Have you ever wondered what exactly constitutes a healthy diet?
Messages about healthy eating have been around for decades.
Dietitians and health professionals have been promoting a consistent message about the types of food we should consume more of, or not in.
Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Choose lots of fruits, vegetables and grains.
Choose a diet low in fat, especially saturated fat and cholesterol.
Use sugars only in moderation.
Get sufficient rest every day.
If you smoke, do so as infrequently as possible, and eventually quit.
Take alcoholic beverages in moderation. (1)
It is one that consists of proteins, carbohydrates (sugar and starches), fats, vitamins and minerals in the right proportions.
Your body needs a regular supply of these nutrients to grow, replace worn-out tissues and provide energy.
Balance, variety, moderation and adequacy are key to maintaining good health.
Balance means eating the recommended number of servings from each food group on most days.
Variety within each food group (for example, eating different fruits from the fruit group instead of only eating apples) ensures that you get all the nutrients you need, since no single food provides all nutrients.
Eating a wide variety of foods will also help you avoid eating too much of any substance that may be harmful.
Moderation means eating a little of everything but nothing in excess.
Adequacy means are you having enough of a specific nutrient in your diet.
There is no such thing as good or bad food.
There are only good and bad diets.
All types of food can fit in a healthy diet if you eat everything in moderation. (2)
By keeping a healthy diet, we can maintain a healthy body weight and reduce our risk of developing diet-related diseases such as heart disease and cancer. (3)
However, maintaining a healthy diet is not as straightforward as it may seem.
There is much confusion among the general public about what constitutes a healthy diet, as well as a belief by many that they are already keeping a healthy diet.
A healthy diet and lifestyle in adulthood aims to:
Ensure that you are fit, healthy and full of vitality in the short term.
Minimize the risk of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis in the long term. (5)
It refers to the role that food plays in relation to the well-being of the human body.
The food we eat can have a huge impact on our health and well-being. (6)
Hence, a balanced, nutritional diet is one that provides all the essential nutrients in the right quantities for health.
In fact, it is important to understand that the science of nutrition is still in its infancy.
Centuries ago, scientists were busy discovering new stars and galaxies while the first vitamins were only discovered decades ago! (7)
Nutritional knowledge changes constantly.
If you follow the news, you will notice that certain types of food come into go out of favour with nutritionists and doctors alike.
It is fair to say that nutrition is an evolving science, another those who study nutrition are pioneers of a new frontier.
From what science has shown us to date, we know that everyone needs about 6 types of essential nutrients to stay healthy. (8)
Since no single food supplies all the nutrients needed for an adequate diet, consumption of a variety of food is necessary.
An adequate diet is one that supplies us with enough food to sustain life while promoting growth and good health.
The quality and quantity of food that we give ourselves will determine whether we have a balanced diet.
A calorie is a measurement of the energy that food supplies to the body. Each type of energy-providing nutrient provides a different amount of calories.
Protein – 4 calories / gram
Carbohydrates – 4 calories / gram
Fats – 9 calories / gram (10)
3 of the major macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
A healthy diet that provides our body with the best macronutrient balance can be found below:
Each color serves a unique purpose. Be sure to choose food items of different colors in this category.