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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Do You Have A Healthy Diet?

An unhealthy diet is one of the major risk factors for a range of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and other conditions linked to obesity. Specific recommendations for a healthy diet include: eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains; cutting down on salt, sugar and fats. It is also advisable to choose unsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids. Improving dietary habits is a societal, not just an individual problem. Therefore it demands a population-based, multisectoral, multi-disciplinary, and culturally relevant approach.
Consuming a healthy diet throughout the life-course helps prevent malnutrition in all its forms as well as a range of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and conditions. But the increased production of processed food, rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles have
led to a shift in dietary patterns. People are consuming more foods high in energy, saturated fats, trans fats, free sugars or salt/sodium, and many do not eat enough fruit, vegetables and dietary fibre such as whole grains.
The exact make-up of a healthy, balanced diet will vary depending on the individual needs (e.g. age, gender, lifestyle, degree of physical activity).

For adults 

A healthy diet contains:
  • Fruits, vegetables, legumes (e.g. lentils, beans), nuts and whole grains (e.g. unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, brown rice);
  • At least 400 g (5 portions) of fruit and vegetables a day (2). Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and other starchy roots are not classified as fruits or vegetables;
  • Less than 10% of total energy from free sugars (2, 5) equivalent to 50g (or around 12 level teaspoons), but possibly less than 5% of total energy for additional health benefits (6). Most free sugars are added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and can also be found in sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates;
  • Less than 30% of total energy from fat (1, 2, 3). Unsaturated fats (e.g. found in fish, avocado, nuts, sunflower, canola and olive oils) are preferable to saturated fats (e.g. found in fatty meat, butter, palm and coconut oil, cream, cheese, ghee and lard) (3). Industrial trans fats (found in processed food, fast food, snack food, fried food, frozen pizza, pies, cookies, margarines and spreads) are not part of a healthy diet;
  • Less than 5 g of salt (equivalent to approximately one teaspoon) per day (7) and use iodized salt.
Infants and young children
In the first 2 years of a child’s life, optimal nutrition reduces the risk of dying and of developing NCDs. It also fosters better development and healthy growth and development overall. 
Advice on a healthy diet for infants and children is similar to that for adults but these elements are also important.
  • Infants should be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months of life.
  • Infants should be continuously breastfed until 2 years and beyond.
  • From 6 months of age, breast milk should be complemented with a variety of adequate, safe and nutrient dense complementary foods. Salt and sugars should not be added to complementary foods.


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