Eating healthy provides you great energy and makes you feel light and fit. Our busy life-style and stressful jobs often make it difficult to have a balanced diet. Irrespective of whether or not you are on a diet, you must include certain basic components in a meal which will provide you the key nutrients in your diet.
This article is a detailed guide to the basic components in a diet. It tells you why you need to eat a particular group of food items and what nutrients you can avail from these. The article discusses why key nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins are essential for the body and the best food sources to get them.
Read on to find how you can eat healthy diet and consume all essential nutrients that your body needs. This way you will be able to avoid eating food items that have no nutritive value and consist just of empty calories. Follow the simple yet effective tips discussed here to lose weight and become healthier without actually going on a diet.
The Four Main Nutrients and the Food Pyramid
Our body needs four essential nutrients namely: complex carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and proteins. These essential nutrients when consumed in the right proportions work together to provide optimum energy, effective metabolism and ensure the proper functioning of the various important organs of your body such as heart, brain, the digestive system and more.
The key is to pick a mix of food sources from each group of nutrients needed. This way you will be able to provide the right amount of each nutrient and will be able to attain the right balance of all nutrients.
As per the food pyramid you must consume more quantity of whole grains, fruits and veggies in your diet. Sources of good fats such as fish, nuts, poultry, etc consists the next recommended group in the food pyramid. Dairy products, fat and oil must be consumed in moderation as per the guidelines of the food pyramid. If you follow the lessons of the food pyramid, eating a balanced diet will become relatively easy.
Carbohydrates: Rich sources of Energy
The most vital nutrient that our body needs is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide essential energy and are important for the various functions taking place in our body. Products made from whole grains including bread, pasta, cereals, tortillas, etc are good sources of carbohydrates. It is however important to consume whole grain products that will provide essential nutrients along with calories and energy.
Refine grains such as flour, white rice, etc are milled to remove their germ and bran. However this process strips the grains of essential nutrients such as iron, and B vitamins. Hence always try to source bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereals, etc that are made from whole grains.
The USDA has now modified its food pyramid to include even certain veggies and fruits in the list of food sources that are good sources of carbohydrates. Apples, pears, sweet potatoes, squashes, etc have been included as nutrient and fiber rich sources of carbohydrates.
The Building Blocks of Our Body: Proteins
Proteins are the building blocks of our body cells and are needed for the repair and regeneration of the cells and tissues of our body. Proteins also form components of antibodies that are vital components of our body’s natural immune system.
Try to include lean meats such as poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and beans and peas as part of your regular diet. Fish and nuts such as walnuts contain essential omega-3 fatty acids that are important for the healthy functioning of the cardiovascular system.
Always chose lean cuts of beef, poultry and meat. This way you will get essential proteins without adding to calories in your diet. Also, avoid deep frying chicken, meat or beef as this adds to fat and calories.
Key Nutrients for a Healthy Body: Vitamins
Vitamins such as Vitamin A are needed for the maintenance of the various membranes, tissues, cells and skin, and hair in your body. Vitamin D is essential for the maintenance of bones in our body. The group of B vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, etc are necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system and for proper metabolism. These vitamins also play an important role in the healthy functioning of the reproductive system and are essential for healthy skin, nails and hair. Vitamin C is essential for healthy gums, teeth and also protects our body from infections.
Fruits and veggies are the richest sources of vitamins. Eat varied colored seasonal fruits and veggies to get the optimum balance of all vitamins. Greens such as spinach, collard greens, etc are excellent sources of iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. Orange colored veggies such as pumpkins, sweet potatoes, squashes, carrots, etc are good sources of vitamin A.
Cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, etc are rich in certain antioxidants that are known to fight cancerous cells. You must also try and consume a variety of fruits such as oranges, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peaches, etc to get a dose of varied nutrients and vitamins from different types of fruits.
Fats are Essential Too: Eat in Moderation and Choose Good Fats
Fats are an important constituent of a balanced diet. Fats are needed for the absorption of carbohydrates into the blood stream so that the blood-sugar level in our body is maintained. Fats are also needed for healthy functioning of the nervous, endocrine and circulatory systems in our body.
However, when consuming sources of fats, you must ensure that you eat in moderation and consume sources that are provide unsaturated fat such as olive oil, flaxseed oil, etc. Avoid sources of trans-fat and saturated fat such as butter, lard, beef fat, etc.
Sample menus for a Balanced Diet
A healthy breakfast menu can consist of: 2 scrambles egg-whites seasoned with salt, pepper and cooked in olive oil. A whole-grain toast or whole-grain breakfast cereals with a bowl of low-fat yoghurt and fresh cut fruits.
Grilled chicken breasts with an olive oil and lemon dressing with a side of grilled potato and a salad consisting of bell peppers, spinach and tomatoes is an example of an ideal lunch menu.
Dinner can comprise of a fresh clear veggie soup with grilled salmon and a cup of steamed veggies such as broccoli.
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