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Health House

A peek into South African pantries – and how to better stock healthy produce – with Discovery Vitality

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Health House
Health House

Coffee, cow’s milk, fatty foods, wine – good or bad for you? Over the years, nutrition recommendations about what’s healthy and what’s not have swung from one extreme to another, leaving us hungry and confused. From the sometimes contradictory advice found in bestselling recipe books, fad diets and television ads, it’s no wonder that most people no longer know what to believe, or what to eat.

What do the experts agree on?

Almost all nutrition experts lean towards eating more legumes and vegetables. Dr David Katz of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Centre, says: ‘A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.’

Discovery analysis for the Vitality ObeCity Index 2017 also confirms that adding healthy protein, wholegrains, nuts and seeds to the veggies in your basket can help lower your Body Mass Index, and so promote a healthy weight. All this doesn’t mean that we have to become vegan. But it does mean cultivating a habit of choosing whole foods (such as raw, fresh ingredients) over processed foods, and limiting non-nutritious, health-harming foods (such as those high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats).

It starts in our kitchens

A good place to start is by relooking what we typically buy and stock when we’re feeling peckish. According to the 2017 Vitality ObeCity Index, which analysed data from Vitality members living in six cities across South Africa, these are the top offenders contributing to too much sugar and salt in our diets:

Cutting down on these purchases will go a long way in lowering our salt and sugar intake. And that’s important, because we’re currently consuming double the recommended daily maximum!
At this rate, South Africans are on the fast track to obesity and a host of chronic diseases of lifestyle. Discovery Vitality dietitian Terry Harris offers these handy pointers to help you curb the cravings, and the calories!

Three pointers for packing your fridge or pantry

1. Stock up on healthy to snack on – fresh fruit, raw unsalted nuts and seeds, raw vegetables (like carrots, celery, cucumber, baby tomatoes) and plain yoghurt are healthy snacks that you can enjoy as is without any preparation.
2. Avoid products that have added sugars listed among the first two or three ingredients on the label, such as sugar, maltose, brown sugar, corn syrup, cane sugar, honey and fruit juice concentrate.
3. Buy prepared healthy foods to save time, such as pre-cut or frozen fruit and vegetables, canned beans or lentils (rinse to remove excess salt) and omega-3 rich canned fish (sardines, salmon or pilchards).

Earn rewards for smart shopping choices

Now that you know to make better decisions when buying food, activate Discovery Vitality’s HealthyFood benefit and get up to 10% cash back at Pick n Pay and Woolworths. Then find out your Vitality Age and do a Vitality Health Check to increase your cash back to up to 25% at your main partner!