How nutritious food and a balanced diet can help keep your body fit and well.
In this edition of Health Matters, we explain how healthy eating is related to good health and how your GP can help you achieve your food and dietary goals in 2019.
How is healthy eating related to good health?
Food is a great source of nutrients, including important vitamins and minerals that our body needs to grow and repair, e.g. keep bones strong. However, some foods are better for our body than others, e.g. fruit and vegetables, lean meats, fish and wholegrains. Unfortunately, the typical western diet often contains a lot of highly processed foods, which tend to be nutrient-poor, energy dense and high in unhealthy fats.
If our diet consistently lacks the nutrients our body needs, we may become deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. This can stop us from feeling our best. For example, if our body is low in iron or B12, we may begin to feel tired and low in energy (anaemia). If our diet lacks calcium, our bones can become soft and prone to break easily (osteoporosis).
However, healthy eating is not just about consuming the right kinds of foods. It’s also about being mindful of how much we are eating. If we consistently eat more food (i.e. take in more energy) than our body requires, we will gain weight. This also puts us at an increased risk of disease, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
On the other hand, if we eat too little, our body won’t get the energy or nutrients it needs to meet its daily requirements. This can be a problem for older people or individuals who live alone, especially if they don’t enjoy cooking meals for one – they may be missing more from their plate than they realise.
By making healthy food choices and keeping an eye on how much we eat, we can reduce our risk of disease, particularly as we get older.
Your day on a plate - what is healthy eating?
A healthy diet includes a range of nutritious foods while keeping your intake of added salt, sugars and unhealthy fats to a minimum. Use the following checklist to see how your diet stacks up.
A healthy plate of food is usually ‘colourful’ because colour reflects variety, i.e. foods from each of the different food groups. This ensures a sufficient intake of all the important nutrients our body needs.
If your diet is on track, it will include:
Plenty of wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables and legumes (such as chickpeas, lentils and red kidney beans)
Low-salt foods (with added salt used sparingly)
Only small amounts of foods that contain added sugars
Reduced-fat milk and other dairy products
Foods low in saturated fat (i.e. not fried foods, chocolate, cakes and biscuits)
An adequate amount of water (around 2 litres per day)
Reduced-fat milk and other dairy products
Little to no sugary drinks, e.g. soft drinks
No more than two standard alcoholic drinks on any day.
For further information, please refer to the Australian Government’s ‘Guide to Healthy Eating’ available
How do I know if I'm eating too little or too much?
The average Australian adult needs around 8,700 kJ* of energy from food and drink per day.
Therefore, if you:
Consume 8,700 kJ in a day, you will experience no change in your weight, as the body will use it all.
Consume 9,700 kJ, you will have taken in 1,000 kJ more energy than your body requires. The extra
energy will be stored as fat, leading to weight gain.
Consume 7,700 kJ, you will have taken in 1,000 kJ less energy than your body requires. Your body will use its reserves of stored fat to make up the extra energy it needs, leading to weight loss.
* Note: The actual number of kilojoules you need per day will vary depending on your age, gender, life stage (if you’re growing or pregnant, this calls for more energy), weight, height and how physically active you are.
Healthy weight control starts with balancing the energy you take in from food and drink with the energy you burn from physical activity. If one is greater than the other, you will either gain or lose weight.
Do you tend to carry extra weight around your middle?
Your body mass index, or BMI, can give you an idea of whether you’re ‘underweight’, a ‘healthy’ weight, ‘overweight’, or ‘obese’ for your height. It is calculated by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in metres, squared).
It is also useful to measure your waist circumference. This indicates how much fat you are carrying around your middle (carrying excess weight here is a known risk factor for certain diseases).
You can work out your waist measurement as follows:
Place a tape measure midway between your hip bone and bottom rib.
Breathe out and relax.
Measure your waist.
What do your measurements mean?
If your waist size is >94 cm for men or >80 cm for women, or your BMI is >25, you may be at an increased risk of weight-related diseases. If your BMI is below 18.5, you may also be at risk of health issues due to low weight.
If these measurements indicate you are at risk, you may be eligible for a Medicare-rebated health assessment.
How can your GP help?
If you are worried about your diet or weight, undergoing a health assessment with your GP is a great first step. During this consultation, your doctor can assess your dietary intake and weight, as well as any other disease risk factors. Your GP can then identify what steps are required to prevent health issues from developing or worsening, and further investigate or treat any health concerns.
Medicare provides rebates for health assessments for the following individuals:
Patients aged 45–49 years who are at risk of developing a chronic disease
Patients aged 75 years and older
Patients aged 40–49 years who are at risk of type 2 diabetes
Permanent residents of residential aged care facilities
Patients with an intellectual disability
Refugees and other humanitarian entrants (within 12 months of arrival).
If you are not sure if you fit into one of these groups, call your local Modern Medical clinic – your usual doctor
can advise you further. And if you don’t fit into one of these groups, don’t worry! You can still book in for a health assessment and plan with your usual doctor. You will simply be charged our normal consultation
fee (or bulk-billed, where eligible).
Note: if your health plan indicates you require treatment or referral to other providers, some of these costs may also be covered by Medicare. For example, if you are referred to an allied health service, up to 5 sessions will be partially or fully covered by Medicare (depending on the service) – as long as these services are provided within the following 12 months.
Getting started is simple.
Just call your Modern Medical clinic to make an appointment today! Simply mention that you would like a health assessment and the team will book the appropriate appointment.