Sunday, January 26, 2020


Supplements imperative as nutrition huge challenge regardless of age
Friday, 02 August, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Rohit Shelatkar
Nutrition has been a trending topic across the globe, for eons now. It is a basic human requirement, and more so, a mandatory part of our daily lives.

Be it elders or doctors, everyone has emphasised that a nutritious diet is essential from the beginning of life, for proper growth, development, and necessary for an active life.

It is the science concerning of food compositions and a number of factors associated with it, by which proper nourishment is achieved.

Unfortunately, even today, many do not understand the importance of a nutritious and balanced diet for maintaining their health.

The daily food consumption, thus, tends to lack essential nutrients — carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. This is where supplements rise to the occasion, to lower the risk of health issues.

Also known as dietary supplements, they provide sufficient amount of nutrients in the form of capsules, liquids, extracts, powders, or tablets.

It is always recommended to consult a doctor before consuming these supplements. Depending on a person’s age, the type and amount of dietary supplements to be taken differs.

Nutrition for infants
With regard to new-borns, breastfed milk is generally considered to be the best source of nutrition. However, while it is an ideal way to achieve the purpose, it still lacks two crucial nutrients, i.e., Vitamin D and iron for the effective growth of the baby.

While iron contributes to the cell and brain development, minerals play a vital role to prevent iron deficiency (which is common amongst some toddlers), as well as anaemia.

Once the baby starts having solid food, it is suggested to provide green leafy vegetables, along with whole grains, and food rich in protein for his/her consumption.

After 4-6 months, parents must ensure that they continue to provide the same to maintain the amount of iron in the baby’s body.

Some iron-rich foods include soybeans, lentils, spinach, garbanzo beans, navy beans, kidney beans, tofu, black beans, beef, and eggs.

Milk and these foods are certainly recommended for raising a healthy baby, to provide an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals.

However, some children do require nutrition supplements, especially if the family’s dietary practices limit the consumption of nutrients.

Toddlers need to receive at least 15mg of iron a day in their food, but many fail to do so.

One needs to be careful about excessive consumption of vitamins and minerals by infants too.

High doses of minerals like zinc and iron can have negative long-term effects on the child. Similarly, drinking large quantities of milk can also lead to anaemia, as the child may not consume other essential nutrient-rich foods.

Therefore, it is best to consult your child’s paediatrician to know what supplements should be provided to the child, in order to prevent deficiencies and diseases like rickets (softening of the bones).

Nutrition for adults
As one gets older, getting enough nutrition becomes just as challenging. In fact, studies have found that with age the number of calories intake we require begins to decrease.

Hence, every calorie consumed needs to be nutritious for one to hit the bull’s eye in terms of quantity.

This is the time when one needs high amounts of calcium and to maintain bone and dental health.

However, a substantial intake of Vitamin D is also simultaneously essential to promote the former’s absorption that further contributes to good immunity.

There is also an increased need for iron intake in women in order to make up for the blood loss every month due to menstruation.

Moreover, they also begin losing bone density earlier, and thus, getting enough calcium is important as a nutritional defence against the same.

Foods with calcium include — fortified cereals milk, cheese, and yoghurt salty fish, broccoli and kale, nuts and nut butter, beans and lentils.

After crossing the age of 30 — folic acid (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12, omega-3, choline, Vitamin D, calcium and iron need to be consumed as part of your daily diet in sufficient quantities to maintain good health.

Folic acid is known to improve verbal fluency and memory, as it supports brain health and cell reproduction, and also enhances one’s mood.

For women, in fact, the consumption of Vitamin B9 is recommended throughout pregnancy for the development of a healthy foetus, as it reduces the risk of having a child with birth defects of the spinal cord or brain.

It also helps those fighting depression or looking to combat inflammation. Therefore, foods like dark leafy greens, avocado, beans, and citrus fruits must be consumed.

Fatty acids like EPA and DHA are also advised for a healthy brain, nerve cells, and heart.

Nutrition for the elderly
As the body begins to age further, eating healthy becomes even more important, primarily due to the variety of changes that one’s health undergoes, like nutrient deficiencies, a reduction in the quality of life, weak immunity, as well as poor health outcomes.

This is the age where fewer calories are needed, as the emphasis is placed on higher nutrition.

Fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy staples like fish and lean meat need to be included in one’s diet to stay healthy, as they fight deficiencies without adversely affecting the waistline.

To reduce the risk of — age-related macular degeneration, kidney and liver disorders, cardiovascular issues, chronic lower back, neck and knee pains, and insomnia in the long haul, the consumption of nutritional supplements is imperative.

The essential ones include vitamin D, calcium and vitamin B12. Omega 3 fatty acids (like fish oil capsules) are also important to support brain and heart health.

To maintain one’s immune system and cellular health, experts also recommend selenium, zinc, and antioxidants like glutathione, while a daily intake of vitamin B complex supplement aids in enhancing one’s mood, prevents bloating and insomnia, and ensures the maintenance of metabolism.

For women, melatonin precursor is suggested to regulate sleep patterns, along with one tablespoon of cold-pressed coconut oil (daily) for the smooth functioning of internal systems.

However, fibres are highly recommended for this age-group to relieve constipation, as they pass through the gut undigested, thus helping with forming stool and improving regular bowel movements.

Pears, avocado, bananas, beetroots, kidney beans, lentils, quinoa, and oats should thus, be part of one’s daily diet to increase fibre intake.

Experts suggest that in today’s day and age, a balance of a healthy diet and nutrition supplements is ideal to increase life expectancy, and maintain a good lifestyle.

They emphasise that a rainbow diet is the key to a good life, wherein fresh vegetables and fruits must be included in one’s daily staples to prevent several diseases and disorders.

(The author is vice-president, Vitabiotics Ltd.)
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