With society today becoming larger through over eating and not exercising it is more and more important to start to educate them on how to eat more sensibly and how to introduce exercises into their daily lives. People need to be made more aware on how over eating and eating the wrong kinds of foods can have a major adverse effect on their health and in the end their lifespan.
The following will hopefully give a basic guide on how to eat more healthily, get an understanding on how essential the different food groups are, what dietary requirements you need and how exercise will benefit you to stay healthy and reduce the risks of many diseases such as cardio vascular disease and diabetes.
If you are very active or have specialised sports, bodybuilding etc. then the diet needs to be adapted to your goals. This is just to make people aware of how to start eating more healthier and how it will make for a healthier lifestyle.
There are five main food groups that we all require daily to have in a healthy diet. We will have a look at each in turn and find out how they benefit the body.
1) Starchy Carbohydrates and Fibre – These are the body’s energy providers and are the main sources of energy. Foods such as Breads, Potatoes, Cereal products, rice and pastas along with other starchy carbohydrates fall into this category. The main part of these are produced from grains (refined and unrefined), potatoes not included, and should be eaten at every meal. They should make up around a 1/3 of each meal to give a constant supply of energy throughout the day. Refined grains such as white rice, white bread and white pasta have been stripped of its outer coating and inner germ which leaves the endosperm (the nutritive tissue within the grain). Unrefined grains are the wholegrain with the bran, germ and endosperm all intact. The bran gives a great source of fibre, the germ gives sources of proteins, vitamins and minerals with the endosperm giving the carbohydrate content. The whole grains are a more preferred choice as they yield far more nutrients and are richer in phyto-chemicals and antioxidants which help to protect against heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
Fibre – The fibre we eat is found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables and also as stated above whole grains. It cannot be fully digested in the body and is broken down into two categories of soluble and insoluble fibre. The soluble fibre can be found in foods such as beans, fruits and oats. The insoluble fibre is found in foods such as whole grains and vegetables and as it cannot be digested it passes through the digestive system as ‘roughage’. Fibre can help keep a healthy digestive system, keeps you feeling fuller for longer, can help with weight maintenance, helps control blood sugar, lower cholesterol in the blood and reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
2) Fruit and Vegetables – As fruit and vegetables can give a whole host of health benefits then these should be a major part in any diet plan. These should also cover around 1/3 of each meal eaten through the day, just like the carbohydrates. The recommended daily requirements are at least 5 portions of fruit or vegetables daily to get the required benefits from the high nutrition that they give the body. Both fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of phyto-nutrients along with good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre and can reduce the risks of heart disease and some cancers.
3) Milk and Dairy products –These are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals and also a rich source of Calcium with recommendations of three portions daily to get the sufficient amount of calcium daily. They are essential to keep bones and teeth healthy and can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. If you are lactose intolerant or have a vegetarian diet then other food alternatives are required to get the daily calcium requirements. Foods such as soya products, dried fruits, green leafy vegetables, almonds and sesame seeds along with fish (if not a vegan) such as sardines and anchovies (bones included) are great sources for the vegetarian diet.
4) Protein foods –Proteins are classed as the building blocks of life and are needed to allow the body to repair, grow and maintain cells and tissue. All proteins are made up from different combinations of amino acids. Amino acids are broken down into two types – Essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and need to come from food sources where as the non-essential amino acids can be made by the body or synthesised from the essential amino acids. The amino acids construct all the cells, organs and muscles within the body using different combinations and how these are combined and shaped is dependent on our DNA make-up. Animal proteins contain all the essential amino acids required by the body and are found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. Plant proteins however contain many of the amino acids but there isn’t a single source that contains all the essential amino acids and so multiple choices of these proteins are required to get the full range of essential amino acids in the diet. Good sources of plant proteins are cereals, beans pulses, seeds and nuts. As the body cannot store amino acids the body needs a constant supply through the diet with a combination of animal and plant proteins to get all the daily requirements for healthy living. A deficiency of any of the amino acids can result in serious protein diseases such as malnutrition, edema, muscle wasting, anorexia and growth disorders in children.
5) Fats and Sugars – These foods should be limited even though they are an important energy source due to being a concentrated source of energy. Fats have more than double the calories in 1g than proteins and carbohydrates and this is why it is very easy to consume too many calories whilst eating high fat foods. Fats are broken down into two categories, saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and these are classed as the ‘bad fats’ and is associated with increasing blood cholesterol levels along with increasing the risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature and in most cases are from vegetable sources such as olive and rapeseed oils. However some fats are required in our diet to keep us healthy too and also to supply and help transport fat soluble vitamins A,D,E and K around the body. It also supplies Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) from our diet and is said to have a positive effect on the immune system and heart health. Sugars come in our diet in two ways, either naturally occurring like those within fruits and milk or added into our foods when it is processed. It is the added sources that should be monitored and if possible cut down on. They give a quick energy spike but do not have any real nutritional value for the body.
Balancing the Diet!
Eating a balanced diet is the key to staying healthy but it doesn’t mean we have to ban any foods, just eat more of a balance within the food groups. The type of foods and diet you have can depend on many factors. If you have food intolerance then you will have to watch and monitor and maybe omit certain foods from the diet that are causing issues. If you are a bodybuilder, sports person or are more active then the nutrition you require will be different to someone who isn’t involved in these types of activities, but the basis of all nutrition is to have a good balance from all the nutritional food groups.
Within a balanced diet you can break your meals up into sections with each section being for the different food groups. So your meal will be broken down into 5 areas with some sections being bigger than others. Fruit and Vegetables should make up around 1/3 of each meal, Carbohydrates also should make up 1/3 of each meal with the final 1/3 of the meal made up from the 3 other food groups. None of the foods from the food groups are omitted from a balanced diet as they all give essential nutrients to help the body stay healthy.
Maintaining a good balance can be hard but can be done if planned correctly. Some good tips to eating well are:
Drink plenty of water daily.
Don’t skip meals especially breakfast.
Have the basis of your meals on starchy foods.
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables throughout the day. These can also be a healthy snack throughout the day too.
Eat more fish.
Reduce saturated fats and processed/added sugars.
Reduce the amount of salt as to much can cause heightened blood pressure.
Try new types of healthy foods.
Have a positive attitude towards food and enjoy what you eat.
Become more active as exercising helps to maintain bodyweight by balancing your energy intake to your energy output.
Dietary Vitamins and Minerals!
We now know that a balanced diet can improve overall health benefits but there are also nutrients that can improve the chances of avoiding certain diseases and help the body cope with the everyday stresses of life. These are the essential vitamins and minerals we find in food.
Vitamins come in water soluble and fat soluble forms both forms are very important for the body’s health and processes and a deficiency can cause issues in our health.
The water soluble vitamins are B-vitamins and vitamin C. B-Vitamins are found in a variety of foods such as cereals, meat and poultry, eggs, fish, milk, beans and peas as well as fresh vegetables. A deficiency in these vitamins can range from dizziness, tiredness, palpitations and skin disorders to more serious issues such as anaemia, limb pain, central nervous system issues and neurological damage. Vitamin C is required for normal growth and repair of tissues in the body and has been found to help protect against infection. It can be found in many foods such as citrus fruits, broccoli, cabbage and tomatoes. Deficiencies of Vitamin C causes scurvy but can be treated by upping the intake of dietary or supplemental vitamin C. The water soluble vitamins are not stored within the body and so we need a consistent supply from our diet to keep up with the daily requirements.
Fat soluble vitamins on the other hand can be stored within the body’s fat and also the liver. The fat soluble vitamins are A,D,E and K. As they can be stored within the body then care has to be taken to avoid over accumulation within the body but a balanced diet will give sufficient amounts of each of these vitamins.
Minerals come in two groups, major minerals and trace elements. The main minerals that are required in the daily diet are Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorous and Sodium as these are found in virtually every cell in the body. Imbalances in these minerals can be potentially fatal and can be caused by poor nutrition, incorrect dieting, stress and medications. Without sufficient amounts of minerals the body is unable to build new tissue, balance the body’s pH, regulate the body’s processes and release energy from the food ingested. So it is vital sustain intake of dietary minerals to maintain physical health.
Why it’s important to have a Healthy Lifestyle!
Physical exercise goes hand in hand with good nutrition as it can help with energy levels, promotes overall good health within the body, elevates mood and reduces stress. Exercise, especially some form of resistance training can also help the body age well by keeping bones and joints strong, and helping prevent diseases such as osteoporosis, especially in women as they are more prone to this the older they get.
Eating nutritious healthy foods alongside increasing your physical activities can help you stay healthy and live longer. There are many risks and diseases associated with poor eating and being generally unhealthy. Some of which are:
Cardio vascular disease and strokes
High blood pressure
High Cholesterol levels
So to finalise here are some pointers on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle:
Educate yourself on good nutrition and learn about the different kinds of foodstuffs and how they can affect the body in a positive way
Healthy eating should become a habit
Include a balance of foods from each of the five food groups in every meal
Each regular and don’t miss meals
Do regular exercise at least 3 times a week and include cardio vascular as well as resistance as this will produce the best all round benefits for the body and mind
Try to reduce stress levels and always have a positive outlook