Balancing the diet: Essential nutrients for optimal health in children and women | Health - Hindustan Times
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Balancing the diet: Essential nutrients for optimal health in children and women

Jan 29, 2023 03:55 PM IST

It is important for children and women to have a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods to meet their unique nutritional needs. Check out essential nutrients that you must include in your diet.

Nutrition plays a vital role in the growth and development of children and women. Adequate intake of essential nutrients is necessary for maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases. However, nutrient requirements vary based on age, sex, and physical activity levels. It is important for children and women to have a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods to meet their unique nutritional needs. However, certain groups of people, at certain ages and states of health may need some nutrients more than others. For instance, pregnant women need more iron just as growing children need more calcium to support their growth spurts. (Also read: Check out these easy diet tips to help optimise nutrition and good health )

Adequate intake of essential nutrients is necessary for maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases. (Unsplash)
Adequate intake of essential nutrients is necessary for maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases. (Unsplash)

Talking to HT Lifestyle, Prakriti Poddar, mental health expert and global head, mental health & wellbeing, RoundGlass, says that in addition to consuming a healthy diet, it is equally important to lead a healthy lifestyle. “Develop healthy habits such as fitness, practising meditation and mindfulness, giving back to the community, and taking care of our planet. All these together add to our wholistic wellbeing and enable us to live with greater joy, health, and harmony,” says Prakriti. She further lists some nutrients essential for women and children.

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1. Iron: It is an important mineral found in abundance in plant sources such as dark and green leafy vegetables, legumes, beetroots, mushrooms, soybeans, apples, bananas, dates, and fruits rich in vitamin C. Animal sources of iron include liver and red meat. Iron is needed for maintaining healthy blood and its deficiency causes anaemia, a condition that affects many women in India.

2. Calcium: Calcium is the building block of healthy bones and teeth and also plays a crucial role in blood clotting and maintaining normal heart rhythms. Children undergoing puberty – one of the fastest growth periods in human life – need about 800 mg of calcium per day. Dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are rich sources of calcium. Sesame seeds, fruits such as bananas and apples, and leafy vegetables such as agathi keerai (vegetable hummingbird) are loaded with calcium.

3. Vitamin D: Also known as the sunshine vitamin as it can be absorbed from direct sunlight. It is essential for the optimal absorption of calcium by the body. This makes it an essential nutrient for children, and pregnant and post-menopausal women (as they experience bone loss). Food sources of Vitamin D include mushrooms, fortified cereals and milk, fatty fish such as salmon, and eggs.

4. Vitamin B: This is a complex of eight different vitamins and is infamous for the unpleasant odour they emit. Try swallowing a Vitamin B complex supplement for a first-hand experience! But this a very important group of vitamins responsible for several crucial bodily functions such as the growth and strengthening of nerves and muscles in children and for a healthy and safe pregnancy. B vitamins are naturally available in animal-based foods such as eggs, meats, fish and milk and also in certain vegetables such as mushrooms, whole wheat and in avocado.

5. Folic acid: Folic acid is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in the growth and development of both women and children. It is a B vitamin that is necessary for the formation of red blood cells and the proper functioning of the nervous system. For women, folic acid is particularly important during pregnancy. Adequate intake of folic acid can help prevent serious birth defects in the baby's brain and spine, called neural tube defects. It can be obtained from rich sources such as oranges, leafy green vegetables, beans and peas.

You can amplify the benefits of including these nutrients in your diet by practising mindful eating. Breathing right helps us experience the food’s taste and smell, encouraging us to respond positively to what we consume. In contrast, eating in a hurry leads to uneven or eruptive breathing. Chew your food slowly to experience and savour the multitude of flavours, aromas, and textures in your food. Let mindfulness enhance your well-being through food.

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