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In order to stay alive, everyone has to eat food and drink water. But what is a healthy diet?
I have chosen this topic because I have always been interested in food and nutrition. In today’s world, there is such a wide variety of different diets. For example, the Cabbage Soup Diet, the Popcorn Diet, Weight-Watchers, Weigh-Less Diet and even the Hollywood Diet. Different people also have a vastly different perspective as to what a healthy diet is. When most people think of the word diet, they automatically associate it with weight loss. This is not necessarily the case. A diet is simply the amount and kinds of foods a person eats. A healthy diet means consuming less processed foods and trans fats and eating more nutrient rich foods. There are many different reasons that people follow a specific diet. Be it for improved skin, better concentration, improved sports performance or even just to feel better and more energetic. Another reason could be because some people do not enjoy consuming meat and therefore follow the vegetarian diet. The Ketogenic Diet, which is very high in protein and low in carbohydrates has been proven to help victims of epilepsy, reducing the severity, frequency and duration of their seizures. Many a diabetic has been known to come off their insulin as a direct result of following this diet. There are hundreds and thousands of different diets in the world, the majority of them being for weight loss. So how do you decide what a healthy diet is?
A healthy diet should include enough of all the main food groups.
The general consensus is that each individual should consume 2 litres of water per day. However, recent studies have shown that as a result of global warming, most people require more than this on the hotter days. Very active people and sportsmen who perspire and lose larger amounts of fluids also require more to compensate for the greater losses.
On average, up to twenty percent of calorie intake comes from the liquids one drinks. Absolutely everything one puts in their mouth, save for water, contains calories. It is important to drink no more than one glass of one hundred percent of pure fruit juice per day, as it is high in calories and sugar. Every little bit quickly adds up. While milk is a healthier option, nothing beats a glass of water.
When it comes to alcohol, adults are advised to partake in moderation if they must. No more than one unit of alcohol for ladies and two for men per day. Pregnant ladies and anyone taking medication should be sure to avoid alcohol. High intakes of alcohol could lead to both health and social problems.
If one gets an insufficient amount of, or too much of each food group, your body will become malnourished. Malnourished does not only refer to under nourishment, but includes over nourishment. The two extremes of this would be the Americans – who are generally over nourished versus the Ethiopians – who are generally under nourished. This could lead to some health issues such as anaemia, obesity, anorexia, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and a few others.
Firstly, one has to identify the reason for the diet. What do you want the outcome of your diet to be? Next, one has to research more information, find alternatives and whether you, as an individual will be able to follow that diet or not. One also has to take into consideration the nutritional needs of your body. Another consideration to take into account would be food allergies. Some people are born with or develop allergies to certain foods or products. Some common food allergies are nuts, gluten, wheat, eggs, cow’s milk and cow’s milk products. If someone is allergic to any of these, they should avoid any diet that includes these ingredients or products. There are alternatives that can be substituted for these annoyances. For example, almond milk or rice milk can be used instead of cow’s milk. However, the alternatives do tend to cost a lot more and are often not easily accessible.
Another word for a healthy diet could be a balanced diet. A healthy diet should be an easy diet to follow, it should suit your lifestyle and be sustainable. One’s diet should become a habit, a habit of always making the healthier choice and limiting the consumption of excessively processed foods. An example of making a healthier choice would be to always just buy and eat brown (whole grain) bread or rice. Another healthier option would be to eat unrefined carbohydrates. These are less processed and contain much more fibre and nutrients and far less refined sugar.
Refined sugar, commonly found in white breads and flour are sources of ‘empty-calories’ which have very little or no nutritional value and hugely contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Many people are deceived by the value of using sweeteners. These contain large amounts of a product known as Aspartame, which is known to contribute to life-threatening diseases such as migraines, depression and memory loss.
Furthermore, one can substitute unhealthy, saturated fats – for example deep fried foods, fatty meats and cream, with healthier unsaturated fats such as nuts, fatty fish, avocados and peanut butter. Another important factor is to eat a variety of foods. Different foods have different amounts and combinations of nutrients. By eating an assortment of foods, it reassures the idea that one is receiving a wide variety or vitamins and minerals and reduces the possibility of becoming deficient of anything. It also reduces the possibility of being exposed to toxins that could be found in a particular food. An example being certain types of fish that are dangerously high in mercury.
Portion size is also a key element to a healthy, balanced diet. Everything should be eaten in moderation, especially the foods containing higher calories. One way to check on this is to read the labels of the packaging of the foods. Age, gender and activity levels should be taken into consideration. The more active a person is, the more calories they burn therefore the more food they need to consume. It is believed that there is a direct link between obesity and bigger portion sizes.
Trans fats are a massive no-no, and should be avoided at all costs. They are found in semi hydrogenated vegetable oils and are hidden in process foods such as baked goods, snack foods and cheap margarines. They raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol making one prone to heart disease.
Consuming too much sodium is unhealthy for the human body. Sodium causes a raise in blood pressure as well as having other unhealthy effects on people. Most people should have no more than 1500 milligrams of sodium per day. This amounts to about two thirds of a teaspoon of salt. Low sodium salt options are not much healthier and should rather be avoided completely as they have other additives. While a little sodium is needed in a healthy diet, more potassium should also be consumed and helps to lower blood pressure. Food containing potassium are bananas, citrus fruit, yoghurt, beans and potatoes. If food lacks flavour, rather add herbs, such as basil, parsley and organum. Condiments such as mayonnaise and tomato sauce should also be used sparingly as they are very high in calories.
To maintain a healthy diet, the body needs more calcium and vitamin D than the average person gets through their diet in order to maintain bone and dental health. Vitamin D is imperative in the absorption of calcium. While one can get vitamin D from sunlight, this is very dangerous and should rather be taken in the form of supplements, 800 to 1 000 UI per day.
On the topic of supplements – these should never take preference over eating a healthy meal. While vitamin and mineral supplements can provide some of the nutrients needed by the body, they fall short of being completely balanced.
Not everyone follows a healthy diet to lose or maintain weight, some individuals are needing to gain weight. While one needs to burn more calories than one consumes in order to lose weight, the opposite holds true for those looking to gain weight.
When planning a healthy diet one needs to take the following into consideration as a result of peoples preferences:
Every morning one should start the day with a healthy and substantial breakfast, setting the tone for the rest of the day. This will help one feel good and energized and help with a positive outlook for the day ahead. It is highly recommended that one have three balanced meals a day with a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack.
A healthy plate of food should be made up of twenty percent Fruit, thirty percent Vegetables, five percent Fats and Lips, twenty five percent Grains and Grain products and twenty percent Meat and Meat Alternatives.
While it is important to indulge in a healthy meal, moderate exercise is also a regular requirement. One should get at least half an hour of moderate exercise on five days of the week. Stress is one of the leading causes of conditions such as obesity, asthma, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, stomach problems and diabetes. Regular exercise prevents the build-up of stress and leads to improved mental and physical health due to its stress relieving properties.
As an adult in the household, it is important to remember that your actions speak louder than words. As your children see you following a healthy diet, so too, will they be more likely to follow suit. Involving your children in the kitchen and getting them to help prepare meals, will teach them the importance of a healthy diet and motivate them to try new foods. This could also encourage them to be less fussy eaters.
Research has shown that by having structure and sitting at table for meals, makes one more aware of the food that you are eating. This often causes one to eat less and enjoy and appreciate the meal more. If has also been proven that this makes one less prone to indigestion and creates a positive attitude towards food as a form of nourishment.
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