Healthy eating is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. As a result, it is important to make food choices that build a healthy balanced diet. The amount of food that can be eaten from each food group varies depending on individual age, gender and activity levels.
According to research by the SA Medical Research Council, the foods South Africans consume have changed in recent years with the average person’s diet containing less fiber, more saturated fat, higher salt content and more processed foods. Poor eating habits have consequently led to an increase in deaths related to chronic lifestyle diseases and an increasing number of obese adults and children.
Approximately 56% of South African females, 29% of adult men and 17% of children are overweight or obese. Six (6) million South Africans have high blood pressure/hypertension. A Quarter (25%) of the adult population have risk factors for high blood pressure – obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and a high sodium (salt) and low vegetable, legume and milk intake and hence a low potassium intake.
- A healthy diet helps protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer;
- Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are leading global risks to health;
- Healthy dietary practices start early in life – breastfeeding fosters healthy growth and improves cognitive development, and may have longer-term health benefits, like reducing the risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing NCDs later in life;
- Energy intake (Kilojoules) should be in balance with energy expenditure. Evidence indicates that total fat should not exceed daily limit intake to avoid unhealthy weight gain, with a shift in fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats, and towards the elimination of industrial trans-fat;
- Limiting intake of free sugars to less is part of a healthy diet;
- Keeping salt intake to less than 5 g per day helps prevent hypertension and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke in the adult population.
To keep yourself and your family healthy, ensure that your diet consists of a variety of foods from each of the food groups, in the correct amounts and according to your unique lifestyle needs. Leading a healthy lifestyle is all about making the right food choices and ensuring you include physical activity in your day to day routine. The key to maintaining a balanced and healthy diet is understanding the impact your food choices have on your body. In order to minimise your propensity for contracting a lifestyle disease, it is important that you are also aware of Guideline Daily Amounts or GDAs.