The festive season is here, which means we will be indulging in tasty treats from sugar-laden sweets to biscuits, cakes, and drinks – and with so many temptations, it’s hard for anyone to say no.
According to Nzama Mbalati, Programmes Manager at the Healthy Living Alliance, over the past 30 to 40 years, highly processed and unhealthy foods have become increasingly accessible and affordable, leading to a global increase in lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, especially in the poorest and most vulnerable communities and households.
Mbalati claims that the holiday season is a time when customers are susceptible to aggressive marketing campaigns by big food corporations that promote items that are flavourful but lacking in nutritious value.
“That’s why we strongly encourage consumers to focus on eating real, unprocessed foods over the upcoming holidays.”
The lack of clear or consistent food labelling makes it difficult to determine exactly what we are eating.
When ingredients are listed, they are frequently written in excruciatingly small print, making it nearly impossible for someone without a chemistry degree to decipher what they are.
Mbalati draws attention to the fact that the use of complicated terminology to describe the ingredients stated on foods not only conceals the excessive levels of sugar, salt, and fat in packaged food but hides the various chemicals required to keep the food's flavour and preserve it while in storage.
To keep food quality at the required level and maximise nutritional benefits, food preservation comprises a variety of food processing techniques.
The Food Additives and Child Health study revealed that at least more than 10 000 chemicals are allowed to be added to food in the US, either directly or indirectly, under the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the 1938 Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (Public Law 85-929).
There is also the issue of "healthwashing." Manufacturers are competing for market share in the health and wellness industry and making particular health claims as more consumers desire nutritious snacks.
Food products are frequently advertised as having "high protein" or "low fat." However, many of these claims are false.
Due to the lack of a centralised regulatory body for food labelling, it is easy for marketers to deceive consumers with partial truths that give them a false impression of the advantages of products.
You should instead pay attention to the side or back of the package. Essentially, everything on the front of a product is a sales pitch; the nutrition panel and ingredient list tell you what's inside.
High-processed foods are the most addictive, so people are drawn to them.
“This has a profound impact on children’s food preferences, consumption, and behaviours, and is leading to the expansion of our national waistline.”
Being overweight and developing obesity are key contributors to the prevalence of lifestyle diseases. Obesity, a chronic lifestyle disease itself, is closely linked to many other diseases. In South Africa, 68% of women, 31% of men, and 13.5% of children are overweight or obese.
Top tips to reduce your sugar intake
Pick up a fruit instead of a candy bar, cookie, or other sweet treats. Analyse the labels on food products. Pasta sauces and sandwich bread are two examples of unexpected areas where sugar can be found.
The labels of added sugars vary widely and are frequently difficult to understand. When reading labels, be on the lookout for words like corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose.
He goes on to say that you can still enjoy the delectable delicacies that the holiday season has to offer in moderation. However, try to choose foods that are a little processed, low in sugar, and full of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, as well as fish, seafood, olive oil, and other fish and vegetables.
Limiting your intake of alcohol and soft drinks means you’re cutting down on sugar because they can contain excessive amounts of sugar. Making good food choices this holiday season means you get to start the new year in excellent health.
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