Nutrient-Rich and Balanced Diet for a Healthy Lifestyle
A balanced diet includes foods from all groups, including monounsaturated fats, protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Foods that are low in sodium or salt content and rich in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are preferred choices.
Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates are absorbed and digested quickly and used as energy. The main types include galactose and fructose. Examples of foods are processed foods, syrups, carbonated drinks, and candies. They lack essential minerals, vitamins, and fiber and are empty of nutritional value. Complex carbs are found in foods such as whole grain cereals and breads. Examples are beans and vegetables that are rich in fiber. They are a good source of macronutrients.
The Glycemic Index and Low GI Foods
The Glycemic Index assigns a value to foods to show how long it takes for blood sugar levels to rise after eating them. Foods with a high GI cause spikes in blood sugar levels and should be avoided. Whole wheat, soya, tomatoes, mushrooms, and cabbage are examples of low GI foods. Whole milk and butter beans are also good choices. Dates, instant white rice, rice cakes, and instant mashed potatoes are on the taboo list.
Soluble and Insoluble Fiber
Dietary fiber is divided into soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber aids weight control because it slows down digestion. Good sources are vegetables, legumes, and grains such as carrots, beans, and oatmeal. They offer a number of health benefits such as stable glucose levels, lower blood cholesterol, and others. Insoluble fiber speeds out food passage because it doesn’t dissolve in water. It is beneficial for people who have constipation. There are many healthy food choices that are rich in insoluble fiber, including brown rice, legumes, green beans, and whole grains.
Processed and fast food usually contains empty calories as well as products with added sugar and solid fats. Such foods have no or few macronutrients. The list of foods with empty calories includes desserts, snacks, fruit juices, pastries, and ice cream.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Fats
Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats are considered healthy. They reduce the risk for cancer, heart problems, and stroke. Trans fats, on the other hand, are made from liquid oils through hydrogenation and increase the risk for cardiovascular problems and stroke because they clog the blood vessels. Examples of products that are high in trans fats include margarine, fast food, cake mixes, shortening, and others.
Healthy Eating and Benefits
A balanced diet reduces the risk for serious problems such as high blood pressure, cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Dieters should add a variety of foods to their menu, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. It is important to practice moderation and pay attention to portion size.
Some foods increase the risk for chronic diseases, and these include sugar-laden drinks and processed foods. Refined grains and deli meats, for example, increase the risk for diabetes. Lean meats are a better alternative to fatty meats.
Sugar and Salt
While sugar and salt are found in most foods, manufacturers add more sodium and sugar, along with preservatives, flavorings, and other ingredients. The majority of sodium consumed by people in the developed countries comes from processed, fast, and restaurant food. The daily salt limit is 1 teaspoon. Persons with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, and those who are over the age of 51 should limit their sodium intake. Eating less salt helps control and prevent high blood pressure.
Many foods include added sugar, for example, reduced-calorie dressings, ketchup, baked beans, and granola bars. Sugar is empty of nutritional value and contributes to weight gain. It is associated with health risks such as tooth decay, heart problems, and increased triglyceride levels. Sugar makes foods and beverages calorie-dense while you miss out on essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Drinks and Beverages
Most diets emphasize drinking plenty of water. You can have milk and fruit juices in moderation but avoid sugar-laden drinks such as bottled tea, energy drinks, bottled coffee, and others.
The daily calorie intake depends on different factors such as age, sex, and weight. Physical activity is another factor to consider. There are online daily needs calculators that calculate the BMI and calorie intake based on sex, age, weight, height, and lifestyle (i.e. sedentary, moderately active, and active). Note that the main source of calories is desserts because they are loaded with sugar and simple carbohydrates.
Skipping breakfast is not recommended because this can lead to overeating and weight gain. A breakfast that combines complex carbs such as whole grain bread or cereal with protein is a good choice. Foods such as oatmeal, wheat germ, yogurt, and fruits are sources of healthy carbohydrates, fiber, and nutrients. You can also have almond butter, eggs, and high-fiber foods. People who eat breakfast are less likely to have weight problems and are more energetic. Eating high-fiber foods means that dieters get fewer calories.
The Healthy Eating Pyramid
The pyramid is based on the dietary pattern and culinary traditions of the Mediterranean countries. Recommended foods include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, seeds, olive oil, and red wine. Dieters consume fish and seafood and eat poultry and eggs occasionally. Red meat is at the top of the pyramid; so, consume in moderation.