In today’s fast-paced world, staying healthy and eating well-balanced meals can keep you productive and energized throughout a busy and demanding day. Dr. Senarath Mahamithawa is a Senior Administrator at the Health Ministry and he has over 20 years of experience in the field of nutrition. He also currently serves as the ministry’s Estate and Urban Health Director. In this interview, he shares his insights on how a balanced and nutritious diet, that’s rich in essential minerals, can play an important role in boosting a person’s physical and mental health.
He also highlights the important role that fortification plays i n c o m b a t i n g n u t r i e n t deficiencies. Reiterating the importance of a balanced diet, Dr. Mahamithawa said, “A balanced diet ensures that the human body is supplied with all the essential nutrients it needs for its growth, maintenance and repair. The main nutrients in a diet can be categorized as energy producers, proteins, vitamins and minerals. When a balanced diet is consumed on a regular basis, the body functions at an optimum and there is no need to take any artificial vitamin supplements.” Explaining the importance of fortified food, he added, “The fortification of food with vitamins and minerals is widely recognized as one of the most effective methods of improving health and preventing nutritional deficiencies. Often referred to as ‘hidden hunger ’ micronutrient malnutrition is a serious public health concern that affects a vast amount of the world’s population.
The fortification of food is part of a global nutrition strategy to counter malnutrition as well as a broad spectrum of other diseases.” Commenting on the benefits of adding fortified wheat flour to one’s diet, Dr. Mahamithawa said, “Once wheat flour and other staples are fortified, it contains additional minerals and vitamins. In Sri Lanka, iron and folic acid are added to wheat flour as the fortification of those micronutrients d i r e c t l y a d d r e s s e s t h e nutritional needs of our community.” Highlighting the main health benefits of these nutrients, he said, “Iron is an important nutrient that supports nearly all of the main functions of the human body. Iron is a main component of haemoglobin, w h i c h i s e s s e n t i a l i n t r a n s p o r t i n g o x y g e n throughout the body.
Iron also helps to maintain the body’s immunity levels and supports other cellular functions that are essential for growth and development. Folic acid is also an important nutrient, which is responsible for the proper growth of nervous tissue. Deficiencies of folic acid in women can lead to neural tubal defects in babies and most importantly folic acid is essential for proper cellular integrity.” D r . M a h a m i t h a w a concluded, “Making the choice to consume fortified foods and incorporate fortified staples such as wheat flour and rice into your daily diet can help boost your entire family’s overall health and well-being. Fortified foods help to ensure that your meals are balanced and rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Ensuring that you consume a balanced diet is one of the best ways to ward off non-communicable and lifestyle-related diseases. A healthy and balanced diet also enables your body to function at its best, both mentally and physically.”