Healthy diet: WHO guidelines 26 January 2015

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a factsheet on ‘Healthy Diet’.

Some of the key messages are:

  • A healthy diet helps protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
  • Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are leading global risks to health.
  • Healthy dietary practices start early in life.
  • Evidence indicates that total fat should not exceed 30% of total energy intake to avoid unhealthy weight gain, with a shift in fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats, and towards the elimination of industrial trans fats.
  • Limiting intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy is part of a healthy diet. A further reduction to less than 5% of total energy is suggested for additional health benefits. Free sugars are all sugars added to food or drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.
  • Keeping salt intake to less than 5 g per day helps prevent hypertension and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke in adult population.

Healthy diet recommendations

For Adults:

  • Consume more of the following: Fruits, vegetables, legumes (e.g. lentils, beans), nuts and whole grains (e.g. unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, brown rice);
  • At least 400 g (5 portions) of fruit and vegetables a day. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and other starchy roots are not classified as fruits or vegetables.
  • Less than 10% of total energy from free sugars equivalent to 50g (or around 12 level teaspoons), but possibly less than 5% of total energy for additional health benefits.
  • Less than 30% of total energy from fat. Unsaturated fats (e.g. found in fish, avocado, nuts, sunflower, canola and olive oils) are preferable to saturated fats (e.g. found in fatty meat, butter, palm and coconut oil, cream, cheese, ghee and lard). Industrial trans fats (found in processed food, fast food, snack food, fried food, frozen pizza, pies, cookies, margarines and spreads) are not part of a healthy diet;
  • Less than 5 g of salt (equivalent to approximately one teaspoon) per day and use iodized salt.

For Infants and young children:

  • Infants should be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months of life.
  • Infants should be continuously breastfed until 2 years and beyond.
  • From 6 months of age, breast milk should be complemented with a variety of adequate, safe and nutrient dense complementary foods. Salt and sugars should not be added to complementary foods.

Link to the factsheet:


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