Medically reviewed by Dr. Shunmukha Priya, Ph.D. in Food Science and Nutrition
On Sunday, Aug 30, 2020, In his monthly radio programme called “Mann Ki Baat”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced September as “National Nutrition Month”. He urged that the school should not just focus on the regular subjects but also make their students aware of the importance of complete nutrition.
He suggested that schools must have Nutrition Monitors in each class like the class monitors as this will help raise awareness. “Apart from the report cards, schools should also provide nutrition cards to the students.”, he added.
Schools & Nutrition
Schools are the best place to educate the society about the importance of nutrition because they reach almost every person of the society as they have an effective connection with the students, the school staff & families.
A school needs to keep a healthy lifestyle & improved nutrition on the top of their agenda because nutrition plays an important role in a child’s well being, learning ability, academic performance, co-curricular activities performance, etc.
It’s not just the education, but the nutrition that decides the future of a child & hence it must be of utmost importance to make the society aware of it & schools are the best medium to achieve this goal.
A healthy body holds a healthy mind, and the combination of both is essential for a human being to explore their mental and physical potential in every regard.
It is important to bring the awareness about healthy nutrition early in childhood or adolescence to prevent the detrimental health effects of poor eating habits. These age groups are the critical period for highly nutritional diets as the overall development is at pace.
Also, the eating habits developed in these age groups persist throughout adulthood and it gets extremely difficult to change them later.
Nutritional requirements for different stages of life
The requirements for micro-nutrients change throughout the life cycle. Every person requires all the micro-nutrients, but the quantity of intake varies and hence focus on a certain group of micro-nutrients is required at different stages of life.
There are two types of problems related to nutrition, one being the inadequate intake of certain micro-nutrients (vitamins & minerals) & the other is the excess intake of macro-nutrients (saturated fat, sugar, cholesterol, carbohydrates, protein, etc).
Here we discuss the micro-nutrients required at different stages of life:
Lifestyle quality & eating habits affect fertility directly or with the risk of diseases that impair fertility.
Studies suggest that for females to achieve pregnancy a sufficient amount of vitamin C, antioxidants, iron & arginine is required.  A gluten-free diet is suggested for the female at the risk of getting celiac disease, an immune mediated condition triggered by gluten. 
According to studies, male fertility is impaired by smoking, reproductive tract infection, varicocele, poor diet and other health factors occurring majorly due to poor lifestyle. Men should assure a good supply of antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E & selenium for an improved sperm quality.
One of the common reasons associated with the fertility impairment in both women and men is alcohol consumption.
2. Infancy and Early Childhood
The rate of development at both these stages are more than any other stage of life hence the requirements for quality nutrition is very high. It is suggested to maximize intake of nutrient-rich foods, particularly vegetables, fruits, legumes, milk and whole grains. 
3. Adolescence and Adulthood
The recommendation for micro-nutrients is almost the same in both the age groups except certain minerals required for bone growth like calcium, phosphorus. However, the adolescent requires more macro-nutrients majorly protein & energy than a regular adult.
This is suggested for a regular lifestyle whereas the protein & energy requirements would definitely increase in adults if they are planning to achieve a certain muscle mass.
The micro-nutrient needs in adults differ slightly based on the gender.
- Males require more of vitamin C, K, B1, B2, and B3; magnesium & zinc.
- Females require more iron as to the males of similar age due to menstruation.
4. Pregnancy and Lactation
Pregnant and/or lactating women require increased amounts of protein, vitamins A, C, E, B, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, selenium, copper, chromium, manganese, and molybdenum.
They have increased requirements of both macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients & the insufficient intakes of all these increases the risk of chronic diseases in their children. 
5. Old Age
Elder people require less energy than younger people due to reduction in metabolic rate, physical activity & muscle mass. With old age the risk of bone loss and fracture increases. Hence it is suggested for the elderly to increase the intake of vitamin D.
As the muscle mass reduces with old age the body loses its capability to retain much protein hence a bit increased intake of protein in small amounts is advisable.
The preferred source of protein is plants for this stage of life. Old people should also have a little higher intake vitamin B6 for better immunity.
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Possible supports this brilliant initiative by the government that we feel we are an unofficial ambassador of this National Nutrition Month. We are running several exciting challenges and quizzes on our social media handles to spread awareness. Follow us on Instagram & Facebook to take part and win exciting gifts.
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