How Plant-Based Diets Can Ease the Burden of Obesity

March 4, 2022 is World Obesity Day. Given the numbers, it’s no wonder that the global theme is a call for all to act.

More than 800 million people around the world are currently living with obesity, with millions more at risk – and childhood obesity is expected to increase by 60% over the next decade, to 250 million by 2030.

Obesity affects everyone

Importantly, says Discovery Vitality dietitian Terry Harris, we shouldn’t ignore the problem of obesity if we’re not personally struggling with our weight, because obesity affects us all in one way or another.

The medical consequences of obesity are estimated to be more than $1 trillion by 2025, worldwide – and the burden of obesity falls on all types of stakeholders.

“Individuals and families are negatively impacted by lower life expectancy, poorer quality of life and higher household expenditure.

“Insurers face higher claims and society as a whole experiences lower presenteeism, higher absenteeism and higher disability costs.

Could Eating More Plants Save the World?

“The good news is that there is incredibly strong evidence linking increased intake of fruits and vegetables with a reduced risk of lifestyle diseases, including obesity-related diseases,” Harris says.

“So one way we can all make a difference is by adopting the planetary health diet, which focuses on consuming more whole, plant-based foods and much less meat and highly processed foods.”

“A plant-based approach to eating is becoming increasingly popular as the evidence for the health benefits of such diets mounts, and as more people look for environmentally sustainable alternatives to animal protein,” she says.

Data in support of the planetary health diet claims “the universal adoption of a planetary health diet would help prevent serious environmental degradation and prevent approximately 11 million human deaths each year.”

The latest EAT-Lancet report concluded that this data is “both sufficient and strong enough to warrant immediate action”. The report continues:

“Food is becoming a defining issue of the 21st century. The Commission shows that feeding 10 billion people within safe planetary boundaries for food production by 2050 is both possible and necessary.”

The proof is in the (fruit) pudding

“As plant-based menus and foods become more common, tastier and more accessible, both in supermarkets and restaurants, planning and normalizing plant-based meals every day is a single step we can all take to transform our own health and that of our families. ,” says Harris.

“There is a good chance that you will not only see and feel the evidence in your body, but also in your wallet. At Discovery, we see the evidence clearly in our data.

“Vitality members earn Vitality Points and get cash back for healthy foods they buy from Pick n Pay and Woolworths, and our data shows that the bigger these rewards and the more Vitality Points our members earn, the more healthy foods they get.” to buy.”

By encouraging members to improve their baskets, the Vitality HealthyFood benefit can also be effective in helping them improve their weight.

“Our analysis shows that purchasing just one more food per week within each of the healthy categories of dairy, fats and oils, fruits, vegetables, protein foods and legumes, as well as just one less food per week within each of the unhealthy categories cold cuts, ready meals, confectionery and sugary drinks can lead to a weight loss of 3 kg over a year”.

How Discovery Vitality Members Improve Their Baskets and Weight

How can we make a difference today?

So, what can every South African do this World Obesity Day to reduce the impact of obesity, we asked.

Harris endorses these “Have these five” and “Give this one a miss” when deciding what to eat each day:

5 every day 5 miss it
Fruits and vegetables: A serving of vegetables is two hands cupped and a fruit serving is one hand cupped.

Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Beans, chickpeas or lentils: Eat a fist-sized amount per day.

Nuts and seeds: Have a cupped hand worth a day.

Whole grain: Eat a fist-sized amount of oats, brown rice, quinoa, bulgur or stamp discount (pearled whole wheat) with every meal.

Water: Drink water that is pure, sparkling, or infused with fresh fruit or herbs. Drink to thirst.

Sugary drinks: fruit juice, carbonated drinks and sugar added to tea and coffee.

Processed meat: sausages, cold cuts such as salami and ham, bacon and biltong.

Salty snacks: Chips and savory crackers.

sugary food: Cookies, sweets, cake, ice cream, chocolate and sweetened cereals.

Deep fried highly processed foods: pies, fish fingers, chicken nuggets and burgers.

She concludes: “Consuming plant foods is no longer an approach just for avid animal lovers or environmentalists.

“It’s something each of us can – and should – aspire to, and Vitality makes it easy because our HealthyFood range aligns closely with the planetary health diet.

“So, try a whole-food, plant-based diet, even if it’s just a few times a week. Every meal can make a difference!”

Source: Adapted from the research organization Blue Zones

ALSO READ: Sugar Tax Plays a Role in Reducing SA . Obesity Rate

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