“Your diet is a bank account,
Good food choices are good investments.”
National Nutrition Week (1st to 7th September, 2023)
The first week of September is recognised as National Nutrition Week in India. The goal of this week is to increase public awareness about the importance of healthy eating habits and enough nutrition for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
To stay healthy, two things are mainly required – a balanced diet and an active and healthy lifestyle. Thus, one of the most outstanding figures in history of medicine, the Greek physician, Hippocrates once said: “Our Food should be our Medicine & our Medicine should be our Food.”
For National Nutrition Week, the government has rolled out initiatives to raise awareness about nutrition among the common public. Children of our Adamas World School also have celebrated the week with various activities.
History of National Nutrition Week
In 1975, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) members, called the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, started the National Nutrition Week in March. It was observed to raise public awareness about good nutrition and promote the dietitians’ profession. The week-long observance aims to address the multifaceted challenges of malnutrition and promote healthier lifestyles across the nation.
The initiative received such a warm response that the week-long celebration lasted for a month in 1980. In India, the history of National Nutrition Week dates back to 1982; the government launched a campaign to educate individuals about the importance of nutrition and urged them to maintain a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
Theme for 2023
This year’s theme “Healthy diet – affordable for all” emphasizes on the importance of access to healthy diet for everyone, regardless of income or social status.
What is a Healthy diet?
Consuming a healthy diet throughout the life-course helps to prevent malnutrition in all its forms as well as a range of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and conditions. Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are leading global risks to health.
People are now consuming more foods high in energy, fats, free sugars and salt/sodium, and many people do not eat enough fruit, vegetables and other dietary fibre such as whole grains. The exact make-up of a diversified, balanced and healthy diet will vary depending on individual characteristics (e.g., age, gender, lifestyle and degree of physical activity), cultural context, locally available foods and dietary customs. However, the basic principles of what constitutes a healthy diet remain the same.
Why is nutrition important?
For the body to function properly, grow appropriately, and keep healthy, one must consume enough Macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Proteins, fats, and water) and Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, fibre, and water are the seven main types of nutrients that the healthy human body requires to survive. We need a lot of macronutrients, although we can get by with fewer micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Proteins: Body-building foods
Our body’s immune system and muscles are both strengthened by protein. Protein consists of amino acids. And these amino acids are essential for our body to function correctly. Protein helps our bodies repair damaged cells and create new tissues. It supports the synthesis of enzymes and hormones.
Carbohydrates-energy giving foods
Carbohydrates are considered to as energy providing foods. They give the body the energy it requires to function.
Carbs account for up to 65% of our energy. Due to the ease of conversion into energy, they serve as the body’s primary fuel source. Typically, this energy takes the form of glucose, which all of our body’s tissues and cells can use immediately.
Fats- energy giving foods
Including fats in your diet is crucial because they can give your body energy. While some forms of dietary fats (Monounsaturated fatty acids and Poly unsaturated fatty acids) may be better for you than others (Saturated fatty acids and Trans-fat), they are still a vital element of your diet and help your body produce hormones, grow cells, store energy, and absorb vitamins. Fat is essential for healthy skin and blood pressure regulation.
Vitamins are essential compounds that play an important role in making our body function properly. Some of them are vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12. We receive most of these vitamins daily. Our body naturally tends to produce vitamins like D and K.
Minerals- Protective foods
Compared to trace minerals, macro minerals are needed in greater quantities. The significant few examples macro minerals and their roles comprise:
- Calcium: Essential for the healthy structure and operation of bones
- Phosphorus: A component of cell membranes
- Sodium: Blood pressure maintenance and fluid balance
- Potassium: Muscle contraction and the transmission of nerve impulses
On the other hand, trace minerals are needed in tiny amounts but have several vital roles in our bodies. Some of the crucial trace minerals required by the body are selenium, iodine, copper, zinc, manganese, copper, and iron.
Benefits of good nutrition:
Maintains good heart health, Improves wellbeing, Maintains immune system, Increases energy levels, Delay the effects of ageing, May lengthen life span etc.
Keys for a healthy diet
BREASTFEED BABIES AND YOUNG CHILDREN
From birth to 6 months of age, feed babies exclusively with breast milk (i.e., give them no other food or drink), and feed them ‘on demand’ (i.e., as often as they want, day and night)
At 6 months of age, introduce a variety of safe and nutritious foods to complement breastfeeding, and continue to breastfeed until babies are 2 years of age or beyond
Do not add salt or sugars to foods for babies and young children
Why? On its own, breast milk provides all the nutrients and fluids that babies need for their first 6 months of healthy growth and development. Exclusively breastfed babies have better resistance against common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, respiratory infections and ear infections. In later life, those who were breastfed as infants are less likely to become overweight or obese, or to suffer from noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
EAT A VARIETY OF FOODS
Eat a combination of different foods, including staple foods (e.g., cereals such as wheat, barley, maize and rice; or starchy tubers or roots such as potato), legumes (e.g., lentils and beans), vegetables, fruit and foods from animal sources (e.g., meat, fish, eggs and milk)
Why? Eating a variety of whole (i.e., unprocessed) and fresh foods every day helps children and adults to obtain the right amounts of essential nutrients. It also helps them to avoid a diet that is high in sugars, fats and salt, which can lead to overweight and obesity and noncommunicable diseases. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is especially important for young children’s growth and development; it also helps older people to have healthier and more active lives.
EAT PLENTY OF VEGETABLES AND FRUIT
Eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruit For snacks, choose raw vegetables and fresh fruit, rather than foods that are high in sugars, fats or salt Avoid overcooking vegetables and fruit because this can lead to the loss of important vitamins When using canned or dried vegetables and fruit, choose varieties without added salt and sugars
Why? Vegetables and fruit are important sources of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, plant protein and antioxidants. People whose diets are rich in vegetables and fruit have a significantly lower risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
EAT MODERATE AMOUNTS OF FATS AND OILS
Use unsaturated vegetable oils (e.g., olive, sunflower or corn oil) rather than animal fats or oils high in saturated fats (e.g., butter, ghee, coconut and palm oil)
Choose white meat (e.g., poultry) and fish, which are generally low in fats, in preference to red meat
Eat only limited amounts of processed meats because these are high in fat and salt
Where possible, opt for low-fat or reduced-fat versions of milk and dairy products
Avoid processed, baked and fried foods that contain industrially produced trans-fat
Why? Fats and oils are concentrated sources of energy, and eating too much fat, particularly the wrong kinds of fat, can be harmful to health. For example, people who eat too much saturated fat and trans-fat are at higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Trans-fat may occur naturally in certain meat and milk products, but the industrially produced trans-fat (e.g., partially hydrogenated oils) present in various processed foods is the main source.
EAT LESS SALT AND SUGARS
When cooking and preparing foods, limit the amount of salt and high-sodium condiments (e.g., soy sauce and fish sauce)
Avoid foods (e.g., snacks), that are high in salt and sugars
Limit intake of soft drinks or soda and other drinks that are high in sugars (e.g., fruit juices, cordials and syrups, flavoured milks and yogurt drinks)
Choose fresh fruits instead of sweet snacks such as cookies, cakes and chocolate
Why? People whose diets are high in sodium (including salt) have a greater risk of high blood pressure, which can increase their risk of heart disease and stroke. Similarly, those whose diets are high in sugars have a greater risk of becoming overweight or obese, and an increased risk of tooth decay. People who reduce the amount of sugars in their diet may also reduce their risk of noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease and stroke.
Teacher of Biology
Adamas World School