The quality of nutrition has grave importance since 70-80% of possibly lethal chronic diseases is linked to unhealthy nutrition. To eat healthily is crucial at every age. The role of a balanced diet is undisputable in maintaining physical and mental health, optimal growth and healthy aging.
According to data of the World Health Organization (WHO), non-contagious chronic illnesses caused the death of approximately 38 million people in a year which is 70% of all cases. Amongst those, 46% was the consequence of cardiovascular, 22% of cancerous diseases. In addition, diabetes caused 1,5 million of deaths.
Hungary is no different in the incidence of the so-called diseases of civilization. 65% of the adults are overweight or obese and 2-3 of 10 children have some excess weight. The cause of death in half of the cases are cardiovascular illness (e.g. stroke, heart attack), and cancer in one fourth of the cases. The cautiously estimated number of diabetes patients is 7-800.000, but with not-diagnosed cases it may reach a million. These phenomena have basically four lifestyle causes: unhealthy nutrition, inactivity, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
The recommendations for a modern diet have great importance in improving the health of the population. With the proper recommendations, results of nutritional researches may become understandable to all members of the population and an easily applicable way to create a balanced daily diet routine can be provided. The first official Hungarian dietary recommendation of 1987 was the result of joint work of the Complex Committee on Food Science of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the National Institute of Food and Nutrition and the Hungarian Society of Nutrition.
This first recommendation was followed by two, non-official ones. In 1996 the dietary recommendation of the so-called Heart Friendly Programme was published. In 2004 a proposal under the umbrella of the National Public Health Programme was prepared by the National Health Development Institute and the National Institute of Food and Nutrition with the support of the College of Internal Medicine. These recommendations are usually illustrated with some easily understandable picture. The suggested rules should help people to an eating habit that offers the proper nutritional value, improves health and helps to decrease the risk of chronic illnesses. Recommendations are useful in education and health service as well, since they facilitate the understanding of credible information.
The latest Hungarian dietary recommendation was created by the Hungarian Dietetic Association. Okostányér® (meaning: Smart Plate) offers nutritional advice on basic food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, milk and dairy products, meat, fish and egg). It also draws attention to the ideal fluid intake and advocates the reduction of fat, sugar and salt intake. The system therefore gives recommendations on the daily menu. Since regular physical activity is an essential part of healthy lifestyle, proposed amount of exercise also took place in the chart.
Dietary recommendations by the WHO
In the recommendation published by the WHO not only the daily consumed energy amount, but also the ratio of macronutrients gets elaborated. 15-30% of the proposed energy intake is from fat, 55-75% from carbohydrates and 10-15% from proteins.
Energy content of the macronutrients per gram is the following (1 kcal=4,2 kJ):
- fat 9,3 kcal (39kJ);
- carbohydrates 4,1 kcal (17,2 kJ);
- proteins 5,4 kcal (22,2 kJ).
In common medical practice, estimates for the energy requirement of a person are used instead of calculating one. E.g. a man of 70 kgs who does light physical work needs approximately 2800 kcal per day, while a woman of 60 kgs with sedentary lifestyle needs 2200 kcal per day.
Variability and moderation are both key factors in a balanced diet, as well as regularity. Therefore, 3-5 meals are recommended daily and the avoidance of extreme diets is advised. The balance of energy between food and drinks consumption and release by regular physical activity also has great importance.
Eating 400-600 grams of vegetables and fruits in the course of the day are endorsed, too. Additionally, no more than 30 grams of unsalted seeds and nuts should be eaten per day, and meat products and organ meats should be eaten only rarely and in small amounts.
Other recommended food groups include:
- whole grains, legumes;
- sea fish, lean meat;
- low-fat milk and dairy products;
- vegetable based proteins (nuts, seeds, dry legumes);
- vegetable based fats instead of animal fat.
The recommendation also warns against food and drinks with sugar content. It is advised to consume them only rarely and in small amounts.
The maximum daily intake of salt is 5 grams. The energy from saturated fat (animal fat) should not be more than 10% of daily energy consumption, transfats not more than 1%, and cholesterol no more than 300 mg. If you buy food, always check the nutritional values on the label.
The recommendations also advices using low-fat kitchen techniques, hence it is not suitable for most of the traditional Hungarian meals. High-fat meals, however, should be avoided, cooking vegetables without thickening and lean meats is preferable.
Diseases related to unbalanced food consumption
Diabetes: if you have diabetes decrease the consumption of carbohydrates with high glycemic index and avoid sugar overall. The timing of meals and the carbohydrate quantity should be determined by the antidiabetic therapy.
High blood pressure: if you have high blood pressure decrease the consumption of salt to no more than 3 grams per day. It is also necessary to avoid alcohol. DASH diet is recommended. The diet consists of a lot of vegetables and fruits, allows only low-fat milk and dairy and calls for decreasing the consumption of saturated fat.
Overweight and obesity: the reduction of energy intake is crucial. The goal is to consume 500-1000 kcal less than the estimated energy requirement calculated form the lifestyle and weight. At the beginning, reduction of food portions may be enough. Regular meals are still important. It is advisable to seriously reduce the amount of fat and sugar. Avoid energy dense, high glycemic indexed food and reduce alcohol consumption.
For lower therapeutic lipid-goals (LDL-Chol <2,5; All-Chol <4,5mmol/l) decrease the ratio of saturated and transfats and the cholesterol should be less than 200mg. Substitute those with meals containing unsaturated fats.