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Spain updates recommendations for a healthy diet which includes reducing red meat

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The Scientific Committee of the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) has presented the report on sustainable dietary and physical activity recommendations for the Spanish population, which updates the guidelines for a healthy diet and includes, for the first time, the impact on environment.

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The AESAN proposes, among other measures, to increase the weekly intake of legumes and reduce that of meat in a diet model that, in addition to caring for people’s health, minimises the environmental impact.

The new AESAN dietary recommendations aim to adopt a balanced, healthy and sustainable diet pattern. To do this, the Scientific Committee has taken into account that the effect of food depends not only on its nutritional content but also on how it is eaten and the alterations that occur in the culinary process.

After analysing the most current scientific evidence available, AESAN proposes consuming at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruit as a priority every day. The Scientific Committee recalls that fruit juices do not replace whole fruits and that the intake of potatoes should be moderate.

The consumption of olive oil is also recommended daily in all main meals, both for cooking food and for a dressing when necessary, as well as drinking plenty of water, since it should be the main drink in a healthy diet.

Regarding legumes, considered the main source of plant-based protein in the diet and the one with the least environmental impact, the AESAN increases from 2-4 weekly servings to a minimum of 4 until progressively reaching daily consumption. The aim is thus to reduce the intake of animal protein and, in particular, of those that generate a greater environmental impact such as red meat.

In this line, the Scientific Committee reduces from 2-4 weekly servings of meat to 0-3, prioritising the consumption of poultry and rabbit meat and minimising that of red and processed meat. It also moderates the intake of dairy products, going from 2-4 servings a day to 0-3 without added sugars and high salt content.

As for fish and shellfish, the recommendation is to consume at least 3 servings a week (mostly oily fish).

The new dietary guidelines of the AESAN recommend the consumption of up to 4 eggs a week and between 3-6 servings a day of cereals, prioritising those that are integral and whole grain compared to refined ones. In addition to the fact that, in general terms, their environmental impact is low, the Scientific Committee points out that the combination of cereals with other foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as legumes, fruits and vegetables, are the basis of a healthy diet.

The consumption of nuts can be increased progressively to the point of reaching an intake of a daily ration as long as they are natural, without salt, fats or added sugars.

The reduction of salt during cooking and the elimination, as far as possible, of ultra-processed foods rich in fat and sugar is another of the general guidelines of the AESAN.

For the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón, says that the report of the Scientific Committee is not only “a useful tool for professionals and families in achieving better life habits”, but will also allow “a transition towards more sustainable food systems ” and will help to achieve a good state of health that allows “reducing the risk of chronic diseases”.

Given this, Garzón has defended “cultural eating patterns that have demonstrated their beneficial effects on health and the environment” and has defended the Mediterranean diet as one of those that “could best reduce the environmental impact of food, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the use of natural resources”.

Recommendations for an active life

In addition to the dietary recommendations, the report of the AESAN Scientific Committee also promotes physical activities aimed at different population groups (depending on age) with the aim of incorporating healthy habits that can be integrated into work, sports activities and recreational or on the move, as well as in daily and domestic tasks.

Thus, it recommends the entire adult population between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week (fast walking, cycling, light dancing…) or the equivalent in vigorous activity (fast climbing stairs, fast running, swimming…), decreasing the time to between 75 and 150 minutes.

For the child and adolescent population, the Scientific Committee proposes a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per day and at least three days of vigorous physical activity per week (practicing sports, for example) and another minimum of three days weekly activities that stimulate bone growth (those that have impact or jumps, games that require carrying your own total or partial body weight…).

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