Good nutrition for good immunity – Brackengate Hospital of hope dieticians
National Nutrition Week and National Obesity Weeks (NNOWs) are celebrated every year from 9 to 15 October and 15 to 19 October respectively to create awareness among consumers about obesity and the importance of eating healthy.
At the Brackengate Hospital of Hope Intermediate Care Facility (ICF), dieticians play numerous roles and this past week planned a variety of inclusive activities for nutrition week. This year’s theme is ‘Good nutrition for good immunity’.
Dieticians have shared advice on eating healthy on a budget.
“We wanted to target the staff as everyone is working hard in the fight against COVID-19 and we realised many of our staff members can lead healthier lifestyles if properly empowered. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the detrimental effect that lifestyle diseases can have on our overall health, as obesity, hypertension and poorly controlled diabetes are some of the biggest risks for a poor outcome,” says dietician Claire De Koker.
Dietician Mia Marais says a healthy life starts with good nutrition.
“Nearly 70% of South African women and 31% of South African men are overweight or obese, according to a recent study. This is alarming as obesity leads to diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, some cancers and heart failure amongst others. People have to know that you can live a healthier lifestyle starting with good nutrition,” adds dietician Mia Marais.
What should I eat?
Poor diets are among the leading health and societal challenges of the 21st century, leading to disability and death, growing inequalities, staggering healthcare costs and environmental implications.
“Good nutrition helps us fight many illnesses, including COVID-19. I love this theme as it focuses on immunity which mainly starts in a person's gut. To keep your gut bacteria healthy, you should eat less sugar including sugary foods and drinks, bad fats and processed or red meat, and eat more whole, unprocessed foods like fruit and vegetables. You should also sleep well, avoid alcohol and smoking, and exercise three to five times a week for good immunity,” advises dietician Darinka Theron.
Overweight or obesity can lead to inflammatory and metabolic changes in the body which result in high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and high blood glucose, which together can develop into NCDs such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
“Most people still don’t see a link between health and food and don’t know what a big impact it can have on them! Lifestyle diseases can be completely managed through good nutrition and medication and many times people can significantly improve their symptoms,” says Mia.
Dieticians say that eating healthy does not need to be expensive.
Legumes, such as lentils and dried beans, seasonal vegetables and fruit, are often more budget friendly than we think, and using them more often can save money. In addition, using less sugar and staying away from sugary or salty snacks can help you to save a lot.
Here’s a look at what you can include in your diet every day:
- A variety of vegetables and fruit, wholegrains, nuts, and seeds.
- Modest amounts of meat and minimal amounts of processed meats.
- Most of what is eaten should consist of a variety of whole, mostly unprocessed or minimally processed foods from plants, for instance vegetables, fruits, starchy foods and legumes.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day. The World Health Organization recommends that you should eat more than five portions (400 g) of vegetables and fruit combined per day.
- Eat dry beans, peas and lentils regularly i.e. at least four times per week.
- Drink lots of clean safe water. Avoid drinking sugary drinks.
Prepare your own meals
During regular daily life, it is often not easy for many individuals to find time to prepare healthy home-cooked meals. But with a little bit of planning you can save money and time in the long run while boosting your immune system.
Tips when buying groceries on a budget:
- Look out for specials – look for discounts, coupons and sales, especially on store brands, which usually cost less.
- Compare unit prices (rand per gram or kilogram) listed on price tags to find the cheapest brand.
- Buy in bulk when you can (e.g. purchase a whole chicken instead of just chicken breasts).
- Eggs are a good source of protein and nutrients.
- Dried and canned beans, peas and lentils are great sources of vegetable protein and fibre, and can be used in a variety of meals such as stews, soups and salads.
- Canned vegetables with no added salt or sugar are good alternatives to ensure a sufficient intake of vegetables.
- Canned tuna, sardines and pilchards contain healthy fats which play an important role in the immune system, particularly in regulating inflammation.
- Long-lasting fruit and vegetables such as citrus fruits and root vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals needed for a good immune system.
The Western Cape Government Health also has many resources online developed by dietitians in order to assist the public.
The Western Cape on Wellness or WoW is one of these with great recipe ideas and other nutrition and wellness information. Anyone can access the website on: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/westerncape-on-wellness/.
Another great online resource is the Association for Dieticians of South Africa, https://www.adsa.org.za/, where healthy recipes are shared as well as more information on our annual National Nutrition and Obesity Week.
Visit your local clinic and speak to one of our health workers should you need assistance with your weight. If needed, you will be referred to a dietician.