Actor Priyanka Chopra, 28, spent all of Thursday last week asking teenage girls in Sanganer village in Rajasthan to eat healthy under a UNICEF initiative. She should consider doing the same for her young urban fans too.
In India, 55.3% women and 24.7% men have anaemia, with prevalence being the highest in Assam and Jharkhand (69.5%) followed by Bihar (67.4%). Even affluent Delhi has a female anaemic population of 44.3%. According to the National Family Health Survey 3 (2005-06), anaemia causes one in five pregnancy-related deaths, triples the risk of premature delivery and low-birth weight babies, and increases risk of foetal death nine-fold. Anameia affects 24.7% adult men.
Mother's anaemia may also lead to irreversible brain damage and poor development in the baby. "Most young girls lack basic awareness about health that makes them under-nourished adults, and later on, unhealthy mothers. Though things are improving, still there is a long way for us to go," says Chopra, who is a brand ambassador for UNICEF.
Food for thought
Eating on the move and yo-yo dieting is also emerging as a problem among urban professionals. "Most people skip breakfast, which should be your biggest meal, eat out for lunch and have a large dinner at home, all wrong eating habits that cause weaken your body system,” said a senior dietician at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, requesting anonymity as she is not authorised to speak to media. “If you want to lose weight, exercise," she added.
Family meals are the other big casualty to urban work schedules. "Sure, children are eating more junk at school and restaurants, but what they eat at home is little better. Wrong choice of breads, oils, fattening dressings in sandwiches etc. leads to empty calories piling up without essential vitamins and minerals," said Dr Datta.
Making up for the loss
Just eating iron-rich food is not enough, as it needs to be absorbed by the body. Vitamin C (a slice of lemon) aides in absorption, while caffeine in tea and coffee prevent it. Green leafy vegetables are a rich source of iron, but when these are hard to come by, add some of fresh coriander or mint chutney to your meal to keep your haemoglobin levels up. Haemoglobin should be over 12 gm/dl for women and 13 gm/dl for men.
The Rajiv Gandhi scheme for empowerment of adolescent girls called SABLA is making a difference in by promoting self-development, health, hygiene, nutrition, family welfare and management among them. "Now these girls themselves are helping to raise nutritional levels in their villages," says Sarita Singh, secretary, women and child development, Rajasthan. Nutritional supplements should not be a replacement for food and should not be taken without a doctor’s prescription. "Getting everyone to eat balanced meals is the solution, and these girls will help us do it," says Singh.