Water is the source of all life. Up to 70% of the human body is made up of water and we need it to absorb essential nutrients from food, remove waste products and regulate body temperature – meaning that we require a certain intake to survive and make up for the natural losses that occur throughout the day.
More than just ensuring our very survival, though, water also plays an important role in maintaining healthier diets that allow us to perform optimally mentally and physically. However, South Africans are increasingly neglecting their health in favour of diets largely made up of fast food and unhealthy beverages. These lead to higher incidences of weight gain and obesity, which in turn contribute to health risks such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, among others.
Big, fat problem
Obesity is a growing problem in South Africa, with research indicating that 42% of the country’s women, 14% of the men and 9% of the children are obese. The only way to begin to turn the tide on this challenge is to address it at its source.
Salt reduction and the proposed sugar tax is one way that the government is planning to tackle it at a national level. But it is not a fight that the government can win on its own. It requires a joint effort, from South Africans themselves by cutting down on fast or unhealthy food and replacing unhealthy beverages with healthier alternatives like water, as well as involvement from the country’s consumer brand producers in this space to produce healthier options and build awareness of the benefits of making healthier lifestyle choices.
This forms one of the three core pillars of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan (USLP): improving health and well-being. The company has broadly committed to helping over one billion people worldwide to improve their nutrition by 2020 as part of the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development, specifically of the third goal of good health and well-being.
The truth is that many beverages currently sold in our supermarkets are sweetened with sugar. Sugar is a natural source of energy but overconsumption can lead to health problems. Even the seemingly ‘healthy’ options have unhealthy levels of sugar in them, making them dangerous in the long-run.
Although the country’s beverage producers begun to play their part by reducing the amount of sugar in their products and introducing sugar-free alternatives, there is another option that is easy for all consumers to make part of their daily routines. The most effective way to combat the negative impact of these drinks is to make the choice to consumer water.
Water as a beverage of choice that has no kilojoules, hydrates, is essential for health and is the best choice to quench thirst. Drinking more water can help South Africans improve their health and well-being significantly, and that it is something each of us should commit to incorporating into our daily routines.
By Angela Klute, Vice President Foods, South and Southern Africa at Unilever