A healthy diet helps improve general well-being. It is essential to maintain a healthy diet in order to prevent health risks, such as heart problems, obesity, diabetes, ulcers and cancer. While, for some people, it is virtually impossible to cut down on the amount of unhealthy food, the others choose to follow a healthy diet. They prefer to eat more fruits, vegetables and cereals rather than starchy and greasy food. Although fruits, vegetables and cereals are considered to be healthy and contain all the beneficial substances for human health, it does not mean that people should live of this food, only. According to nutrition specialists, a healthy diet means eating different kinds of foods; however, reasonably and in the correct proportions, since only one variety of food cannot provide the body with all the nutrients to keep it healthy (Home Health UK, n.d.).
Doctors and dieticians distinguish five basic groups of food that contain all the necessary vitamins, so that people could support their health. Firstly, such foods as bread, rice, cereals and potatoes, which are the sources of fiber, should be an inseparable part of everyday meals. These kinds of food provide human body with energy and strength. Secondly, fruits and vegetables are a valuable source of vitamins and minerals. Moreover, they contain a small amount of calories and fat. In order to receive all the necessary amounts of vitamins, each person should have a daily intake of fruits and vegetables, either fresh or frozen. Thirdly, dairy products are beneficial for sound health since they are rich in calcium, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Nevertheless, people should be aware that some milk products can contain a large amount of fat, so, if possible, it is advisable to choose products with less fat. The other products, which are an undoubted part and parcel of a healthy diet, are meat and fish products. Consuming fish, one or two times per week, is beneficial for one’s health. Meat is a rich source of iron and vitamin B12. Protein, which is found in different kinds of meat and fish, is essential for growth and healing of human bodies. When a person wants to keep a healthy and balanced diet, it is recommended to avoid eating food that is rich in calories and fat. Such products are butter, ice-cream, salad cream, biscuits, sweets, crisps and others. If done does not want to gain excessive weight, he or she should try not to eat more than the body can utilize. Healthy eating habits are not the only key to a person’s well-being, since it is necessary to be active and do physical exercises, as well. An essential thing in keeping a healthy diet is not to skip breakfast since it gives energy for the whole day. In order to stimulate healthy digestion and flushing of toxins, it is advisable to drink 1–2 liters of water every day.
Vitamins and minerals are an essential part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Human body may receive the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals in a natural way, namely by eating a varied diet, or one may take vitamin supplements, if there is any vitamin deficiency. The most vital thing in this case is to consult a doctor before taking any vitamins and minerals, or it may have an adverse effect on a person’s health. Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that make the human body function properly; they support the immune system, body growth and development. There are different groups of vitamins. Vitamin A makes cells reproduce and keeps skin and hair in a proper condition. This vitamin can be found in green vegetables, dairy products, liver and apricots. Vitamin B6, for instance, assists in the process of formation of genetic material. Folic acid, or vitamin B9, helps form red blood cells. Vitamin C aids in absorbing iron. Eating food rich in vitamin C prevents infectious diseases and makes the immune system stronger. This vitamin can be found in citrus fruits, green vegetables and potatoes. It should be mentioned that vitamin C is lost when the vegetables are boiled or overcooked. Vitamin D, together with calcium, prevents bones from thinning. It can be found in cereals, egg yolks, margarine and some fish. Minerals are also required for the proper functioning of the body. They are necessary for strong bones and teeth, converting the food that people eat into energy, and for controlling body fluids. Among the essential minerals are calcium and iron. Calcium is the vital mineral needed for growth and strength of bones and teeth. It can be found in dairy products, green vegetables and browned bread. Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the component of blood that carries oxygen. Those who have iron deficiency get tired unusually quickly and feel exhausted. Iodine helps in the functioning of thyroid hormones. It can be found in table salt and sea food. Zinc, which is found in dairy products, meat, fish and cereals, is pivotal in maintaining fertility, as well as brittle hair nails and healing injuries.
Many people consume too much fat. Despite the fact that fat is considered to be one of the sources of energy, when people eat more fatty food than they can burn, it can result in excessive weight and other health problems. Still, it is a foregone conclusion that fat is unnecessary in a healthy diet. A moderate amount of fat is essential in daily food intakes. Fat is necessary to the diet since it helps the body absorb other nutrients and provide acids that the body cannot provide itself. There are three main types of fat – unsaturated fat, saturated fat, and trans fat. In fact, both saturated and unsaturated fats contain exactly the same amount of calories. However, unlike saturated fats, which increase the levels of cholesterol in people’s organisms and pose risks of heart diseases, unsaturated fats, on the contrary, help lower cholesterol level. Unsaturated fats can be found in sunflower oil, olive oil, soya, sardines, mackerel and avocado. According to scientific estimates, the daily intake of saturated fat for an average man should be below 30g, and for an average woman – not more than 20 g respectively (NHS choices, n.d.). Since excessive consumption of food rich in fat is unhealthy and harmful, one should rather bake or grill food instead of frying it in a large amount of oil. Trans fat is a man-made fat, which has been changed by hydrogenation. It is a hard fat, and it makes chips crispier, for an example. Trans fat raises the cholesterol level in the body, just like saturated fat does. Trans fat can be found in processed food, snacks, cookies, margarine, salad dressings and other fast food (Smith, Paul & Segal, 2012). Very often, there is a label on a food packet ‘lower fat’ or ‘reduced fat’. Nevertheless, one should not be taken in by such things since the ‘lower fat’ label may mean that food is 30 per cent lower in fat than standard, but is still high in fat. Furthermore, ‘lower fat’ products are usually high in calories since quite often fat is replaced with sugar, and the food may have higher calorie content.
The Components of a Healthy Diet
As we have seen from above, there are several components of a healthy diet and they all need to be balanced depending on such factors as weight, type of physical activity and the level of such activities. The paper will discuss the 7 healthy diet components (carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, fiber, water and minerals).
Carbohydrates are used to provide our bodies with energy for use by the body cells, tissues and organs. To provide sugar for the body, carbohydrates are converted into sugar for energy provision. Carbohydrates should consist of 40-60% of daily calories according to USDA guidelines (Ray, 2010). They can be found as starch or sugar. Starch includes foods like potatoes, breads, pasta and rice. Starch gives us energy and contains few calories. Sugar is not very important in our diet because it contains no nutrients but helps in providing calories. It is important to consume low calorie drinks and use less sugar in our tea or coffee (“Healthy balanced diet”, n.d.).
Fats are vital for the ultimate health. Fats are an important source of energy as well as giving food its flavor. Fats also help make us feel full. This component is found in dairy products, oils, fish and nuts. According to MedlinePlus, such foods as soybean, sunflower oil, olive, safflower, corn and canola are healthy sources of fat. A balanced diet should contain fats between 25-35% of daily calorie intake. However, trans-fats should be eliminated altogether although saturated fats should be kept to 10% or less of the total fat intake. According to livestrong.com healthy fats are those from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated sources like olive oil, nuts and fish (Ray, 2010).
Proteins are the nutrients that are essential in building and repairing the body tissues. The USDA recommends to restrict healthy eating of proteins to 5-6 ounces a day (or 20-30 of daily calories). Proteins are found in such foods as dairy, nuts, meat, beans and some grains. However, it is important to note that proteins from animals (such as milk and meat) are complete protons while those from plants are incomplete proteins.
Our bodies need a total of 13 different vitamins to enable the body to grow and develop properly. Sources of vitamins include fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and vitamin supplements (given as pills). According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) food guidelines, adults should maintain 2,000 calories per day. They should consume an average of two cups of fruits per day as well two and half cups of vegetables to help maintain a balanced diet (Ray, 2010).
Fiber is that part of the plant diet that our bodies cannot digest. Fiber helps in preventing constipation and improving the rate at which our bodies eliminate food, since food does not stay in the body as digested food material. Fiber also helps in controlling body weight. Sources of fiber include fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains (Ajmera, n.d.).
Water is essential for a healthy diet component as long as it is clean and safe for drinking. MedlinePlus asserts that how much water a person needs will depend on one’s size, the weather and activity level.
Minerals are needed by our bodies to build strong bones, regulate the heartbeat and create hormones. Minerals help the body in improving brain functionality and release of energy. Minerals are found in fruits, fish and vegetables. Minerals include iodine, calcium and iron (Ray, 2010).