A balanced diet contains the food components necessary for normal growth and development, in the right proportions. These food components are carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, mineral salts and fibre.
A diet can easily be adequate for normal bodily functioning, yet may not be a balanced diet. An ideal human diet contains fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, water and fibre all in correct proportions. These proportions vary for each individual because everyone has different metabolic rates and levels of activity.
Why should I be aware of this?
A balanced diet has a major role in achieving long and healthy life
- It is crucial for children for their optimum growth and long term health.
- It helps in controlling body weight, heart rate and blood pressure.
- Increase in exercise capacity and muscle performance.
- Improves blood sugar, lowers harmful cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.
- Produces mental and physical relaxation.
How does this affect me?
A balanced diet is one that provides
- An adequate intake of energy and nutrients for maintenance of the body and therefore good health.
- Malnutrition results from an unbalanced diet, this can be due to an excess of some dietary components and lack of other components, not just a complete lack of food. Too much of one component can be as much harm to the body as too little.
- Deficiency diseases occur when there is a lack of a specific nutrient, although some diet related disorders are a result of eating an excess.
All about balanced diet
Elements of a Balanced Diet
- Carbohydrates -- Carbohydrates are oxidised to release energy. An average adult requires about 12,000kJ of energy a day.
- Proteins -- These necessary for growth and repair.
- Fats -- These are necessary as a source of energy and for fat soluble vitamins.
- Vitamins -- Vitamins cannot be synthesised by the body so must be supplied by diet. Vitamins are known as micronutrients because only small quantities are required for a healthy diet.
- Mineral Salts -- Some minerals are considered to be macronutrients as they are required in fairly large amounts in the diet to maintain a healthy body. Some are called micronutrients as they are required in small quantities. Minerals are required for healthy teeth, bones, muscles etc.
- Fibre -- To enable the intestines function correctly. Fibre aids the formation of faeces, preventing constipation. It also aids the peristaltic movement in the intestine and has been linked to the prevention of bowel cancer.
- Water -- The diet must provide water which is required as a solvent, a transport medium, a substrate in hydrolytic reactions and for lubrication. An average person requires 2-3 litres of water a day which is supplied through drinks and liquid foods.
Suggested servings of essential food groups
- Breads, cereals and potatoes -- These provide most of the complex carbohydrates. 6-10 servings depending on portion size and the energy requirements of the individual.
- Fruits and vegetables -- Virtually all fresh fruits and vegetables are low in fat, calories and salt. Many are high in fibre. They provide lots of simple carbohydrates to increase energy levels for the day. You need to consume about 4 servings of vegetables and 3 servings of fruit each day. A typical serving would be 4 cabbage leaves or about 4 average sized sprouts or 1 medium-sized banana.
- Milk and Dairy produce -- Foods in this group provide the body with high-quality protein and our main source of calcium. Foods in this group also help provide vitamin D, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin and phosphorous.
- Meat, fish and other non vegetarian products -- Most of the foods in this group come from animal origin, some may contain plenty of fats especially saturated. They provide protein sources of the highest quality.
- Fats and sugary foods -- This group provides us with very little nutritional value, although all do contain some nutrients we should try to limit these as much as possible.
- Eat enough calories but not too many. Maintain a balance between your calorie intake and calorie expenditure.
- Keep portions moderate, especially high-calorie foods. Choose a starter instead of an entrée, split a dish with a friend, and don’t order supersized anything.
- Limit sugary foods, salt, and refined-grain products.
- Establishing new food habits is much easier if you focus on and take action on one food group or food fact at a time
- Take time to chew your food
- Avoid stress while eating -- Avoid eating while working, driving, arguing, or watching TV. Our digestion can be compromised, causing problems like colitis and heartburn
- Eat early, eat often -- Starting your day with a healthy breakfast can improve your metabolism.
- Most processed food products will contain hidden sugars, salts and fats making the foods high in calories
A healthy diet is different from a balanced diet, though both are equally important for good health. It is important to be aware that a balanced diet can also provide too many fats, refined sugar and salt. If any diet provides too much saturated fat, cholesterol and refined sugars it may be classed as unhealthy and not much use in any program.
The difference is a healthy diet plan provides us with some nutrients but the balanced diet plan provides us with all essential nutrients
What can I do?
You can combine both the healthy and balanced diet by
- Provide variety in the diet
- Consume more whole grains, fresh fruits and& vegetables which help increase energy levels.
- Opt for low fat intake, especially saturated fats.
- Reduce sugar intake
- Lower salt intake.
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