General Healthy Eating! With society today becoming larger through over eating and not exercising it is more and more important to start to educate them on how to eat more sensibly and how to introduce exercises into their daily lives. People need to be made more aware on how over eating and eating the wrong kinds of foods can have a major adverse effect on their health and in the end their lifespan. The following will hopefully give a basic guide on how to eat more healthily, get an understanding on how essential the different food groups are, what dietary requirements you need and how exercise will benefit you to stay healthy and reduce the risks of many diseases such as cardio vascular disease and diabetes.
If you are very active or have specialised sports, bodybuilding etc. then the diet needs to be adapted to your goals. This is just to make people aware of how to start eating healthier and how it will make for a healthier lifestyle. Food Groups! There are five main food groups that we all require daily to have in a healthy diet. We will have a look at each in turn and find out how they benefit the body.
1) Starchy Carbohydrates and Fibre –
These are the body’s energy providers and are the main sources of energy. Foods such as Breads, Potatoes, Cereal products, rice and pastas along with other starchy carbohydrates fall into this category. The main part of these are produced from grains (refined and unrefined), potatoes not included, and should be eaten at every meal. They should make up around a 1/3 of each meal to give a constant supply of energy throughout the day. Refined grains such as white rice, white bread and white pasta have been stripped of its outer coating and inner germ which leaves the endosperm (the nutritive tissue within the grain). Unrefined grains are the wholegrain with the bran, germ and endosperm all intact. The bran gives a great source of fibre, the germ gives sources of proteins, vitamins and minerals with the endosperm giving the carbohydrate content. The whole grains are a more preferred choice as they yield far more nutrients and are richer in phyto-chemicals and antioxidants which help to protect against heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Fibre – The fibre we eat is found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables and also as stated above whole grains. It cannot be fully digested in the body and is broken down into two categories of soluble and insoluble fibre. The soluble fibre can be found in foods such as beans, fruits and oats. The insoluble fibre is found in foods such as whole grains and vegetables and as it cannot be digested it passes through the digestive system as ‘roughage’. Fibre can help keep a healthy digestive system, keeps you feeling fuller for longer, can help with weight maintenance, helps control blood sugar, lower cholesterol in the blood and reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
2) Fruit and Vegetables –
As fruit and vegetables can give a whole host of health benefits then these should be a major part in any diet plan. These should also cover around 1/3 of each meal eaten through the day, just like the carbohydrates. The recommended daily requirements are at least 5 portions of fruit or vegetables daily to get the required benefits from the high nutrition that they give the body. Both fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of phyto-nutrients along with good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre and can reduce the risks of heart disease and some cancers.
3) Milk and Dairy products –
These are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals and also a rich source of Calcium with recommendations of three portions daily to get the sufficient amount of calcium daily. They are essential to keep bones and teeth healthy and can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. If you are lactose intolerant or have a vegetarian diet then other food alternatives are required to get the daily calcium requirements. Foods such as soya products, dried fruits, green leafy vegetables, almonds and sesame seeds along with fish (if not a vegan) such as sardines and anchovies (bones included) are great sources for the vegetarian diet.
4) Protein foods –
Proteins are classed as the building blocks of life and are needed to allow the body to repair, grow and maintain cells and tissue. All proteins are made up from different combinations of amino acids. Amino acids are broken down into two types – Essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and need to come from food sources whereas the non-essential amino acids can be made by the body or synthesised from the essential amino acids. The amino acids construct all the cells, organs and muscles within the body using different combinations and how these are combined and shaped is dependent on our DNA make-up. Animal proteins contain all the essential amino acids required by the body and are found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. Plant proteins however contain many of the amino acids but there isn’t a single source that contains all the essential amino acids and so multiple choices of these proteins are required to get the full range of essential amino acids in the diet. Good sources of plant proteins are cereals, beans pulses, seeds and nuts. As the body cannot store amino acids the body needs a constant supply through the diet with a combination of animal and plant proteins to get all the daily requirements for healthy living. A deficiency of any of the amino acids can result in serious protein diseases such as malnutrition, edema, muscle wasting, anorexia and growth disorders in children.
5) Fats and Sugars –
These foods should be limited even though they are an important energy source due to being a concentrated source of energy. Fats have more than double the calories in 1g than proteins and carbohydrates and this is why it is very easy to consume too many calories whilst eating high fat foods. Fats are broken down into two categories, saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and these are classed as the ‘bad fats’ and is associated with increasing blood cholesterol levels along with increasing the risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature and in most cases are from vegetable sources such as olive and rapeseed oils. However some fats are required in our diet to keep us healthy too and also to supply and help transport fat soluble vitamins A,D,E and K around the body. It also supplies Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) from our diet and is said to have a positive effect on the immune system and heart health. Sugars come in our diet in two ways, either naturally occurring like those within fruits and milk or added into our foods when it is processed. It is the added sources that should be monitored and if possible cut down on. They give a quick energy spike but do not have any real nutritional value for the body.