On its own, breast milk provides all the nutrients and fluids that babies need for their first 6 months of healthy growth and development. Exclusively breastfed babies have better resistance against common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, respiratory infections and ear infections. In later life, those who were breastfed as infants are less likely to become overweight or obese, or to suffer from noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Eating a variety of whole (i.e. unprocessed) and fresh foods every day helps children and adults to obtain the right amounts of essential nutrients. It also helps them to avoid a diet that is high in sugars, fats and salt, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain (i.e. overweight and obesity) and noncommunicable diseases. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is especially important for young children's and development; it also helps older people to have healthier and more active lives.
Vegetables and fruit are important sources of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, plant protein and antioxidants. People whose diets are rich in vegetables and fruit have a significantly lower risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
Eat moderate amounts of fats and oils
Fats and oils are concentrated sources of energy, and eating too much fat, particularly the wrong kinds of fat, can be harmful to health. For example, people who eat too much saturated fat and trans-fat are at higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Trans-fat may occur naturally in certain meat and milk products, but the industrially produced trans-fat (e.g. partially hydrogenated oils) present in various processed foods is the main source.
Eat less salt and sugars
People whose diets are high in sodium (including salt) have a greater risk of high blood pressure, which can increase their risk of heart disease and stroke. Similarly, those whose diets are high in sugars have a greater risk of becoming overweight or obese, and an increased risk of tooth decay. People who reduce the amount of sugars in their diet may also reduce their risk of noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease and stroke.