Can good nutrition prevent diseases?

A healthy diet helps to prevent malnutrition and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer

Healthy, balanced and varied diet depends on the needs of each person, their age, sex, lifestyle, physical exercise and eating habits. However, the basic principles of healthy eating are always the same.

According to the World Health Organization, to have a healthy diet it is necessary:

  • Eat fruits, vegetables, legumes (for example, lentils, beans), nuts, and whole grains (for example, corn, millet, oats, wheat, or unprocessed brown rice).
  • At least 400 g (5 servings) of fruits and vegetables per day (2). Potatoes (potatoes), sweet potatoes (sweet potato, sweet potato), cassava (yucca) and other starchy tubers are not considered as fruits or vegetables.
  • Limit the consumption of free sugars to less than 10% of the total caloric intake (2, 5), which is equivalent to 50 grams (or about 12 level teaspoons) in the case of a person with a healthy weight that consumes approximately 2000 calories up to date. To obtain greater benefits, it is ideally recommended to reduce your consumption to less than 5% of the total caloric intake (5). The manufacturers, the cooks or the consumer add to the food most of the free sugars. Free sugar can also be present in honey’s natural sugar, syrups, and juices and fruit concentrates.
  • Limit the consumption of fat (1, 2, 3) to 30% of the daily caloric intake. Unsaturated fats (present, for example, in fish oil, avocados, nuts, or sunflower, canola and olive oil) are preferable to saturated fats (present, for example, in fatty meat, butter, palm and coconut oil, cream, cheese, ghee and lard) (3). Trans-type industrial fats (present in processed foods, fast foods, snacks, fried foods, frozen pizzas, cakes, cookies, margarines and spreads) are not part of a healthy diet.
  • Limit salt intake to less than 5 grams per day (approximately one teaspoon of coffee) (6) and consume iodized salt.

Can good nutrition prevent diseases?

There are different scientific studies that highlight the need to apply an approach that covers the prevention and control of chronic diseases. Based on the information available, WHO argues that unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and smoking are confirmed risk behaviors of chronic diseases.

Hypertension and obesity are risk factors for coronary heart disease, strokes and diabetes. Nutrients and physical activity influence gene expression and can define a person’s vulnerability to certain diseases.

The main biological and behavioral risk factors arise in the early stages of life and have negative effects over the years. This is why it is important to ensure a sufficient and adequate postnatal nutritional environment.

Improving diets and physical activity in adults reduces the risks of death and disability associated with chronic diseases. Prevention delays the progression of existing chronic diseases and decreases mortality and the burden of disease caused by these diseases.


World Health Organization

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