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Good nutrition is the key to excellent body health. Eating a balanced diet, which includes all the nutrients that the body needs for proper functioning, in addition to adequate exercise is the key to maintaining good health.
What is a Balanced Diet?
A balanced diet is a diet which includes all the nutrients required by the body in correct quantities daily. A balanced diet does not concentrate on one food or macronutrient group but focusses on all the aspects of nutrition requirement.
No single food will provide all the required nutrition. Therefore, to maintain a balanced diet, one must eat a different variety of food in appropriate quantity.
Importance of a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet is a key to a balanced life. If you eat well and take care of your body, your body will take care of you. You can get down to focussing on your aims and targets for life, instead of stressing on curing yourself of diseases and ailments, just by following a balanced diet.
A balanced diet:
- Nourishes and conditions the body and keeps all the organs working in good condition.
- Helps to build immunity against ailments.
- Helps to maintain cardiovascular health.
- Keeps diseases like cancer, stroke, diabetes, kidney and liver ailments at bay.
- Provides stamina and keeps fatigue away.
- Helps with the growth and development milestones for children.
- Helps to prevent conditions like obesity.
How to build a Balanced Diet?
To build a balanced diet, every meal must contain the correct level of macronutrients and micronutrients required by the body. This need is very specific to an individual and must be calculated by taking into consideration your gender, age, height, current weight, and activity level.
Based on the quantities derived from the calculation of macronutrients, every meal should contain food from the following groups –
1: Fruits – They contain a lot of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that help with correct hormone secretion and the functioning of the body. They are rich in natural sugar, so if you are diabetic, you will need to watch out for the type and the quantity of fruit you are eating.
2: Vegetables – These are sources of micronutrients, minus the natural sugars. Vegetables that have more water content are very low in carbs and calories. They are full of fiber, which helps to bring in a feeling of fullness quickly. Vegetables with higher carb content like potatoes should be eaten in limited quantities, but not avoided completely, because they are rich in minerals.
A healthy serving of green vegetables like kale, spinach, fenugreek leaves, lettuce etc. provide the daily required dose of fiber, which helps in the process of digestion and elimination, which in turn helps in maintaining gut health.
3: Grains and Legumes: Grains like wheat, rice, millets etc. are a rich source of complex carbohydrates, which is an essential source of energy. Legumes are a good source of proteins.
4: Oils: Contrary to popular belief, oils are essential to our body, though consuming copious amounts can lead to severe disbalance in the body. Oil from healthy plant-based sources, nuts, and fish like salmon or trout are essential to maintaining skin, hair and gut health.
5: Meat: Meat is a source of lean protein. It has very low levels of carbohydrates and moderate levels of fats. Processed meat should be avoided. Also, meat from organic, natural fed sources should be preferred.
How to Build Healthy Eating Habits?
Eating healthy occasionally is of no use if you continue to abuse your body daily by eating unhealthy, sugar-based and processed food all the time. Make it a habit to eat healthy for life, by following these easy tips –
- Avoid sugary and fizzy drinks. Instead, opt for natural juices and water
- Avoid processed food like chips and crisps, baked goodies made using unhealthy ingredients like refined flour and hydrogenized oils, packaged food items with high levels of preservatives etc.
- Reach out for food in their natural forms, like whole grains, vegetable, and
- Eat seasonal and local food. Food that is out of season or which is not local contains preservatives, and the nutrition levels are not optimum.
- Scout for recipes that involve spices. This will help you to control cravings for unhealthy food while giving a tasty twist to your regular food.
- Skip refined flour having almost zero nutritional value. Instead, go for options like whole grains and cereals. Swap out white bread and pasta with whole grain products.
- When you make an initial switch to eating healthy, make it a habit to check the nutritional value of the food that you are planning to eat. In time, you will understand how to make healthier choices and it will come as a second nature to you.
- It is fine to give in to cravings sometimes and eat unhealthily. However, you should switch back to healthy eating as soon as possible.
- Try to eat home cooked food as much as possible and avoid eating outside. It is easier to control what you eat when you cook the food at home.
- Stock healthy and nutritious food like fruits, whole grain baked goodies, low-fat yogurt, cheese etc. in your home, instead of processed junk. It is far easier to reach out and eat healthily if it is readily available.
- Carry food like fruits and home-made granola bars with you when you are on the move. This will help you control hunger pangs.
- Drink enough water to make sure that all the food that you eat is digested and assimilated properly.
- Plan your meals and prep them in advance, so that you do not have any excuse to fall back on to eat unhealthy food.