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HEALTH: The Might of the Right Meal

Right Meal

Dr. Dharmakanta Kumbhakar

From ages, people have known that the way to long term health is through nutrition. Nutrition is the science of food and its relation to health. Good nutrition means maintaining a nutritional status that enables us to grow well and enjoy good health. There are association of nutrition with infection, immunity, fertility, maternal and child health and family health. Specific nutritional deficiency diseases are identified and technologies developed to control them by nutritional supplementation, as for example, protein energy malnutrition, endemic goiter, nutritional anemia, nutritional blindness and diarrheal diseases. There is role of dietary factor for the pathogenesis of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancer. Nutrition is the cornerstone of socioeconomic development, and the nutritional problems are not just medical problems but are “multifactorial” with root in many other sectors of development such as education, demography, agriculture and rural development.

Nutrient or “food factor” is needed for the production of energy, boost of immunity, normal functioning, development and growth. Eating food of the highest quality in the right quantity helps a person to achieve the highest potential for health, vitality and immunity. Regular intake of well balanced meals enriched with a variety of nutrients can assure attainment of health goals. A balanced meal should contain carbohydrate, proteins, fats and oils, vitamins, minerals and pure water of good quality in right quantity. To get all these, a balanced meal should contain the following groups of food in proportion along with pure water.

Grains (6 to 11 servings per day) consist of carbohydrate sources like rice, pasta, noodles, bread, dosa, idli, chapatti etc. Carbohydrates are the main fuels for the body. Each gram carbohydrate provides four kilocalori energy. Current scientific evidence indicates that whole grains can play an important role in lowering the risk of chronic diseases and also contribute to body weight management and gastrointestinal health.

Proteins (2 to 3 servings per day) sources like Soya, Meat, Fish, Beans, Eggs and Lentils are important because proteins are the building blocks of the body. Each gram protein provides four kilo calori energy. The Indian Council of Medical Research has recommended 1.0 gm protein per kg body weight for an adult Indian. Proteins are vital for growth and repair of body tissue and are also used in the manufacture of hormones, enzymes, antibodies and other transport materials.

Fats (minimal per day) are needed for certain metabolic functions in the body. Each gram fat provides nine kilo calori energy. However, excessive fats can lead to unwanted calories, increasing the risk of obesity and heart disease; hence they have to be consumed in moderation.

Fruits and vegetables (2-4 servings of fruits and 3-5 servings of vegetables per day) are good sources of antioxidants which can protect us from the ravages of illness and ageing. Fruits and vegetables have plenty of waters content, fibre and a high percentage of vitamins and minerals.

Dairy products (2-3 servings per day) like curds, milk, cheese, butter, buttermilk and yoghurt are great sources of calcium which is needed for a healthy skeletal system. Research has proven that consumption of dairy products in childhood and adolescence may improve bone mineral density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Vitamins are needed in much smaller amounts than fats, proteins or carbohydrates but are equally important. They are the triggers that turn enzymes on or off, which in turn help the general functioning of the body.

Drinking sufficient amount (2-3 liters per day) of pure water helps to excrete unwanted toxic products from body as urine, sweat etc.. Impure and contaminated water drinking can cause water-borne diseases like jaundice, hepatitis, diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, cholera, etc. When all these food groups are consumed in their right proportion, they synergistically promote healthy living.