Ultra-processed foods are among the most consumed by Brazilians

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National Health and Nutrition Day reinforces the importance of healthy and nutritious eating for health

“May your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” This phrase, said by Hippocrates, the “father of medicine”, reflects the importance of nutrition as one of the main pillars of health. A balanced diet plays a fundamental role in the prevention and treatment of diseases, directly influencing physical and mental well-being. However, research has shown that the Brazilian population continues to make inadequate food choices, with an increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods, especially among teenagers, and a decrease in the consumption of traditional foods from the country’s food culture, such as rice and beans.

“Nutrition is essential for the functioning of the body, and food and nutritional security, which involves both access to food in sufficient quantity and of adequate quality, is fundamental to promoting health”, says the Nutrition Services manager at Department of Health (SES-DF), Carolina Gama.

According to the SES-DF newsletter on the nutritional and food consumption profile of the population monitored by Primary Health Care (PHC) in DF, in 2022, 83% of the adolescents monitored consumed ultra-processed foods, while 68% consumed sweetened drinks. Furthermore, 41% ate instant noodles, packaged snacks or savory biscuits, and 55% ate stuffed biscuits, sweets or sweets. Another important observation is the increasing percentage of children who, from the age of 2 until adolescence, were overweight.

With a family history of obesity, student Maysa Vieira, 15 years old, used to eat fried foods, sweets and fast food. But a year ago she decided to change her eating habits. The young woman receives nutritional monitoring at the Basic Health Unit (UBS) 4 of Estrutural and, since then, has only noticed benefits. “⁠I started eating more salad, rice, beans and vegetables. I lost weight, I feel more willing to do things, I sleep better and I no longer feel like eating on impulse. Furthermore, I noticed many positive changes in my body and my self-esteem is better,” she says.

Research shows that Brazilians continue to make poor food choices, with more consumption of ultra-processed foods, especially among teenagers. Photo: Ualisson Noronha/Agência Saúde-DF

Health promotion

The SES-DF nutritionist explains that a diet is considered healthy when it consists of natural or minimally processed foods. “A healthy diet includes fruits, vegetables, greens, meat, eggs, grains and nuts, free from ultra-processed and industrialized foods, which contain dyes, preservatives and sweeteners, in addition to being rich in sodium, fat and sugar.”

In this scenario, National Health and Nutrition Day, celebrated this Sunday (31), highlights the importance of a balanced and nutritious diet to promote health, contributing to the prevention of chronic non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Furthermore, the date helps to deconstruct concepts, such as the idea that “healthy eating is expensive” or “it means living on a diet”.

National Health and Nutrition Day, celebrated this Sunday (31), highlights the importance of a balanced and nutritious diet to promote health. Photo: Karinne Viana/Agência Saúde-DF

To develop strategic food and nutrition actions in the DF, the Department of Health plans its actions through the District Plans for Health Promotion, Food and Nutritional Security and Combating Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases. In Basic Health Units (UBSs), for example, there are actions developed through healthy lifestyle groups.

“In the context of UBS, nutritionists anchor their activities in food and nutritional education, including collective and individual care. Furthermore, there are intersectoral actions developed in partnership with other departments, such as the District Forum for the Promotion of Adequate and Healthy Food in Schools in the DF education network”, highlights Gama.

How to have a healthy diet?

Both SES-DF and the Ministry of Health (MS) recommend some steps to have a balanced diet and healthy habits:

· It is essential to change the dish: less processed foods and more natural foods

· Avoid consuming high-calorie, fatty and salty foods

· Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans

· Drink plenty of water

Reduce or avoid alcohol consumption and cigarette use

· Take preventive exams and consult your doctor periodically

· Practice regular physical exercise, daily or at least three times a week after medical evaluation

· Sleep at least 8 hours in a 24-hour period

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Ultraprocessed foods among consumed Brazilians

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