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Five ordinary foods that are packed with nutrition

Having a diverse diet is essential to ensure we are adequately nourished. However, you don’t need to look far to find nutritious, healthy food. Here are five different foods you can easily eat at home.

Find out how we’ve been supporting people around the world to produce these foods. 

Written by Joanna Francis

Millions of people go to bed hungry every night. This is why hunger is a key priority in Concern and why we work in the world’s poorest countries to tackle hunger and undernutrition. Eating a nutritious and diverse diet is important for everyone, from as young as six months, after being exclusively breastfed for the first six months. A less diverse and nutritious diet from six months onwards can have an unprecedented impact on a child’s physical and mental growth, reducing their ability to learn in school and reducing their earning potential as adults. At every stage of the life cycle, nutrition is essential for good health and wellbeing.

"Five a day"

Malnutrition, which includes both undernutrition and overweight, is now a global problem with one in three people affected in nearly every country. Over the past few years, the NHS has been campaigning for the UK public to eat five different fruit or vegetables a day to ensure we are eating a well-balanced nutritious diet to improve our health and wellbeing. Try these foods to help diversify your own diet and find out about the countries we work in.

Sweet Potato

Deli and her mother Monica from Zambia with the sweet potatoes Monica has grown. Photos: Gareth Bentley/Concern/Zambia/2014

Deli and her mother Monica from Zambia with the sweet potatoes Monica has grown. Photos: Gareth Bentley/Concern/Zambia/2014

Sweet potato is packed with vitamin A which has three important functions: (i) for growth and development, (ii) for the immune system and (iii) for rhodopsin, the pigment in the eye responsible for colour and low light vision. Concern promotes the growth of vitamin A biofortified sweet potatoes, especially for children, in places where vitamin A deficiencies are a serious health problem. Sweet potato is delicious, the leaves can also be consumed and it’s simple to cook too!

Farmers grow sweet potato as part of Concern’s Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) programme in Zambia

Avocado

Stanislas and his wife Clementine with the avocados they grow. Photos: Robin Wyatt/Concern/Rwanda/2015

Stanislas and his wife Clementine with the avocados they grow. Photos: Robin Wyatt/Concern/Rwanda/2015

Avocados are full of the good fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats) which are great choices for a healthy heart as they can help to lower blood cholesterol. As well as being a great source of the good fats, avocados contain many micronutrients such as vitamin A, and vitamin K which helps to maintain healthy blood and bones. They are also high in potassium and fibre, essential for a healthy and nutritious diet. Avocados are a fruit native to South America but can be grown in many different regions of the world.

We’re supporting families like Stanislas' in Rwanda grow and sell avocados as part of an income generating project.

Banana

 (left) Scholastic with the bananas she uses to make juice. Photo: Robin Wyatt/Concern/Rwanda/2015. (right) Bunches of bananas. Photo by Ian Ransley / CC BY 2.0

(left) Scholastic with the bananas she uses to make juice. Photo: Robin Wyatt/Concern/Rwanda/2015. (right) Bunches of bananas. Photo by Ian Ransley / CC BY 2.0

Bananas are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Bananas are a particularly good source of vitamin B6 which has many important functions; two of which are (i) to make antibodies which our body needs to fight disease and (ii) to make haemoglobin which carries oxygen around in our red blood cells to the tissues. Both the banana skin and the inner part can be eaten raw or cooked.

In Rwanda, Scholastic prepares bananas under soil and dried banana leaves as part of the process of making banana juice for sale. This is profitable work which Scholastic is benefiting from as part of Concern’s income generating programme.

Kale

Gudo Kiya holds a bunch of kale that she has picked. Photo: Gideon Mendel/Concern/Kenya/2012

Gudo Kiya holds a bunch of kale that she has picked. Photo: Gideon Mendel/Concern/Kenya/2012

Kale has been hailed as a superfood in the West, mainly because it is packed with carotene (also found in sweet potato), vitamin K, vitamin C, and is rich in calcium. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that keeps body tissue and cells healthy. Calcium is an important mineral as it helps to build and maintain strong bones and teeth as well as ensuring blood and muscles are working efficiently. Kale is extremely tasty and eating it is a great way to get many nutrients in one small helping.

In 2010, Concern worked with a local partner in Northern Kenya to set up a micro-irrigation programme where farmers, such as Gudo Kiya, grow kale.

Aubergine (Eggplant)

Catherine with the aubergines she grew. Photo: Gareth Bentley/Concern/Zambia/2014

Catherine working the field with her husband Chibala and holding the aubergines she grew. Photo: Gareth Bentley/Concern/Zambia/2014

Aubergine is grown for its edible fruit. It is a great source of dietary fibre (a type of carbohydrate) which is important for good digestion. Aubergine also contains vitamins B, potassium and minerals such as copper, magnesium and manganese; all of which are necessary for a healthy diet.

Catherine holds the aubergines she has grown as part of Concern’s RAIN programme in Zambia.

Do you eat these foods regularly? Tell us how you eat them in the comments below.

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