How unhealthy is SA? Five key findings from the 'State of Nutrition' report

Are you drinking enough water, eating too much salt and exercising enough? Check your habits against these expert recommendations

09 September 2021 - 12:16
By Sanet Oberholzer
More than 50% of South Africans eat too much salt, according to a new study. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Mavoimage More than 50% of South Africans eat too much salt, according to a new study. Stock photo.

South Africans are often derided for living unhealthy lifestyles. However, while our habits can always be improved, according to the 2021 "State of Nutrition in SA" report, we’ve made commendable efforts to be healthier this past year.

The report, which is the second annual iteration, was produced by Tiger Brands’ Eat Well Live Well Institute, a nutrition initiative and education platform to promote accessible health and wellness for South Africans.

To compile the report, 401 South Africans — nationally representative in terms of race, geography and sex — were interviewed.

Interviews were also conducted with 50 local registered dietitians and nutritionists to obtain their insights and recommendations. 

Here are five key findings from the report:

1. Two out of five (38%) SA parents believe their children do not have a good understanding of the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods

When it comes to educating children about healthy food choices, parents play a vital role, followed by family, friends and schoolteachers.

On the flipside, 32% of parents who participated in the study said their children influenced their decisions to buy healthy food, while 16% said their children influenced their decisions to buy unhealthy food.

2. More than half of us eat too much salt

According to the report, 57.5% of respondents add more than the World Health Organisation recommended 5g, or one teaspoon, of salt to their food daily.

3. More than a third of us don’t drink enough water

As a general guideline, it is recommended that adults drink about eight glasses of water daily — or one glass of water for every 10kg of their body weight.

However, according to the report, 41% of respondents don’t drink the average of eight glasses of water per day. Twenty-eight percent said this was because they don’t have the time, 19% said it was because they dislike the taste and 9% of respondents said they don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water.

4. Half of us have started eating more immune-boosting foods since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic

Since Covid-19 hit SA, 52% of the respondents reported eating foods such as garlic, lemon and ginger, which are perceived to have immune-boosting properties.

It’s important to remember that eating a healthy, balanced diet, which includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, is necessary to ensure the optimal functioning of your immune system.  

5. Two thirds of us (66%) do not exercise enough

As a general guideline, adults should exercise a minimum of 150 minutes per week. 

Interestingly, according to the report, adults with children are more likely to exercise than those without children and people who follow a healthy diet are more likely to be active.

Download the full report here.