A balanced diet is nothing superficial; it is not referred to the exact measure of each nutrient that you need to take. A balanced diet is an assortment of a variety of edibles from the food kingdom and all in moderation. And, by variety we mean in colour and nutrition levels.
The major nutrients that our body needs are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These provide the body with energy for various functions like beating of heart, activity of muscles and brain, etc. In addition, the body needs vitamins and minerals for its optimal functioning. To get a balanced diet and nutrition, it is important to choose foods from all food groups (cereals, pulses, poultry and meat, milk and milk products, fruits and vegetables).
The Composition of a Balanced Diet and how each Ingredient Benefits
Protein is dense in animal products, which makes it one of the most common reasons why vegetarians do not get enough protein. But, this lack of protein consumption can be avoided if one takes a look at the many vegetables and other suitable-for-vegans foods.
Protein helps in many vital functions inside the body. Its main function is allow hair and nail growth, muscle growth and repair, repair of nerve cells and to heal injuries. Diet that lacks protein can cause muscle deterioration, heart problems, arthritis, organ failure, etc. Symptoms of lack of protein include muscle soreness, hair loss, cramps, loss of sleep and sloe healing of wounds.
How much should you Eat?
The recommended everyday intake of protein for an adult woman is about 45g and that for an adult make is about 55.5g. This number is variable by opinion because researches are still being done to find out how much protein an average person really requires. To make sure that you get enough protein, make sure that you take 2-3 portions of it in the day.
Some of the sources of protein-rich foods include meat, eggs, poultry, seafood, pulses, nuts and soya products. Those people who do not eat meat can find meat supplements in the grocery stores. Protein from animal products is the best as it contains the complete range of important amino acids, but meat consumers must know that red meat has high levels of saturated fat that can lead to heart problems and other heart-related diseases. You can increase your protein intake by trying soy-based yoghurts, including at least one portion of meat/fish/poultry in the main meal, sprinkling nuts or seeds over salad at lunch, etc.
Fruits and Vegetables
Several studies have shown that a majority of the world population does not eat enough of fruits and vegetables. And, that is why there is a need for understanding the importance of adding them to one’s diet.
Fruits as well as vegetables provide the body with a whole lot of nutrition in the form of vitamins and minerals. This nutrition is hard to come by in other types of foods in one’s diet. Fruits and vegetables are high in their water content and low in their fat content, which makes them ideal in preventing several health issues like high blood pressure, vitamin deficiencies, lowered immune system and long-term illness.
How much should you eat?
How much of fruits and vegetables a person needs really depends on his/her general health. On an average, doctors recommend that a person eat at least 5 portions each day. The portions must comprise five different fruits as well as vegetables that have different colours. To decide how much one portion is, count a generous handful.
One of the best ways you can introduce and continue to have fruits and vegetables along with your diet is by munching them as snacks. Some ways in which you can add fruits and veggies to your diet include sprinkling fruits on breakfast cereal, drinking a glass of fruit juice with the breakfast, eating salad along with lunch, having a portion of steamed vegetables in the diet, etc.
Dairy is a good source of calcium and can be easily made a part of one’s diet. People with lactose intolerance or those who are allergic to milk and milk products can get their daily intake of calcium through several substitutes that exist for it in the market.
Calcium is an important part of a balanced diet food as it helps in growth and development of strong teeth and bones. Besides, it regulates muscle contraction. An inadequate amount of calcium intake up to the age of 25 years can later lead to bone problems such as osteoporosis and brittle bone disease. These bone diseases are more common in women because they have a lower bone mass compared with men. So as to absorb calcium optimally, it is important for one to take enough of vitamin D.
How much should you consume?
Experts recommend that an average, healthy human being, try to have at least three portions of dairy every day. If you are concerned about the intake of fat, you must try to opt for low-fat versions of dairy. Children as well as teens need a lot of calcium intake because their bones are still developing.
Some dairy products include yoghurt, milk, cheese, fromage frais, etc. Those people who are lactose intolerant can derive calcium from calcium-fortified soya milk, green leafy vegetables, yoghurts, certain types of fish and almonds.
The main source from where the body gets its energy is carbohydrates. Therefore, you must try to get energy from these sources instead of sugars and fats. It is important to have carbs in every part of one’s meals. There are certain carbohydrates that are especially good for a person and can prevent a lot of diseases.
Most of the carbohydrates that one consumes slowly release energy into the system, preventing an energy crash throughout the day. These carbs are low in fat yet filling. One of the best sources of carbohydrates called whole-grains contains fibre (which makes the digestive system healthy), vitamins and minerals, protein, carbohydrates, etc. Carbohydrates are also rich in anti-oxidants that prevent heart diseases, cancer and diabetes.
How much should you consume?
Most experts recommend that carbohydrates be taken a third of every meal you eat. You must also choose your carbs wisely should you be adamant on eating a balanced diet.
You will find complex carbs in foods such as potatoes, oats, root vegetables, wholemeal cereal, wholemeal bread, brown rice, nuts, wholemeal pasta, lentils and beans. Simple carbohydrates are the bad ones that you must generally avoid and these are present in pastries, chocolates, white sugar, snack bars, ready-meals as well as sauces.
Sugary and Fatty Foods
A lot of people assume that sugary and fatty foods are bad for health and should therefore, be completely refrained from consumption. The truth, however, is that one must try to add al little bit of these foods in diet unless told otherwise by the doctor. Experts say that it is important to keep a balance between the good and bad as far as consumption is concerned. Besides, if you do not treat yourself with your favourite doughnut once in a while, you will end up binging on a lot of unhealthy food later.
Fat is recommended for the body in small amount because it helps to transport fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K through the body. It also is said to supply essential fatty acids, which must be consumed through diet. According to several researchers, fatty and sugary foods improve the immune system as well as the heart’s health. Now that you know that fat is good for your body to an extent, it must not be consumed in excess so as to give rise to problems.
How much should you consume?
It is quite easy to fall prey to overeating and gaining weight because just one gram of fat has about 9 calories. Fat should ideally make up just 35 percent of the energy that you derive from diet. Sugary foods must be restricted to meal timings because when consumed at other times, it can cause tooth decay.
To include these in your diet, try to cook food in oil instead of butter or ghee, find alternatives for unhealthy snacks, try to look for lean meats when you are grocery shopping, pick reduced-fat dairy products, grill fish and meat instead of frying them, try adding lots of raw vegetables to diet.
Benefits of Eating a Balanced Diet
• Ensures optimal macronutrient intake: Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are the macronutrients that your body needs. They are needed to maintain and regulate the body functions. Most people with average activity should get approximately 50 percent of their total daily calories from carbohydrate, 15 percent to 20 percent come from protein and 30 percent come from a fat source. People who are involved in endurance sports (e.g., long-distance biking or marathon running) should get 60 percent to 70 percent of their total daily calories from carbohydrates.
• Keep up with the total micronutrients intake: Micronutrients are needed in small quantity, but they are needed to maintain and regulate several body functions. Eating a varied diet increases the chances of all your micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) need being met; however, as most children and youngsters fail to eat a diet with multiple options, daily multivitamin with mineral supplement may be appropriate. Before starting any supplement, consult your doctor as even vitamin and mineral supplements can have side-effects if the daily dose exceeds the recommended daily allowance.
• Facilitates hydration: Your body contains about 60-75 percent of water. It is needed for several key functions like regulation of temperature, transport and absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste products from the body. Feeling thirsty, dry mouth, tiredness, headache and dizziness indicate that you need fluids. If your fluid intake is not adequate it may lead to dehydration. Your intake of fluids should be liberal to prevent dehydration i.e. drink six to eight glasses of fluid every day. Fluids intake include not only water but all kinds of beverages, fruits and vegetable juices as well. But water is the best to prevent dehydration. It does not contain empty calories or caffeine.
• Prevents diseases: if you eat a balanced diet, you by default protect yourself from several diseases associated with ageing like heart diseases and diabetes. You must, however, avoid sticking to just one type of diet because even if that one diet may include only vegetables (which are considered healthful), you may be missing out on important nutrients that other vegetables provide.
• Induces peaceful sleep: Eating a lot of certain kinds of food may cause you to fail to fall asleep. Some of these foods are those that are high in artificial sugar, such as candy. Eating foods that are heavy on oil content may lead to problems waking up in the morning. So, if you indulge in a healthful, balanced diet, you promote better sleep even without the use of sleeping pills and wake up feeling more relaxed.
• A better and happier lifestyle: As you start eating a balanced diet, you begin to have more energy, feel less stressed and accomplish more in less time compared with when you consume inappropriate diet. Diet is the foundation of one’s well-being.
To make sure that you have a balanced diet, put into your mouth a variety of the foods mentioned above and try to follow a routine each day.
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