A healthy diet should include a wide variety of nutritious foods for sufficient intake of all nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. Foods to include are breads, pastas, lean meats, fish, fruits and vegetables. A healthy diet can help you maintain a healthy body weight and decrease your risk of many diet-related chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
Healthy diets contain a variety of foods
In general, we should include a range of nutritious foods and eat:
- plenty of breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables and legumes.
- low-salt foods and use salt sparingly
- small amounts of foods that contain added sugars
- reduced-fat milk and other dairy products.
It is also important to drink an adequate amount of water. A good balance between exercise and food intake is important, as this helps to maintain muscle strength and a healthy body weight. At least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking, is recommended every day.
Keep fat to a minimum
Adult diets should be low in fat, especially saturated fat. Saturated fat, which is the main fat in animal products, fried foods, chocolate, cakes and biscuits, is more easily deposited as fat tissue than unsaturated fat. Saturated fat can also be converted into cholesterol and cause blood cholesterol levels to rise.
Monounsaturated fats are found in nuts, olive oil and avocados, and may help to lower the bad type of cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fats are generally thought to lower blood cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, nuts and seeds, are thought to have an anti-clotting effect on blood, to reduce the risk of heart disease and to possibly lower blood pressure.
Eat and drink less high-kilojoule foods
The total amount of energy-dense foods you eat may be as important as the total amount of fat in your diet. To reduce the energy density of your diet, you need to increase the amount of plant foods, such as wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables that you eat. This will provide essential nutrients, help to make you feel ‘full’ and also reduce the amount of fat in your diet. High energy drinks such as sports drinks, cordials, soft drinks, fruit juice, energy drinks should also be limited.
Drink alcohol in moderation
Alcohol is high in energy and should be consumed in moderation. Men should drink less than two standard drinks per day and women less than one standard drink per day. One standard drink is 375 ml mid-strength beer, 100 ml wine or 30 ml spirits. Alcohol should not be given to children and is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Healthy diets for babies and children
There are guidelines to follow that help encourage a healthy diet for your infant or child, including:
- Infants – it is encouraged for babies to be breastfed for the first year of life. In most cases, breastfeeding should be the only source of food in the first six months. If you use formula, be careful not to overfeed or underfeed your baby.
- Sugar – children should eat only a small amount of foods that contain sugar and avoid food with added sugar, such as lollies, fruit drinks and soft drinks.
- Low-fat diets – are not appropriate for infants and young children under two years of age. A diet low in fat, especially saturated fat, may be considered for older children.
- Drinks – infants and children should be encouraged to choose water as their preferred drink.
Don’t skip breakfast
Children who skip breakfast generally have poorer nutrition. Their diets contain less:
- dietary fibre
- vitamins such as riboflavin and niacin.
Skipping breakfast becomes more common as children get older. Some schools have introduced breakfast programs because they were concerned about children who skip breakfast. Children generally perform better at school when they have breakfast. They are also more likely to maintain a healthy weight when they consume a healthy breakfast. Adults who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely be a healthy weight and more productive at work.
The top healthy foods
Nuts, pulses, and grains can be highly nutritious. Here are some of the best:
First on our list is almonds. Almonds are rich in nutrients, including magnesium, vitamin E, iron, calcium, fiber, and riboflavin. A scientific review published in Nutrition Reviews found that almonds as a food may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Almonds have more fiber than any other tree nut.
They are rich in protein and carbohydrates. They are also excellent sources of vitamin B-1, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc. Not only that, but they contain one of the highest amounts of selenium of any food, selenium is a vital mineral for maintaining thyroid function.
Lentils require a long cooking time, but the seeds can be sprouted which makes them ready to eat and a delicious, healthy snack. Adding a container of sprouted lentils to a lunchbox or picnic basket, perhaps with some chili powder or pepper for flavoring, makes for a delicious and healthy snack.
Oatmeal is meal made from rolled or ground oats. Interest in oatmeal has increased considerably over the last 20 years because of its health benefits. Oats are rich in complex carbohydrates, as well as water-soluble fiber, which slow digestion down and stabilize levels of blood-glucose. Oatmeal is rich in B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. Coarse or steel-cut oats contain more fiber than instant varieties.
Wheat germ is the part of wheat that germinates to grow into a plant. The embryo of the seed. Germ along with bran, is a by-product of milling. When cereals are refined, the germ and bran are often milled out. Wheat germ is high in several vital nutrients, such as vitamin E, folic acid, thiamin, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, as well as fatty alcohols and essential fatty acids. Wheat germ is also a good source of fiber.
Broccoli is rich in fiber, calcium, potassium, folate, and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are compounds that reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Another ingredient, sulforphane, is also said to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory qualities.
Apples are an excellent source of antioxidants, which combat free radicals. Free radicals are damaging substances generated in the body that cause undesirable changes. They are involved in the aging process and some diseases. Some animal studies have found that an antioxidant found in apples might extend lifespans.
Kale is a very underrated leafy green. There are a lot of different nutrients contained within the leaves of kale. Vitamin C is a nutrient of kale. Kale can be cooked or steamed like cabbage, spinach, or asparagus. It can also be consumed in smoothies or juiced for a revitalizing nutrient kick.
Blueberries are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Unlike minerals and vitamins, phytonutrients are not essential for keeping us alive. However, they may help prevent disease and keep the body working properly. Regular blueberry consumption can reduce the risk of hypertension by 10 percent, because of the berry’s bioactive compounds, anthocyanins.
Many people avoid avocados because of their high fat content. They believe that avoiding all fats leads to better health and easier to control body weight but this is a myth. Avocados are rich in healthy fats, as well as B vitamins, vitamin K, and vitamin E and have a very high fiber content. Studies have shown that regular avocado consumption lowers blood cholesterol levels.
Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber, beta-carotene (vitamin A), potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B-6.
Fish, meat and eggs
When looking for healthy protein, it is difficult to know which is the best source. Here are some of the best:
Examples of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies. These types of fish have oil in their tissues and around the gut. Their lean fillets contain up to 30 percent oil, specifically, omega-3 fatty acids. These oils are known to provide benefits for the heart, as well as the nervous system. Oily fish provide benefits for patients with inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. They are also rich in vitamins A and D.
Chicken is a cheap and healthy meat. Free range chicken provides an excellent source of protein. As a white meat, chicken can be consumed much more freely than other red meats such as beef, which can have a more damaging long-term impact on overall health.
It is important to remember that the preparation and cooking of chicken has an impact on how healthy it is. This means deep fried chicken should be limited or avoided. It’s also important to remove the skin, as this part of the chicken contains high levels of fat.
Eggs are another source of protein that can easily be incorporated into a balanced diet. They contain other vitamins, including vitamin B-2, also known as riboflavin and vitamin B-12, both of which are important for energy and red blood cells. It is also a good source of the essential amino acid leucine, which is important for stimulating muscle protein synthesis.
The yolk of the egg contains the majority of the vitamins and minerals. It also contains the fat and cholesterol, however, research has shown that eggs do not increase the risk for heart disease. Consuming fat in moderate amounts is perfectly healthful.
Balance and moderation
Overall it is important for health to have a balanced diet and one that does not focus on one specific type of food. It’s also important to remember that a treat once in a while can be a part of a balanced diet and one that is very healthful overall.
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