It’s difficult to imagine what could go wrong even when you are eating and exercising right. One common issue that people face despite eating right is “hidden hunger.” And if you have never heard about it in the past, you might be wondering what is hidden hunger? In short, even when you are taking care of the number of calories you are consuming, it is still possible to miss out on consuming adequate nutrients for your body. In this article, we will explore more about hidden hunger and the various measures that can be taken in order to avoid it.
What is Hidden Hunger?
Hidden hunger occurs when your body is deficient in certain micronutrients even after getting appropriate calorie-rich food. While you may be eating enough calories throughout the day, you might not be getting all the micronutrients that you need. These deficiencies can lead to serious health problems if you don’t work on hidden hunger. Hidden hunger is known as hidden because it doesn’t actually make you hungry. In fact, you might not even notice nutrition deficiency for some time. But, the long-term effects of a lack of micronutrients can create serious health issues and cause irreversible effects on your health.
Role of Micronutrients
The human body works by an amalgamation of complex processes and it needs a variety of nutrients to sustain its proper functioning. Nutrients majorly consist of two parts known as macronutrients and micronutrients. We will focus on the importance of micronutrients here in this article.
Micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals. Most of these nutrients are present in the food you eat since your body requires them only in smaller quantities. Therefore, it is highly important to consume nutrition-rich food in order to get all the essential micronutrients.
Functions of Different Micronutrients
There are a lot of micronutrients that your body needs from time to time to perform the necessary bodily functions. While all of them are equally important, some nutrient deficiencies are very rare in the common population. Hence, we will look at the most common and significant micronutrients and their functions to understand their importance in the body.
Vitamin A: Helps in good vision, growth, cell division, and reproduction. Sources of food include eggs, cheese, spinach, broccoli, fish, etc.
Vitamin D: Helps in proper absorption of calcium, providing immunity from certain diseases, and health of bones and teeth. Sources of food include oily fish, egg yolks, fortified foods, mushrooms, etc. However, only food sources are not enough to get adequate Vitamin D for the body. Sunlight is the best source for getting enough sunlight, so try to get outdoors often and simultaneously make sure to not overexpose yourself to the harmful UV rays of the sun.
Calcium: Helps in maintaining healthy bones, blood clotting, and regulating muscle contractions and nerve processes. Sources of food include green leafy vegetables, chia seeds, yogurt, lentils, beans, etc.
Iodine: Helps in regulating the function of the thyroid hormone, and brain development during pregnancy. Sources of food include seaweed, iodized salt, dairy, eggs, tuna, etc
Zinc: Helps in cell division, growth, healing of wounds, and other nerve functions. Sources of food include legumes, shellfish, seeds like hemp, flax, pumpkin, whole grains, etc.
Iron: Helps in creating hemoglobin, regulating hormones, and providing oxygen to different parts of the body. Sources of food include beans, lentils, fortified cereals, spinach, nuts, etc.
Why is Hidden Hunger a Serious Issue?
Around 2 billion people worldwide are affected by micronutrient deficiency and the majority are children. And yet, most people are not making any efforts towards improving micronutrient deficiency. In fact, hidden hunger not only affects the malnourished but even the obese.
As you can guess by now, hidden hunger isn’t noticeable in a short period of time which makes it an even bigger issue. Instead, you may get to know about hidden hunger only when it leads to serious health conditions that can have adverse effects and might even lead to death in some cases.
One thing to keep in mind is that overdosage of some micronutrients can also be hazardous to one’s health.
Symptoms of Hidden Hunger
Although there are times when a deficiency may go unnoticed, there can be instances where people experience some symptoms related to a certain micronutrient deficiency. We have already discussed some of the common deficiencies that people tend to face. And here, we will look at the symptoms which can indicate which nutrients you should be focusing on:
Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency
Night blindness, stunted growth, skin irritation, frequent infections, fertility issues, and hair loss.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
Increased risk of heart diseases, fatigue or tiredness, low immunity, bones and back pain, and bone loss.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
Low bone density, muscle ache, and fatigue.
Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency
Hypothyroidism, goiter, cognitive problems, and heart-related issues.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
Low immunity, loss of appetite, hair loss, diarrhea, and decrease in sense of taste and smell.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
Pale skin, cold hands and feet, weakness or dizziness, brittle nails, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
These are just some of the symptoms that people face when they are facing micronutrient deficiencies. Make sure to consult your doctor before coming to any conclusion about your health.
Causes of Hidden Hunger
The above symptoms can lead to dangerous results over a longer period of time if not taken care of. Hence, it is important to know causes of hidden hunger and make amends to improve quality of life. Below you will find the common causes that lead to the deficiency of micronutrients and hidden hunger:
- Poor Diet: A diet is considered poor when it lacks food sources of essential nutrients required for the body. You might get certain micronutrient deficiencies if your diet primarily consists of staple food like rice, maize, wheat, etc.
- Inadequate Absorption of Nutrients: Even if you are consuming the proper dosage of the essential nutrients it is possible that your body is not absorbing them adequately. This can happen because of some infection, inflammation, or a medical condition that can hinder the process of absorption.
- Highly Processed food: All highly processed foods like ready-to-eat noodles, sugary drinks, and deep-fried street food only satisfy your hunger by being calorie-rich but have little to no nutritional value in it. And having these for a longer period of time can create hidden hunger.
How to Overcome Hidden Hunger?
After being familiar with the causes, you need to make changes to your lifestyle to eradicate these deficiencies and prevent chronic diseases. Below we have provided a few solutions to decrease the chances of deficiencies:
- Diverse Diet: The most effective way to get all the essential micronutrients is by consuming a variety of food items and including diversity in your meals. And the MyPlate tool seems the most useful in terms of creating an eating pattern that can help in preventing hidden hunger and lead to a healthier life in the long term.
- Fortified Foods: Fortification is a method of embedding nutritional value to foods majorly including the staple foods like rice, wheat, maize, etc. which are very low in nutritional value. This can help in getting the required micronutrients which will help in completing the daily nutrition intake.
- Enhance Knowledge about Nutrition: Although nutrition is a vast subject, you should be equipped with the basic knowledge to make better and healthier choices. But, make sure to read from credible sources and consult a professional before making drastic changes to your diet.
The above measures can help in eradicating hidden hunger. This can help in preventing so many diseases and disorders that can help you in leading a quality life.
We hope we helped you in getting more aware of hidden hunger and we aim to explore more such topics in the future to enhance your knowledge of health and nutrition. Make sure to leave your thoughts and comments down below.