UNDERSTANDING THE VALUE OF NUTRITION

Nutrition is the foundation for healthy living. However, we seem to have lost sight of this fact.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” said Hippocrates, the father of medicine, 2500 years ago. Yet, his wisdom was drowned out by the introduction of modern drug therapy in the 19th century.

Food stopped being medicine but what we are coming to realise is that what Hippocrates’ said is just as relevant today as it was back then.

Non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases are found to be the leading causes of death in our country, accounting for 60% of total deaths ever year in India1 as against the global average of 68%.

This figure is only set to go up given the sedentary lives we are leading today, which is giving rise to health issues like obesity, are only making us more susceptible to NCDs.

In the 1900s, the important role of a diet containing specific nutrition in disease prevention and health promotion came to the forefront. Good nutrition — or a balanced diet — is the key to sound mental and physical health. It gives the individual a general sense of wellbeing and helps keep ailments and diseases at bay. Nutrition therapy has an integral role in disease management.

A balanced diet provides all the nutrients in an adequate amount. Nutrients are defined as the substances found in food that keep our body functioning. Nutrients are divided into two parts: Macronutrients and Micronutrients. As the name suggests, we need macronutrients in larger quantities, which include carbohydrates, protein, fats, and fibres. Micronutrients comprise a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals, which, though required in very minute quantities, are essential and play a major role in metabolism and immunity.

General Dietary Guidelines
  • Eat a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains.
  • While eating protein-rich foods, choose plant-based proteins and complete protein (i.e., proteins that have all essential amino acids). The general recommendation for protein is 0.8gm/kg of body weight/day.
    • Few examples of food with good protein source are legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, fortified soy beverage, fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, lean red meat, low-fat milk, low-fat yoghurts, and cheese.
  • Choose food with high fibres such as guava, oranges, pomegranate, whole grain oats, broccoli, carrots, sweet corn, nuts and seeds.
  • Eat the whole fruit – do not juice it as juicing will increase the blood sugar level and will also get rid of essential fruit fibres.
  • Food rich in fibres not only helps in digestion but is also useful in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, colon cancer and as well as maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Choose unsaturated fat (Good fat) over saturated fat (bad fat) and completely avoid trans-fat.
    • Few examples of food containing unsaturated fat: avocado, almonds, walnuts, sunflower oil, olive oil, fish oil.
    • Few examples of food containing saturated fat: butter, cream, red meat.
    • Few examples of food containing trans-fat: baked foods, cookies, pie, Vanaspati ghee.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain ideal body weight.
  • Restrict salt intake – If you have high BP avoid pickles, papad, packaged food which have high salt/sodium content.
  • Drink plenty of water (8-10 glasses in a day) and avoid sugary/soda beverages.
  • Quit smoking and excessive drinking
  • Make a habit of reading the food label.

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