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Five dietary swaps to help you reduce the risk of chronic lifestyle disease

healthy breakfast

What are chronic lifestyle diseases?
Chronic diseases are long-term diseases, which are largely preventable.
Chronic diseases are the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia.
To simplify, chronic disease is often discussed in terms of 4 major disease groups—cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes.
An unhealthy lifestyle, characterized by an unbalanced diet, together with insufficient sleep, physical inactivity, psychological stress, environmental pollution, smoking, or alcohol abuse contribute to cause metabolic alterations which can lead to the onset of these diseases.

To what extend does diet play a role in chronic diseases?
As chronic diseases are largely preventable, a global strategy on diet, physical activity and health is needed. Changes in the diet that may be helpful in reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
Nutrition plays an important role in disease prevention. In particular, the Mediterranean diet, characterized by a high consumption of fruit, vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, cereals, legumes, and fish; a moderate intake of dairy products, eggs, and red wine; and a low intake of animal fats and red meat.

5 dietary swaps to help you reduce the risk of chronic diseases

Choose Extra Virgin Olive Oil over vegetable oils or Nuttelex
Extra Virgin Olive oil is the king of oils, is full of anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. It is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which is known to help prevent the risk of chronic diseases. Vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, soybean, rice ecc) and vegetable oil spreads should be avoided because they contain elevated amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which are highly pro-inflammatory.

Choose wholemeal bread and pasta over “white” variety
Whole grain flour, from any type of grain (wheat, rye, buckwheat, rice, ecc), contains all three parts of the grain kernel, the endosperm, the germ and bran. Refined grain flour contains only the endosperm. The process of refining flour removes the germ and the bran. Unfortunately, when we remove the germ and bran, we also remove a lot of nutrients (like vitamins and minerals), proteins and healthy fibre.

Choose oily fish over red meat
Oily fishes like salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredibly important for your body and brain. They are also strongly linked to a reduced risk of many diseases. Limiting the intake of red meat twill help you reducing the intake of saturated fats, which are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Also, increased consumption of plant proteins (with foods like lentils, chickpeas, tofu ecc) has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Choose oats over high sugary breakfasts cereals
Oats is a whole-grain cereal. They are a very good source of fibre, especially beta glucan, and are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, believed to protect against heart disease. Oat beta glucans are known to lower cholesterol levels and increase bile acid production. They’re also believed to reduce blood sugar and insulin levels after a carb-rich meal. Breakfast cereals are often made from highly refined grains (wheat, corn or rice) and they contain high amounts of added sugar.

Choose plain Greek yoghurt over ice-cream
Everyone loves dessert! But eating too much ice cream can be detrimental for our health. Most ice creams are full of sugar. Consuming too much sugar can lead to a greater accumulation of fat, which may turn into fatty liver disease, a contributor to diabetes, which raises your risk for heart disease. Consuming too much added sugar can raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation, both of which are pathological pathways to heart disease. Try swapping your ice-cream for Greek yoghurt for dessert to reduce the risk of chronic disease! Greek yoghurt is full of protein to support your muscles, Calcium for your bones and heart and probiotics to support gut health, and it is low in sugar! Just add some fresh fruit and nuts and you have a delicious dessert!

Federica is a clinical nutritionist based from the Bondi Junction & Kingsford clinics.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014 Australia’s health 2014. Australia’s health series no. 14. Cat. no. AUS 178. Canberra: AIHW.
Noce, A., Romani, A., & Bernini, R. (2021). Dietary intake and chronic disease prevention. Nutrients, 13(4), 1358.

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