Published on 11. November 2021

Healthy diet: tips from the chief physician

It is clear to most of us that a healthy diet does not necessarily include foods such as cookies, stollen and roast goose. But should we do without these delicacies altogether, even in the run-up to Christmas? Chief physician Prof. Dr. Helmut Schühlen explains how to avoid faux pas and sugar traps all year round.

"Many of us eat too sweet, too fatty and, above all, too much, and not just around Christmas," says Prof. Dr. Helmut Schühlen, chief physician of the Clinic for Cardiology, Diabetology and Conservative Intensive Care Medicine at Vivantes Auguste-Viktoria Hospital. He warns: "Anyone who eats too much sugar, saturated fatty acids and salt risks becoming overweight". And who has too many kilos on the hips, can in the consequence seriously ill, for example at

  • high blood pressure or vascular diseases with the threat of a heart attack or stroke.
  • Above all, however, the risk of developing diabetes is increased.

Healthy eating = conscious enjoyment plus exercise

That does not mean however that we must do without so-called food sins in the Advent season or all year round, means the chief physician: "In moderation one may permit oneself nearly everything. But if the feeling of happiness only sets in when the whole cookie tin is emptied, then you probably have a big problem. So the Stollen, the cookies or the goose leg quite consciously enjoy and afterwards the balancing movement do not forget." To avoid obesity, the calorie balance at the end of the day has to be right.

Germans are sedentary

Many people move rather little in everyday life, sitting a lot at a desk or in the car. In September 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) published data showing that 42 percent of adults in Germany do not move enough; including 40 percent of men and 44 percent of women. Globally, 27.5 percent of people move too little.

Healthy nutrition – learning from our ancestors

In earlier times, this was inevitably different, for example in the days of hunter-gatherers. If our ancestors had hunted down prey or collected something edible, they had to eat the meat within a few days - and for some time there were only berries or other plants.

"Today, however, we can eat our fill several times a day, whereas we are actually designed to eat rather little under normal circumstances and only eat large portions on feast days," explains Prof. Dr. Schühlen. That's why much of the way we eat in industrialized nations today is fundamentally wrong.

Sugar trap: convenience and industrial foods

The food industry tempts us to buy large packages of everything, so-called family packs. Because they are cheaper than small quantities. "That's where large portions and too much fat and sugar quickly lead to obesity."

A problem here is also the hidden calories. Because not only sweets, but also yogurts or probiotic drinks often contain a lot of sugar. There are six sugar cubes in 150 grams of fruit yogurt. The alternative is to stir your own fresh or frozen fruit into a natural yogurt or natural curd. The same goes for most processed foods, for example, ready-to-eat meals or vegetables from a jar or can.

Unhealthy food: Blood sugar roller coaster

The problematic thing is: If we consume a lot of carbohydrates in the form of sugar, our blood sugar levels spike. This gives us a brief energy boost, but it doesn't last long. To compensate for the high blood sugar level, the insulin level in the body then rises sharply.

"This quickly creates a roller coaster ride of blood sugar levels: hunger quickly sets in again, you want to eat again – everyone can imagine that this leads to weight gain in the long run," explains the cardiologist. "Whereby the too much sugar does not directly trigger diabetes. The problem is the resulting obesity."

Diabetes on the rise

Type 2 diabetes is caused by the body's failure to utilize insulin properly. This type is responsible for 90 percent of all diabetes cases worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises healthy eating to protect against diabetes. Expressed in figures: according to the WHO, around 70 percent of all cases of diabetes can be prevented by eating the right foods. This includes, in particular, fresh foods that have not been industrially processed to avoid the hidden calories.

This is because there are many overweight people in the European Union: 63 percent of men over the age of 18 weigh too much, while the figure for women is 55 percent. The incidence of physical inactivity and overweight or obesity is particularly high in countries with high national incomes, such as Germany.

Now, the German Federal Ministry of Nutrition also wants to reduce the incidence of overweight and obesity and related diseases in Germany with a so-called reduction and innovation strategy. The food industry is to process less sugar, fats and salt in finished products – but on a voluntary basis from the beginning of 2019.

 
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