Diet is one of the major contributors of a healthy living! As often as it said, “healthy mind resides in a healthy body”, the importance of diet has increasingly gained pique over the last few decades. With an increasing number of researches pointing towards the influence of our diet on our health, nutrition is something the world seems to be chasing for! While fitness professionals seek to implement modern ways of diet cycling, health professionals have a different view towards nutrition and diet. However, what is a balanced diet, and what are its “right” ingredients?
Diet and food are one of the major contributors to good health. But more so, this concept is very underrated nowadays. When we talk about “getting fit” or losing a few extra pounds, first thing that most of us think of is signing up for a gym, getting a new pair of sneakers for running, joining yoga classes and so on. A very few of us think about changing our diet or control what we eat! The concept of “diet” is misunderstood with eating very bland food, and the moment this idea crosses our minds, we give up! We give up on the age-old remedy for many diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and many more!
For those who do follow a “strict diet” often get so obsessed with counting their calorie intake, that they miss the point of intaking enough nutrition. Having said that, I do not claim that counting your calorie intake or carbohydrate intake or fat intake doesn’t yield you results, but all I mean is that we still miss the bottom-line of nutrition – a balanced diet!
In this article, I will start with addressing the concept of “a balanced diet” and it’s components, while in the next one I will talk about the sources of these “ingredients” of a such a diet, and how you can still get all the essential nutrients, without forcing yourself through a “bland diet”.
Balanced diet is the “ideal” diet form that includes appropriate proportions of every nutrient. While macronutrients are the nutritional ingredients that are required in larger quantities, micronutrients re the ones which are required in trace amounts. Any imbalance in the contents of these may cause health problems where their quantities are generally determined on the type and need of every individual. A diet majorly composes of the macro and micronutrients listed below:
- Carbohydrates – This is the energy source of our body and essential for performing activities, be it physical or mental. This very ingredient is the major contributor for generating the body’s currency units inside our tissues.
- Protein – This is the building block of our muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, hair, nails and even blood. Moreover it is the essential ingredient which helps us build and repair our tissues and makes our hormones, enzymes and other essential chemicals inside our body.
- Fats – They are essential for providing us energy and for supporting cell growth. They also keep our body warm, protect our organs, produce certain hormones and absorb other nutrients. To choose the “right” type of fat in your diet is however tricky. We have four types of dietary fats – saturated, trans, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. To keep it simple – saturated and trans fats are considered “bad” as they are more solid at room temperature and tend to accumulate and the root cause of major heart problems and obesity. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are however liquid at room temperature and can be easily utilized by our body.
- Vitamins – Essential for certain chemicals inside our body. Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, F, K are the essential micronutrients for our body.
- Minerals – Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sodium and Sulfur are the essential micronutrients required by our body. While Calcium, Phosphorus and Magnesium are important for our bones, Sulfur makes our hair, skin and nails and also stabilizes the structure of proteins that make these organs. While, Chromium, Copper, Fluoride, Iodine, Iron, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Selenium and Zinc are the trace minerals required for our body and generally produced within our body from the food we intake.
- Dietary Fibres – Fibres provide bulk to our food and satiate our hunger, absorb our tissues in absorbing the nutrients and help in digestion. This is one ingredient that we usually do not see enlisted amongst the ingredients of a balanced diet. However, the importance of dietary fibres were established way back in the 1978, when a clinical study published in the British Medical Journal showed how dietary fibres significantly reduced glucose concentration in diabetic patients (1) .
Now, that we know what are the ingredients of a balanced diet, how do we incorporate such a diet in our daily lives, without eating “bland”? Well, eating healthy does not have to be “eating bland”, we can still meet our body’s nutritional requirements simply by knowing how to choose from these ingredients. I will be addressing such dietary ingredients in my next blog! Please stay tuned!