Did you know that certain nutrient-rich food combinations can work wonders for your child’s health? Biodiversity in food is fun! Let us explore ways to enhance the quality of your child’s diet.
By Shiny Lizia M
As parents, we are always trying to give our children a rich, nutrient-filled diet. Eggs, meat, vegetables, dairy products, fruits, pulses – all these foods form a part of their diet. But, did you know that certain combinations of these foods can actually do wonders for a child’s health?
In fact, this can be easily done by simply combining foods from the four basic food groups:
So, how can we combine the right foods to ensure a nutritious diet for our children? Let’s understand how these combinations work.
Synergy – the state in which two or more things work together to produce a greater combined effect – is an effective model to achieve success. Similarly, your kid’s diet can be made more nutritious by applying the concept of food synergy. When you combine foods that complement each other, it boosts your child's health.
Here are seven food/nutrient combinations that are sure to significantly improve your child’s health.
Fruits and yoghurt make for a good, healthy combination. Fruits are relatively low in calorie load and are an excellent source of antioxidants, prebiotic fibres and polyphenols, which can promote digestive health.
Yoghurt, on the other hand, is a nutrient-dense probiotic and a good source of dairy protein, calcium, magnesium, Vitamin B-12 and fatty acids. Research states that combining the intake of yogurt and fruit could provide probiotics, prebiotics, high-quality protein, important fatty acids, and a mixture of vitamins and minerals.
Also, this combo is a great alternative to high-energy, nutrient-deficient snacks and helps reduce your child’s intake of high-calorie foods.
Vitamins are classified into fat-soluble, such as Vitamin A, D, E and K, and water-soluble such as B-Complex and C. The former depend on fats in order to be absorbed into the body and do not dissolve in water, as in the case of water-soluble vitamins. Once absorbed into the body, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in fatty tissues and liver for future use.
Dietary sources of fat-soluble vitamins include:
Vitamin A: Organ meat, whole eggs, milk, fish, carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, mango, papaya and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin D: This is produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger Vitamin D synthesis. Dietary sources include curry leaves, pomegranate, oyster mushrooms, spices like nutmeg, cloves, mace, cardamom, etc., walnuts, meat and eggs.
Vitamin E: Oilseeds like safflower, sunflower and linseeds, pistachio nuts, almonds, walnuts, dry coconut, mace, green zucchini, eggs, turmeric powder, quinoa, curry leaves and whole Bengal gram.
Vitamin K: Green leafy vegetables, eggs, country hen and organ meat.
Dietary-fat is vital for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. It carries the vitamins through the bloodstream and then to the liver where they are stored. While the dietary fats are crucial, it is important to choose the right kinds of fat. You can include healthy fats such as avocado, coconut, nuts and seeds, and choose healthy oils such as olive oil and flax seed oil. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats.
Vitamin D plays a significant role in helping the body absorb calcium. Calcium-rich dietary sources include milk and milk products, poppy seeds, gingelly seeds (white), green leafy vegetables, ragi and crab.
However, in spite of consuming these foods, you must also ensure that your child gets enough sunlight. Or, you can add foods that are rich in Vitamin D as well. Many studies show that deficiency of Vitamin D occurs due to inadequate intake of the vitamin coupled with insufficient sunlight exposure.
This is known to result in impaired bone mineralization and bone softening diseases, including rickets in children. Thus, these two nutrients play a vital role in your child’s growth, especially bone metabolism.
Did you know that a bowl of pongal or khichdi (combining rice and dal) offers a great mix of amino acids and escalates the protein quality in your child’s diet?
“Beans and grains form the perfect pairing”, says Dr. Webb, in Today’s Dietitian magazine. Though this sounds simple, it involves the scientific concept of protein complementation. Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins, which are the building blocks of life. There are nine essential amino acids that cannot be produced by the body, but can only be derived through one’s diet.
'Protein complementation' refers to combining two vegetable proteins (e.g. cereals/grains and pulses/legumes) in a diet to get all nine amino acids that are essential for the body.
Squeezing a slice of lemon over a green salad, meat or fish not only enhances the taste, but also improves the body’s absorption of the iron present in the food. Vitamin C, which is present in lemon, plays an important role in iron metabolism. It facilitates the absorption of iron when iron-rich foods are consumed.
A study (Correlation Of Level of Haemoglobin With Iron And Vitamin C Among Adolescent Girls With Iron Deficiency Anemia Undergoing Nutritional Support Therapy, by Resmi S et al.) conducted on adolescent girls revealed that there is a strong positive association between haemoglobin levels, iron and Vitamin C.
Iron deficiency anaemia among children, especially adolescent girls, can be battled by regularly incorporating Vitamin C and iron in their daily diet.
Similarly, other Vitamin C-rich foods that combine well with iron-rich foods include:
Did you know that sweets like payasam are actually a boon to dental health? In fact, consuming a fermented product such as curd, buttermilk, yoghurt or cheese soon after feasting on sugary foods (chocolates or desserts) could be effective in preventing dental caries. This is because the beneficial bacteria found in probiotics potentially act against the harmful bacterial colonies that cause dental caries.
Combining nuts and vegetables or fish and whole grains is also beneficial for your child's health. These items form a part of the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with lower incidence of several diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers.
A study conducted by Rito et al. in Portugal included an intervention program for school students called the ‘Eat Mediterranean (EM) – a program for Eliminating Dietary Inequalities in Schools’. The program’s goal was to reduce nutritional inequalities in school children through the promotion of the Mediterranean diet, giving priority to the school environment as a means to achieve this goal.
At the end of the program, the adherence to the Mediterranean diet improved greatly; the daily intake of foods belonging to the Mediterranean diet also increased significantly and the intake of high energy density foods decreased among the participants.
You can also incorporate Mediterranean cuisine in your child’s diet and see the advantages it has on his food habits and nutritional status.
No single food can suffice your child’s vast nutritional demands. It is necessary to understand the art and science of combining foods and nutrients for your child to benefit from it. So, try these healthy food combinations to boost your child’s health.
About the expert:
Written by Shiny Lizia M. on 18 August 2019.
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