When we think of hunger, images of starving, emaciated children come to mind. Although famine is much of a thing of the past, hunger is still a very real issue for many children in the United States, and one aspect of hunger is particularly dangerous: malnutrition.
85% of Americans aren’t getting their daily dose of vitamins and minerals, and it’s costing not just those individuals, but society as a whole. As rates of obesity and heart disease continue to climb and hospitals continue to spend more and more time treating preventable diseases, we need to take a serious look at our diets to ensure that we are getting everything we need.
Malnutrition occurs when there is a micronutrient deficiency in our diet (not enough vitamins and minerals are being consumed). Thankfully, malnutrition is relatively easy to diagnose, and here are some of the primary symptoms caused by malnutrition:
- Weight Loss.
- Long-term malnutrition can cause physical and mental disability. It weakens your immune system and increases the risk of developing disease.
The issue is particularly dire for newborns and babies as they are growing quickly and are undergoing furious development in their cognitive, physical and motor skills. A malnutrition deficiency at this stage is particularly dangerous since there is no catching back up and fixing the issue later in life. Delays in development (mental and physical) will stay with them for life.
Treatment is straightforward: ensure you are getting your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. To supplement your diet, take a multivitamin and give your children one as well (they will probably prefer the gummy version!). Eat more fruits and vegetables and try to stay away from foods containing empty calories such as alcohol and junk food.
The key to eating healthy is to maintain a balanced diet that encompasses the four major food groups. These four groups are fruits, vegetables, grains and protein foods. The grains that you want most in your diet are whole grains. This is because whole grains provide you with iron and B vitamins. Sources of whole grains include brown rice, whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat bread and oatmeal. Foods that are high in protein include poultry, eggs, seafood, meat and nuts.
Malnutrition is an easily preventable problem that is affecting millions of Americans and people around the world. By supplementing our diet and ensuring that our meals are well balanced, we give our children the best opportunity to develop into happy and healthy people like their parents.
As always, consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.
With the holiday season quickly approaching, it is important not to stray too far from a balanced diet. Do you have healthy takes on some of your favorite holiday fare? Please share in the comments below!