A global concern
Malnutrition is a significant threat to human health from ages. The developmental, economic, social, and medical consequences of malnutrition are serious and affect individuals, communities and the nation. Hence India has always given first priority to defeat malnutrition through various programs and projects.
Population explosion, rapid urbanization and shift of food habits contribute to certain unhealthy dietary practices, hence physical inactivity, resulting in diet-related chronic diseases.
Other common nutritional deficiency are Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM), micronutrient deficiencies such as vitamin A deficiency (VAD) , Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA), Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) and vitamin D and vitamin B12 deficiencies.
The dietary guidelines given by the Ministry of Women and Child Development emphasize promotion of health and prevention of disease, of all age groups with special focus on infants, children and adolescents, pregnant/lactating women and the elderly group of people. Physical activity, health care, safe water supply and socio-economic development, all of which strongly influence nutrition and health.
You might have observed RDA is considered to ensure and estimate nutrients based on age group and gender. The recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) are estimates of nutrients to be consumed to ensure the daily requirements.
The varied cuisine of India Variety is not only the spice of life but also the essence of nutrition and health. A diet consisting of foods from several food groups provides all the required nutrients in proper amounts your body needs.
Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are macro-nutrients that are required in large amounts. Vitamins and minerals are the micro-nutrients and are required in small amounts compare to macro-nutrients. These nutrients are necessary for the physiological and biochemical processes by which the human body absorbs and utilises food to maintain health and activity.
What is a balanced diet?
A balanced diet is defined as a diet that provides all the nutrients in required amounts and proper proportions. It can be achieved through a blend of the four basic food groups in daily diet.
Foods are conventionally grouped in four categories;
1. Cereals, millets and pulses - to be consumed adequately
2. Vegetables and fruits - to be consumed liberally
3. Milk, all milk products, egg, meat and fish - to be consumed moderately
4. Oils & fats and nuts & oil seeds - to be eaten sparingly
However, foods may also be classified according to their functions.
The ingredients of a food item and beverage is made as per the geographical distribution of the place. That's why we see use of specific spices for cold region places like Kashmir while it is different for a dry place like Rajasthan.
A balanced diet should provide around 50-60% of total calories from carbohydrates, and about 10-15% from proteins and 20-30% from both visible and invisible fat. In addition, a balanced diet should provide other non-nutrients such as dietary fibre, antioxidants and phytochemicals which bestows health benefits.
To stay protected from free radical damage (oxidative stress) your body requires enough antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, riboflavin and selenium. Spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, cumin and cloves are rich sources of antioxidants.
Food and Nutritional Value
Cereals, millets and pulses are major sources of most nutrients you require for physical development. Milk which provides good quality proteins and calcium must be an essential item of the diet while oils and nuts are calorie-rich foods, and are useful for increasing the energy density and quality of food. Eggs, meats and fish enhance the quality of diet as they are rich in protein, omega 3 fatty acid and other nutrients. Vegetarians and vegans can derive almost all the nutrients from diets consisting of cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruits. Vegetables and fruits are stores of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients.
Diversified diets from a variety of food groups provide the necessary nutrients. Choose a variety of foods in amounts appropriate for age, gender, physiological status and physical activity. Develop healthy eating habits and exercise regularly as much as you can to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Live a quality life for a long life.