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Why is eating well so important?

Since the dawn of medicine it has been known that the food we eat greatly influences our health. One of the founding fathers of western medicine, Hippocrates, aptly summarized this by stating: “Let food be your medicine”. What this tells us is that our diet is an important factor in preventing and treating many diseases.

We have great power in being able to make decisions every day about our health, through the choices we make about what we eat. It is well known that being overweight causes many diseases that can greatly affect your quality of life. Losing weight starts at the supermarket in the choices we make about what we eat.

The first step in managing many diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, is through lifestyle modifications, especially diet.

How to eat healthily

Here are some recommendations for what a healthy diet looks like:

  • Eat a variety of different foods
  • Make starchy foods (like maize and bread) part of every meal. Choose starchy food that does not have extra fat, sugar or salt in it. Don’t have a large portion of starch, rather include vegetables
  • Eat a lot of vegetables. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, which are things your body needs to be healthy. Eat vegetables in one or two meals every day. Cook vegetables with little or no added fat, sugar and salt.
  • Have fruit as a snack between meals.
  • Eat dry beans, split peas, lentils and soya often. This food will help your body stay healthy against diseases like heart disease, diabetes and different types of cancer.
  • Fish, chicken, lean (little fat) meat, or eggs can be eaten daily. You do not have to eat meat every day. Eating the fruit and vegetables mentioned above is healthy. Try not to eat too much cheese, because it has a lot of fat and salt.
  • Milk, maas or yoghurt is good to have.
  • Try to avoid processed foods, refined foods and fast foods

Drink lots of water

  • Drink 6-8 glasses of clean water throughout the day

Reduce how much salt, sugar, oil and butter you eat

Sometimes having too much of something can be bad.

  • Having too much salt every day can cause diseases like hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Eating too much fat can also be dangerous for your heart. Try not to cook with too much oil and butter.
  • Too much sugar every day can cause diabetes. Try not to have sugar in tea and coffee and try not to drink sugary drinks like cold drinks and fruit juice.

Eating healthily is also about how much food you are eating.

  • It is recommended to have breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday.
  • You should try to portion your food so that you are not hungry when the meal is done but you should also not overeat and feel “stuffed” after your meals.
  • You must try to limit snacking in between big meals and have everything in moderation.

What are ‘refined’ and ‘processed’ foods?

We mentioned above that you should try to avoid refined or processed foods. But this can often be quite a confusing term. Processed foods are foods which have been processed in some way to make the food last longer and/or taste better. In most cases, when we apply these methods of processing food, we lose out on the natural goodness those foods once possessed.

Let’s take white bread for example. The flour used to make white bread has been refined extensively. Normally, grain consists of many components, each with different nutritional benefits, including fibre, protein, vitamins and carbohydrates or sugars. To produce white flour, however, this grain is stripped to the part that contains a type of sugar. By eating white bread, you only consume a small part of a normally beautifully healthy grain. This example can be applied to anything in which this refined flour or sugar is used, such as pasta, cakes etc.

With regards to meat, it has been shown that processing natural whole meats to last longer in the form of viennas, polony and other processed meats, is greatly detrimental to your health. Processed meats preserved by unnatural means, such as high concentration of salt and sulphates. This form of meat too has been shown to cause heart disease and bowel cancers.

It is certainly easier to buy foods that last forever in your shelf or fridge, but this is not the natural way to consume food. But it is important to consider that in the long run, consuming these foods can cause a great burden on your life, by affecting your health.

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