National Nutrition Week (NNW) is observed from September 1-7 every year to educate the populace about the significance of nutrition. Adequate nutrition is the cornerstone that determines the overall well-being of a person, as it supports individuals in maintaining health status and average growth and development. To lead a healthy lifestyle and stay disease free, every individual should adopt mindful eating practices. A balanced and varied diet improves the quality of life, whereas a poor diet may elevate the risk of illness and morbidity.
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NNW is an annual campaign organised by the Food and Nutrition Board under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India. POSHAN Abhiyaan is the government of India's event to augment nutritional outcomes for children under six years of age, pregnant women, and lactating mothers. This health campaign was launched by the Prime Minister's Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition and aimed to address the challenges faced in eradicating malnutrition. Mission POSHAN 2.0 has been established to strengthen nutritional content, delivery, outreach, and outcomes, focusing on developing practices that nurture health, wellness, and immunity to combat disease and malnutrition.
Significance Of National Nutrition Week
The Ministry of Women and Child Development is observing the 5th Rashtriya Poshan Maah 2022 from September 1 to 30, 2022. The primary purpose of this year's event is to commence Poshan Maah across Gram Panchayats with significant attention on "Mahila aur Swasthya" and "Bacha aur Shiksha." Several activities are carried out at all levels to spread the critical message of the importance of holistic nutrition to assure a healthier future for women and children. Further, Poshan Maah serves as a program to bring focus to food and good health discourse.
Why Does Nutrition For Women Matter?
As per reports, more than ¼ th of women of their reproductive age in India are undernourished, with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5kg/m. Well, it is known that an undernourished mother predictably gives birth to a malnourished infant, resulting in a vicious cycle of undernutrition.
Good nutrition is quintessential for maintaining the optimal health of any individual and is mainly crucial for women as poor nutrition wreaks havoc not only on women's health but also on the health status of their children. Kids of malnourished women are more likely to face cognitive impairments, growth defects, decreased resistance to infections, and a higher risk of disease and mortality.
Women have distinct nutritional needs and adequate nutrition before reproductive years helps to ensure proper adolescent growth, while sufficient nutrient storage during reproductive years supports healthy pregnancy and a good dietary status mainly to keep bone health during the postmenopausal period. Women's health status is vital to optimizing their and their offspring's health.
Thus, eating well at every stage of life helps to manage weight, boost energy levels, and fight nutritional deficiencies. Choosing the right food can not only support well-being, but it also supports the different stages of a woman's life.
How Do Women's Nutritional Needs Differ From Men's?
As kids, boys' and girls' dietary requirements are mostly similar. However, when a girl attains puberty, she starts to develop unique nutritional requirements. As she ages, the body goes through many physical and hormonal changes, and dietary needs continue to build, making it vital for women's diets to modify to meet these changing needs.
Women generally need fewer calories than men, but the requirements for specific vitamins and minerals are higher. Hormonal changes related to menstruation, childbearing, and menopause suggest that women have an increased risk for anemia, fragile bone, risk of fracture, and osteoporosis, thus needing a higher intake of nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and folate (vitamin B9).
Read this article to get an insight into five vital nutrients essential for women to augment overall health.
5 Powerful Nutrients To Be Included In the Diet
Iron is a vital mineral that helps to make haemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood. It also plays a crucial role in keeping the skin, hair, and nails healthy. Due to the amount of blood lost during menstruation, women of childbearing age need twice as much iron as men need and even more during pregnancy and lactation. However, most women are not getting adequate iron in their diets resulting in iron deficiency, which is one of the most common deficiencies in women.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance of Iron
- Women: 29 mg/d
- Pregnant women: 27 mg/d
- Lactating women: 23 mg/d
- Infants (6-12m): 3 mg/d
- Children (1-3y): 8 mg/d
- Children (4-6y): 11 mg/d
- Children (7-9 y): 15 mg/d
- Girls (10-12y): 28 mg/d
- Girls (13-15y): 30 mg/d
- Girls (16-18y): 32 mg/d
To enhance the absorption of iron, it is recommended to include vitamin C in the daily diet.
Some of the foods abundant in iron include red meat, chicken, fish, kale, spinach, tofu, beans, lentils, dried fruits, and fortified cereals. Plant-based sources of non-heme iron are more readily absorbed by the body when eaten with vitamin C-rich foods.
Calcium is one of the essential minerals required to build strong bones and teeth, they also maintain the heart's rhythm and ensure the proper functioning of the nervous system. Calcium deficiency leads to mood problems like irritability, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. If you don't get adequate calcium in the diet, then your body will take calcium from bones to support normal function; this can eventually lead to bone loss or osteoporosis. Women are at higher risk than men of developing osteoporosis, so it's essential to get plenty of calcium from the diet.
Recommended Dietary Allowance of Calcium
- Women: 1000 mg/d
- Pregnant women: 1000 mg/d
- Lactating women: 1200 mg/d
- Infants: 300 mg/d
- Children (1-3y): 500 mg/d
- Children (4-6y): 550 mg/d
- Children (7-9 y): 650 mg/d
- Girls (10-12y): 850mg/d
- Girls (13-15y): 1000mg/d
- Girls (16-18y): 1050mg/d
Calcium-rich foods include low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, sardines, tofu, soybeans, sesame seeds, green leafy vegetables, and calcium-fortified foods and beverages.
Magnesium helps to increase calcium absorption from the blood into the bone. Moreover, the body can't utilize calcium effectively without an adequate amount of magnesium. It also remarkably regulates metabolism, blood pressure, blood sugar, and muscle and nerve functions. Low levels of magnesium can increase the risk of osteoporosis, heart problems, and diabetes.
Recommended Dietary Allowance of Magnesium
- Women: 370 mg/d
- Pregnant women: 440 mg/d
- Lactating women: 400 mg/d
- Infants (0-6 m): 30 mg/d
- Infants (6-12m): 70 mg/d
- Children (1-3y): 90 mg/d
- Children (4-6y): 125 mg/d
- Children (7-9 y): 175 mg/d
- Girls (10-12y): 250 mg/d
- Girls (13-15y): 340 mg/d
- Girls (16-18y): 380 mg/d
Good sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables, pumpkin, broccoli, cucumber, green beans, and a variety of seeds.
Vitamin D is pivotal for the proper metabolism of calcium. It holds an incredible role in promoting calcium absorption and maintains adequate calcium levels in the system. Thereby supporting bone growth, development, and remodelling. Furthermore, lowers the risk of bone fracture and maintains balance and skeletal structure. Deficiency of vitamin D may lead to low bone mineral density, leading to rickets and osteoporosis, and increases the risk of fracture.
Recommended Dietary Allowance of Vitamin D
- Women: 65 mg/d
- Pregnant women: +15 mg/d
- Lactating women: +50 mg/d
- Infants (0-6m): 20 mg/d
- Infants (6-12m): 30 mg/d
- Children (1-3y): 30 mg/d
- Children (4-6y): 35 mg/d
- Children (7-9 y): 45 mg/d
- Girls (10-12y): 50 mg/d
- Girls (13-15y): 65 mg/d
- Girls (16-18y): 70 mg/d
Some of the food sources packed with vitamin D include fatty fish, such as salmon, eggs, and fortified foods and beverages, like milk, as well as some plant-based milk alternatives, yogurt, and juices. You can also get Vitamin D from staying for about half an hour of direct sunlight.
Folate (Vitamin B9)
As women reach childbearing age, folate plays a crucial role in reducing the risk of congenital disabilities. It should be taken before conception and during the first weeks of pregnancy. Folate is essential for the growth and reproduction of cells and tissue during different stages of development, including pregnancy, infancy, childhood, and adolescence. This vitamin can also reduce a woman's risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer. In later life, folate can assist the body produce estrogen during menopause. Deficiency of folate can impact mood resulting in fatigue, poor concentration, irritability, and depression.
Recommended Dietary Allowance Of Folate
- Women: 220 µg/d
- Pregnant women: 570 µg/d
- Lactating women: 330 µg/d
- Infants (0-6m): 25 µg/d
- Infants (6-12m): 85 µg/d
- Children (1-3y): 120 µg/d
- Children (4-6y): 135 µg/d
- Children (7-9 y): 170 µg/d
- Girls (10-12y): 225 µg/d
- Girls (13-15y): 245 µg/d
- Girls (16-18y): 270 µg/d
Some of the foods that are naturally loaded with folate include oranges, leafy green vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, eggs, and fortified breakfast cereals and bread.