We are created with a desire to eat . Therefore, your food choices each day affect your health — how you feel today, tomorrow, and in thefuture. Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Combined with physical activity, your diet can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases (like heart disease and cancer), and promote your overall health. The link between good nutrition and healthy weight, reduced chronic disease risk, and overall health is too important to ignore.
By taking steps to eat healthy, you’ll be on your way to getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy, active, and strong. As with physical activity, making small changes in your diet can go a long way, and it’s easier than you think. The risk factors for adult chronic
diseases, like hypertension and type 2 diabetes, are increasingly seen in younger ages, often a result of unhealthy eating habits and increased weight gain. Dietary habits established in childhood often carry into adulthood, so teaching children how to eat healthy at a young age will help them stay healthy throughout their life.
For nutrients and other substances needed for good health, vary the foods you eat
Foods contain combinations of nutrients and other healthful substances. No single food can supply all nutrients in the amounts you need. For example, oranges provide vitamin C but no vitamin B12; cheese
provides vitamin B12 but no vitamin C. To make sure you get all of the nutrients and other substances needed for health, choose the recommended number of daily servings from each of the five major food groups .
Foods, their amounts of calories and nutrients
Some foods such as grain products, vegetables, and fruits have many nutrients and other healthful substances but are relatively low in calories. Fat and alcohol are high in calories. Foods high in both sugars and fat contain many calories but often are low in vitamins, minerals, or fiber.
People who do not need many calories or who must restrict their food intake need to choose nutrient-
rich foods from the five major food groups with special care. They should obtain most of their calories from foods that contain a high proportion of essential nutrients and fiber.
Our bodies need food
Food is essential for our bodies to: • develop, replace and repair cells and
tissues; • produce energy to keep warm, move and work; • carry out chemical processes such as the digestion of food; • protect against, resist and fight infection and recover from
sickness. Food is made up of nutrients.
Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are needed only in small amounts. Macronutrients such as carbohydrates, protein and fat are needed in larger amounts. The body cannot function properly if one or more nutrients are missing. A healthy and balanced diet provides foods in the right amounts and combinations that are safe and free from disease and harmful substances.
Prevention is better than cure. The earlier a person starts to eat a healthy and balanced diet, the more he or she will stay healthy. Once weight has been lost it may be difficult to regain it because of tiredness and lack of appetite.
The section below contains some guidelines on healthy and balanced
Healthy and balanced nutrition
Eating well means eating a variety of foods. No single food contains all the nutrients that our bodies need, except for breastmilk for babies up to the age of six months. Eating a variety of different foods will supply the nutrients that are essential for our bodies. By taking care to choose foods that are in season and locally available, eating can be enjoyable, healthy and affordable.
Eat staple foods with every meal
Staple foods should make up the largest part of a meal. These foods are relatively cheap and supply a good amount of energy and some protein. Staples include cereals (such as rice, maize, millet, sorghum, wheat and barley), starchy roots (such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and yams) and starchy fruit (such as plantains).
However, staple foods are not enough to provide all the nutrients the body needs. Other foods must be eaten to provide additional energy, proteins and micronutrients.
The Importance of Eating Healthy
These foods provide a person with the proteins needed to develop and repair the body and also to build up strong muscles. They are good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre and help to keep the immune system active. Legumes include beans, peas, lentils, groundnuts (including peanut butter) and soybeans. When eaten with staple foods the quality of protein is increased. Legumes are a cheaper protein source than animal foods, such as beef and chicken, and should be eaten every day, if possible.
Eat animal and milk products regularly
Foods from animals and fish should also be eaten as often as you can afford them. They supply good-
quality proteins, vitamins and minerals and extra energy. They will help to strengthen muscles and the immune system. These foods include all forms of meat, poultry (birds), fish, eggs and dairy products such as milk, sour milk, buttermilk, yoghurt and cheese. If insects, such as caterpillars or grasshoppers, are part of your diet, they also provide good nutrients.
Eat vegetables and fruit every day Vegetables and fruit are an important part of a healthy and balanced meal. They supply the vitamins and minerals that keep the body functioning and the immune system strong. Eat a wide variety as each one provides different vitamins and
minerals. A recommended list is provided below.
Yellow, orange, red or dark green Other vegetables and fruit vegetables and fruit
Green leafy vegetables (spinach, pumpkin, cassava leaves), green peppers, squash, carrots, yellow peaches, apricots, papaya and mangoes Tomatoes, cabbage, oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, lemons, guavas mangoes, passionfruit, pineapples, mulberries and baobab fruit · Good sources of vitamin A · Good sources of vitamin C; help to fight infection.
Use fats and oils as well as sugar and sugary foods in reasonable
Fats, oils and sugar are good sources of energy and can help one gain body weight. They also add flavour to food, thereby stimulating appetite.
Fats and oils play an important part in a healthy and balanced diet. Even small amounts can provide lots of energy. Fats and oils include butter, lard, margarine, cooking oil (vegetable, coconut and palm oil), cream, mayonnaise and coconut cream. They are also found in avocados, oilseeds (sunflower, groundnut and sesame), fatty meat and fish, curds and cheese.
Sugars and sugary foods include honey, jam, table sugar, cakes and biscuits. Although fats and sugars are good
sources of energy, they are not rich in other nutrients. They should therefore be eaten in addition to other foods, not in place of them.
Drink plenty of clean and safe water
Water is important for life and is necessary every day. A person needs about eight cups of fluid per day. When it is very hot, while working, sweating or suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting or fever, a person needs to drink even more to replace the water that has been lost. If drinking-water is collected from a protected well or borehole it is important to store it in a clean container. If the water is from an unprotected well or river the water should be boiled for at least ten minutes and stored in a clean container (see advice on food hygiene). In addition to drinking clean water, fluid can also come from juices, soups, vegetables and fruit as well as meals that have gravy or sauces. However, avoid drinking tea or coffee with a meal, as this can reduce the absorption of iron from the food.
Alcoholic drinks remove water from the body and should therefore be consumed only in limited amounts. They can also interfere with the action of medicines.
What then is a balanced diet?
A balanced diet is one that gives your body the nutrients it needs to function correctly. In order to get the proper
nutrition from your diet, you should obtain the majority of your daily calories from: • fresh fruits
• fresh vegetables • whole grains • legumes • nuts
• lean proteins
What are calories?
The number of calories in a food is a measurement of the amount of energy stored in that food. Your body uses calories from food for walking, thinking, breathing, and other important functions. The average person needs to eat about 2,000 calories every day to maintain their weight.
However, a person’s specific daily calorie intake can vary depending on their age, gender, and physical activity level. Men generally need more calories than women, and people who exercise need more calories than people who do not. The source of your daily calories is just as important as the number of calories you consume. You should limit your consumption of “empty calories,” or those that provide little or no nutritional value. Empty calories as calories that come from sugars and solid fats, such as butter and shortening.
Empty calories are found in : • bacon • sausages • cakes
• energy drinks
• fruit drinks
• ice cream
• sports drinks and sodas.
The importance of Balanced Diet
A balanced diet is important because your organs and tissues need proper nutrition to work effectively. Without good nutrition, your body is more prone to disease, infection, fatigue, and poor performance. Children with a poor diet run the risk of growth and developmental problems and poor academic performance. Bad eating
habits can persist for the rest of their lives. Rising levels of obesity and diabetes are prime examples of the effects of a poor diet and a lack of exercise. The top 10 leading causes of death eg, in the United States are directly influenced by diet. These are:
• heart disease • cancer • stroke • diabetes
Achieve a Balanced Diet
At the core of a balanced diet are foods that are low in unnecessary fats and sugars but high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The following food groups are essential parts of a balanced diet.
Besides being a great source of nutrition, fruits make tasty snacks. Choose fruits that are in season in your area. They’re fresher and provide the most nutrients.
Vegetables are primary sources of essential vitamins and minerals. Dark, leafy greens generally contain the most nutrition and can be eaten at every meal. A variety of vegetables will help you obtain the bountiful nutrients that all vegetables provide. Examples of dark leafy greens include:
• spinach • kale • Bitter leaf
• green beans • broccoli • collard greens • Ugwu
Studies have shown that many people consume refined white flour more than any other grain. Unfortunately, refined white flour contains poor nutritional value because the hull of the grain is removed during the refining process. The hull is the outer shell of the grain and is where the majority of the grain’s nutrition lies. Whole grains, however, are prepared using the entire grain, including the hull, so they provide much more nutrition. Try switching from white breads and pastas to whole-grain
Meats and beans are primary sources of protein, which is essential for proper muscle and brain development. Lean, low-fat meats such as chicken, fish, and certain cuts of pork and beef are the best options. Removing the skin and trimming off any visible fat are easy ways to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in meats. The health and diet of the animal are important and influence the fatty acid profile of the meat, so grass-fed choices are ideal.
Other good sources of protein, which contain many other health benefits, fiber and other nutrients, include nuts and beans, such as:
• lentils • beans • peas • almonds • sunflower seeds • walnuts
Tofu and other soy-based products are excellent sources of protein and are healthy alternatives to meat.
Dairy products provide calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients. However, they are also major sources of fat, so it’s best to choose small portions of full-fat cheeses, and reduced-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt. Plant-based milks, such as those made from flaxseed, almond, or soy are typically fortified
with calcium and other nutrients, making these excellent alternatives to dairy from cows.
Oils should be used sparingly. Opt for low-fat and low-sugar versions of products that contain oil, such as salad dressing and mayonnaise. Good oils, such as olive oil, can replace fattier vegetable oil in your diet. Avoid deep-fried foods because they contain a large number of empty calories. Aside from adding certain foods to your diet, you should also reduce your consumption of certain substances in order to maintain a balanced diet and a healthy weight. These include:
- alcohol • refined grains
• solid fats • saturated fats • trans fats • salt • sugars If you have questions about your diet or feel that you need to lose weight or change your eating habits, schedule an appointment with your doctor or dietitian. They can suggest dietary changes that will help you get the nutrition you need while promoting your overall good health.
Specific nutrient needs
Sometimes supplements are needed meet specific nutrient requirements. For example, older people and others with little exposure to sunlight may need a vitamin D supplement. Women to of childbearing age may reduce the risk of certain birth defects by consuming folate-rich foods or folic acid supplements. Iron supplements are recommended for pregnant women. However, because foods contain many nutrients and other substances that promote health, the use of supplements cannot substitute for proper food choices.
In conclusion , Enjoy eating a variety of foods. Get the many nutrients your body needs by choosing among the varied foods you enjoy from these groups: grain products, vegetables, fruits, milk and milk products, protein-rich plant foods (beans, nuts), and protein-rich animal foods (lean meat, poultry, fish, and eggs).
Remember to choose lean and low fat foods and beverages most often. Many foods you eat contain servings from more than one food group. For example, soups and stews may contain meat, beans, noodles, and vegetables.
This article was first publish on this day newspaper website