Eating a healthy and balanced diet is important for everyone. Food is the primary pathway to good health. An exceptionally healthy diet can promote overall wellness, ward off diseases and in some cases even cure diseases a person already has. There is a great deal of information on nutrition available.
There is also a great deal of misinformation, over-simplification and assumption that often goes on when discussing exactly what constitutes a healthy diet. The following critical factors can help you stay focused and on track when creating a diet and nutrition plan to promote health and wellness.
Macronutrients are the most commonly discussed—and maligned—aspects of a diet. They are carbohydrates, fats and proteins. There tends to be a lot of generalization and assumptions made about these nutrients and most fad diets focus on controlling one or more of them. Most fad diets involve either focusing on one of these nutrients or eliminating it. The truth is that each of the macronutrients is important to the body, and optimal health is achieved by taking each one in the proper proportions.
Simple carbohydrates and fats are primarily energy contributors. They are broken down into glucose and used by the cells. Carbohydrates have the benefit of being metabolized quickly, so they provide a quick boost of energy. The disadvantage is that this energy spike does not last long.
Carbs do not have to be cut entirely, and many foods that are very healthy, such as fruits, are also high in carbs. Avoid sugar and processed foods and opt for whole foods and whole grains. They are still healthy even though they are high in carbs.
Fat is the enemy in the eyes of most people. Body fat and diet fat, however, are not at all the same thing. The reality is that your body will take any excess calories and turn that into body fat. When it comes to fat in the diet, it is important to choose wisely. Good fats are generally unsaturated fats. Fats like olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil are very healthy.
Saturated fats and especially trans fats found in processed foods and red meat are less healthy and better to be avoided. Fats contain important nutrients and they burn more slowly than carbs, so they provide energy over a longer period of time. Eating enough fat is important for the body’s health and to feel full.
Protein has one role in the body, to produce more cells and tissues. Any excess protein is converted into energy. Converting protein to energy is inefficient and generally not good for the body. While protein is certainly very essential, the body needs a relatively small amount per day. The WHO has certain minimum levels for protein intake. Most people will need slightly more than this. A person who is younger or much more active than normal will need more. It is important to get enough protein without getting too much. A “high-protein” diet is actually not healthy for the body.
Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are an even more important part of optimal health than macronutrients. While vitamins and minerals can be found in all whole foods, the richest sources tend to be vegetables and fruits. Vegetables are among the healthiest food groups, according to the WHO, because they contain the most concentrated amounts of vitamins and minerals combined with the lowest amounts of sugar and fat. Just remember to avoid over-cooking them.
It is important to eat a variety of whole foods in order to obtain the optimal amounts of micronutrients. Extreme diets such as vegan diets often carry risks of deficiency because they may provide excellent amounts of some nutrients but insufficient amounts of others. Choosing meal plans and natural health products wisely can counteract these deficiencies.
Simple fiber and water are among the most critical aspects of any diet even though they don’t often make into discussions of most diets or fad diets. Water is critical in all body functions, so it is important get plenty. Chronic dehydration is silently linked to many diseases and problems. A good rule of thumb is to never be thirsty. If you are feeling thirsty, then you are already dehydrated. Drink throughout the day and generally drink 6-8 glasses of water per day. Pure water is best. Coffee, tea and soda are not substitutes for water.
Fiber is also very important for digestive health and nutrient absorption. Already healthy plant foods such as vegetables and beans are high in fiber and remain the best source of both fiber and nutrients. Fiber can also be taken effectively in supplement form.
A balanced of nutrients is the key to diet and nutrition. Following an extreme diet or cutting out certain foods generally does more harm than good to the body. Instead of focusing on what not to eat, shift the focus on choosing foods to eat that are naturally healthy and filling.
Deprivation does as much damage to the body as overindulgence. By fitting a variety of healthy and whole foods into the diet with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, most diet concerns are naturally resolved.