Almost sixty percent of adults in Europe are overweight or obese. According to the WHO, this has led to an alarming increase in diet-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer in recent years.
A guide to a healthy life
For this reason, the Austrian Academic Institute of Nutritional Medicine (ÖAIE) has developed ten contemporary commandments for a healthy diet based on scientific facts. According to ÖAIE President Prof. Kurt Widhalm, they are aimed at everyone. People with a problem with overeating or perceived malnutrition can benefit from them. Still, they are also suitable for healthy people to maintain their well-being and the planet’s.
1. Making life sustainable
A sustainable diet means food from organic, regional agriculture (see also tip 5). Processed and animal-based foods should be avoided. Plant-based foods and raw, unheated foods such as fruit and vegetables should form the basis of the diet due to their high nutrient density. It is also essential to prepare food as gently as possible to preserve nutrients.
A sustainable diet also avoids foods that are rich in additives. Preference is given to unpackaged or environmentally friendly packaged foods and agricultural products produced, processed and marketed under socially acceptable conditions. The focus is, therefore, on food with a high nutritional value that is as affordable as possible, suitable for everyday use and at the same time enjoyable and digestible.
2. Aim for an even energy balance to keep the weight off
This can be achieved through a healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet and sufficient exercise. In the next 30 years, obesity-related diseases will cause 90 million deaths and shorten life expectancy by three years. Around half of the population is overweight in 34 out of 36 OECD countries, and a quarter of people are obese.
The total calorie requirement for women is calculated as follows: (9.6 * weight in kg) + (1.8 * height in cm) – (4.7 * age in years) + 655.
The formula for a man is: (13.7 * weight in kg) + (5 * height in cm) – (6.8 * age in years) + 66.
3. Daily physical activity
According to the WHO, 70 percent of all diseases can be prevented by exercising and eating a healthy diet. You should, therefore, be active for 45 to 60 minutes at least three to six times a week. However, the actual duration and type of physical activity depend on age and personal ability. Almost every second, an Austrian dies too early because they overeat, consume a lot of alcohol, smoke or do too little exercise. For this reason, exercise and strength training are at the top of the guidelines concerning diet-related diseases (such as diabetes or hypometabolic disorders).
4. Cover your fluid requirements primarily with water and unsweetened teas, and avoid sweetened drinks as much as possible
The body needs water to prevent dehydration. However, the body loses fluids through urine, sweat, stool or breathing, for example. To keep the water balance in equilibrium, these losses must, therefore, be compensated for by fluid intake in the form of drinks and food. However, the daily fluid intake to promote or maintain health varies from person to person. It also depends on age, body composition, season and physical activity. However, here is a guideline: adults should consume 30 ml of fluid/day per kg of body weight: e.g. 60 kg * 30 = 1,800 ml. However, sugared drinks should be avoided, as studies have shown that they have an unfavourable effect on body weight and health. Ideally, the fluid requirement should, therefore, be met with water and unsweetened teas.
5. Choose food that is regional and seasonal
When choosing food, preference should be given to foods of regional origin and in season. Fresh, seasonal food from the region has short transportation routes. This protects the environment and contributes to a sustainable diet. It is also more nutritious and tastier.
6. Eat as plant-based a diet as possible
“plant-based diet” refers to various “alternative” diets, from vegan to vegetarian to flexitarian. A plant-based diet does not entirely exclude animal products. However, the focus is on plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, pulses, wholegrain products, nuts, seeds, mushrooms and high-quality vegetable oils, and plant-based alternatives to dairy and meat products. In addition to the positive effects on health, a plant-based diet also has a positive impact on the environment.
7. Limit your intake of processed sausage, meat products, and red meat.
Protein requirements are best met with local fish, lean dairy products, pulses, nuts, seeds and lean white meat. A maximum of 35 g of meat per day and a higher consumption of pulses, fruit, vegetables and nuts are recommended. Less saturated fatty acids, such as animal fats, should be consumed, but more monounsaturated (e.g., olive oil) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (e.g., omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in fish oil). If this advice is followed, around 20%, or 11.1 million deaths, could be prevented by 2030. It also contributes to climate protection.
8. Eat as little sugar as possible
High sugar consumption is a cause for concern and is associated with diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cancer. Specifically, the consumption of sugar-filled beverages is increasing globally. The WHO, therefore, recommends reducing sugar intake to less than 10 percent of total energy intake, i.e., to a maximum of 5 to 10 teaspoons per day.
9. Eat cereal products, especially in the form of high-fiber whole grain products
A Mediterranean diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grain products is recommended. Studies have shown that a high intake of fibre can have a positive effect on a longer life.
10. Generate as little food waste as possible
A “sustainable diet” also includes keeping food waste to a minimum. Some waste is avoidable, for example, due to incorrect or prolonged storage.
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