What does a healthy diet consist of?
Healthy Diet – There are hundreds if not thousands of theories as to what a healthy diet should look like. The word diet is a misnomer. Many people believe the word diet means ‘a restriction of food”, but diet in this instance is, in fact, the term used for the kinds of food a person, animal or community habitually eats. However, the dictionary offers both definitions.
Some people profess that veganism or vegetarianism is the best for the human body, others are dead set on banting and ketogenic meal plans that follow high-protein, low-carb ideologies.
But most doctors will attest to a ‘balanced diet’ that encompasses all food groups.
What exactly does a balanced diet entail?
A healthy diet is not aimed at losing weight, but rather at maintaining a healthy weight for your particular body group. This means that all food groups are taken into account when preparing meals.
What are the food groups?
There are five food groups. Each food group is a collection of foods with similar nutritional properties, although people do not need equal amounts of the same group each day.
The five food groups are dairy, protein, vegetables and legumes, fruit and grains. Protein can be sourced from plants. The dairy food group is a source of calcium. Calcium is important for developing and maintaining strong teeth and bones. Dairy includes milk, cheese and yoghurt.
Protein can be found in lean meats, but also in meat supplements like tofu and beans. Grains are from cereals such as wheat and offer large amounts of fibre for good digestion. Grain foods are mostly made from wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, millet, quinoa and maize. The different grains can be cooked and eaten whole, ground into flour to make a variety of cereal foods like bread, pasta and noodles, or made into ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, explains Eat for Health.
Other grains include foods like polenta, buckwheat, spelt, sorghum, triticale, rye and semolina.
Vegetables and legumes are all packed with their own set of nutrients, all good for a different bodily function. Legumes are the seeds of the plant and are eaten in their immature form as green peas and beans, and the mature form as dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas.
Green veggies are a high source of iron and vitamin A. carrots are a wonderful source of fibre and are high in vitamin C.
Fruits are also packed with unique vitamins and minerals and fill you with healthy, natural sugars for clean energy throughout the day.
Carbohydrates are essential
Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibres found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. Known as carbs, they are found in all the food groups. Carbs facilitate many functions of the body but not all carbs are created equally.
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates have simple sugars. These are found in refined sugars like the white sugar. Sweets, processed foods and the like have these sugars.
They are also found naturally in foods such as fruits, milk and milk products. It’s healthier to get your simple sugars from fruit than confectionaries. Why? Kids’ health says that its sugar isn’t added to them and they also contain vitamins, fibre and important nutrients like calcium. A lollipop has lots of added sugar and doesn’t contain important nutrients.
The American Diabetes Association notes that carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, explains Live Science.
The site continues: when you eat carbs, your body breaks them down into simple sugars, which are absorbed into the bloodstream. As the sugar level rises in your body, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin is needed to move sugar from the blood into the cells, where the sugar can be used as an energy source.
Most of your carbohydrate intake should, however, come from complex carbohydrates or starches. These are grains, pasta, porridges and so on. They, too, are packed with other nutrients and minerals.
“Carbohydrates are macronutrients, meaning they are one of the three main ways the body obtains energy or calories,” said Paige Smathers, a Utah-based registered dietitian.
Avoid processed foods
Processed snacks are counterintuitive when trying to maintain a healthy body and mind. Your body cannot break down the large amounts of processed fats, sugars and sodium. In high amounts, they can lead to obesity and increase the risk of serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, says Goshen Health.
Portions are key
Eat what you need. Stuffing yourself will only result in feeling uncomfortable. Eating too much for your tummy to handle can also cause gastric distress and flatulence. Any calories that aren’t burned off will turn into fat stores, so be mindful of when you are no longer eating to curb hunger, but for pleasure. Also, try to eat large meals that satisfy you, to prevent you from snacking between meals or after hours.
A healthy diet may help to prevent certain long-term (chronic) diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, Patient Info explains. It can also reduce your risk of developing certain cancers.
To ensure that your kids start their diet on the right foot, The Medical Society offers Child nutrition and growth monitoring. This is dedicated attention to your child’s development and health, with advice on child nutrition, including breastfeeding, being offered at all facilities. The medical facilities offer a growth monitoring service, which includes checking the weight and height by age range and includes comparisons with developmental milestones against age.