What should be limited while planning a healthy diet?

Organic Lifestyle

A healthy diet helps fight malnutrition. A healthy diet also prevents or reduces the risk of many non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases and cancers. Some factors contribute towards the prevalence of these diseases at the ground level are related to people’s unhealthy lifestyle choices

Poor and unhealthy diet is a major preventable disease risk factor. It is contributing to the burden of disease, globally (1). Setting up limits for the ingredients which may when curtailed in the diet could go a long way towards preventing chronic diseases.

There are many factors which contribute towards unhealthy diet. Some of the salient ones are:


  • production and consumption of processed foods
  • consumption of energy dense foods
  • intake of fats, salt and free sugars


  • Consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Intake of whole grains
  • Dietary fiber and phytochemical intakeThe three most important ingredients that have a huge impact on the health of human beings.
  • Free sugars
  • Fats
  • Salt

Limit free sugars in the diet

Less than 10% of the total energy intake should come from free sugars. Suppose a person is consuming a diet which provides 2000 kcals a day ideally should get not more than 200 kcals from free sugars. That is equivalent to 50 grams of sugar or about 10 tsp of sugar.

What are free sugars?

Free sugars include sugar added to foods or drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer. It also includes sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates (2).

According to World Health Organization (2018) Healthy Diet, if the energy obtained from free sugars is less than 5 % it will contribute towards additional health benefits. That means we should aim to consume not more than about 5 to 6 tsp of free sugars a day.

Limit fats in the diet

Less than 30% of total energy intake should be contributed by fats. When compared to saturated fats unsaturated fats are preferred to be part of a healthy diet. It is recommended that the energy from saturated fats should be less than 10 % of the total energy intake.

And the energy from transfats of all kinds, including both industrially-produced trans-fats and ruminant trans-fats should be less than 1% of total energy intake. Industry produced trans fats should be avoided completely and that would be the goal of a healthy diet (2).

Limit salt in the diet

High sodium consumption (more than 2 grams/day, equivalent to 5 grams salt/day which is 1 tsp) and insufficient potassium intake (less than 3.5 grams/day) contribute to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke (3).

Reducing salt intake to the recommended level that is less than 5 grams (1 tsp) per day could prevent 1.7 million deaths each year. Most people eat more salt than they realize (2) (3). Most of the salt we eat comes from processed foods or from foods consumed frequently in large amounts (e.g. bread). Salt is also added to foods during cooking or even while eating (e.g. table salt).

Way to go forward

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that 80% of all cardiovascular disease, 90% of all type 2 diabetes and 30% of all cancer could be prevented by adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Avoiding smoking (4)

Apart from unhealthy diet sedentary life style also affects our health negatively. A balanced diet which has all the nutrients in the right proportion, contains adequate amount of dietary fiber and phytochemicals is the basis for a healthy life. Physical activity is very important. A regular exercise routine and a balanced diet would do wonders for a person’s health.


  1. Lee, A.J., Kane, S., Lewis, M., Good, E., Pollard, C.M., Landrigan, T.J. and Dick, M. (2018) Healthy diets ASAP – Australian Standardized Affordability and Pricing methods protocol, Nutrition Journal.
  1. World Health Organization (2018) Healthy Diet.
  1. World Health Organization (2016) Salt Reduction.
  1. Andersson , A. and Bryngelsson , S. (2007) Towards a healthy diet: from nutrition recommendations to dietary advice, Scand J Food Nutr. Vol.51(1)

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