Nutrition for Rural Women


                                           Nutrition for Rural Women


Despite India’s rapid economic progress, rural India has earned one of the most unenviable statuses of having one of the lowest per capita calorie consumption worldwide. Eventually this translates to poor nutrition as well. In a 2008 publication entitled, ‘Comparisons of hunger across states: India State Hunger Index’, authored by Purnima Menon, Anil Deolalikar and Anjor Bhaskar, The International Food Policy Research Institute quotes, “...It is indeed alarming that not a single state in India is either low or moderate in terms of its index score; most states have a “serious” hunger problem, and one state, Madhya Pradesh, has an “extremely alarming” hunger problem.

We know that the efficacy of reach of the PDS distribution system and the gross misutilisation of grain banks are not to solve the needs of the poor. Here are some tips on how the rural women could do their best within their means and from resources easily available to them.

IRON: This mineral is something rural women are often found deficient in. The deficiency occurs from combined factors of food deficient in iron as well as repeated child deliveries and menstrual disorder not to mention their bodies suffering from poor capability of iron break-down and absorption after ingestion. Much as iron supplements are expensive and hard to remain regular with due to supply issues, it is easy to include seasonal foods in their diet rich in iron. During the long summer months – pumpkin (kaddu, kumdha), pulses or daals and dry legumes like kidney beans, Bengal gram etc are available. During winter months all varieties of beans (french, fava, pinto, broad) are easily available as are peas, sesame (til), groundnuts, soya and spinach are produced in abundance.

The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for Iron is approximately 15-18 mg a day. Iron deficiencies can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, decreased ability to concentrate, increased susceptibility to infections, hair loss, dizziness, headaches, brittle nails, apathy, depression, early miscarriages and defective deliveries, menstrual disorders etc.

CALCIUM: The RDA for Calcium in girls up to 19 years of age is 1300 mg per day and for women up 50 years is 100 mg per day. Senior women need 1200 mg of calcium per day. To be able to meet this steep requirement Calcium may be had in the form of Yoghurt/Curd (Dahi Or Mattha), Milk, Cottage Cheese (Paneer), Soya, Chickpeas (Chhole), Oatmeal (Daliya) Cabbage (Pattagobhi), Almond (Badaam), Sesame (Til), Turnip (Shalgum), Ladiesfinger/Okra (Bhindi), Garlic, Onion, Potato, Bananas, Apples, Oranges, Watermelon (Tarbooza) etc.

Deficiencies of calcium could cause frequent bone fractures, risk of osteoporosis, muscle aches, numbness in hands and feet, bone deformities and growth retardation in children.

PHOSPHORUS: Phosphorus works hand in hand with calcium to make bones and teeth strong. It also helps in the production of energy that goes into the hard labour intensive work done in rural areas. Phisphorus goes into the manufacture of and in the formation of genetic material, cell membranes, and many enzymes. It is thus only common sense that rural citizens ensure a good intake of this mineral. Phosphorous can be obtained from the consumption of milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, fish, peanuts, lentils, most beans and legumes, whole wheat (choker-sahit atta) etc.

The RDA for phosphorus is at girls 14 to 18 years old is 1250 mg, women 19 and older - 700 mg, pregnant women - 700 mg and lactating women at 700 mg.

PROTEINS: Proteins are required to execute key body functions like blood clotting, fluid balance, production of hormones and enzymes, vision, and cell repair. Though proteins are found in both animal and plant foods, animal proteins are more easily broken down and assimilated by our bodies. However, animal proteins may not be easily available to women and children in rural areas of India, and so I have provided examples of plant sources. All types of beans, peas, legumes, lentils, chickpeas, soya, nutri-nuggets and nuts are rich sources of protein apart from milk, whey, cottage cheese, curd, brown rice, rye, peanuts and oatmeal (daliya) etc.

Some spices and herbs which rural women use to cook their daily meals and those which offer tremendous healing and curative benefits are:

GINGER (ADRAKH): The chemical Gingerol present in ginger soothes nausea and an upset stomach. It is also a very effective digestive, anti-phlegmatic, anti-pyretic and has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Zingerone present in ginger helps curb diarrhea in infants. Like garlic, it prevents colds and flus.

GARLIC (LEHSUN): In the season of flus and colds, garlic goes a long way in prevention through it's chemical Allicin.
TURMERIC (HALDI): Turmeric is a powerful anti-fungal and anti-bacterial root that doubles up as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent..

CUMIN SEEDS (ZEERA): Cummin is an excellent source of Iron and Manganese and helps digestion. Cumin's potent free radical scavenging abilities strengthens liver’s detoxifying enzymes.

FENUGREEK SEEDS (METHI): Fenugreek is a proven remedy for improving digestion, reducing heartburn and skin inflammation.

Mamta is a published author of the books Migraines For The Informed Woman (Rupa & Co.), Rev Up Your Life! (Hay House India) and Mentor Your Mind (Sterling Publishers). She is also a popular freelance writer for several international magazines. She is a certified Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer & Sports Nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. She is also an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist through SAC U.K. Besides, Mamta lead writes for many popular fitness sites and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health sites. Mamta runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health
We are obliged to Mamata ji for her  constant support to Ahambhumika.Besides this blog post which she has specifically written for "Ahambhumika" sharply respoding to our request, she had also provided stationery articles and clothes for the tribal children of village Bodakho through courier.    

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