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Op-Ed: Three reasons why you need to watch what you eat

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines nutrition as the act or process of being nourished. Good nutrition is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. In its absence, you could never achieve good health.

In this brief article, I will explain why you and I need to consume a healthy diet.

A good diet keeps you in good shape mentally and physically

Eating the right foods in the right quantities is the best way to improve your physical and mental health. The Mental Health Foundation reported that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables was associated with feelings of well-being.

They also reported that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil supplemented with fish oil led to a reduction in depression among participants in a study. 

This benefit was sustained for as long as six months after the diet was discontinued. These feelings of well-being can be linked to specific nutrients such as essential fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Future articles will expand further on this topic in detail.

Eating a nutritious diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and protein will help maintain healthy body weight.

A lot of people spend lots of money on gym membership and ‘magic portions’ to achieve an ideal body weight. Being physically active, including through the gym sessions, is certainly very important. However, if done in isolation it will not work. One needs a healthy diet to accompany a tailored physical activity regimen to achieve and maintain their ideal weight.

I will address the many ‘magic portions’ in future but for today my advice is that whatever you take in should be okayed by a qualified professional and tailored to your specific physical and medical condition.

A good diet keeps you healthy

As far back as 400 BC the link between health and diet had been noted and documented. Hippocrates, widely regarded as the father of modern-day medicine is quoted as having said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

This quote highlights how central diet is to our health. You not only need food, you need it in the right quantity and quality. Get it wrong and you have problems. Our hospitals are crowded with typical examples of this principle in action. If you eat less than you need you are vulnerable to the ‘classics’ like kwashiorkor and marasmus.

Conversely if you consume too much of the foods we see on our shelves and you will be sitting on the same hospital bench seeking care for conditions previously associated with ‘affluence’ such as hypertension and heart disease.

I hope to expand more in future articles but our take-away for today is we should balance everything. Again, this is not a new concept, a respected professor of toxicology cites an ancient Latin proverb ‘in medio virtus’, which loosely translates to ‘virtue is in the middle’. Take heed!

A good diet saves you money

There is a common saying that goes ‘put your money where your mouth is’. I know it means something else but from today onwards it should be on your mind when you eat. Because what you eat can cost you, now and in future.  Nearly 71% of global deaths each year are caused by Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and over 35% of these deaths are considered premature by the World Health Organization.

Tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets all increase the risk of dying from NCDs. Even if you don’t die from NCDs you will live a live of reduced quality, which can be very expensive. I will use a simple example that to illustrate this point.

Most hypertension cases can be linked to a high intake of sodium, a common ingredient in most processed foods. The current recommended treatment for mild hypertension in Zimbabwe costs US$4 at my local pharmacy for a month’s supply. If you stay on this treatment for 20 years you will need to fork out $960 for the medication excluding transport, consultations and medical procedures and admissions associated with the condition.

That alone should illustrate how expensive poor nutrition can be to you. There are other factors that I will not go into such as the cost of care by your family, lost time at work, the potential complications, the cost to the state etcetera.

In summary, I hope this piece highlights why it’s in everyone’s interest to watch what they eat. In future articles I will expand further on these and other issues. Questions and contributions are welcome.

If you need individual advice on your diet feel free to drop me an email (nyathictsn@gmail.com) and I will point you to the closest health professional.   

Craig Nyathi is a Nutritionist registered with the Allied Health Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe. He has over ten years’ experience practicing public health nutrition in Zimbabwe. He writes in his personal capacity.

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4 Comments

  1. It’s very insightful and an easy read that anyone can comprehend the context and it tones down the jargon that similar articles seem to be obsessed with.

  2. This article is very insightful and I loved reading it! Thank you so much for sharing with us. I can’t wait for more articles from you. It would be a pleasure to read.

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