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Increased consumption of processed food, rapid urbanization and erratic lifestyles have led us shift our dietary patterns. We are now consuming more foods high in energy (a full scoop ice cream having approx. 500 Cal where as for a sedentary person the total daily requirement of energy is approx.1400 Cal), fats, free sugars or salt/sodium. Inaccessibility & inconvenience of eating enough fruit, vegetables and dietary fibre such as whole grains has led us to malnutrition.
Choosing a healthy diet throughout life helps prevent malnutrition in all its forms as well as a range of non communicable diseases and conditions. The exact make-up of a diversified, balanced and healthy diet varies depending on individual needs (e.g. age, gender, lifestyle, degree of physical activity), cultural context, locally available foods and dietary customs. But basic principles of what constitute a healthy diet remain the same.
Nearly half of the world's micronutrient-deficient population is found in India as per NCBI data. Unbalanced eating of household food, adverse and harmful dietary practices, harsh & fad dieting, specific food taboos, and dietary restrictions are the basic cause of these malnutrition and deficiencies. Too little diet supplies or too little of one or more nutrients leads to particular form of malnutrition called under nutrition. When the diet provides too much of one or more nutrients it becomes ‘over nutrition’.
Poor nutrition leads to weak or obese physique, prone to diseases and less immunity along with less energetic life. Low lean body mass is associated with many concurrent and future adverse health outcomes. Thus, achievement of optimum growth, repair and maintenance of cells is purely dependent on nutrition you take. Cases of malnutrition in urban India are increasingly coming to notice along with poor nutrition in rural and urban areas. Junk food, sweet drinks and biscuits are filling stomach but they are not nutritious. These facts lead us to the realization that nutrients must be supplied to the body in the right amounts and proportions for a person to remain healthy. When this deficiency is prolonged or sufficiently severe, the person starts showing signs of a nutritional deficiency disorder.
Deficiencies in micronutrients such as iron, iodine, vitamin A, folate and zinc can have devastating consequences. Mild forms of a nutrient deficiency would be treated and controlled by eating foods rich in that particular nutrient. Vitamin supplements are necessary which contain the nutrient in concentrated form when the deficiency is moderate to severe.
We need to know the foods one should take for our body composition to stay balanced.
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy, which runs your body. They help fuel your brain, kidneys, heart, muscles and central nervous system. For instance, fiber is a carbohydrate that aids in digestion, helps you feel full and keeps blood cholesterol levels in check. Sources of carbohydrates are - Cereals, roots & tubers, fruits such as banana, sapota, mango. Sugars are most concentrated forms are carbohydrate rich foods.
Deficiency of carbohydrates leads to ketosis. A deficiency of carbohydrate leads to excessive breaking of proteins. Deficiency of carbohydrate means you are not giving body the preferred source of energy and thus it starts destroying proteins which were needed for other important functions. Fatigue, decreased energy level are signs of carbohydrate deficiency.
Protein is needed for energy, growth, repair and functioning. Kwashiorkor (protein malnutrition predominant) Marasmus (deficiency in calorie intake) Marasmic Kwashiorkor (marked protein deficiency and marked calorie insufficiency signs) are most severe forms of malnutrition.
Human body cannot make all required proteins on own. These should be taken through food. If the foods you eat provide you with too few amino acids, especially essential amino acids, your body breaks down protein-rich tissues – your muscles, for example – to access them. Therefore, the initial effect of low protein intake can be muscle wasting accompanied by increasing weakness. Main food sources of protein are pulses, milk & milk products, eggs, meat, fish, nuts & oil seeds.
Fats or fatty acids (FA) are important nutrients in our diet providing energy and adding palatability to foods If you don't get at least 15 percent of your calories from fat, you could develop an essential fatty acid deficiency or a deficiency of one or more of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
An essential fatty acid deficiency can be corrected by getting more omega-3 and omega-6 fats in your diet, and the combination of fat and fat-soluble vitamins can resolve fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies.
However, foods with high content of saturated fatty acids (SFA) are known to cause a myriad of health problems. Foods high in unsaturated FAs, especially essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) contribute to good health. Among the PUFA, alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid (abbreviated ALA) and linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, (abbreviated LA) are essential for human metabolism and their short fall can affect the healthy functioning of our body. Our body cannot synthesize these essential FAs and to meet their nutritional requirements we have to source them through our diet. Sources of fats are Oils, butter & ghee, milk, eggs, nuts, grains etc.
Fat soluble vitamins are Vitamin A, D, E, K. Water soluble vitamins are Vitamin B, C, Right from eye sight maintenance to metabolism and cellular functions, vitamin are necessary as a diet. A vitamin deficiency can cause a disease or syndrome known as an avitaminosis or hypovitaminosis.
Minerals can be obtained from food, supplements, and fortified food products. There are five main types of mineral deficiency: calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Poor, low-calorie, and restricted diets can potentially cause mineral deficiency.
In addition to these, fibre also plays valuable role in prevention of diseases. And Water is called life. Human body is made 70% of water. Dehydration is a deficiency of water in the body.
Though this looks fairly long chart to follow in day to day life but in fact it is possible to follow with little awareness. The easiest way is to take half a minute to choose the good food over just feeling stomach and keep an eye on 1.5 to 2 liters of water. The small decisions will help you to control and track nutritional deficiency disorders.
Access to sufficient food of adequate quality to maintain normal body composition and function throughout the life-cycle is fundamental to maintaining health. Protein is the most abundant nutrient available in body. A source of protein is an essential element of a healthy diet, allowing both growth and maintenance of the 25000 proteins encoded within the human genome, as well as other nitrogenous compounds, which together form the body’s dynamic system of structural and functional elements that exchange nitrogen with the environment. Protein is the special nutrient that our body needs for growth & maintenance and also to function properly. It is present almost in every part of our body. Skin, hair, blood, muscles, body organs even fingernails. Proteins account for 20% of our total body weight.
Protein is nothing but a chain of linked units called amino acids. The protein you eat is split apart into these amino acids, absorbed in the small intestines, then rearranged and put back in the blood stream. These new arranged proteins carry out specific functions to maintain life. All living tissues are made up of twenty-two essential and nonessential amino acids.
22 in all, amino acids are divided into 2 groups: essential & non essential proteins. Essential amino acids are not made by the body and must be supplied through diet. There are 9 essential amino acids: Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine. The remaining 13 are nonessential amino acids produced in the body and not essential to consume through the diet. There are various formats of proteins, few as below.
Protein is called magic nutrient that our body needs for proper functioning, growth & maintenance. Proteins are building blocks and are involved in all the metabolic activities that take place in the human body.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The RDA is the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. In a sense, it’s the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick - not the specific amount you are supposed to eat every day. Protein requirements vary with age, physiological status and stress. More proteins are required by growing infants and children, pregnant women and individuals during infections and illness or stress.
An average man needs around 60 grams of protein and woman needs 55 grams of protein per day. If you are a vegetarian then plant based diet can be very beneficial for you as they add productivity enhance your mood and helps lower down your cholesterol levels. According to the Institute of Medicine, you should get at least 10% of your daily calories from protein. The daily calorie consumption from protein should not exceed 35%.
Vitamins are group of organic substances present minutely in natural foods. They are essential for body’s metabolism. Though vitamins are present in trace, play an essential role in sustainable functioning of the body. Deficiency of these vitamins turns to various deficiency disorders. Vitamins are classified as Water Soluble Vitamins and Fat Soluble Vitamins.
There are 13 recognized vitamins which include vitamin A, B (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12), D, E , K. All the 8 members of B Vitamins fall under water soluble vitamins referred to as B complex together. Our daily supplementation of necessary energy for body function and repair is acquired by vitamins.
Vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly. It helps the body fight off infection and support the immune system. It also supports growth and remodeling of bone.
B vitamin family is made up of eight B vitamins. Although they are commonly recognized as a group and often work together in the body, each of the B vitamins performs unique and important functions.
The best known vitamin for over all healthy skin and bone strength is vitamin D. Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate, and multiple other biological effects. Supplementation of calcium along with Vitamin D acts as best combination to impart strength to the bones. it also promotes healthier skin. Vitamin D is also known to aid smooth functioning of muscles and strengthens immune system. Vitamin D is created by the action of sunlight on skin. Animal foods like eggs, butter, fish lever oil are also source of Vitamin D.
Body is under continuous stress due to metabolic activities which cause oxidative stress in cells. Vitamin C helps in recovering from this stress and promotes smooth functioning of body.
Vitamin E is good for your skin, eyes, heart, and overall immunity. Being an antioxidant, vitamin E can fight free radicals and protect the body from diseases. Adults require 15 mg every day and much lesser for children. Natural sources like almonds, sunflower oil, broccoli, avocado, etc in the diet can meet your body's needs.
Like adults children too get bone pain or tenderness, dental deformities, impaired growth, increased bone fractures, muscle cramps, short stature, and skeletal deformities such as rickets etc due to vitamin deficiencies. Children are not getting enough sunshine, proper vegetables and food in right proportions.
Vitamin E and selenium assist in preventing acne inflammation in adolescents. Vitamin B6 helps in breaking down the liver hormones, preventing acne, mood swings and sugar cravings in teenagers. Vitamin B12 or Riboflavin supports the production of red blood cells in the body. In addition to that, it enables proper nerve cell functioning. Vitamin C and D are among the most important vitamins for teenagers which provide bone health. Vitamin C helps in cartilage development and D in attaining maximum bone growth.
Few vitamins help convert food into fuel and they also play a major role in proper cell division and energy production. The B vitamins are known as the anti-stress nutrients because they are often the first micronutrient deficiencies to develop during times of stress. Deficiencies of vitamin B12 are common and related to low energy and fatigue. Vitamin C works as an antioxidant and is involved in making collagen - an important protein for skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and blood vessels. Vitamin C is also plays a major role in immune response and fighting off infection. Stress produces high levels of the stress hormone cortisol which depletes vitamin C and causes an increase in appetite and fat storage in the body.
Pregnant & breast feeding mothers need more vitamin B6 and B12, as well as folic acid supplements to prevent vitamin deficiencies that can harm a developing fetus. Folic Acid is known to help reduce the risk of a number of birth defects and can also prevent problems like low birth weight.
Seniors are at risk of being malnourished for reasons like poor appetite due to medications, reduced food intake that often causes intestinal disorders, diabetes or at times restrictive diets. A majority of the elderly people are suffering due to under nourishment. Poverty is one thing but being unaware about nutritious foods and consuming healthy organic vegetables or supplements is other.
Fat is a nutrient that is needed in small quantities in the body. It plays a role in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K), the manufacturing of hormones, helps keep the body warm, and adds cushioning to protect the body from being damaged from a simple fall. Fat is also needed for stored energy. It provides 9 calories per gram, and therefore has more calories than carbohydrates and protein. All fats are high in calories, so it’s important to bear this in mind if you are watching your weight. In terms of your heart, it’s important to think about the type of fat you are eating.
All fats have a similar chemical structure - a chain of carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms. What makes one fat different from another is the length and shape of the carbon chain and the number of hydrogen atoms connected to the carbon atoms. Seemingly slight differences in structure translate into crucial differences in form and function.
Good fats come mainly from vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish. They differ from saturated fats by having fewer hydrogen atoms bonded to their carbon chains. Healthy fats are liquid at room temperature, not solid. There are two broad categories of beneficial fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
The worst type of dietary fat is the kind known as trans fat. It is a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation that is used to turn healthy oils into solids and to prevent them from becoming rancid. When vegetable oil is heated in the presence of hydrogen and a heavy-metal catalyst such as palladium, hydrogen atoms are added to the carbon chain. This turns oils into solids.
There are different types of fats, which include: saturated fats, trans‐fatty acids, cholesterol, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega 3 fatty acids.
Trans fatty acids are a byproduct of the “hydrogenation” of oils. This process makes the fat more solid, saturated, and more resistant to rancidity. Trans‐fatty acids raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL. Avoiding foods with trans‐fatty acids is ideal. Foods high in trans‐fatty acids include baked goods and processed snacks (muffins, pastries, cookies, chips, cakes), stick margarines, and shortening.
Eating foods rich in trans fats increases the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Trans fats create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. They contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Even small amounts of trans fats can harm health: for every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rises by 23%.
Trans fats have no known health benefits and that there is no safe level of consumption. Today, these mainly man-made fats are rapidly fading from the food supply.
Monounsaturated fats are “good” fats as they help lower total cholesterol. Food sources include olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, almonds, pecans, peanut butter, avocado, and green and black olives.
Polyunsaturated fats (omega 6 fatty acids) may also help lower cholesterol levels. Sources include margarine, mayonnaise, walnuts, oils (corn, safflower, and soybean), salad dressing, and pumpkin seeds.
Saturated fats may increase cholesterol levels. Foods that contain saturated fat include animal proteins (beef, hotdogs, sausage, bacon, and poultry with skin), high‐fat dairy products (whole milk, cheese, butter), lard, cream sauces, palm oil, coconut and coconut oil.
Cholesterol is made in the body and also obtained from the foods you eat. Dietary cholesterol may raise blood cholesterol levels, so your intake should be less than 200 mg per day. Sources of cholesterol include high‐fat animal proteins, high‐fat dairy products, egg yolk, liver and other organ meats, and shellfish.
Omega 3 fatty acids have shown to help lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for heart disease. Fish and fish oils such as wild salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines are the best sources of these fats, as well as flaxseeds, walnuts, and canola oil. The recommended intake is 1‐2 grams per day. A 4 oz portion of salmon contains approx 3 g of omega 3 fatty acids.
Eating low-fat food doesn’t mean we should give up fat entirely, but we do need to be aware about which fats should ideally be avoided and which ones are more heart-healthy. We surely need fat in our diet. As the most concentrated source of calories (nine calories per gram of fat compared with four calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates), it helps supply energy. Fat provides linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid for growth, healthy skin and metabolism. It also helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins ( A,D, E and K). Fat adds flavor and is satisfying, making us feel fuller, keeping hunger at bay.
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