Despite decades of development investment, India witnesses high level of malnutrition. In Uttar Pradesh, most children under the age of 5 are stunted due to malnutrition. In Tamil Nadu, despite high education, sees 23% of children here to be underweight, while 25% of Chennai children show moderately stunted growth (National Family Health Survey). As per 2015 data, Madhya Pradesh has India’s highest number of malnourished children – 74.1 % of these children under the age of 6 suffer from anaemia, and 60% suffer from malnutrition. Clearly, it is time to identify specific nutritional needs for Indian children.
India’s nutrient needs
According to Angus Deaton (Nobel Prize Winner for Economics), India’s malnutrition problem results from dependence on a carbohydrate based diet low in protein and fat. Here are the specific nutrients that every child must eat.
Protein is the most important component of any diet. It helps build cells, digest food into energy, fight infection, and carry oxygen. For a high protein diet, children must eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, pulses, and dairy products.
Carbohydrates are the simplest fuel for the body’s energy needs. They help use fat and protein for building and repairing tissue. Carbohydrates are found in various forms (sugars, starches, and fiber). Children should eat more starches and fibers, and less sugar. Foods rich in carbohydrates include Breads, Cereals Rice, and Potatoes.
Fats are important for energy creation and storage, and also essential to digest fat-soluble nutrients. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) help cell building, nervous system regulation, strengthening the cardiovascular system, building immunity, brain function, and vision. For healthy fat, children should eat Whole-milk dairy products, Cooking oils, Meat, Fish, Nuts.
Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth, as well blood clotting and for nerve, muscle, heart function, and converting food into energy. Foods rich in calcium include Milk, Cheeses, Yogurt, Ice cream, Egg yolks, Broccoli, Spinach and Tofu.
The human body needs iron to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment in blood, and myoglobin, a pigment that stores oxygen in muscles. Iron deficiency causes anemia, leading to fatigue, weakness, and irritability. Foods rich in iron include Red meats, Liver, Poultry, Shellfish, Whole grains, Beans, Nuts and Iron-fortified cereals.
Folate is essential for both expecting mothers and children. Among one of the many B vitamins, folate regulates healthy growth and cell development. Lack of folate can cause anemia.
Foods high in folate include Whole-grain cereals, Lentils, Chickpeas, Asparagus, Spinach, Black or kidney beans, and Brussels sprouts.
Fiber is essential for bowel regularity, reducing chances of heart disease and cancer later in life. Foods rich in fiber include Whole-grain cereals, Chickpeas, Lentils, Kidney beans, Seeds, Nuts and raw vegetables.
8. Vitamin A
Vitamin A regulates vision, bone growth,helps fight against infections, promotes cell health and growth of cells , including the hair, nails, and skin. Foods rich in Vitamin A include Carrots , Sweet potatoes, Squash, Apricots, Spinach, Broccoli, Cabbage, Fish oils, and Egg yolk.
9. Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps in blood cell growth and repair, bone health, keeps teeth and gums healthy and strengthens blood vessels, and minimizes bruising by assisting with healing, immunity, and helps iron absorption.Foods rich in Vitamin C include citrus fruits, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Melons, Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Spinach, Papayas and Mangoes.
Essential for growth, Zinc is essential to process over 70 enzymes that aid digestion and metabolism. Foods rich in Zinc include: Pumpkin Seeds, Chickpeas,Cocoa Powder, Cashews, Yogurt, Mushrooms, Spinach and Chicken.
In the Global Hunger Index, India’s ranking (67 the 80 nations), places the nation even below North Korea or Sudan. 44% of children under 5 are underweight, while 72% of infants have anaemia. The NGO’s malnutrition programs high expenditure, in the formof food rations rich in carbohydrates and protein that must be supplied to at-risk children. Food rehabilitation also involves outreach to communities, and screening for malnutrition and anemia. Donate to charity so you can make a substantial difference to fight malnutrition. Support an NGO like Bal Raksha Bharat, a pioneer in fighting infant death and child mortality.