CREATING A ‘BALANCED’ DIET !

Recently, I had a chat with a truth and peace loving lady who is known for her courage and sacrifice throughout her life. She has always kept up her faith and spirits to win. A lady, whom I have seen since my childhood, yet never got a chance to write about until today!

Dressed up in Green designer Kanchivaram saree with gold zari work, she looked absolutely stunning! The flowers on her hair not just added to her beauty, but its fragrance spread the whole place just like our Indian spices!! I was amazed to see her mailing her friend using the latest version of a smart phone. It is always a delight to see her adjusting to new technologies each day and accepting and learning new things in almost all the fields one can imagine!

During our conversion that went on for hours, one topic that we discussed was on Nutrition. She said she loves following a ‘Balanced diet’!

(A balanced diet is one which contains a variety of foods in such quantities and proportions that the need for energy, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates and other nutrients is adequately met for maintaining health, vitality and general well being and makes a small provision for extra nutrients to withstand short duration of leanness.

In addition, a balanced diet should provide bioactive phytochemicals such as dietary fibre, antioxidants and nutraceuticals which have positive health benefits. It should provide around 60-70% of total calories from carbohydrates, 10-12% from protein and 20-25% of total calories from fat.

A balanced diet has become an accepted means to safeguard a population from nutritional deficiencies)

She mentioned that ‘Balance’ has kept her going all these years. Whether it is food or the people with whom she maintains friendly relationship!

Careful planning and execution is required for a diet to be balanced, but takes little effort when done keeping in mind the goals to be met.

In between the conversation she mentioned that although she loves all the food items that she purchases and also grows in her vegetable garden, her favorites are carrot, milk and spinach (Palak).

To be frank, I did get to hear ‘Nutrition class’ during our conversation! 😉

She told me carrots are rich in Beta carotene- vitamin A, which plays a role in visual cycle, maintenance of epithelium, growth and reproduction.  They are rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins and dietary fiber. In addition, this root vegetable is especially rich in many B-complex groups of vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, pantothenic acid, etc., that acts as co-factors to enzymes during substrate metabolism in the body. Minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, manganese and phosphorus are also present in them.

Milk and milk products (curd, buttermilk, butter, paneer, ghee, cheese etc) contain various nutrients that are essential for health. Calcium, vitamin D, fat and protein are some of the nutrients present in milk and its products that keep the body functioning properly. Specially Proteins have regulatory functions such as carriers of oxygen (haemoglobin), catalyse body reactions (enzymes), regulate body functions (hormones), protect the body against diseases (antibodies), potential source of energy, transport of some minerals (iron), and many others.

Spinach being a green leafy vegetable is known for its nutritional, antioxidant (vitamin A, vitamin C, and flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin and beta-carotene) and anti-cancer constituents. B-complex vitamins such as vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), Thiamin (vitamin B-1), riboflavin, folates and niacin are also present in Spinach. Folates help prevent neural tube defects in the offspring. Apart from being rich in iron, spinach is a store house for many phyto-nutrients that have health promotional and disease prevention properties. Spinach leaves are an excellent source of vitamin C (powerful antioxidant) and vitamin K. Vitamin K plays a vital role in strengthening the bone mass by promoting osteotrophic (bone building) activity in the bone. (No wonder cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man loves eating spinach! 😉

The lady also shared some healthy tips with me. Some of them are mentioned below:

  • Many dishes that are commonly prepared at home can be altered by including an extra ingredient to it, which not only increases the taste and nutrient content, but also the overall acceptability of the product. For example: Addition of whole grams like Green gram or Bengal gram to curries/sambar made out of green leafy vegetables, addition of a handful of peanuts to vegetable sambar or greens curry or chutney, addition of oats in various dishes, addition of various greens and vegetables in preparing chapattis, paratas and dosas.
  • Limiting the intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
  • Balancing calories from food and beverages with calories expended.
  • Engaging in regular physical activity with at least 30-60 minutes five days a week.
  • Consuming plenty of seasonal fruits, vegetables and including whole grains that are rich in fiber.

She tried to highlight the importance of deficiency of some nutrients that have become ‘Nutritional problems in India’. Like deficiency of energy and protein in the diet resulting in a condition called Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) specially in children, Iron deficiency Anemia (IDA) found specially among adolescent, pregnant and lactating women, Iodine deficiency disorder (IDD) resulting from low intake of iodine leading to Goitre, Vitamin A deficiency especially in children leading to night blindness and in severe cases resulting in blindness!

Proudly she also mentioned that National Nutrition Policy in India has achieved success in tackling nutrition problems through various programs, for example: fortification of salt with iodine to reduce IDD, providing iron and folic acids tablets to children and pregnant women under a programme called Nutritional Anaemia Prophylaxis Programme, providing oral dose of vitamin A every 6 months to children aged 1-5 yrs to tackle Vitamin A deficiency, introduction of Oral rehydration therapy (ORT) to reduce mortality due to diarrhoeal diseases in children below five years.

(It is opined that by appropriate educational action, about 50% of nutritional problems can be solved. Health education programme in nutrition is often a weak component. Its reinforcement is a key element in all health services development).

She was excited to give me the recipe of one of her favourite dish Palak paneer which includes her three favourite food items i.e. carrot, milk (paneer) and spinach. (She uses carrot to garnish the dish!).

She said although these three food items represent different food groups, they balance all tastes well to form a delicious and highly nutritious dish…….. when they come together!

The possibility of enhancing the nutrient content of a dish is higher when a balance is created by combining various available food items…….just like building a successful Nation!

India is known for her unity in diversity, rich heritage and culture. This charming lady in green Kanchivaram saree, who is peace loving and has kept up her faith and spirits with courage and sacrifice has completed 66 (years). It’s time to celebrate another birthday of Independent India!

Her three favorite food items mentioned in the write up represent the colors of our National flag!!

Careful planning and execution is required to have a successful Nation, but takes little effort when done keeping in mind the goals to be met…….. And when all come together it becomes Sāre Jahāñ Se Acchā Hindostāñ Hamārā…….

Dr.Sowmya Rao

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About raosowmya

Hello enthusiastic readers I am Dr.Sowmya, a Consultant Nutritionist with more than ten years of experience in the field of Food Science and Nutrition. It gives me great pleasure to discuss some of the things related to food , nutrition and health that i notice in my day to day teaching and research life with all you enthusiastic readers. Many scientific journals/books/research articles and reports are sources of information that aid me to write an article in this Blog. Credit goes to all researchers worldwide and also to you readers for reading and spreading the information you gather from this blog. Many images have been used in the blog which are personally photographed or downloaded from search engines. welcome to my blog...enjoy reading... :)
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2 Responses to CREATING A ‘BALANCED’ DIET !

  1. Swetha adarsh says:

    Hi sowmya, firstly Iam sorry for getting diverted from ur blogs for so many days. I haven’t read 5-6 of your posts, as I was held up with other commitments. Let me not bore u, I read ur “Balanced diet” edition it was very good. U have made the concept very simple and easy to reach the common crowd. I think ur simplicity and way of solving the queries of the readers before they finish the topic is great. All the best……. Looking forward to read

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