Nutrition what is a balanced diet today

Haro on red meat, on salt, sugar, and fat! As food condemnation rains, what remains of nutritional balance?

Nutrition what is a balanced diet today
weight loss diets

"Let your food be your medicine". This formula attributed to Hippocrates, tutelary figure of medicine, has been used in all sauces, including those of the most absurd diets. But her success cannot be denied because she reaffirms a popular belief: you have to eat well to be in good shape. And it is not the nutritional surveys repeated for several decades that will contradict this impression.

In 2017, during the third edition of the vast Inca study (national individual study of food consumption), the National Food Safety Agency (ANSES) concluded that "the role of food in increasing or the prevention of certain diseases such as cancer, obesity or cardiovascular diseases is now scientifically established ”.

Junk food kills

Too much salt, sugar, and fat; too many ultra-processed foods; not enough fiber, fruits, and vegetables ... The diagnosis has been made: in our countries, it is no longer undernourishment, but dietary imbalance that kills. It's not enough to eat, you have to eat everything. Last April, an international study published in the journal The Lancet quantified the number of deaths worldwide attributable to a poor diet at 11 million. That is one in five premature deaths… more than tobacco, which causes 8 million deaths each year.

Eating a balanced diet is not necessarily a given. Is the food balance the same for Chinese and Italian? For the teenager and the old man? For the athlete and the diabetic? The cardiologist advises balancing your diet with more fatty fish. The gastroenterologist points out the value of fiber and the pediatrician that of dairy products. Finally, the geriatrician checks that the elderly person consumes enough protein ... However, there are no contradictions between these specialists because in the end, the personalized advice from each doctor to his patient is part of a nutritional plan. general which sets the conditions for a balanced diet in terms of public health.

Stop the progression of obesity

And in fact, the national health nutrition program (PNNS) was able to make people smile in 2001 with its invitations to eat five fruits and vegetables, but it had a positive effect. "In 2016, the Esteban study showed that over ten years, there had been a halt in the progression of obesity and overweight in adults and children alike in France. Public health campaigns have participated in this, "notes Dr. Chantal Julia, doctor, teacher-researcher at AP-HP and at Paris-XIII University.

In January 2019, to take into account advances in research, the French public health agency, therefore, changed the recommendations of the "Manger-Bouger" program with a few new features:

- Consume more legumes, chickpeas, or lentils, for example;
- Increase the proportion of whole starchy foods, such as whole-grain bread or rice;
- Add nuts, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, rich in omega 3 and beneficial at the cardiovascular level;
- Limit the consumption of cold cuts and meats.

Various fruits and vegetables remain among the recommendations of the PNNS 2019, as does the call to further reduce the amounts of sugar or salt.

Don't calculate everything

"Nutritional balance should not be viewed strictly as a balance between inputs and outputs, consumption and expenditure of nutrients, but as an overall healthy diet plan," explains Dr. Julia. A functional vision of food, limited to calculations of the intake of a particular nutrient or vitamin, cannot be integrated over the long term into daily life, and it risks, on the other hand, promoting orthorexia, an obsession with food control which we know the perverse effects… ”

It is for this reason that PNNS advice should be understood on a week-to-day basis rather than day-to-day, let alone meal by meal. And that they also stress the importance of exercise to fight against a sedentary lifestyle.

Eating balanced is not filling out a balance sheet, but it is not demonizing certain foods and banishing them forever. Rather, it is about valuing good products and promoting variety. This is the objective of Nutri-Score, the nutritional labeling launched by Public Health France in 2016. Its logos, which indicate the nutritional value of a food product based on a classification from A to E on a colored banner from green to red, are intended to guide consumers' choice. Ultra-processed products labeled E is not prohibited but brought to the attention of the customer, who can thus limit consumption.

"In addition, all the processed products of the same category, pizzas or industrial cookies, for example, do not all end up with the same E on a red background", notes Anne-Juliette Serry, head of the nutrition and activity unit. physical at Public Health France. "Cookies that are less fat, for example, or less rich in hidden salts have a C rather than an E." And the consumer is immediately located without having to consult the nutritional information always written in lowercase characters. "Indirectly, the Nutri-Score is also designed to encourage manufacturers to improve their recipes and to take their products out of red," confirms Anne-Juliette Serry.

Finally, eating a balanced diet now also means eating ethically, the environment and health are inextricably linked. The public health researchers who are developing the PNNS, therefore, assume that they now also want to influence the improvement of foodstuffs by recommending short circuits, seasonal products, even organic, and by limiting pesticides.

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