One of the greatest blessings in life for humans is to live a life with complete health. Getting up hale and healthy in the morning each and every day should be considered a good fortune and must not be taken for granted as we cannot guarantee our health even until tomorrow. Nevertheless, we can only enjoy an impeccable state of health and avoid infirmity if we exercise extreme care in our day to day activities with appropriate life style changes. Amongst myriad determinants to achieve good heath, good nutrition remains to be integral. Primarily, good diet and physical activity substantially contribute to achieve optimum health. This diet-exercise synergy predominantly helps people rid a risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes type-II, heart diseases and various forms of cancer.

Rapid population escalation and urbanisation have been consistently jeopardising our health leading to the unavailability of standard diets that could contribute to our health. Unfortunately, processed foods containing artificial colour, additives, flavourings, and chemically-altered fats and sweeteners, have replaced a chunk of natural diets. These additives and toxicants elicit injurious health effects by conveying wrong messages rather than rendering true information to our bodies to work perfectly. Haphazard and indiscriminate use of untreated water, rich in industrial effluents poses a potential threat to human health leading to the resurgence of chronic disease including cancer. This situation is exacerbated by the unscrupulous and injudicious use of pesticides and other agrochemicals to boost agriculture production. Food adulteration commonly practiced by business community to deviously make profit has out rightly deformed our food safety architecture. These practices eventually come out as increased toxicity of the foods engendering the onset of disease. Microbiological food safety has been another contributory factor to give a rapid upsurge to health risks. Supply of safe clean water, environmental hygiene and sanitation are instrumental to our health and wellbeing which are virtually absent in our ecosystem in Pakistan.

Life expectancy in Pakistan (66.48 years) remains to be static in the last 20 years while nations have achieved higher standards, example being life expectancy in Japan reaching 83.7 years. Prevalence of communicable (38%) and non-communicable diseases (49%) is a proxy of Pakistan being a potential victim of the double burden of disease suggesting 50% of all deaths resulting from non-communicable diseases. Estimates are available to demonstrate that 25.3% individuals suffer from hyperstension, 19% are distressed with heart diseases, 3% are implicated with diabetes, 6% endure chronic respiratory diseases and 8% have cancers in Pakistan. The overall HIV prevalence of 21.0% intensifies the disease burden in Pakistan. Likewise, emergence of multi drug resistant bacteria is another global challenge for scientific community and its containment appears to be a demanding task to ultimately securing human race from entering pre-penicillin era. Malnutrition among children under five is extensively pervasive in Pakistan with underweight (31.6%), wasting (10.5%), severe wasting (93.3 %), stunting 45.0% and overweight (4.8%). Available data suggest increased prevalence of anemia among women of reproductive age. This situation portrays an abysmal picture of heightened disease burden in Pakistan while budgetary allocations are meagre enough to pragmatically mitigate health issues and their aftermaths. Reportedly, Pakistan’s per capita health spending ($36.2) appears to be significantly low than WHO’S low income countries benchmark of $86. A little increase has been witnessed in budget allocation in the year 2017-18 with Rs. 54 billion for the health ministry however, govt. seems to be a little reluctant in making adequate investment in food safety and nutrition to overpower economic losses associated with medical treatments.

Seemingly, all of us are caught in a state of health emergency yet there exist some tangible reasons to believe that health panic can be allayed by practicing holistic approaches such as better nutrition as being most important to achieve choicest health standards. A plethora of scientific literature and recent research in the realm of food and nutrition have demonstrated that most of the health disorders are partly related to diet. For example, foregoing studies substantiated a single gene mutation as a causal factor for the development of several diseases such as type II diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, nonetheless, recent scientific investigations corroborate the onset of these maladies with a network of biological dysfunction. Balanced diet alleviates the risk of that biological dysfunction by supplying a desired balance of nutrients. Multiple nutrients in a diet interact with each other and play a vital role to sustain normal bodily functions. None of us can deny the positive and potential effects of the nutrients in maintaining good health as nutrition research confirms the role of every single nutrient as a magic tool to incredibly avert health imperfections. Potential interventions and life style changes that could bring about health benefits to live an active and vigorous life cover consumption of balanced diet, smart choices for fat intake, adequate intake of water, taking green tea, controlling portions, restricted use of salt, sugar and artificial sweeteners and evading intake of processed foods.

Balanced diet implies eating a variety of foods on daily basis such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, meat, fish, seafood, nuts and seeds, and dairy products. Including these foods in our menu ensures supply of certain nutrients that are particular to certain foods. Deficiency of a single nutrient is associated with the development of nutritional diseases leading to more complicated state of health. Food pyramids and diet charts are frequently available to select the best possible model for optimum nutrition based on individual needs. Consulting certified nutritionists and dietitians for diet plans to befit one’s own life style and bodily needs may be another sagacious approach to keep healthy.

Rampant evidence based scientific studies confirm the role of fruits and vegetables in attenuating a variety of health risks. Fruits and vegetables have been shown to contain beneficial phytonutrients generally reflected by the colour of the fruit and vegetable. Ingestion of fruits and vegetables should be aimed at covering five colours a day to ensure the availability of desired phytonutrients. Inclusion of fruits and vegetables in the routine diet leaves a positive influence on gut flora for being a potential source of fiber. It may be preferred that seasonal fruits are to be consumed as they carry minimum chemical hazards alongside being cheaper and economically accessible to all population segments with varied socio-economic backgrounds. Likewise, whole grains provide valuable nutrients and fiber that support our digestive system in terms of optimum absorption of nutrients. Fiber further helps eliminate waste keeping blood sugar glucose low in the body.

Special efforts are needed while choosing the type of fats for consumption. Recent paradigm on increased fat consumption as an underlying factor for causing certain physiological disorders, now shifts towards the type and quality of fat consumed via diets. Mostly, our diets are rich in fats containing omega 6 type of fatty acids which are generally sourced from animals while omega 3 type of fatty acids are also needed to maintain a desirable balance of fatty acids in the body therefore it is generally recommended that plant source oils, such as avocado, olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, oils from nuts and seeds, and fats from fish are to be made an essential part of the diet. Similarly, trans-fatty acids, produced by hydrogenation process at industrial level, have been reported to result in developing endothelial dysfunction, raise LDL, lower HDL, increase triglycerides, and promote inflammation therefore selection for edible fats for food preparations may be critically monitored. Commercial over frying of fats and the products prepared therein are a serious health concern in Pakistan that requires immediate attention of the authorities for controlling these practices at commercial level. Over frying of edible oils leads to the production of toxic compounds which are carcinogens and proliferate the prospects of acute disease conditions in humans.

Keeping the body well hydrated, has been considered as a smart approach to maintain optimal health. Apart from playing a variety of functions in the body, water at appropriate hydration level reduces the tendency of blood to clot. Recommendations for the amount of water to be consumed vary to a little extent depending upon the climate and region and type of work etc. however, most of the health recommendatory bodies commonly suggest a daily consumption of 2.0 liters a day.

The author is the Director of Institute of Food Science & Nutrition Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan and is a known researcher with specialization in Food Safety and Nutrition. He has also been working as Director, Office of Research Innovation and Commercialization.

Seemingly, all of us are caught in a state of health emergency yet there exist some tangible reasons to believe that health panic can be allayed by practicing holistic approaches such as better nutrition as being most important to achieve choicest health standards.