Food can be the most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.. the choice is yours.
Healthy eating is all about getting the balance right, with the right food and fluid. If a person's diet does not meet their needs eventually they will become unwell. Every person needs to have a balanced, healthy diet as it provides the energy and nutrients required to survive and stay healthy.
Combining a healthy diet with an active lifestyle has huge benefits. Healthy eating should be long-term measure that emphasises on enjoying more of the foods that protect and nourish the body by choosing a variety of foods. We need to remember that there are no healthy or unhealthy foods - just healthy or unhealthy diets.
On the basis of nutritional composition, food can be classified as:
- Macronutrients - protein, fats and carbohydrates - provide energy and are essential for growth and maintenance;
- Micronutrients - vitamins, minerals, trace elements - are needed in very small amounts yet are essential for growth and development;
A Guideline for framing a Healthy Diet can be as follows:
1) Water: 60-70% of our body comprises of water so it holds a major part of our diet. Drinking 10-12 glasses of plain water is recommended to replenish the body's essential fluid requirements.
2) Carbohydrates: Foods such as rice, pasta, bread, cereals and potatoes should form the basis of each meal as they are a good source of energy and provide a range of nutrients. People should be encouraged to eat the wholegrain variety as it will significantly improve the intake of fibres needed for gut motion and other health reasons.
3) Fat: Fats too are essential in our diet but then the right choice of fats has to be made. Excess of fats is bad for our health but then limiting the fat has to be in a correct way so that the intake of good for health fats like essential fatty acids (Omega 3 fat found in oily fish) and fat soluble vitamins is not compromised. Restrict the use of butter, fat on meat and trans-fats or hydrogenated fats found in processed foods like cakes and pastries as these can raise cholesterol and increase risk of heart disease. Choose to cook your food in oils of sunflower, soya, sesame, corn, olive or rapeseed.
4) Proteins: the building blocks of our body can be obtained from food sources like skimmed milk and its products, animal food like egg, lean meat and fish, pulses and legumes.
5) Fruits and vegetables: It is recommended to have 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. A single portion (80g) may include:
- One apple, banana, orange or other similar-sized fruit;
- Two plums or similar-sized fruit;
- Three heaped tablespoons of coloured vegetables;
- Three heaped tablespoons of leafy greens;
- A 150ml glass of fruit juice.
6) Salt: a diet with optimum levels of salt is an important factor to watch out as a diet with high salt intake may graduate to some chronic health ailments like hypertension. Salt in the diet mainly comes from the salt added during cooking and at the table, but a major portion can also come from salt hidden in foods that we purchase. So do look at the food labels.
7) Alcohol: Some health experts advocate that alcohol in small quantities can actually have a beneficial effect on health. The current guidelines are that women can drink up to 2-3 units of alcohol a day and men up to 3-4 units a day. Ideally these units should be spread throughout the week, with one or two alcohol-free days every week. But the excess of anything is bad and same goes with alcohol as it is high in calories and so can contribute to excess weight gain which in the long run will be difficult to lose (weight). Heavy drinking over a long period of time can result in liver damage and increases the risk of high blood pressure, which is linked to coronary heart disease. Alcohol is also a diuretic.
Cutting out on any of the food groups from the diet whether for weight loss or unproven food intolerance can lead to serious health implications (and may result in nutrient deficiency) and should not be undertaken without adequate medical and dietetic supervision.
The above healthy eating advice is aimed at adults who are well - children, older people, those who are ill or have specific dietary needs (such as pregnant women) will have different dietary requirements and the general healthy eating principles may not apply. Contact our dietetic professionals for an individualized food plan.