The consumption of foods is a very critical factor in the health of a human being. The health status of a person is a reflection of what food he or she is taking. Evidence from the World Health Organization shows that food intake is related to the development of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Also, the lack of regular physical activities or exercise is also a growing problem of many obese people in Europe and in most parts of the world. This paper discusses the case in Europe and assesses the effectiveness of Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FDBG) that are being pushed by the World Health Organization to be implemented in different nations. This includes discussing the characteristics of the information the FBDG must have in order to be effective to the people. This paper concludes that achieving healthy living through healthful eating accompanied by regular physical activities prevents diseases like NCDs and obesity.
The World Health Organization (2003) reports the increased incidents of NCD like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, hypertension, obesity, and type 2 diabetes in Europe. This report is linked with an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity among the Europeans.
In order to address the situation, the World Health Organization suggests a firm political commitment in enforcing sufficient nutrition policies to control NCD-related incidents. Through the inclusion of nutritious and affordable foods such as fruits and vegetables, can provide a solution to nutritional deficiencies. To be more specific, the nutrition goals for the population at the national level must be incorporated in the Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG). The FBDG must be published by the Ministry of Health in a way that people will understand them well. The World Health Organization (2003) also proposes that the FBDG must be included in the needs of the nation like securing the nutrition needed for the whole population and campaigning in the promotion of food safety and physical activity among the people. The implementation of the FBDG is more effective in the form of posters or food selection guides as suggested by WHO. The visuals must be able to guide the readers and users in choosing a diet that is sufficient in nutrients and consists of an increased amount of complex starches and dietary fibers and lower levels of fats, salts, and sugars. Other characteristics of the Food-Based Dietary Guidelines proposed by the World Health Organization are the following:
Foods that are Environment-Friendly. The guide should show the goal of endorsing food selections that are reliable in the preservation of natural resources. This can be in the form of utilizing local production for the local population. Imported and shipped goods contribute to air pollution due to increased travel. WHO stresses that the guidelines should not only focus on the nutrients alone but also on other important factors such as food production costs, processing packaging, shipment and transportation, storage, and marketing.
Nutritious, accepted, and cheap foods. The food guide must be “culturally inclusive” or culturally accepted and include foods that are available and are inexpensive but nutritious. The national eating patterns must be well observed and developed in the FBDG. (World Health Organization 2003, p. 6).
Well understood by all. The guide must be influenced according to educational principles which will make it more understandable to students of different educational levels.
Food hygiene. Food hygiene must also be promoted on the food guidelines which must be observed in food preparation and food storage. It is important to avoid food contamination and to keep food quality.
Exercise. The balance of food intake with physical activities should be emphasized to avoid cases of obesity in Europe. Obesity is the often cause of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and cancer. Recommendations for physical activities and the Body Mass Index range must be injected in the national FBDG.
Breastfeeding. The guide should also include the relevance of breastfeeding in healthy living among infants. This is to make breastfeeding a cultural norm in society especially in developed countries.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the main goal of the Dietary Guidelines is to transform knowledge on nutrients and other food components into an overall eating pattern that is attainable by the general public. This food guide is appropriate for people of different ethnic groups, vegetarians, and other groups. This also promotes the concept of a balanced diet or eating patterns for a variety of population groups.
Michelle Meadows (2005) cites several methods on inclining one’s eating habits in a healthy and right path:
Monitoring Food Intake. According to Cindy Moore, a nutritionist director, it is important to take a look at what and how much one consumes so that one can be able to make the adjustments needed.
Using the Nutrition Facts Label. By observing the percent Daily Value (%DV) on products being bought, one can make sure of the nutrients and other substances like fats, sodium he or she is getting. Meadows (2005) mentions lowering consumption of fatty substances and sodium while maintaining a high intake of fiber, potassium, calcium, iron, and Vitamins A and C.
Choosing Lean, Low-fat, or Fat-free Foods. This is an important guideline in purchasing meats like poultry, pork, and beef. Chicken without the skin, beef, and pork without the fat, and more fish are some examples of lean foods. Drinking low-fat kinds of milk is also another way of controlling fat intake.
Focusing on Fruits and Vegetables. The Dietary Guidelines suggest at least 2 cups of fruits and 2 and a half cups of vegetables on a 2000-calorie reference diet. Eating fruits on desserts and adding vegetables in meat servings are ways of incorporating them into one’s diet.
Decreasing Sodium and Increasing Potassium. Low sodium intake in the form of salt can avoid high blood pressure, stroke, heart and kidney diseases. According to Dietary Guidelines, around 2300 milligrams of salt or one teaspoon is recommended. Potassium in the form of sweet potatoes, orange juice, bananas, spinach, and tomatoes should be included more in the diet because it negates the effects of sodium in the bloodstream.
Having Regular Exercises. It is recommended by the Dietary Guidelines that a balance between food intake and physical activities must be attained. Thirty (30) minutes to sixty (60) minutes of energetic activity a day at most is advised for children and adolescents to avoid chronic diseases in the latter ages. Some of these activities are cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises to enhance flexibility and resistance exercises, or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.
An unhealthy diet combined with the absence of exercise or any form of physical activity endangers the health of an individual. As mentioned above, diseases related to the heart, blood circulation, kidney, and other physiological processes can be the result of imbalanced and bad eating habits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the Department of Health and Human Services, obesity is one primary cause of these diseases as the result of poor diet and lack of strenuous activities. Obesity is characterized by having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 and more. In the United States, the prevalence of having obesity among men and women is at approximately 30 percent or 1 out of 3 men or women. For children and adolescents, a recent survey by NHANES shows a 16.3 percent prevalence of being obese. Complications from obesity bring serious health diseases such as:
- coronary heart disease,
- cancer (colon, breast, endometrial),
- diabetes (Type II),
- high blood pressure,
- liver and gallbladder disease,
- gynecological problems (irregular menstruation, infertility),
- sleep apnea and respiratory problems. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Having a healthy and balanced diet and regular exercise are essential for having a longer and happier life. One way of being on the right track is following the Food-Based Guidelines which are recommendations from health experts on keeping the body in good condition. The guide highlights different healthy practices that every individual must be done in order to enjoy and appreciate the value of life on earth. Following the food guide does not require much money or effort, it is created in the simplest way for every person to understand and afford. Risks like NCDs and obesity are threats to the goal of living a full and satisfying life. This paper is able to show the benefits of healthful eating combined with regular physical activities and the risks if neglected. More importantly, the paper is able to prove that becoming a healthy individual prevents diseases like NCDs and obesity, and doing it is not a difficult task. The health guides such as the FBDG are not difficult to understand and follow. With the assistance of the local government and public health personnel, the knowledge of achieving healthy eating habits in the easiest and most affordable way is within everyone’s reach. Media involvement in the advertisement of healthy ways of living is another effective way of spreading knowledge to every citizen.
Based on a 2,000 calorie diet. 5 Percent of the Percent Daily Value (%DV) is considered low and 20 percent and above is high.
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