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What is a healthy diet?

Updated on February 1, 2014

It is now well recognized that a ‘healthy’ diet should contain an adequate supply of all the essential nutrients to prevent deficiency and diseases, as well as providing the right balance of these nutrients to protect against nutrition-related health problems and promote optimal Health functioning.

Healthy Diet: Facts

The answer is one that provides all the nutrients required by the body, in the right proportions. Today, thinking has moved on and recommendations are refined and updated in order to promote optimal health. Certain part of the population eat more than what they need, this precipitates them to obesity. On the other hand, some countries, especially third world, eat less that what is expected of them which leads to malnutrition. A healthy diet is eating just the right amount of food with complete different vitamins and minerals present. One way to gain an intake on the different vitamins is by eating different kinds of viands everyday. Some people eat the same foods for like 2 - 3 days which is an unhealthy choice.

A balanced diet is one that provides all the nutrients needed for health in the right proportions. In the UK, frank nutritional deficiency is, in general, uncommon. The major problem in the UK is dietary imbalance. Advice focuses on promoting the right balance of macro-nutrients, particularly carbohydrate and fat. It is recommended that half of our energy intake is provided by carbohydrate foods (mainly starchy foods); on average, energy intake from fat should be reduced to 35% and the remaining 15% should be provided by protein. Equally important is dietary variety, which helps achieve adequate intakes of micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Tips for a healthy diet

1.Enjoy your food. Food is one of the great pleasures in life and it is entirely possible for food to be healthy and enjoyable, despite misconceptions that prevail to the contrary. All the foods that are enjoyed by a particular individual can be included in a healthy diet (unless a particular medical condition prevails), as long as the overall balance of the diet is right.

2. Eat a variety of different foods. By including a variety of different foods in the diet, a wide variety of nutrients will be obtained and it will be unlikely that a deficiency of any particular nutrient will occur.

3. Eat the right amount to be a healthy weight. Obesity is increasing rapidly in all parts of the world. Given the associated health risks, most notably coronary heart disease, stroke, some cancers and diabetes, it is important to address this problem where necessary. Those who are clinically obese should try to lose weight gradually by eating sensibly and being physically active. Those within the ideal weight range should maintain their weight at this level.

4. Eat plenty of foods rich in starch and fiber. Most of our dietary energy should be provided by starchy foods such as bread, rice, breakfast cereals, pasta and potatoes. Wholegrain varieties, which are higher in fiber, are the best choices. These foods should make up a large proportion of all main meals, and snacks such as toast, cereal or scones can also make a useful contribution to intake of starchy carbohydrate.

5. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. It is important to include lots of different types of fruit and vegetables in the diet to provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidant phytochemicals. Large portions of vegetables should be served with meals, or salad and fruit should be included as snacks and desserts throughout the day. A minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables should be included in the diet daily.

6. Don’t eat too many foods that contain a lot of fat. Current fat intakes are higher than the recommended levels. We should aim to reduce fat intakes, on average, from the current level of about 38% to 35% of food energy. Avoiding too many fried foods, choosing lean meat and lower fat dairy foods, and eating cakes, biscuits and chocolates only in moderation should help ensure that fat intakes are within the healthy eating guidelines.

7. Don’t have sugary foods too often. Frequent consumption of sugary foods can increase risk of tooth decay. Sugar-containing foods and drinks can be part of a healthy balanced diet. However, it is advisable to consume these foods as part of a meal rather than constantly throughout the day.

8. If you drink alcohol, drink sensibly. Current guidelines on alcohol consumption are that women should consume no more than two to three units a day and men should consume no more than three to four units a day. This is a daily, not a weekly, recommendation, so, for example, it would be unwise to consume the total amount in one go.

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Relationship of Diet and Health

Diseases present today are mostly related to diet, most notably CHD, stroke, some cancers, diabetes and obesity. Optimizing nutritional intake can help reduce premature morbidity and mortality from these diseases. Diet should have the right amount of Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fats. Increasing fat intake predisposes people to heart problems which is one of the leading causes of death around the world. Fast foods, as we all know, are high in fats and decreases out lifespan over the years. On the other hand, no fat intake would also lead to certain deficiencies in the cell which would lead to problems in the kidney, brain, and other parts of the body.


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