National Nutrition Week: Nutrition plays a vital role in leading a healthy lifestyle and the management of certain chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, constipation, PCOD etc. It also helps to improve appetite and lowers the risk of nutrient deficiencies, and other health conditions.
A few years back developing nations including India were lacking behind in terms of proper Nutrition, diet, fitness, nutrition education and its importance. According to research published in 2017, more than 73% Indian population was deficient in protein, while 90 percent are unaware of the daily requirement of protein. This is one of the examples of Nutrition awareness among Indians.
Thanks to all the doctors, Nutritionists, and fitness experts to accept this challenge and increase awareness in various ways. We interviewed Dietitian Silky Mahajan, Founder and Expert Nutritionist of Foods and Nutrition Clinic to share her thoughts on how nutrition plays a key role in our quality of life as we age. An individual’s needs for nutrients and energy change over their life span. These occur during infancy, childhood, teenage, pregnancy, younger age, and older age – various stages of life.
Proper nutrition should be implemented at the early stage of life. “Breast milk is a boon for the baby and it is extremely important to breastfeed up to 6 months to 2 years of age. It is nutritionally adequate for the baby’s overall growth and development and also rich in DHA, omega-3-fatty acid which is crucial for brain tissue formation and high IQ level” says Dietitian Silky Mahajan.
As the child grows to the next stage the nutritional demand increases. Weaning is an opportunity to reinforce good eating habits for them and to introduce soft/semi-solid foods. “After 6 months start table foods that are well chopped and mashed. Apple stew, mashed potato, carrot soup, and dal water are the best option to start. When teething crackers, toast is a good choice. Avoid giving hard foods, such as nuts or raw vegetables as babies easily choke on these items.” she says.
Young children’s energy, protein, calcium, iron, Vitamin A, and C requirement increases as they become more active and begin going to school. Children have small stomachs and can’t eat a lot of food at one time. Bite-size pieces of raw fruits and vegetables and cheese cubes are ideal snacks. Use different cookie cutters to make sandwiches/food in the shapes of animals or toys to grow their interest, adds Dietitian Silky Mahajan.
A child’s body begins a period of rapid change in size and shapes approximately around the age of 10 years in girls and 12 years in boys during an adolescent growth spurt. They require different nutrients. “Calcium is especially important for bone growth and health because 45% of the bone is built up during adolescence. Iron is also important for girls as they start menstruating and to prevent anemia during the blood loss,” she says.
Pregnancy is a special time in a woman’s life and healthy eating can increase the chances of having a healthy baby. Monitoring weight gain is very crucial during this period as excess weight gain leads to complications like gestational diabetes and hypertension. “Folic acid helps to form a baby’s neural tube and brain. Iron, vitamin C, A, Calcium, DHA requirement is equally increased during this time for the overall well being of mother and baby” she remarks. In older age, the vitamin and mineral needs of healthy older adults appear to be similar to those of younger adults.
Older adults should be encouraged to consume protein and calcium-rich foods such as milk, curd, yoghurt, egg, pulses, chicken, fish, makhana, muskmelon seeds. Aging bodies need more of it to maintain muscle mass and strength, bone health, and other essential physiological functions, she says.
So, eating a variety of nutritious food throughout the lifespan, limiting the amount of fat, salt and sugar in the diet and regular exercise are keys to staying fit and healthy in the different stages of life.