Blog 2: Does a healthy diet act as a shield protecting you from chronic diseases?
We all have heard that “Health is wealth” and it is only a healthy body that is capable of a healthy mind which can manifest healthy thoughts to provide a healthy and meaningful life-giving happiness and purpose to our being. The journey of a healthy body starts right from the womb, passes through the childhood, attains puberty, reaches adulthood and after long years of enjoying the young age reaches the old age before meeting the final stage of life. This journey can be more enjoyable if a healthy body and a healthy mind is the companion. Healthy dietary practices start early in life – a mother to be by keeping healthy with a nutritious diet, feeds the baby in the womb and then breastfeeding fosters healthy growth and improves cognitive development. While growing up these healthy dietary practices protect you against many chronic NCDs, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
We all have been eating a variety of foods from various sources but at the same time taking care of consuming less salt, sugars, saturated and industrially-produced trans-fats are essential for maintaining a healthy diet.
Here is some useful information, based on WHO’s (World Health Organisation) recommendations for following healthy dietary practices and the benefits of doing so.
•Breastfeed babies and young children: A healthy diet starts early in life – breastfeeding fosters healthy growth and fosters longer-term health benefits such as reducing the risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing NCDs (Non-Communicable diseases) later in life. Feeding babies exclusively with breast milk is essential for a healthy diet.
•Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit: They are important sources of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, plant protein, and antioxidants. People with diets rich in vegetables and fruit face less risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
• Avoid wrong kinds of fat as it increases heart disease.
• For a healthy diet, reduce the intake of sugar. Go for fresh fruits instead of cookies. Avoid the intake of soft drinks.
•Reduce salt intake: Salt is an essential part of the food intake as a nutritionary ingredient as it supplements Na (Sodium) content but an excess of it is the decaying effect on tissue life and imbalance in the quality of blood content of the human body system. Keeping your salt intake to less than 5gm per day helps prevent hypertension and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke in the adult population.
A healthy diet helps to protect against malnutrition in all its forms. It helps in heart treatment and cancer treatment. Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are the leading global risks to health.
Energy intake (calories) should be in balance with energy expenditure. Fat should not exceed 30% of total energy intake. Intake of saturated fats should be less than 10% of total energy intake, and intake of trans-fats less than 1% of total energy intake, with a shift in fat consumption away from saturated fats and trans-fats to unsaturated fats and towards the goal of eliminating industrially-produced trans-fats.
Limiting the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake) is part of a healthy diet.
Keeping salt intake to less than 5 g per day (equivalent to sodium intake of less than 2 g per day) helps to prevent hypertension, and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke in the adult population (8).
Some of the practical advice on maintaining a healthy diet can be charted out as illustrated below:
The exact make-up of a diversified, balanced and healthy diet will vary depending on individual characteristics like age or lifestyle. For adults a healthy diet includes the following:
Fruit, vegetables, legumes (e.g. lentils and beans), nuts and whole grains (e.g. unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, and brown rice).
Salt consumption less than 5gm is advised. It should be iodized. It is beneficial in heart and cancer treatment.
One should go for unsaturated fats rather than saturated fats like fatty meat, butter, palm and coconut oil, cream, cheese or ghee. It is suggested that the intake of saturated fats be reduced to less than 10% of total energy intake and trans-fats to less than 1% of total energy intake.
Less than 5gm of salt (equivalent to about one teaspoon) per day. Salt should be iodized.
Fruit and vegetables: Eating at least 400 g of fruit and vegetables per day reduces the risk of cancer and other diseases.
Fat intake, especially saturated fat and industrially-produced trans-fat intake, can be reduced by:
-steaming or boiling instead of frying when cooking;
-replacing butter, lard, and ghee with oils rich in polyunsaturated fats, such as soybean, canola (rapeseed), corn, safflower, and sunflower oils;
-avoiding baked or fried foods
-replacing both saturated fats and trans-fats with unsaturated fats – in particular, with polyunsaturated fats.
High sodium intake and insufficient potassium intake contribute to high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Hence, reduce salt intake by:
-consuming less amount of salt or high-sodium condiments like soy sauce.
-avoiding salty snacks; and
-choosing products with lower sodium content.
Consuming a healthy diet throughout the life-course helps to prevent malnutrition in all its forms as well as a for heart and cancer treatment. However, increased production of processed foods, rapid urbanization, and changing lifestyles have led to a shift in dietary patterns. People should avoid eating food high in energy, fats, free sugars, and salt/sodium. They should opt for fruit, vegetables and other dietary fiber such as whole grains.