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Nutrition knowledge for all
Healthy eating is all about balance - that means eating the right amounts as much as you are active and enjoying a variety of foods so you can get all the nutrients you need.
Value of Nutrients
Protein: Building Blocks
Protein provides the nutrients for muscles, organs, skin, hair and nails. Enzymes and hormones also consist of protein. Our body's defenses only function to the best of their ability with protein. For this reason, we must ensure we have a sufficient supply. This also applies to children. Our body needs an especially large number of nutrients for growth and for increasing muscles.
Why do we need proteins?
The protein in our body is being continuously depleted and replaced. This is why we need regular replenishment.
Milk, meat, fish and eggs are the most important sources of protein. Milk and milk products like curd, cheese and vegetarian food like pulses also contain protein. Vegetable proteins are poor in quality than animal proteins, not only because of their lower digestibility but also because they are limiting in one or more of the essential amino acids of human requirement.
Cereal proteins are generally deficient in one essential amino acid Lysine and pulses or legumes contain low levels of Methionine. Combining these animal and plant sources of protein in your food is particularly good for you.
Good combinations include rice and pulses/khichdi, pulses with chappati with yoghurt or milk, wholegrain bread with cheese etc. However, in spite of such supplementation,
Is it good to eat Animal protein?
Eating animal proteins also has its disadvantages, as they contain some undesirable substances such as cholesterol, purine and saturated fatty acids. And these can damage health in the long run.
Variety Is Good
Our digestive system must first of all break down proteins from food into its component parts - amino acids, of which there are 20 different kinds. Amino acids travel via the blood to precisely where our body needs them. When they reach their destination, they are used very specifically to create a protein that the body needs. If one part of the protein is missing, the body must obtain some by taking protein from another location, or, for example, resort to using valuable muscle protein. Our tip: eat a varied diet so your body can always obtain the appropriate amino acids.
How much protein do you need?
Adults require approximately 55-60 g of protein every day. As children are growing, they need protein based on their body weight.
As long as you regularly eat small portions of meat or fish, drink milk and now and again eat yoghurt or cheese, your protein needs will be covered.
Carbohydrates fuel your body
Carbohydrates are molecules made up of sugar units. Carbohydrates should form the greatest part of our diet (at least half of our daily total calorie intake). To keep us at peak performance, full of life and able to concentrate well, we need energy. Our body most easily makes use of the energy obtained from carbohydrates. Carbohydrate is a readily accessible source of energy. You should get most of the energy from complex carbohydrates (e.g. starch) and less from sugars.
Why carbohydrates provide quick energy?
The smallest building blocks for carbohydrates are called simple sugars (or monosaccharides). They rapidly reach the bloodstream from our digestive tract and enter our body cells. There, they can be used immediately as a source of energy. Both double sugars (disaccharides) and simple sugars, such as glucose (grape sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar) have a sweet taste. They are found in sweet foods, such as honey, fruit and fruit juices, as well as in sweets and table sugar. When the job is to rapidly replenish empty energy stores and prevent lapses in performance, simple and double sugars can serve us well. For this reason, athletes like to reach for glucose and energy bars during competitions.
Our bodies are basically unable to metabolize dietary fibre. They help keep our blood sugar and cholesterol levels in balance and maintain normal digestion. This is good for maintaining healthy body weight, the heart and circulation. If you eat whole grain products, vegetables and fruit every day, you will be supplied with all the dietary fibre you need – along with other carbohydrates, which will be also be provided at the same time.
Complex Carbohydrates: Fiber - bran, whole-grain cereals like oats, bajra, whole pulses, raw vegetables and fruits (especially with skins) and nuts. Starch - Cereals like bread, pasta, rice (made of multi-grain flour or wheat flour) and vegetables like potatoes
Simple Carbohydrates: Refined cereals like refined flour (maida) and its products, soft drinks, table sugar, fruit juices, honey and other sweets. Whenever possible, choose to eat whole grain or whole meal food
The Benefits of Whole Grains
Whole grains and foods made from them contain the entire grain seed: the bran, the endosperm and the germ. Whole grains are a good source of fibre, B vitamins, iron and antioxidants. Below are ways to increase your whole grains intake:.
- Use more whole wheat products in the form of whole wheat bread/multi-grain bread, wheat based or multi-grain pasta, brown rice and whole grain cereals
- Have a serving of whole grain breakfast cereals in the morning
- Add oats to breakfast, cookies and other desserts
- Use multi-grain flour/flour with added bran for rotis/paranthas and avoid refined flour and its products
- Use high fibre vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts and fruits such as apples and pears.
- Dried fruits contain large amounts of fibre and are a good snack
Fats and Oils
Why is Fat Important?
Despite its bad image, fat has many important functions in our body. Fat stores and provides energy when food intake is limited, aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamin A, D, E and K), surrounding fats protect vital organs (like kidney and gut) against physical shock and fats beneath the skin help preserve body heat. Fat is also a building block for hormones and cell membranes.
Fats also help the body use carbohydrates and proteins in a more efficient manner.
Healthy Fat Choices
Fats are classified as below on the basis of their benefits.
Unsaturated fat is considered ‘healthy’ fat and saturated fat is a ‘bad’ fat. Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Unsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature.
Monounsaturated fats help lower blood cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats are found mainly in olive and canola oils and foods containing these ingredients, and in nuts and avocados.
Polyunsaturated fats also help lower blood cholesterol levels. Two types of polyunsaturated fats include omega 3 and omega 6 and are very important for your health. Omega 3 fats are found in fish, flax seeds, walnuts, eggs and canola oil. Good sources of omega 6 fats are seeds, safflower, sunflower, corn and soybean oils.
Saturated and Trans-fat are considered ‘bad’ fats mainly because they can increase bad cholesterol levels and trans-fat has also been shown to lower your good cholesterol. It is very important to eat less saturated and trans fats. Saturated fat is mostly found in animal products and products with high amounts of dairy fat like butter, cheese and cream. Trans fat is found mostly in products containing hydrogenated vegetable oils. Trans fat is also naturally found in animal products and some dairy products. Saturated and trans fats are typically solid at room temperature.
How Much Fat Do I Need?
The amount of fat a person needs depends on age, sex, body size and composition, activity level, family history and health status. It is recommended to reduce the amount of fat in your diet, especially saturated and trans fats. It is advisable to choose more unsaturated fat and consume omega 3 fat.
The recommended dietary guidelines by WHO/FAO suggest 15 to 30% of your total energy should come from fat, with less than 10% of energy coming from saturated fat, 6-10 % from PUFA (5-8 % form omega-6 and 1-2 % from omega-3), less than 1% coming from trans-fat and less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.
Choose Your Fats Wisely
- Keep trans fat consumption as low as possible by reducing foods that contain trans fats. Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol for a healthy diet.
- Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products and lean cuts of meat and poultry
- Cook and bake with vegetable oils instead of solid fats, like solid shortenings, butter etc. Choose oils that are higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (e.g. canola oil and olive oil), and avoid oils that are higher in saturated fats (e.g. coconut, palm and palm kernel oils)
- Try baking, steaming, grilling or broiling instead of frying
- Eat foods that contain healthier fats, such as nuts (e.g. walnuts and almonds), seeds (e.g. sunflower and pumpkin), olives etc.
- Get plenty of foods that are naturally low in fat, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables
- When eating out, remember to ask which fats are being used in the preparation of the food you’re ordering. You can also ask to see nutrition information available in many fast food or chain restaurants and choose a lower-fat option
Minerals play an important role in our body and support metabolism, human growth, blood formation, or the function of nerves and muscles.
What are the types of Minerals?
Depending on the amount the body needs, minerals are classified in two subgroups:
Macro minerals: Minerals needed in the diet in amounts greater than 100mg/day. These include: Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride and Sulphur.
Micro/trace minerals: Minerals needed in the diet in amounts less than 100mg/day. These include: Iron, Zinc, Iodine, Manganese, Selenium and Copper.
The following table will give you information about which foods contain good amount of specific minerals and their benefits
|Buildings bones and teeth, blood clotting
|Milk, yogurt, cheese, green vegetables
|Building bones, metabolism
|Milk, cheese, meat, fish
|Fluid balance, nerve and muscle function
|Table salt, processed foods like chips, bakery, pickles, meats etc.
|Fluid balance, transmission of nerve and muscle signals
|Potatoes, vegetables, bananas, dried fruit, pulses
|Building bones, energy, enzymes activity, nerve and muscle function
|Whole-grain cereal products, milk and milk products, green vegetables, berries, oranges, bananas
|Blood formation, oxygen transport in the blood
|Meat, egg yolk, Green leafy vegetables, jaggery, dried fruits
|Synthesis of thyroid hormones
|Seafood, iodized salt
|Resistance of teeth to cavities, for hardening tooth enamel
Fish, cereals, walnuts, black tea, mineral water
|Liver, fish, meat, nuts, legumes, cereals
|The body’s defences, wound healing
|Meat, dairy products , fish, whole grain cereals, nuts and pulses
Types of vitamins
Fat-soluble vitamins are (A, D, E and K).Our bodies can only utilize fat-soluble vitamins if we ingest them in combination with dietary fat. For example, when you are preparing carrots, you should include fat, or eat them along with a buttered slice of bread.
The best-known water-soluble vitamin is Vitamin C, but in addition, there is the large group of B-vitamins, including B1, B2, B6, B12, niacin, biotin, pantothenic acid and folic acid.
Good to know
Vitamin D, which can be obtained from sunlight on skin.
Our bodies do not function well with a lack of vitamins, excessive amounts of vitamins, especially of fat-soluble vitamins, are also unhealthy in the long term.
A plentiful supply with a varied diet
A balanced meal will provide us with sufficient amounts of vitamins. The following table will give you an overview of the functions of the various vitamins and their presence in different foods.
|Vitamin A and beta-carotene (that the body converts into Vitamin A)
|Vision, skin, growth
|As retinol(vitamin A) in foods from animal sources, e.g. liver, whole milk, butter, cheese, fish (e.g. salmon). As carotenoids(ß-carotene is the most common) in foods from plants, e.g. carrots
|Bones, teeth, calcium absorption
|Fatty fish (e.g. salmon, tuna), egg yolks, liver. Foods fortified with vitamin D such as margarine, milk, yogurt, breakfast cereals
|Protecting body cells
|Plant oils, such as canola, sunflower or soybean oil. Nuts like almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds. Leafy green vegetables (e.g. spinach, mustard greens), eggs
|Blood clotting, bones
|Green leafy vegetables, e.g. cabbage, spinach, broccoli. Fruits, e.g. kiwis, apricots. Eggs, dairy products
|B-Vitamins (B1, B2, B6, B12)
|Obtaining energy from protein, fat, carbohydrates, nerve function, blood formation
|Wholegrain products, pulses, pork, milk, vegetables, fruit, fish
|Formation of blood and body cells, nervous system development in the unborn baby
|Green leafy vegetables (e.g. turnip greens, spinach, butter, lettuce), broccoli, asparagus, corn, tomatoes, fruits (e.g. oranges), lentils, kidney, navy, soybeans, green peas. Liver, whole grain, sunflower seeds, peanuts. Most enriched grain products.
|Iron absorption, nervous system, blood vessels, connective tissue
|Citrus fruits, berries (e.g. cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries), melons, green and red peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli
Having enough water and other fluids throughout each day is important for good health and physical well-being. Dehydration can cause fatigue, cramping, and reduce your ability to function physically, so preventing it is key. Remember, even when you're not physically active, your body still loses water daily through your lungs, skin and urine – and if these losses aren't replaced, dehydration can result.
Water should be taken in adequate amounts and other beverages should be consumed in moderation.
Why do you need water?
- Water is the major constituent of the human body. It accounts for 70% of our body weight
- It is a constituent of blood and other vital body fluids
- Water plays a key role in transportation of nutrients and elimination of body wastes and regulation of body temperature
- Water act as a lubricant in various parts of the body, especially within joints. This makes movements easier and minimizes the wear and tear of cartilage and bones
- The body loses water through sweat, urine and faeces. This loss must be constantly made good with clean and potable water
How much water do you need?
A normal, healthy person needs to drink about 8 glasses (2 litres) of water per day. During very hot weather and while undertaking vigorous physical activity, this requirement increases as a considerable amount of water is lost through sweat.
When water is considered as safe?
Water that we drink, should be safe and wholesome i.e., it should be free from disease-causing agents like bacteria, viruses, parasites etc. and harmful chemical substances like pesticides, industrial wastes, heavy metals, nitrates, and excess of arsenic.
How water is made safe to drink?
If a water source is not safe for drinking, boiling it for 10-15 minutes is a satisfactory method of purification of the water. It kills all disease-causing organisms and also removes temporary hardness. However, boiling will not remove other chemical impurities. Tablets containing 0.5 g of chlorine can disinfect 20 liters of water.
Tips to ensure staying hydrated
Drinking water when you are thirsty is not enough, you need to keep sipping it throughout the day through some tips
- Keep water handy, always carry a bottle or keep one around
- If you don’t like the taste of plain water, add a squeeze of lime
- Instead of a cola, make it a point to have butter milk, lassi or water with every meal, even when eating out
- Ensure that your fridge always has a supply of water bottles, so that you and your family can simply pick one up while going out
- Have a different colored bottle, glass or cup for each child. And keep it filled, so that it is easy for them to get into the habit of drinking water