It is world health day and the theme of this year is Health for everyone. Health can be defined as being free from illness or injury. Nutrition plays a big role in the contribution towards health. Yet nutritional needs are different for each individual. Our nutritional needs are based upon our gender, age, weight, height, ethnicity and health status. In South Africa we have general guidelines to lead us towards meeting our nutritional needs and have optimal health. This article will explore the South African Food-based Dietary Guidelines.
The South African food guide divides foods that should be consumed into seven groups that should be eaten regularly. The food groups are as follows:
- Starchy foods
- Vegetables and fruits
- Dry beans, lentils and soya
- Chicken, fish, meat and eggs
- Milk, maas, yoghurt
- Fat and oil
The food guide gives the following message that contributes towards health for everyone
Enjoy a variety of food. This will ensure that all of the macronutrients and micronutrients that your body needs will be met. Each food group has a function that contributes towards the normal physiology of your body.
Be active! This refers to all levels and forms of activity. You do not have to join a gym in order to be active. It can be as easy as taking stairs instead of an elevator. Being active will contribute towards better cardiovascular health and can also contribute towards maintain a healthy weight.
Make starchy foods part of most meals. Yes you heard right. Starchy foods contribute towards a healthy lifestyle. The key is to choose the right starches and focus on your portion sizes. Chooses starches that are high in fibre
Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit each day. Doing this will ensure that we consume enough vitamins and minerals which boosts our immune systems. It will also contribute towards our overall fibre intake.
Eat dry beans, lentils and soya regularly. The reason for this is that that legumes are good and affordable sources of protein. It also contains fibre which has a lot of benefits for our bodies
Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day. These are all good sources of protein but also of calcium which will contribute towards bone health.
Fish, chicken, lean meat and eggs can be eaten daily. These are our main protein sources. When choosing proteins try and limit your intake of processed proteins such as viennas ect. Also focus on choosing lean protein sources.
Drink lots of clean safe water. This is often an overlooked aspect that contributes towards health. Remember to make sure that the water is clean and safe. Get creative by adding lemon slices or cucumber to the water.
Use fats sparingly. Choose vegetable fats rather than hard fats. There is currently such confusion towards fats but this guideline makes it a lot easier to understand. In general fats that are known as our “good” fats do come from plants such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
Use sugar and foods and drinks high in sugar sparingly. Rather choose foods and drinks that are artificially sweetened, however these foods and drinks should still only be seen as treat. The ideal would be to eat wholesome foods and to drink water
Use salt and foods high in salt sparingly. This can be done by controlling how much salt and salt containing spices you add to your foods as well as checking nutritional labels.
These are general guidelines but by following these it will make a difference towards your health. Remember that individual needs do differ and these can be determined by a dietitian. Happy health day!