National Nutrition Month (previously called National Nutrition Week) is celebrated every year during September in India to spread awareness among people about nutritional needs, deficiencies, and malnutrition.
This month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the recent Mann Ki Baat episode, spoke about the idea of a nutritional report card that would help spread nutrition awareness among students. Though this idea is striking, it’s not just the school kids in India who need exposure to such knowledge.
Why we all need a nutrition report card
Among all the sections of the Indian population, nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition are prevalent. If a nutrition report card details individual deficiencies, their impact, and how to overcome it, it would be beneficial for all.
There are medical tests such as blood tests, stool tests, urine tests, BMI, waist circumference, waist-hip ratio – which are the true subjects of anybody’s primary health report card. These tests can give you an idea as to which micronutrients your body lacks.
Vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients are some of the essential components of the human diet. We have to take them externally as our bodies do not produce many of these vitamins and minerals. But the majority of Indians do not value these nutrients, and thus they are ignorant of the fact as to which sources will fulfill the need for these nutrients.
According to a study published in Nutrition 2019, it was found that children and pregnant women have consistently shown pandemic proportions of micronutrient deficiencies, but such deficiencies were simply ignored and seldom recognized. The same study had noted that urban adults with no health problems had a high prevalence of deficiency of vitamin D, vitamin A, and B vitamins like B2, B6, B12, and B1.
Indian Journal of Medical Research conducted a study in 2018 and found that the Indian population suffered from micronutrient deficiency like iodine, vitamin A and iron. Another study in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care in 2018 shows an alarming fact-80-90 percent of the Indian population is Vitamin D deficient.
How to Deal With Nutritional Deficiencies
Micronutrients matter because they are the dietary minerals needed by the human body in very small quantities. For instance, the protein, which is called the building block of life, helps in building muscles and facilitating body hormones. But the Indian population is grappling with protein deficiency because the Indian diet is rich in carbohydrates rather than protein, and moreover, we do not pay any attention to the importance of this essential macronutrient.
Also, there is another type of malnutrition, and that is overnutrition. Overnutrition is imbalanced nutrition arising from excessive intake of nutrients, resulting in the accumulation of body fat that impairs health and causing obesity. Many Indians consume meals that are high in calories, saturated fats, full of simple carbs, sugar, and high sodium because of lifestyle changes.
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People are now eating easily-available junk and processed foods in excess due to its time-saving nature and easy availability. Home-cooked food, chapatis, rice, and healthy snacks are being sidelined over ready to eat, and frozen foods. Many fast-food corporations have made inroads in small towns, and this has resulted in a significant dietary shift in the nation but also nutritional deficiencies due to it.
If you think that maybe taking a dietary supplement can help you overcome these nutritional deficiencies, then our word of advice-prevention is better than cure and so start by following a balanced and nutrient-dense diet.
Your diet should contain carbohydrates, protein-rich foods, such as legumes, pulses, milk and milk products, chicken, eggs, fish, and a lot of fruits and vegetables to complete your daily dose of the requirement of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Drinks good amount of water and add healthy fats in your diet by adding seeds, nuts, olive oil, sunflower oil, etc
The government decision to launch a nutrition report card is a good step to provide awareness to the population and help in adopting healthier diets. Such a report card-which offers information about both types of malnutrition- micro and macro-nutrient deficiencies as well as overnutrition and obesity, will definitely come in handy for all Indians wanting to live healthier lives.