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Eat well to live well

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

Eating properly helps to reduce the risk of physical health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

A balanced, adequate and varied diet can help a person live a long and healthy life.

This is according to Nutrition Co-ordinator Natasha Kassen from the Northern Tygerberg Substructure of the Western Cape Department of Health.

Kassen said: “A balanced meal includes food from each food group. There should be vegetables, starch, protein and healthy fats on your plate.” 

She said a balanced diet and portion control also help a person maintain their ideal body weight.

“Vitamins and minerals in the diet are vital to boost immunity and healthy development and to protect the human body against diseases, in particular non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancer and skeletal conditions,” Kassen added.

Dr Tshepo Motsepe, the spouse of President Cyril Ramaphosa, said an estimated 3.61 million school children in South Africa are expected to be clinically obese by 2025.

Speaking at the 2019 Child Health Priorities Conference, she said factors such as the rising income levels in the working class, the adoption of Western-style eating habits and the rapid spread of consumerism contribute to the rise in obesity.

“The cheapest food is often the unhealthiest, and with limited disposable income and lack of access to nutritious food, often the easiest,” said Dr Motsepe.

Kassen said a good diet can be achieved through healthy meal plans that incorporate different food types.

To save on the budget for groceries, Kassen suggested buying fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season.

“Ready to eat cereals cost more than those you can cook like oats and maize meal.  Make your own sandwiches instead of buying store-made sandwiches. Alternative proteins such as beans and eggs are more affordable than meat, chicken and fish,” added Kassen.

She said different nutrient types have different effects on the body. “Carbohydrates give energy, proteins help the body to grow and repair itself, dairy products keep our bones and teeth healthy while fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins, antioxidants and fibre,” she explained.

“Drink a lot of water. Use fats sparingly. Use sugar and foods and drinks high in sugar sparingly. Use salt and food high in salt sparingly,” she advised.