Balanced diet as a food.
Haro on red meat, on salt, sugar and fat! At a time when food orders are raining, what remains of the nutritional balance?
“Let your food be your medicine”. This formula attributed to Hippocrates, the tutelary figure of medicine, has been used in all sauces, including those of the most absurd diets. But its success cannot be denied because it reaffirms a popular conviction: you have to eat well to be fit. 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 (individual national 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 much ultra-processed food; not enough fiber, fruits and vegetables … The diagnosis is made: in our countries, it is no longer undernourishment, but the food 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 due to poor diet to 11 million. One in five premature deaths … more than tobacco, which causes 8 million deaths each year.
Eating a balanced diet is not necessarily a self-evident concept. Is the dietary balance the same for Chinese and Italian? For the adolescent and the old man? For the sportsman and the diabetic? The cardiologist advises to balance his diet with more fatty fish. The gastroenterologist recalls the interest of fibers, and the pediatrician that of dairy products. Finally, the geriatrician checks that the elderly person is consuming enough protein…However, there are no contradictions between these specialists because ultimately, the personalized advice from each doctor to his patient fits well into a nutritional regimen general which sets the conditions for a balanced diet in terms of public health.
Stopping the progression of obesity
And in fact, the national nutrition and health program (PNNS) was able to make people smile in 2001 with its invitations to eat five fruits and vegetables, but it did have a positive effect. “In 2016, the Esteban study showed that over ten years there had been a halt to the progression of obesity and overweight in adults and children, in France. Public health campaigns have participated,”notes Dr Chantal Julia, doctor, teacher-researcher at the AP-HP and at Paris-XIII University.
In January 2019, to take into account advances in research, the Public Health Agency of France therefore updated the recommendations of the “Eat-Move” program with a few new features :
– Consume more legumes, chickpeas or lentils, for example;
– Increase the share of complete starchy foods, such as wholegrain bread or rice;
– Add nuts, almonds, nuts, hazelnuts, rich in omega 3 and beneficial at the cardiovascular level;
– Limit the consumption of cold meats and meats.
Various fruits and vegetables remain among the recommendations of the 2019 PNNS, as does the call to further reduce the amounts of sugar or salt.
Do not calculate everything
“Nutritional balance should not be considered from the strict angle of a balance between inputs and outputs, consumption and expenditure of nutrients, but as a global diet project favorable to health,” explains Dr. Julia. A functional vision of food, limited to calculations of intakes of such a nutrient or such a vitamin, cannot be lastingly integrated into daily life, and it does, however, risk promoting orthorexia , an obsession with food control, we know the perverse effects… ”
It is for this reason that the PNNS councils must be understood over the week rather than day by day, even less meal by meal. And they also stress the importance of exercise to fight against sedentary lifestyles.
Eating a balanced diet does not mean filling up an accounting balance sheet, but neither does it demonize certain foods and banish them forever. It is rather a matter of promoting good products and promoting variety. This is the objective of the Nutri-Score , the nutritional labeling launched by Santé publique France in 2016. Its logos, which signal 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’ choices. Ultra-processed products labeled E are not prohibited, but are brought to the attention of the customer, who can thus limit consumption.
“In addition, not all processed products in the same category, pizzas or industrial cookies, for example, 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 fatty, for example, or less rich in hidden salts have a C rather than an E”. And the consumer immediately identifies himself without having to consult the nutritional information always written in small letters. “Indirectly, the Nutri-Score is also designed to encourage manufacturers to improve their recipes and get their products out of the red,” confirms Anne-Juliette Serry.
Finally, eating a balanced diet now also means eating ethically, the environment and health being inextricably linked. The public health researchers who develop the PNNS therefore assume that they now want to influence the improvement of foodstuffs by recommending short circuits, seasonal products, even organic, and limiting pesticides.