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Nutritious meals most important as one gets older

Vegetables and fruit eaten every day are a good part of nutrition. Picture: Gabe Raggio/Pixabay

Vegetables and fruit eaten every day are a good part of nutrition. Picture: Gabe Raggio/Pixabay

Published Oct 19, 2021


Pretoria - Having access to nutritious meals is the most important thing as one gets older.

This was the message from Heleen van As from Ons Tuis retirement homes in Pretoria during the National Nutrition Week commemoration.

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The campaign to look at nutrition, runs globally every year, and this year’s theme was “Eat more vegetables and fruit every day”.

Van As said although malnutrition were mostly defined by portions which are too small or an unhealthy plate of food, it may be that one’s body did not absorb the nutrients presented due to physical, social or psychological problems.

She said malnutrition could lead to a number of health problems, including a weakened immune system with an increased risk of infections, impaired wound healing, muscle weakness and reduced bone mass, which may cause injuries and possible fractures, a higher risk of being admitted to hospital, and a higher mortality rate.

Also, as one gets older, taste smell and appetite might also change. “You might also experience physical difficulties in swallowing or chewing (due to unhealthy, broken or weakened teeth). As your fine motor skills deteriorate you may also find it hard to properly handle your cutlery,” she said.

These are other issues why older people start to skip meals or fall into a unhealthy eating pattern; some contributing factors may include an illness, medication, dietary restrictions, mental health, loneliness, finances and limited access to food.

“A few simple changes to a person’s diet or a practical arrangement for them to have access to a balanced meal can make a big difference in their general health,” said Van As.

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The week also looked at nutrition as the country grappled with socio-economic challenges worsened by Covid-19 and the recent looting.

Child hunger has devastating risks, and immediate child protection a requirement to improve humanitarian consequences.

Hunger and malnutrition among South Africa’s children would severely hamper education outcomes, further propelling the cycle of poverty, experts said.

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“Globally, between 88 million and 115 million people are being pushed into poverty as a result of Covid-19. In 2021, this number is expected to have risen to between 143 million and 163 million,” the World Bank said.

“The lockdown in South Africa resulted in the disruption of feeding schemes at schools, affecting an estimated 9.2 million learners in 19 800 schools across the country, and the impact of the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal caused an increase in child hunger in affected areas, and access to education affected through damage and destruction of 144 schools,” added Unicef in its Covid-19 situation report.

Education and generating awareness about the role of nutrition in socio-economic development was lacking in South Africa, as pointed out by a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Sciences, which found that most impoverished children had poor nutrition knowledge, especially of food groups and their roles in the body.

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These, the report said, included 27.4% for grains/starchy foods, 11.6% for fruits and vegetables, and 37.5% for milk and milk products.

Pretoria News