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Tackling micronutrient deficiencies

Four main strategies - dietary improvement, including increased production and consumption of micronutrient-rich foods; food fortification; supplementation; and global public health and other disease control measures - can be implemented to overcome micronutrient malnutrition.

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By Elidy Wangeci

According to the World Health Organization, more than 2 billion people over the world are affected by micronutrient deficiencies, and the bulk of that number is in developing countries.

Micronutrients account for approximately 7% of the global disease burden, and they play a key role in the growth and development of the whole family. In Kenya, studies have shown that both children and adults are prone to iron, vitamin A, and zinc deficiency.

These deficiencies mean that one in five children is stunted, therefore, addressing micronutrient deficiencies is a crucial step in the health and wellness of the whole family.

Micronutrient Deficiency is something we cannot easily detect as coughs or colds.

It is called “hidden hunger” because a person who looks normal, with normal weight and physique, may not know that they are already suffering from nutrition deficiencies.

To help us and caregivers know whether your children have nutrition deficiencies, here are some of the signs or manifestations you can look out for.

  • Do they feel tired early in the morning, even before they go to school?
  • Do they have a hard time focusing in class?
  • Do your kids easily get sick?

Hidden Hunger in adults and the aging population places them at risk of nutrition-related diseases.

Our ‘cucus’ and ‘gukas’ who suffer from micronutrient deficiencies may present as having cognitive and physiological problems such as memory loss, decreased taste and smell, loss of appetite, and the inability to independently, shop, cook, and look after themselves notwithstanding the normal aging process.

Here are some tips to get more nutritious meals for the whole family.

Power of Vegetables

For your family’s optimal health, add green vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, traditional vegetables such as managu, terere and kunde, and peas. Yellow veggies such as carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potato.

These vegetables are high in fiber – to help control blood sugar levels, folate, a very important B vitamin, magnesium, vitamin A, and potassium. Make your family part of the shopping and preparation of these veggies to ensure commitment to eating them.

Have more colors on the plate, in the lunch boxes, or for snacking

The best way to prevent micronutrient deficiencies is to ensure variety on the plate, and have a full-color meal every day of the week and not only on Sundays and special occasions.

This you can do by planning your meals, this will create excitement for mealtimes and a giant step in giving yourself and your family a fighting chance to live up to their full potential.

Dairy Goodness

A glass of milk has nutrients such as calcium, which is important for strong bones, vitamin D, a special vitamin important for our immune system, and potassium, which ensures proper muscles and nerves function properly.

Dairy-based products are highly recommended as they are easy to prepare and help ensure that you still meet your family’s nutritional needs.

The writer is the Corporate & Public Affairs Manager at Nestlé East & Southern Africa Region (ESAR)

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