I am sure you may have heard of the phase: you are what you eat. Eating a healthy balanced diet plays a vital role in maintaining good health. So, what are the essential ingredients of a healthy balanced diet? Let’s take a look…
Here are 7 essential ingredients of a healthy balanced diet
Did you know that you can eat a large portion of a healthy balanced diet and still feel hungry? That is because you need a drink of water to fill you up.
Water is an essential ingredient of a healthy balanced diet. It is important for optimal health. It is also essential for the functioning and cleansing of your body. You lose water daily from your body through urine and sweat and it needs to be replenished. If you are not drinking enough water, you can become dehydrated.
Studies have shown that good hydration is essential for the prevention of chronic diseases (1). To gauge whether you are drinking enough water, the colour of your urine should be a light-yellow colour. Dark yellow urine is a sign that you need to drink more water.
If you are looking for ways to sustain good levels of hydration throughout the day, herbal and fruit tea is a good alternative to water. Herbal and fruit tea contain no caffeine and can have some therapeutic effect.
2) Herbs and Spices
Did you know that every time you use herbs or spices to add flavour to your food, you are literally making it tastier without adding a single calorie?
Herbs and spices are an essential ingredient of a healthy balanced diet. They will not only add flavour to your food. They will add colour and health benefits to your food; your meals will come alive.
Herbs and spices are some of the most powerful antioxidants. They are nutrient dense; rich in minerals and multivitamins and they have medicinal properties.
Here are some of the herbs and spices that you can incorporate into your diet:
Turmeric, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Cayenne chili pepper, Black pepper, Cumin, Sage, Coriander, Basil, Garlic, Thyme, Oregano, and Ginger etc.
3) Vegetables and fruits
Vegetables and fruits are good carbohydrates. Eating plenty of fresh, high quality vegetables and some fruit is an essential ingredient of a healthy balanced diet. It will provide you with all the nutrients your body needs for optimal health.
A research published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found that people who eat seven or more portions of vegetables and fruit a day have a 42% lower risk of dying from any cause, compared to those who eat less than one portion. They also found that they enjoy a 31% lower risk of heart disease and a 25% lower risk of cancer (2)
The study brought to light that vegetables had a larger protective effect than fruits. Your focus should be on consuming more vegetables and small amount of fruit.
Aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables such as broccoli, kale, lettuce, cucumber, cauliflower, bell pepper, cabbage, watercress, etc
4) Other Good Carbohydrates
Other good carbohydrates are starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, yam, squash, parsnips and pumpkin which are essential ingredients of a healthy balanced diet. They are digested slowly so will not raise your blood sugar or spike insulin. They can be eaten in moderation.
Don’t eat carbohydrate alone. Always combine it with some fibre, protein or healthy fats to help with blood sugar balance.
5) Good Quality Protein
Good quality protein is an essential ingredient of a healthy balanced diet. It is important for the building and repair of your body tissues such as your skin and it is also a main component of your immune system and hormones.
Including good quality protein in your diet is important for blood sugar and insulin balance. It will also help you control your hunger.
Here are good quality protein you can incorporate into your diet:
– Free range eggs (preferably organic)
– Organic, grass-fed poultry (preferably organic)
– Fish, shrimps (wild and not farmed)
– Nuts and seeds
– Beans or legumes
– Small portions of lean clean meat, wild game (preferably organic)
6) Good Quality Fat
Did you know that FAT does not make you fat or cause heart disease? A research published in the British Medical Journal shattered the myth that fat causes heart disease and obesity; they found no link between eating saturated fat, heart disease and obesity (3)
The type of fat you eat matters, not the amount. Good quality fat is an essential ingredient of a healthy balanced diet. By adding good fat to your diet, the digestion and absorption of your food is slower, and the reaction of insulin is less extreme. So, don’t cut out fat, enjoy it.
Here are good quality fats that you can incorporate into your diet:
– Fatty fish including wild salmon, sardines and mackerel
– Nuts and seeds
– Olive oil, extra virgin olive oil
– Extra virgin coconut oil
– Grass-fed animal products – butter, eggs
7) No processed food
Processed food refers to food that has been chemically processed and prepared from refined ingredients and artificial additives. All the real nutrition has been processed right out of it. It is not an essential ingredient of a healthy balanced diet.
Did you know that you can become addicted to processed food? When food is processed, essential components of the food like fibre, water and other nutrients are removed and the way the food is digested and absorbed by your body changes. Dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter is stimulated, making you feel good and you crave more.
Processed foods are high in sugar, unhealthy fat and processed salt which have all been linked to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
The key to a healthy balanced diet is eating a range of healthy food in the right amount.
1) Manz F, Wentz A (2005) The importance of good hydration for the prevention of chronic diseases. Nutr Rev, 63:S2–5
2) Oyebode O, Gordon-Dseagu V, Walker A, Mindell J S (2014) Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, doi: 10.1136/jech-2013-203500. [Epub ahead of print
3) Aseem M (2013) Saturated fat is not the major issue. British Medical Journal, 347:f6340 (link: http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6340)