These Three Food Choices Affect Health More Than Junk Food

In news that may delight takeaway fans, scientists have found that eating healthy foods may be more important than not eating junk.

A new study published in The Lancet, taking in data from 195 countriesfound poor diet is to blame for one in five deaths -- a burden bigger globally than cigarette smoking.

Researchers found three diet choices -- an excess of salt, a lack of fruit and a lack of wholegrains -- were the biggest culprits for diet-related death and  what scientists call disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), together accounting for more than 50 per cent of the deaths and 66 per cent of DALYs attributable to diet, says the SMH.

Researchers now say a focus on improving diet “might have a greater effect” than a focus on reducing junk or “policies only targeting sugar and fat”.

READ MORE: Can A High-Carb Diet Keep Dementia At Bay?

Image: Getty

"This study shows that poor diet is the leading risk factor for deaths in the majority of the countries of the world," says study author Ashkan Afshin of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Unhealthy diets are "a larger determinant of ill health than either tobacco or high blood pressure," he says.

Israel, France, Spain and Japan were among the countries with the lowest rates of diet-related disease.

"Generally, the countries that have a diet close to the Mediterranean diet, which has higher intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy oils [including olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids from fish] are the countries where we see the lowest number of [diet-related] deaths," Afshin said.

READ MORE: Could A Mediterranean Diet Be The Key To Fighting Depression?

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But before you head out to the fast food joint, we have some bad news. 10 daily reached out to Zoe Bingley-Pullin, nutritionist, cook, author and founder of Falling in Love with Food to see if all this means we in Australia can eat a diet filled with fries and other junk as long as we make sure we eat less salt and a bit more fruit... and she was not amused.

"Most definitely not," she told us, "because if your diet is full of junk food, you are likely consuming too much salt and don’t leave a lot of room for fruit and wholegrains."

Darn it.

A diet rich in whole foods and plants is the most beneficial for protection against chronic disease and mortality."

Okay, so here are her tips for eating the way you should -- less salt, more fruit and more wholegrains. And yep, sorry, no more junk.

How to cut back on salt
  • Purchase ‘no salt added’ or ‘salt reduced’ products, like canned legumes, canned tomatoes, stock, peanut butter, canned fish etc.
  • Flavour foods with fresh herbs and spices rather than bottled sauces.
  • Avoid adding salt to cooking.
  • Read labels! There are hidden sources of salt in canned foods, sauces, cereal, bread, biscuits and vegetable juices.
  • Eat more whole foods and less packaged/processed foods.
  • Cook at home more often -- you have no control over how much salt goes into food cooked at restaurants or take away foods.
Image: Getty
How to eat more fruit
  • Top oats/muesli with fresh fruit at breakfast time.
  • Add a piece of fibre-rich fruit such as pear or apple to a homemade vegetable juice or smoothies and have at breakfast time or as a snack.
  • Snack on a piece of fresh fruit.
  • Make a salad using fruit such as avocado and mango or nectarine and feta cheese.
  • Make a homemade apple sauce to serve with roast meat.
Get yourself some extra wholegrains
  • Swap white bread and wraps for wholegrain bread and wraps.
  • Swap white rice and white pasta for brown rice, wholemeal, spelt or buckwheat pasta.
  • Add a few handfuls of cooked grains such as brown rice, quinoa, freekeh or buckwheat pasta to salads or serve as a side at dinner time.
  • When purchasing crackers and cereal look for ‘whole grains’ as the first ingredient.
  • When baking, instead of white flour, use brown rice, amaranth, spelt or wholemeal flour.

Feature image: Getty.