Portugal “40 years behind” in healthy diet

Portugal’s nutritionists concerned at lack of action

The Algarve Daily News reported recently that the much-promoted image of Portugal’s nationals munching away on a healthy Mediterranean diet, bringing digestive ease and long life, is not the reality, according to the country’s nutritionists.

Claiming that Portugal is 40 years behind in promoting healthy eating, it is necessary to “put measures into action with great force,” to improve the dietary habits of the Portuguese, according to the Order of Nutritionists.

The Order’s Alexandra Bento, marking World Food Day last month, commented that Portugal had been late to the table when the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said in 1974 that all countries should draw up a food and nutrition policy.

It was more than 40 years before Portugal got around to doing this. The result has been a prevalence of obesity, diabetes and hypertension, said Bento, noting that more half of the population is overweight, one in ten children is obese and one-third of children are overweight, which is lining them up for a number of diseases.

Bento says that a series of measures and initiatives should be included in the State Budget and that the Government, like most OECD countries, should spend more on disease prevention.

A country, when it increases its GDP and does not control the food supply, ends up with disease, reckons Bento who points to the doubling of meat availability and tripling of fat availability in Portugal as the economy grows.

The Order of Nutritionists stressing that, according to the Directorate-General for Health, half the causes of illness and death in the country are directly related to diet.

“The Portuguese still do not have good practices when it comes to cooking, although they aim to be as healthy as possible. They continue to prefer techniques like frying and roasting, instead of grilling and cooking, for example,” says Alexandra Bento stressing that, in this way, “many 100% healthy dishes are spoiled.”

According to the nutritionist, the consumption of fats has almost tripled in the last four decades. Another failure is related to excessive daily consumption of calories.

What we see is that in 40 years, the opportunity to consume more calories has increased, we consumed 400 Kcal more, which is reflected in overweight: more of half the population is overweight and more than 20% are obese,” said the nutritionist.

Bento concluded with a tip of the week, vegetable soup, as it’s easy to digest and has a high water content.

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