By: Ella Mthethwa

You ARE what you eat – REALLY!!!

Very often people say this without much thought put into it..,however it is true! As individuals we are a reflection of our lifestyle, our habits – the BALANCE between what we eat and how physically active we are. Our physical outer appearance and what we present to the world is a reflection of what we eat (in the public eye and in our private spaces) and how physically active we are. We are the masters and CEOs of our bodies and as such our bodies respond to the decisions we take and ultimately the kind of lifestyle we decide to adopt, which includes what we eat, what we drink and how active we are. This is the basic…

The State Of The Nation – THE CONTRAST

As simplistic as this equation might seem, the state of the world today in terms of Health and Nutritional status shows a picture that warrants major concern. The incidence of lifestyle related diseases is on the up and up, with South Africa following suite. According to the World Health Organization, by 2014 the incidence of overweight had increased globally to 39% whilst the incidence of obesity had increased to 13% respectively, which has increased the risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure)…
South Africa is not far off. with the  highest overweight and obesity rate in Sub Saharan Africa. According to the latest statistics, the rate of overweight and obesity is at an alarming 70% amongst women and approximately 33% amongst men! Of major concern is that SA as a nation is raising children with similar weight issues from an early age which predisposes them to the very same issues of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension (high blood pressure), joint pain and certain types cancers. THIS CHAIN MUST STOP!…
Whilst health workers juggle with the issue of over nutrition, one cannot ignore the existence of under nutrition, which exists particularly amongst young children. The two are equally important and need urgent attention from mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, teachers, neighbours, ALL OF US…as a support to existing government intervention and programmes. We ALL have a role to play in improving the health status of our country.

Back to Basics – The BALANCE

A number of factors have contributed to the SA situation such as the processing of foods, overindulgence, whilst reducing the amount of activity, which has disturbed the BALANCE. 
The rule of nature is such that the movement of an individual’s weight is determined by the relationship between their physical activity and nutritional intake. If your nutritional energy intake is EQUAL to the energy expended during regular activity and/or exercise (physical activity) then your weight is maintained. If your energy intake is BELOW the energy expended then you LOSE weight, however if your energy intake is ABOVE your energy expended then you will GAIN weight. Therefore it is important to understand your health and nutritional status so that you can follow a programme suitable for your needs. 

Tips for Getting Started

Know Your Status – Go for a health check at least once a year, which should include an assessment of your Body Mass Index, a measure of how your weight rates in relation to your height. A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. In the bid to curb the endemic of obesity and lifestyle diseases, there are various avenues that have become available for an individual to have a check up; namely clinics, public hospitals, health outreaches, corporates (Wellness Programmes), wellness clinics and pharmacies amongst others.  
Eat 3 Regular Balanced Meals – Eat foods that represent the different food groups that our bodies need to function properly, depending on the individual needs, ie Water, Starchy Foods, Vegetables and Fruit, Legumes, Milk & Dairy Products, Meat, fish & eggs plus Fats & Oils.  According to the latest SA Food Guide a good combination should deliver on the nutrients that the body needs to function ie carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins. 
Do Not Skip Breakfast – Yes, breakfast IS the most important meal of the day where the overnight “fast” is broken. A good breakfast sets the scene for a productive day (mentally and physically) and helps to avoid excessive binging later to make up for the meal that has been missed. 
Eat More Fruit and Vegetables – Each individual should aim to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Variety is key in order to get a good spectrum of vitamins and minerals plus the added benefit of fibre. Eat at least one orange or yellow and 1 green vegetable or fruit especially during your main meals.
Drink enough water – The human body is made up of approximately 66% of water some of which needs to be replenished during the course of a day as the body loses some during metabolism and in fluids such as sweat and tears. Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water per day. 
Limit the intake of salt and sugar – Sugar and salt are known to enhance the taste of many a dish, however consistent, high intake can increase the risk of getting these lifestyle diseases. An average adult should aim for 4 – 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. When it comes to salt, it is advisable to avoid use of salt at table however one can substitute salt with flavourful herbs, salt-free spices during meal preparation. Watch out for food items with hidden sugars and salts such as processed foods with a high salt content – read the labels!
Limit the intake of fat – When it comes to fat it is important to look at the quality and quantity of fats and oils used. Limit the amount of fat used during preparation to the bare minimum eg cut out any visible fat before cooking and limit frying, especially deep fat frying in preparation – use methods such as boiling, steaming and grilling of foods. Use the “good” fats such as olive oil, canola oil tub margarine and eat foods such as avocado, fish (eg salmon, sardines, pilchards) and nuts such as peanuts and almonds (in controlled amounts).
Limit the consumption of alcohol – Alcohol is primarily a source of “empty calories” – giving the body energy however it supplies no other nutrients. One can survive throughout their Healthy Living journey without alcohol however those who drink must do so responsibly. It is advisable to have a meal before consuming alcohol and not to exceed beyond 2 drinks (female) and 3 drinks (male).
Be Active – Move…it is advisable to exercise at least 4 times a week, however increasing activity is by no means just confined to exercising. Children should be encouraged to spend less time in sedentary mode in front of the television and more time being active and playing outside. For adults, there are many opportunities in a day increase activity eg taking the stairs instead of the lift at work. 
The path to a Healthy Lifestyle and healthy nation needs all and sundry to PAY ATTENTION and ACT NOW. This journey to a healthy South Africa starts within each and everyone’s home and sphere of influence…start your journey TODAY.