Over half of Cyprus’ population is overweight or obese, head of the association of dieticians and nutritionists Eleni Andreou said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference on the occasion of the Pancyprian Nutrition Day / Week themed ‘Enjoy the taste of healthy eating’, Andreou said that increased Body Mass Index (BMI) is directly related to cholesterol levels.
Meanwhile health minister George Pamporidis said that according “to the biggest ever study on obesity carried out worldwide”, Cypriot men rank first among 43 European countries, while Cypriot women rank eleventh.
“Obesity, which is a serious threat to health, is widely spread in Cyprus and it unfortunately affects our children, mainly due to dietary habits and low level of physical activity,” Pamporidis said.
According to a survey conducted between 2005 and 2009, Andreou said, only 29.6 per cent Cypriots are of a normal weight, while 6.4 per cent are underweight.
As regards the use of salt, Andreou said the survey indicated that almost 34 per cent of Cypriots use additional salt in their food, while 57.2per cent are content with the salt already put in their meal during cooking.
Almost 23 per cent said they eat out two to three times a week, and more than 28 per cent said they eat out once per week.
On the occasion of nutrition day, Andreou announced the launch of a national health and nutrition study aimed at assessing the dietary habits and lifestyle of Cypriots, and associated risk factors.
“A healthy diet includes foods with vegetable and animal protein, especially fish and seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds, and soy products, but also, oils from plants, such as canola, corn, olive, seeds and avocados,” Andreou said.
Healthy eating habits, Pamporidis said, are usually associated with notions of “no flavour and enjoyment” which is incorrect.
“Thus, this year’s message ‘Enjoy the taste of healthy eating’, aims to break the myth,” Pamporidis said.
Andreou said that according to the 2015-2020 American Dietary Guidelines, a healthy eating plan includes a variety of vegetables – especially dark green, red and orange – legumes, starchy and other vegetable species.
It should also include fruits, she said, especially intact (with peel), grains of which half of them wholewheat, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, cheese and / or enriched soy beverages.
“Conscious development of our eating habits, and their enrichment with nutritious food does not undermine taste,” Pamporidis said. “A healthy lifestyle is nothing more than a conscious choice of foods according to an individual’s health and nutritional needs”.