Tuesday, 24 June 2014

ON A GOOD DIET

“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.”  – Epicurus

It has become apparent from recently released data that Australia is one of the most obese nations on earth. The problem of obesity in children in particular, has caused an epidemic of childhood-onset type II diabetes mellitus. This has led to some legislation being introduced that attempts to control the food available to children in school cafeterias. Much of the problem resides at home, of course, and if children do not learn to eat well at home, controlling the school canteen will be only a minor component.

Despite massive amounts of money being spent on advertising on TV, newspapers and magazines, the message about healthy eating and obesity is not getting through to the general public and we as a nation are continuing to get fatter and fatter. Nutritionists try to drive home the point about simple rules regarding food, but the public are voting with their forks and keep on ordering take away meals. They are an easy solution, after all.

The “bad” foods we eat increase our risk of developing coronary heart disease (and heart attacks), high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, constipation, large bowel cancer, lung cancer, stomach and pancreatic cancer, liver disease, brain damage, strokes, breast cancer, osteoporosis, anaemia, and many other disorders.

So what are some simple rules about good eating habits? The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia has collected an enormous amount of data, reviewed numerous international publications and has received recommendations from invited experts and nutritionists in order to arrive at concise and easy to understand guidelines. In a nutshell, these are the “Ten Commandments” of good nutrition:

1) Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious fresh foods.
2) Eat plenty of whole grain cereals and multigrain, wholemeal breads.
3) Eat lots of fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits and lots of dishes with legumes: Beans, lentils, soya products, chick peas, split peas, etc.
4) Eat a diet low in fats, especially saturated fats.
5) Maintain a healthy weight by balancing food intake with a sensible exercise plan.
6) If you drink alcohol, avoid spirits and drink responsibly, with moderation (1-2 glasses of wine a day), with a “dry” day in between “drinking” days.
7) Eat sugar and sugar-containing foods in moderation.
8) Choose low salt foods and use added salt sparingly.
9) Encourage and support breastfeeding of infants.
10) Eat foods rich in calcium and rich in iron, especially if you are female.

As is obvious from the decalogue above, one may be a vegetarian or a meat eater and still adhere to the above rules. Lean meat is considered by many nutritionists to be an integral part of our diet, but many people nowadays are avoiding meat for a variety of reasons. This is acceptable and as long as a nutritionist is consulted, even vegans may enjoy good health and suffer no deficiencies of nutrients, even if they take no dietary supplements.

Eat well, be more active, live a healthier life, live longer and enjoy it more!

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