National Nutrition Week (NNW) is observed from September 1-7 every year to raise awareness among people about the importance of eating wholesome food packed with vital nutrients. It also emphasizes on choosing nutritious foods for enhancing total well-being and better health of the people. NNW is an annual event organised by the Food and Nutrition Board within the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India. Also Read: National Nutrition Week: Top 5 Supplements Essential For Optimal Health
A well- balanced diet is a cornerstone of healthy living which comprises all essential nutrients needed for the normal growth and functioning of a human body. Malnutrition is one of the serious health issues currently affecting many children in India, which leads to abnormal growth. In addition, it accounts for 22% of the disease burden in India.
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The nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus disease had greatly resulted in food shocks which had increased the incidence of malnutrition, stated the study published in the Journal Global Health Science, in July 2020.
What Is Malnutrition?
Malnutrition means deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in an individual’s intake of nutrients. It is broadly categorised into three groups - undernutrition which includes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight for age). Aside from this, micronutrient deficiencies due to lack of essential vitamins and minerals or excess micronutrient intake which lead to overweight, obesity and other diet-related diseases. Also Read: 5 Signs That Your Nutrition Needs Immediate Attention
Nutrition plays a vital role to maintain a healthy weight, avert the risk of chronic diseases, build a robust immune system and enhance overall health. Good nutrition also indicates that the body gets all the important nutrients necessary for it to function at its best.
As per the recent study, the loss of harvest can increase the burden of malnutrition in India where more than half of the children are falling under at least one category of malnutrition which includes wasting or underweight. Every second child in India suffers from at least one form of nutritional deficiency. It may be stunning, under-weight or wasting which accounts for 77 million undernourished children in India. Moreover, malnutrition is a contributing factor for about one-third of child mortality rate under the age of 5.
Read through this article to get an insight into the role of five vital nutrients in enhancing growth.
5 Essential Nutrients For Healthy Growth
Protein is an essential macronutrient required for children's normal growth and development. It helps to build cells, breaking down food into energy, combat infection and carry oxygen to all the vital organs. Protein is the building block of the muscles, a diet adequate in protein supports to maintain muscle mass and promotes muscle growth. Some of the food sources that contain vast reserves of protein include lean meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, pulses and legumes and nuts.
Calcium tops the lists of nutrients needed for normal growth and development for children. It is one of the vital minerals which is a prerequisite for the growth of healthy bones and skeletal development. Adequate calcium intake supports normal linear growth or makes you grow tall. Besides these, calcium also holds a significant role in the development and functioning of nerves, muscles and heart. Food sources that are abundant in calcium include milk and milk products, cheese, yogurt, kale, broccoli, okra, spinach, nuts, soybean and fish.
Iron is the most important mineral that plays a crucial role in the normal functioning of red blood cells which carries oxygen in the blood to all the cells. An adequate supply of iron is essential to fuel a child’s normal growth and development. Deficiency of iron may lead to anaemia which may hinder the growth of children. The best sources of iron include red meat, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and dried fruits, beans, whole grain cereals, fortified cereals and seafood.
Vitamin C is required for the growth and repair of body tissues. It holds a key role in other bodily functions such as collagen synthesis, absorption of iron from the diet, wound healing and maintenance of healthy bones. Being a potent antioxidant, vitamin C combat free radical damage builds a robust immune system and keep infections at bay. Food sources loaded with vitamin C are guava, oranges, lemon, grapefruit, amla, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables and broccoli.
The main role of vitamin D is to maintain normal calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood. It also supports to build stronger bones and keep them strong and healthy. Apart from this, vitamin D also helps in promoting the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system and triggers immunity. Fish, egg yolks, mushroom, soy milk, cheese, fortified orange juice and cereals are some of the sources plentiful in vitamin D.