The Ministry of Health had recently published a new Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2010 on April 1st, 2010. The main focus of the guideline is to explain and educate the general public about the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and nutrition in our daily eating activities. The guideline actually is a result of consensus meeting which was held on September 2009 attended by 80 participants related to the dietary and nutrition around the country. It also introduced a new Malaysia Food Pyramid, a revised version superseding the earlier version.
The Malaysian Food Pyramid is a visual tool that is used as a guide in designing a healthy diet. It is developed as a guide to provide a framework for the types and amounts of food that can be eaten in combination to provide a healthy diet. A food pyramid consists of levels that represent various food groups. Indicated beside each food group is the recommended number of servings per day from each group. From the bottom to the top of the food pyramid, the size of each food group becomes smaller indicating that an individual should cat more of the foods at the base of the pyramid and less of the foods at the top of the pyramid.
Another important terminologies related to dietary and nutrition are:
An adequate diet provides enough energy, nutrients and fibre to maintain an individual’s health. A diet that is adequate for one individual may not be adequate for another
A balanced diet is a diet that contains the combination of foods that provide the proper balance of nutrients. The body needs many types of foods in varying amounts to maintain health. The right balance of nutrients needed to maintain health can be achieved by eating the proper balance of all healthy foods including fruits, vegetables and meats.
A food group puts together foods of similar nutrient content and function. There are five food groups. These food groups contain foods that are similar in calories, carbohydrate, protein and fat content.
A healthy diet is a diet which provides the proper combination of energy and nutrients. Four characteristics explain a healthful diet adequate, balanced, moderate and varied
Moderation is key to a healthy diet. Moderation refers to eating the right amounts of foods to maintain a healthy weight and to optimise the body’s metabolic process.
Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI)
Recommended nutrient intake is the daily intake which meets the nutrient requirements of almost all (97%) apparently healthy individuals, in an age and sex-specific population group. The range of intakes encompassed by the RNI and the tipper tolerable nutrient intake should he considered sufficient to prevent deficiency, maintain optimal health while avoiding toxicity.
In the dietary guideline, serving size is the recommended amount of foods consumed daily in household measures used for foods and drinks, for example cup, plate, bowl, tablespoon and teaspoon. A serving size defined in the Malaysian Food Pyramid may not equal to a serving size defined in a food label.
Variety refers to eating many different types of foods each day and to ensure better selection of healthier foods. By selecting a variety of foods, the chances of consuming the multitude of nutrients the body needs are optimised.
So the two key important messages by the guideline are:
Key recommendation 1: Choose your daily food intake from a combination of foods based on the Malaysian Food Pyramid.
Key recommendation 2: Choose your daily food intake according to the serving size recommended.
It is very important that an individual ensures getting appropriate foods and incorporates the principle of good nutrition such as variety, a balanced intake of nutrients and moderation. The best way to meet the daily requirements is to eat a varied diet that combines cereals, fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, legumes and dairy products.
Eating a variety of foods daily as guided by the Malaysian Food Pyramid should provide all the nutrients needed by the body. Therefore, supplements are not necessary for most individuals. Nutrient supplements should only be taken on the advice of nutritionists, dietitians or medical doctors.
More details and visual image of Malaysia’s food pyramid at Malaysia Food Pyramid 2010.