For the human body to work optimally, it obtains energy from nutrients in the food we eat. A healthy diet is a diet that provides the body with essential nutrients and improves overall health. This means consuming a wide variety of foods in the right proportions. A healthy diet may help to prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and helps keep a healthy weight.
What makes up a healthy diet?
The major idea of a healthy diet pattern is to replace processed foods with real foods that are as close to nature as possible. We all need a balance of protein, fat, minerals, carbohydrates, vitamins and fiber in our diet for a healthy body. There’s no need to eliminate any category of food from your diet, rather select the healthiest option from each category. The food groups that make up a healthy diet include:
- Carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, bread, pasta. They provide a bulky part of the energy (calories) gotten from food. The healthy option is the complex carbohydrates (starchy foods) such as rice and potatoes rather than the simple ones which are cakes and sugars.
- Protein- Good sources of protein such as beans, eggs, fish, and meat are essential for body growth and repair. Milk and dairy products such as cheese and yogurt are also good proteins which contain calcium that make the bones and teeth strong and healthy. The healthiest option in this category is skimmed milk, lower fat cheese or lower sugar yogurt to avoid too much fat.
- Fat- All fats are not the same. Bad fat can increase the risk of certain diseases such as stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity but good fat protect the heart and brain. Fats are grouped into saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats increase cholesterol and risk of heart diseases. It is found in cakes, biscuits, cream butter. Unsaturated fats are healthy and are gotten from avocado, oily fish, vegetable oil and so on.
Other food groups that make up a healthy diet
- Fruits and vegetables – they are the basic sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber and should make up one-third of the food we eat daily. It is generally recommended that at least five portions of fruits and vegetables should be eaten daily. Such consumption lowers the risk of heart diseases. A portion can be made up of a slice of pineapple or watermelon or three heaped spoons of vegetables.
- Water- Water helps remove wastes and toxins from the body. Always drink plenty of water as it contains no calories and can be both refreshing and healthy.
Tips for healthy eating
- Do not skip breakfast because it is the most important meal of the day.
- Portion control- Eat small healthy meals (rather than the normal three large meals) daily.
- Avoid eating dinner late at night- make sure you eat a small portion of dinner 3-4hrs before you sleep for proper digestion and regulation of weight.
- Base your meal on starchy carbohydrates which include whole grains, potatoes, rice and so on.
- Eat less fat- Run from saturated fats and trans fat which is a type of unsaturated fat that increases the risk of heart diseases. Trans fats are produced during the processing of vegetable oils and so are found in fried foods, some baked goods like cakes and pastries.
- Eat the recommended amount (five portions) of fruits and vegetables daily.
- Drink lots of water daily.
- Watch your salt intake – excess salt raises blood pressure and contributes to weight gain. Take only little quantity daily.
- Eat less sugar – sugary foods and drinks including alcoholic drinks can make you gain weight when taken in excess or too often.
- Plan your meals ahead and eliminate junks.
- Cook your meals at home so that you can take charge of what you eat.
A healthy diet is required to build strong body immune system that will prevent unwanted and unplanned health challenges that arise at old age. Create a healthy diet plan and spend less time at the hospitals and on drugs.