PAHO offers tips for a healthy diet in 2019

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

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WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) –The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has urged Caribbean nationals to maintain a healthy and balanced diet that will provide many benefits into 2019 and beyond.

“What we eat and drink can affect our body's ability to fight infections, as well as how likely we are to develop health problems later in life — including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and different types of cancer,” said PAHO in statement.

“The exact ingredients of a healthy diet will depend on different factors, like how old and how active we are, as well as the kinds of foods that are available in the communities where we live,” it added.

But across cultures, PAHO said there are some common food tips for helping to lead healthier, longer lives.

“Our bodies are incredibly complex, and (with the exception of breast milk for babies) no single food contains all the nutrients we need for them to work at their best,” it said. “Our diets must, therefore, contain a wide variety of fresh and nutritious foods to keep us going strong.”

Concerning a daily diet, PAHO has urged Caribbean nationals to aim to eat a mix of staple foods — such as wheat, maize, rice and potatoes, with legumes, fresh fruit and vegetables, and foods from animal sources.

PAHO also recommends choosing wholegrain foods, like unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat and brown rice, stating that they are rich in valuable fibre and can help one feel full for longer.

In addition, PAHO urges lean meats “where possible, or trim it of visible fat”, and try steaming or boiling instead of frying foods when cooking.

For snacks, the health organisation recommends choosing raw vegetables, unsalted nuts, and fresh fruit rather than foods that are high in sugars, fats or salt.

PAHO said too much salt can raise blood pressure, “which is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke”.

“Most people around the world eat too much salt. On average, we consume double the WHO (World Health Organization) recommended limit of 5 grams (equivalent to a teaspoon) a day.

“Even if we don't add extra salt in our food, we should be aware that it is commonly put in processed foods or drinks, and often in high amounts,” it added.

PAHO said too much sugar is not only bad for one's teeth, “but increases the risk of unhealthy weight gain and obesity, which can lead to serious, chronic health problems.

“As with salt, it's important to take note of the amount of 'hidden' sugars that can be in processed food and drinks,” it said, stating that, for example, a single can of soda can contain up to 10 teaspoons of added sugar.

Overall, PAHO said drinking too much, or too often, increases immediate risk of injury as well as causies longer-term effects — like liver damage, cancer, heart disease and mental illness.

WHO advises that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, according to PAHO, adding that for many people, even low levels of alcohol use can still be associated with significant health risks.

PAHO warned against drinking alcohol if pregnant or breastfeeding; driving, operating machinery or undertaking other activities that involve related risks; if one has health problems which may be made worse by alcohol; if one is taking medicines which directly interact with alcohol; or if one has difficultiy controlling one's drinking.

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