High food prices are keeping South Africans from living a healthy lifestyle, according to the results of a survey.
The perceptions study found that an overwhelming percentage (98%) of people do not see healthy food as boring, but that they do believe that healthier food is pricier. Sixty-two percent believed that healthy food was more expensive.
"This is not just a perception; price is a real barrier when buying food. From January 2005 until June 2008, maize prices almost tripled, wheat prices increased 127%, soybean oil went up by 192% and rice prices increased 170%," said Dr Craig Nossel, head of Vitality Wellness at Discovery, which conducted the study.
"This has resulted in a growing international trend whereby fast, unhealthy food continues to take off due to both inconvenience and cost."
SA obesity rates at all time high
Nossel said South African obesity rates amongst children and adults were at an all-time high with low levels of physical activity fuelling the spread of chronic lifestyle diseases. Some 20% of South African males and 26% of females were overweight and nine% of males and 30% of females were obese.
Figures from the World Health Organisation stated that 60% of deaths worldwide can be attributed to lifestyle conditions.
"Non-communicable chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes are among the top 10 causes of death in our country," said Nossel.
However, the study found that the preparation of healthier food was not seen as more cumbersome. Seventy-three percent of the respondents did not believe that preparing healthy food at home was more time consuming than preparing unhealthy meals.
'Need for simple information at point of purchase
"Part of the problem is that many pre-prepared and processed foods contain less healthy ingredients and often have high sugar, salt and fat content versus natural ingredients that we use when preparing food
at home," said Nossel.
People were becoming more aware of healthier food preparation methods, such as steaming and grilling, as well as consuming foods in their fresh, raw state in the form of fresh vegetables and salads. When asked if it was difficult to establish what food was healthy while shopping, 74% said no.
"There is a great need for simple, understandable information at point of purchase, making it easier for consumers to make healthy choices," said Nossel.
More than two-thirds (68%) said they shopped for healthy food when shopping for their family. "While this shows a positive attitude towards health, the fact that a third (32%) do not shop for healthy foods is obviously concerning. It is necessary to highlight the fact that healthy eating can be affordable, easy and enjoyable," said Nossel.
Of the respondents, 83% believed exercising and healthy eating went hand in hand.
"Research has shown that the combination of exercise and healthy eating has the most significant impact on weight management and overall health outcomes such as prevention of hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes."
-(Sapa, March 2009)
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