A healthy diet is the one which is full of nutrients in the right proportion from all the main food groups. Generally, the word “diet” is misunderstood and referred to as a particular weight loss plan, but in a layman language, it refers to the variety and quantity of food a person eats.
A healthy diet should necessarily include a perfect balance of different food groups, because only one food group cannot provide all the nutrients required by the body to maintain sound health.
Making healthy food choices can lower the risk of several serious health conditions or lifestyle diseases like heart ailments, diabetes, cancer or blood pressure irregularities.
Since the internet is flooded with information, it is difficult to design a healthy and suitable diet. But, making even smaller alterations in the day to day food choices can make it more nutritious and avert the risk of many medical conditions.
Meaning of healthful eating
Taking a balanced diet implies choosing to eat food from all the major food groups in appropriate amounts. The major food groups are:
- Whole grains– These are the products derived from an entire food grain including the germ and the bran whereas the refined foodgrains consist of the part of the grain only. The whole grain food has wonderful health advantages including lower risk of cancer, heart or a cardiovascular ailment, therefore lower mortality risk. Such grains are fibre rich and have a lot of Vitamin B. They also contain traces of minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc. When the grains are refined, they tend to lose their nutritive value like in bread, pasta and cereals. Always choose the products which have “whole” or “whole grain” written n them.
- Fruits and Vegetables- They are rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins. Including different colours of vegetables and fruits in the diet is the perfect way to nourish the body with all the requisite vitamins and minerals needed by the body. The vegetables can be fresh, frozen or canned but should add up to 4.5 cups each day or fill half of the plate, according to health standards. Do not take the canned ones which have added sugar or are high in sodium content. Eating vegetables and fruits whole is anyways better and adds a lot of fibre to the diet. A diet rich in this food group can help in weight management and lower risk of major diseases.
- Fats- They form an integral part of a healthy diet because they promote better functioning of nervous system, give energy, help to absorb some vitamins and are also essential for hair, skin and joints. Fats also can be animal or plant based.
- Dairy products-They are the best sources of calcium which makes bones strong and promotes healthy teeth. We can choose lower fat category of milk products to keep the heart healthy. As long as calcium is being included in diet it is not necessary that dairy products are important. Dairy alternatives also form a part of this group.
- Protein rich foods- Proteins are important macronutrients which are needed by each cell of the body for growth and repair of cells and tissues inclusive of muscle, bone, hair and skin. Proteins are essential for the clotting of blood, building better immunity and optimum secretion of hormones and enzymes. Many foods which are protein rich also contain minerals like zinc, magnesium and iron. Protein rich foods may be both animal and plant based. Animal based sources are chicken, fish and eggs whereas soya, nuts and beans provide plant based protein. According to health guidelines 50 grams of protein intake per day in a 2K calorie diet is important. A healthy diet should include protein from varied sources and proteins needs vary from person to person depending on the weight and level of activity of an individual.
Apart from making healthy food choices, some other points which need to be taken care of are:
- Optimum portion size
- Avoid processed food
- Limit sugar intake
- Lower animal fat intake
- Include Vitamin D and calcium
- Lower sodium intake and increase potassium intake
A healthy diet and an active lifestyle lay a strong foundation for overall sound health.