What is a healthy diet?
A diet is said to be healthy if it provides our body with all the essential nutrients in proper amount that helps support life and maintain health. A healthy diet is a balanced diet which fulfills the demands of the body without imposing adverse (toxic) effects.
Importance of a healthy diet
Our body requires energy to work and this comes from the food (diet) we consume. Good quality diet not only helps us with our daily work but also helps us fight diseases. A healthy diet has proved to be important in lowering health risks such as obesity, heart attack, diabetes and hypertension.
The average daily calorie requirement of an adult is 2000-3000 calories. The caloric requirements change with age, sex and level of physical exertion.
Components of a healthy diet
Calories are not the only reason we need to eat, but also to have various other essential nutrients to live a healthy life. Different nutrients are needed in different quantities. The important constituents of a healthy diet are:
Carbohydrates are a source of energy and they provide about 4 kilo calories (kcal) per gram. Whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables are sources of good (healthy) carbohydrates.
Good fats nourish brain, heart, skin, hair and nails. They are a rich source of energy providing 9 kcal per gram. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the likelihood of heart diseases and improve brain functions. Good sources include olive oil, canola oil, corn, walnuts and fatty fish like salmon.
Most of the structures of our body are made of proteins e.g. muscles, skin and hair. Proteins are also required for the synthesis of enzymes which speed up chemical processes in the body. They provide 4 kcal per gram of proteins. Meats, tofu, eggs, grains and legumes are some of the important sources of proteins.
Dietary fibers are essential for the health and proper functioning of our digestive system. They provide bulk to the food and help in the movement (peristalsis) of food through our digestive tract. They also prevent constipation and diarrhea. Fibers in our diet are provided by fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains.
Minerals are those elements that are usually not present in the organic food we get it them from other sources. Some of the important ones are given in the table below:
||Required for bones and teeth
||1000 to 1200 mg
||Green vegetables and whole-grain cereals
||ATP (energy) synthesis
||350 to 400 mg
||Cheese, egg yolk, meat and fish
||Component of bones;ATP synthesis
||800 to 1000 mg
||Fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products
||Maintain water balance and regulation of neuromuscular activity
||3000 to 3500 mg
||2300 to 2500 mg
Vitamins are also recognized as the essential nutrients like the minerals. They are required for healthy bones (vitamin D), good eyesight (vitamin A), wound healing (vitamin C) and integrity of our red blood cells (vitamin B12). Vitamins are required in very small amounts and sometimes are not considered essential because our body synthesizes most of them except vitamin A, E, D and K which we need to get from external sources.
A healthy diet consists of taking all the essential nutrients in the right amount. Taking too much of food is not a healthy approach as it can lead to excessive weight gain.