Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, obesity, and cognitive impairment are the leading causes of death and disability worldwide.
Although there are other established genetic and environmental contributors to NCD risks, a modifiable lifestyle plays a vital role at an individual level [1, 2]. Dietary choices also contribute to the risk of developing inflammation, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and overweight/obesity.
All the risks mentioned above increase diseases associated with severe morbidity and mortality, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer . The marked rise in chronic NCDs links to global dietary patterns that are becoming increasingly westernized . Nowadays, diets are characterized by high saturated fats, fatty and processed meats, refined grains, salt, and sugars but lack fresh fruits and vegetables.
WHO recognizes the importance of the diet, and the Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases include strategies to address unhealthy diet pattern. Recommended dietary changes include limiting saturated and trans-fats, balancing energy intake, consuming unsaturated fats, increasing fruits & vegetable intake, and limiting the intake of salt & sugar.
Elements of a Healthy Diet and Benefits
A healthy diet contains macronutrients in appropriate proportions to support energetic and physiologic needs. This must provide sufficient micronutrients & hydration to meet the body’s physiologic needs. Macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats provide the energy necessary for the cellular processes required for daily functioning. Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are required in small amounts for normal development, growth, metabolism, and physiologic functioning.
Carbohydrates: They are the primary energy source in the diet and are found in abundance in fruits, legumes, grains, and vegetables. Whole grains are preferred over processed grains as the latter are stripped of germ and bran, resulting in lower fiber and micronutrients content. Studies have linked that increased whole-grain intake to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and decreased mortality risk due to these diseases. Vegetables & fresh fruits also supply energy & dietary fiber, which promotes positive effects on gastrointestinal function, cholesterol levels, and glycemic control.
Proteins: Dietary proteins are a source of energy & amino acids. These are derived from both animal and plant sources. Adequate dietary protein intake is important to maintain lean body mass throughout life. In adults, protein is vital to prevent age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass, preserve bone mass, reduce fracture risk, improving strength and functional status.
Fats /lipids: A primary structural component of cellular membranes and sources of cellular energy, dietary fats fall into four categories: monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans-fats. Unsaturated fats are found in various foods, including many plant-derived oils, fish, nuts, and seeds, whereas animal products contribute a more significant proportion of saturated fats .
Macronutrients: Although required in trace amounts compared with macronutrients, micronutrients are necessary for average growth, physiologic functioning, metabolism, and cellular integrity. Vitamins and nutrients play a vital role in health; e.g., Vitamin K is beneficial for the health and nervous systems. The shift from processed from whole foods, refined foods has reduced the micronutrient quality of the modern Western diet . Read here how processed food affects your mental health. Vitamin and mineral inadequacies have been implicated in cellular aging and late-onset disease, as scarcity drives chronic metabolic disruption. Thus, adequate dietary intake of micronutrients is suggested to reduce the risk of age-related diseases. Learn more about the health risks associated with processed foods and the alternatives in the market.
Water: Being the body’s principal component, water constitutes the majority of lean body mass and total body weight. Water provides hydration and carries micronutrients, trace elements, and electrolytes . Drinking water supplies 20% of the daily intake of magnesium and calcium . Our understanding of water requirements and water’s impact on health and disease is limited. The global increase in intake of high-calorie beverages has refocused attention on the importance of water to maintain health and prevent disease.
Improvisation of Diet:
Reduce Consumption of Soda and Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
WHO recommended that added sugar accounts for less than 10% of total daily energy intake, and the intake level should be lower than 5% in exceptional circumstances. Added sugars are disaccharides, monosaccharides, and syrups added to foods when they are prepared. The primary sources of added sugar are sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, starch syrup, syrup, honey, and fruit juice concentrate. Sugar-sweetened beverages must be abandoned, including drinks such as vitamin drinks, soda, energy drinks, and coffee. Here is more on how energy drinks can lead you to fatal conditions or kill you!
In comparison to a western diet, healthier alternatives are plant-based foods. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. The Mediterranean and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) dietary patterns reduce risks of NCDs ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer. Better insights are needed to integrate these healthy nutritional and lifestyle choices into daily living to make healthy eating accessible, achievable, and sustainable.
Patients with hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular disease must discuss their diet with a physician. Patients treated for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension need to pay extra attention to dietary choices. Single-nutrient diets such as the LCHF diet can harm disease management with uncontrolled diabetes, heart, or kidney patients. Thus, the rule is to have these patients maintain a balanced diet & individually plan customized diet therapy plans.
It is said, we become what we eat. Eating clean and healthy food is important to live a life free from diseases. There have been instances that show how big brands feed you poison and hazardous ingredients in the past. It is important that, as consumers, we be aware of the food and products that are marketed to us. We need to know what we are consuming, and going that way must choose to stay close to nature and natural things.
A scare is commonly scene in cancer patients. They quickly become more conscious on what to eat or not, which may lead to a phobia of food. Patients lose weight rapidly and don’t get enough nutrition, because they simply do not know what they CAN still eat! So here is a list of food, people with cancer can eat, especially for those losing interest & having faded appetites.
In the end, health is a state of equilibrium of the human body with oneself, which is inseparably linked to the surroundings. So, live, act and think accordingly because a happy mind is a place where health starts from!
References and Sources:
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