What foods are healthy and which are not?

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The German Nutrition Society (DGE) has revised its Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG). Plant-based foods should be included more than ever before. In line with the motto “Colourful and healthy”, nuts and pulses should be included in the daily, climate-conscious menu alongside vegetables.
The recommendations are based on a newly developed mathematical optimisation model. What is new is that, besides recommending a healthy diet, it also considers aspects such as sustainability, environmental impact, and regular eating habits.

“Change your diet now!” “If we want to eat healthily and protect the environment at the same time, we need to change our diet now,” says DGE President Bernhard Watzl.

“Those who eat mainly fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, nuts and vegetable oils are not only protecting their health. A plant-orientated diet is also good for the environment.”

Meat consumption has a negative impact on the environment. On the other hand, the production of animal-based foods such as meat and dairy products has a greater impact on the environment, and high meat consumption is associated with a higher risk of developing certain diseases.

The recommendations in detail:

  • Drinking tap water is a fresh, safe, and readily available food. Sweetened and alcoholic drinks are not recommended. You should drink at least 1.5 litres a day.
  • Fruit and vegetables are still the most important group in terms of quantity. The recommendation is to eat five portions of fruit and (seasonal) vegetables a day, as they provide minerals, fibre and plenty of vitamins.
  • Pulses such as peas, beans and lentils are emphasised more strongly with a separate recommendation.
  • Nuts also provide essential fatty acids and are good for heart health. Recommendation: a small handful daily
  • The wholemeal variety is best for cereal products such as bread, pasta, rice, and flour. Wholemeal foods contain more vitamins and minerals than white-flour products. The fibre in whole grains reduces the risk of many diseases.
  • Vegetable oils are rich in essential fatty acids and vitamin E. For example, rapeseed oil and margarine are favoured. Walnut, linseed, soy, and olive oil are also recommended.
  • Milk and dairy products provide protein, calcium, vitamin B2 and iodine in particular and support bone health. If plant-based milk alternatives are used, attention should be paid to the supply of calcium, vitamin B, and iodine.
  • Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring provide valuable omega-3 fatty acids. Sea fish, such as cod or redfish, also contain iodine. Recommendation: fish on your plate once or twice a week.
  • Meat contains readily available iron as well as selenium and zinc. Too much beef, pork, lamb, and goat meat, and especially sausages, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.
  • Eating 300 grams of meat and sausage and one egg a week, for example, a breakfast egg is sufficient.
  • Sugar, salt and fat are often “invisible” in processed foods such as sausage, pastries, confectionery, fast food and convenience products. Eating a lot of these foods increases the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Even small changes to your daily diet are a step in the right direction—towards a healthier and more environmentally friendly diet, emphasises the DGE. It also advises people to take their time when eating. Eating slowly and consciously promotes a feeling of satiety.
  • Sporting activities are also recommended to maintain bone health and prevent obesity and illness.
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