One of the main challenges in today’s lifestyle is to eat healthy to stay healthy. Ensuring every family member consumes a balanced diet with nutritious food choices in adequate portions has become parents’ worst nightmare. Food is the key to survive, grow, perform and maintain good health. We are increasingly exposed to a wider variety of selections of food, not all of which provides us with a healthy diet with balanced and sufficient nutrition. Although the safety should be the foundation of all quality in commercial food items, we come across with news that the food that we eat contains pesticides, adulterated with unlabeled additives, so on so forth.
A meal rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is what we all aspire to have. However, economic and time constraints, among other reasons, have made this quite impossible to achieve for every single meal. As a natural consequence of this unfortunate fact, many people have started to look for other options to ensure they and their children receive their daily quota of all the necessary nutrients to maintain optimal health.
Nu- Shakti Power mix for rice and atta which increases the micronutrient value of home-cooked staple foods is a prime example of food fortification available in the market. Two groups of nutrients need to be included in our daily diet: macronutrients and micronutrients. Let’s get to know a little bit more of each of this group of nutrients.
These refer to the nutrients that provide us with calorie.
- Carbohydrate- is the main source of energy for everyday activities and high-intensity exercises.
- Theoretically, we say on an average, 50-60% of our daily calorie intake should consist of carbohydrates (around five to six servings of complex carbs).
- However, if you look at our Indian Diet, 70-80% of the calories come from carbohydrates mainly rice and wheat.
- Protein- is the main building component of structures in the body. On average we should aim to get 10-15% of calories from proteins.
- The requirement for protein differs based on the conditions and life stages.
- More proteins are required by growing infants and children, pregnant women and individuals during infections and illness or stress.
- Sources include Pulses, whole grams, dairy products, egg, fish, chicken etc. Quinoa, Chia seeds and almonds are also good sources.
- Fat- is the energy reserve of the body, in addition to being needed for organ protection and insulation.
- It is recommended that 20-30% of daily calorie intake should be derived from dietary fat.
- It is necessary to have adequate and good quality fat in the diet with sufficient polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as DHA and EPA, in proper proportions for meeting the requirements of essential fatty acids.
- The type and quantity of fat in the daily diet influence the level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
- Diets should include adequate amounts of fat particularly in the case of infants and children because they have a higher caloric intake requirement for growth and development.
- Adults should pay attention to the intake of saturated fat (butter, ghee and hydrogenated fats) and cholesterol (red meat, eggs, organ meat).
- Excess intake of these has been associated with risk for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
- These refer to the nutrients that do not provide calorie however they are extremely vital in maintaining normal bodily functions and thereby good health.
- Micronutrients include Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, K), Water-soluble vitamins (vitamin B 1 , B 2 , B 6 , B 12 , C, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, biotin), and Minerals (sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, molybdenum, cobalt, chromium and iodine).
- Having a variety of foods including dairy products, meat products or vegetarian sources of iron like legumes, and fruits and vegetables should be everyday foods.
- Finally, two other important aspects of our daily diet are fibre and water.
- Fibre plays an important role in maintaining gut health, assisting in maintaining regular, normal bowel movements, and support the gut microbiome.
- Fruits and vegetables are rich in fibre.
- Often we don’t take enough fibre while having an excess amount of carbohydrate.
- Water can be neglected part of nutrition however the body of an adult human being is 60% water on average.
- Water is essential to dissolve the nutrients and deliver them to the tissues and cells in our body through blood vessels.
- It is therefore vital that we consume at least 6- 8 glasses daily to keep our bodies function properly.
(With inputs from Ramya Ramachandran Clinical Nutritionist, Lactation Consultant and Diabetes Educator Chennai).
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