Good nutrition means having a healthy balanced diet. That is, your body gets its most nutrients, minerals and vitamins from the food you eat.
A healthy balanced diet helps you reduce the risk of chronic diseases, manage your weight and have a better lifestyle.
But before we dive further, let us define what a balanced diet is.
What is a balanced diet?
A balanced diet means eating foods from the essential food groups. A healthy balanced diet is one that fulfills your nutritional needs.
A properly balanced diet has more fruits, vegetables, a moderate amount of lean proteins, less healthy fats and sugars.
What Are the Components of A Balanced Diet?
- Carbohydrates (carbs): they give your body energy to perform its daily activities. Carbs foods include grains, oats, potatoes, maize, flour, yams and granola.
- Proteins: they facilitate cell growth and maintenance. Proteins also make up your skin, hair, organs and muscles. Protein foods include; beans, meats, nuts, milk, fish and eggs.
- Fats: your body uses fats to store energy storage, and to produce energy and hormones. Some unsaturated fats to include in your diet are avocados, nuts, and eggs.
- Fibers: Regulate your blood sugar levels, bowel function and health. Your body gets fibers from vegetables, fruits and grains.
- Vitamins: they support almost every function in your body. They also aide cell growth and regulate metabolism. Foods that contain vitamins are vegetables, whole grains, fruits and seeds.
- Minerals: they enable your heart, muscles, brain and bones to function correctly. Your body also uses minerals to produce enzymes and hormones.
- Water: your body uses water to excrete, circulate nutrients, and digest and absorb food. Water also regulates your temperatures and lubricates your eyes and moving joints.
Why is a balanced diet important?
A healthy balanced diet helps you to either lose, maintain, or gain weight. To achieve either of these, you regulate or increase the number of calories you are eating.
Some fruits, such as pears and apples, promote weight loss. They have low glycemic, which prevents sugar spikes that can increase your hunger.
Similarly, fruits such as avocados, bananas and starchy vegetables promote weight gain.
Boost your immunity
Fruits and vegetables provide your body with nutrients that improve your immunity. For example, citrus fruit contains vitamin C that increases white cells’ production that enables you to fight infections.
Broccoli is also one of the healthiest vegetables to include in your diet. It is packed with minerals and vitamins, which are antioxidants.
Facilitates your growth and development
A balanced diet provides your body with nutrients that facilitate growth and repair.
For instance, proteins, minerals and vitamins form new cells in your body. Thus, a serving of lean proteins, vegetables and fruits will see your body grow.
Improves your skin and hair
If you want to strengthen your hair and skin, a balanced diet is your best choice. For example, salmon contains Vitamin D and protein that promotes hair.
Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene that supports healthy skin. Further, vegetables like spinach contain vitamin C that repairs damaged skin.
Improves your mental health
Your brain is the powerhouse of your body. It takes care of your breathing, sensing, movements, digestion and heartbeats.
When you eat healthy foods, your brain nourishes and performs its function. And here is why.
Healthy foods contain antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that are vital. Further, these nutrients protect your brain from oxidative stress.
What to Eat For A Balanced Diet
A healthy balanced diet promotes and maintains good health. USDA Dietary guidelines 2015-2020 recommends a healthy balanced diet to comprise;
- Whole fruits
- Whole grains
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy
Fruits and vegetables
Vegetables and fruits are essential for a healthy, balanced diet. They lower the risk of blood pressure and other chronic diseases.
They help you keep your appetite in check. Mixing fruits ensures that you get all the nutrients.
Refined grains have limited nutritional value. Most of the dietary parts are lost during the production process.
But whole grains contain all the nutritional parts. Hence, many health benefits. Brans slows down the breakdown of starch into glucose thus, maintaining steady blood sugar. Soluble fibers help to lower cholesterol, which prevents the formation of blood clots.
In a study conducted by British Journal of medical practitioners shows that, eating plant phytochemicals, especially polyphenols have great benefits for humans and can protect you from certain cancer.
Protein is a vital food to include in your diet. it improves your mood and reduces anxiety and stress.
Eating proteins also helps you to maintain a healthy weight because it curbs your appetite. You may get you proteins from fish, poultry, beans, nuts and seeds.
Fats and oil
Fats and oil provide your body with energy and facilitates cell growth. Most of your fats should come from unsaturated fats. Foods with unsaturated fats can lower the risk of diseases.
On the contrary, consuming trans fats increases the risk of contracting a chronic illness. Similarly, consuming excess saturated fats risks increasing your cholesterol levels.
Dairy foods provide your body with proteins, minerals and Vitamins. These nutrients help you grow strong and healthy bones.
To maintain a balanced diet, choose dairy foods low in fats and sugars. Foods such as yogurt, milk and soya are some of the best options.
However, taking excess dairy will see you put on weight, which is a risk factor for certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, certain types of cancer, and more. Thus, when buying dairy, opt for the unsweetened and calcium-fortified versions.
How to Maintain A Balanced Diet
1. Control your portions
Controlling your portions is vital for a healthy balanced diet. Portion controls help you to prevent overindulging and overeating. So, how can you achieve portion control?
- Use smaller plates or serve suitable portions.
- Avoid eating in restaurants because they serve excess foods. When in need, eat-in restaurants but remember to pack the extra food home.
- Prepare your meals and pack them in containers for lunch and snacks.
- Use a food diary to record every food you eat.
- Use apps like my fitness pal to log in every food you eat.
2. Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is a vital technique that helps you maintain a balanced diet. It involves eating the food to enjoy it. Here are tips on how to eat mindfully;
- When eating, engage your sense of smell, sounds or colors.
- Before you eat, distinguish whether it is real hunger or non-hunger.
- When eating eliminates distractions and listens to your hunger cue and only eat until you are full.
- Eat to maintain your health and well-being.
By eating mindfully, you avoid overeating; you can recognize when you are full. Thus it makes eating more intentional than an intuitive feeling.
3. Cut down on junk foods.
Maintaining a balanced diet requires you to limit your intake of processed foods. Foods such as pizza, fries and cakes contain excess sugars and sodium, which are unhealthy.
Further, these foods have no nutritional value to your body. And may expose you to chronic diseases.
4. Read your food labels.
Reading food labels enables you to keep track of what you are eating. It helps you to shop and prepare the proper meals.
Most health claims labels on packaged food convince you to buy those products, yet they don’t support a healthy balanced diet.
Diet and weight loss
A poor diet plan is the major reason you are struggling with weight loss.
But there is good news!
You can still lose weight when you combine a healthy, balanced diet plan with some exercises.
And here is how;
- Include proteins in your diet. High-protein diets reduce your food cravings. For instance, a high protein breakfast keeps you full during the day.
- Cut down on your carbs. By cutting down on carbs, your body uses the stored fats to produce energy. It also lowers your insulin level; hence your kidney can shed excess water and sodium.
- Get your fiber, vitamins and minerals from fruits and leafy low carb vegetables.
- Eat healthy fats. Avocado oil and butter are you to go option because they are low fats.
- Replace your favorite processed drinks with water.
Additionally, exercises routines like cardio, weight training and yoga enhance fast weight loss.
When you’re eating a balanced diet, it means you eat food from the five major groups. A balanced diet plan helps you avoid chronic diseases and maintain a healthy weight.
Dietary guidelines recommend starchy vegetables, fruits, lean protein, dairy and fiber. Further, if your aim is to lose weight, follow a balanced diet plan.
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