Many dinner tables in the U.S. could benefit from the lessons that are being applied – and working – in faraway developing nations in Africa and Asia. Concern has seen firsthand how diversifying a family’s diet can go a long way to reducing hunger, malnutrition, stunting, and have huge impacts on their communities and beyond.
So, exactly what are some of the best foods to keep a family not only fed, but also full of all the nutrients needed for good health? We bring you 5 of some of the most nutritious types of foods you can feed your family today!
1. Red and orange fruits and vegetables
A rule of thumb in nutrition is that your plate should be colorful. Red and orange fruits and vegetables are a good place to start. Foods like carrots, pumpkin, mango, tomato, squashes, red peppers, and sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin A, which is critical for eyesight and healthy immune systems. But, as important as Vitamin A is, not enough people get this nutrient in their diet. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 250 million preschool-aged children are Vitamin A deficient, with up to half a million children going blind each year. This important food category could help address that problem.
2. Dark green leafy vegetables
In many of the communities where Concern works, fields of dark, leafy greens like kale are commonplace. The leaves of other crops, such as cassava, pumpkin, and amaranthus are also excellent vegetables to add to your next salad or meal. They are rich in iron, which is vital to preventing anemia. According to WHO data, over 800 million women and children are affected by anemia around the world. Anemia impacts a person’s ability to carry oxygen in their blood, and iron deficiency is the most common cause. Shockingly, almost half of preschool-aged children are anemic.
3. Biofortified crops
What is a biofortified crop? It’s actually pretty straightforward. Scientist have selectively bred a range of smarter seeds that grow into more nutrient-dense staple crops than regular ones. Biofortified seeds can be produced in a traditional manner, meaning they don’t have to be genetically modified, and they are becoming more widely available in developing countries. A great example of a biofortified food is the orange-fleshed sweetpotato, which is a great source of Vitamin A.
Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart! The childhood rhyme is true – legumes (which includes beans, dry peas, lentils and chickpeas) are a great source of protein, and they help our bodies strengthen and grow and are important for muscle development. Plant-based protein like lentils and the many different varieties of peas and beans are cheaper than other sources of protein. One drawback is that climate change can heavily impact the harvest each year, making these sources hard to come by.
5. Animal-sourced foods
Milk, eggs, and meat and fish are all animal-sourced foods and are very important to communities that are unable to get protein sources elsewhere. Much like legumes, these protein-rich foods are important as a body-building nutrient, fortifying your bones and muscles. And, because the chemical makeup of animal-sourced foods is far more similar to the human body than that of a plant, they are easier for the body to process and use.
We have seen firsthand that varied diets and multiple sources of food are the key to well-nourished and well fed families. That’s why last year we promoted dietary diversity through kitchen gardens in 20 out of the 26 countries where we operated. Thanks to Concern, tens of thousands of these gardens have been created, and they’re not just helping families keep their families fed, but also providing a source of income.