Eating is considered as one of the most important parts of our everyday living. Foods we eat are the single source of energy and nutrition. 85% of us often eat out and oily/fried foods, thus making it more difficult to get healthy and balanced diet. But you may be wondering what is healthy food? At times we get confused over what to eat and what not. Therefore it is important to eat right both for maintaining healthy body and energetic mind.
A healthy diet provides the body with essential nutrition:
- Fluid. You lose water throughout the day-through your breath, sweat, urine, and bowel movements. It helps your body flush wastes and stay at the right temperature and helps prevent constipation. It is recommended to drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water or other fluids every day which means 2 to 2.5 liters of water or fluids every day. Avoid sugary or artificially sweetened drinks. Have tea and coffee in moderation.
- Protein. Proteins are one of the primary building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, hair and blood. In fact it is a component of every cell in the body. Soy and animal sources such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products provide all essential amino acids which makes them a “complete protein”. Other important sources of protein are lentils (like moong, black gram, chick pea and rajma), tofu and sprouts. Take red meats and high fat and sweetened dairy products in moderation. Choose lean meats (chicken, fish) and low fat dairy products (low fat/skimmed milk, low fat yogurt, low fat paneer etc.).
- Fatty acids. There are two essential fatty acids, alpha linolenic acid omega-3 and linoleic acid omega-6. These cannot be synthesized in the body and must be obtained from food. These are essential for normal functioning of all tissues of the body. Apart from these MUFA (mono unsaturated fatty acids) has cholesterol lowering effect. Oils good in above fatty acids are olive, rice bran, canola, ground nut oils. Use these oils in rotation rather sticking to one.Include omega 3 rich foods in diet like flaxseeds (powdered form or flaxseed oil), Walnuts, almond or fish oils.
- Vitamins and Minerals. Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients – because acting in concert, they perform hundreds of roles in the body. They help shore up bones, heal wounds, bolster your immune system, convert food into energy and repair cellular damage. Many of them act as antioxidants in the body. Main dietary sources of vitamins and minerals are fruits and vegetables. Have them raw or lightly cooked because too much heat destroys most of the vitamins and minerals.
- Adequate calories. Have as many calories from diet as you burn. Choose good carbohydrates: whole grains (the less processed the better), vegetables, fruits and beans. Avoid white bread, white rice and the like as well as pastries, sugared sodas, and other highly processed food.
- Fiber. Dietary fiber or roughage is the indigestible portion of food derived from plants. Dietary fibers promote beneficial physiologic effects like it helps in regulating bowel movements and helps controlling blood pressure and blood cholesterol. Good dietary sources of fiber are whole grains (whole wheat, oats, brown rice, jowar, bajra, ragi), legumes (peas, soybeans, other beans) vegetables and fruits.
A balanced diet should have the following ingredients on a daily basis:
- 6-11 servings of cereals, preferably whole grains(one serving is equal to one roti or one small bowl of rice or one slice of bread)
- 6-7 servings of fruits and vegetables (in form of whole fruit, cooked vegetables and salads)
- 2-3 servings of legumes (peas, soybeans, other beans ) 1 serving size is 1 cup that is 150 grams of cooked pulses (30 grams dried pulses) or lean meats (1 serving is equal 80 grams of cooked lean poultry or 100 grams of cooked fish or 2 eggs)
- 2-3 servings of low fat or skimmed milk or milk products (one serving is equal to 250 grams of milk/180 grams of yogurt) and 1-2 servings of fats like oil (1 serving is equal to 5 grams i.e. 1 teaspoon).
Enjoy food but be certain about what and how much you eat because that is what is needed to live long and healthy life.