Are you Eating a Balanced Diet? Why You Should

To achieve a healthy life, balance is required. Each type of food provides a unique mix of nutrients. By eating a wide variety of foods high in nutrients and beneficial plant compounds, your body can obtain the right amount of calories and nutrition it requires to function properly. This article looks at what it means to eat a balanced diet and the benefits of maintaining a healthful diet.

What is a Balanced Diet?

Eating a balanced diet typically means choosing a variety of nutrient-dense foods from different food groups. The major foods groups that pack useful nutrients include:

Complex Carbohydrates - preferably healthy starchy foods like pasta, brown rice, potatoes, and wholegrain/wholewheat bread.

Proteins - preferably fresh meat, soy, and lean protein products like egg, nuts, and fish. 

Fat and Oil - low-fat milk or plant-based dairy products, probiotics like yogurt, and olive oil.

Fiber - lentils, beans, seeds, and peas.

Fresh fruits - berries, grapes, banana, avocado, and kiwi.

Fresh Vegetables - edible roots, cruciferous vegetables, dark leafy greens, and beets.

To achieve maximum health benefits, each major group of foods should be eaten in the right quantity. A healthy food pyramid can serve as a guide to attaining a balanced diet. For adults, teenagers, and children aged 5 and above, experts recommend the following per day:

-6 to 11 servings of grains and carbohydrate groups (Bread, cereal, rice, and pasta)

-3 to 5 Servings of fresh vegetable groups

-2 to 4 Servings of fruit groups

-2 to 3 servings of dairy products.

-2 to 3 servings of meat, poultry foods, beans, and nuts.

-Fats and sweets are to be eaten sparingly as they are high in calories and fat. 

In a well-balanced diet, carbohydrates should account for 60-70% of total calories, proteins for 10-12%, and fat for 20-25% of total calories. Additionally, a balanced diet should include herbs, spices, and condiments that are high in phytochemicals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and nutraceuticals. Bioactive plant compounds in these food groups are important to promote immune health and protect the body against diseases.

Why is Eating a Balanced Diet Important?

A well-balanced diet provides the energy, calories, and other nutrients that you need to stay healthy. Eating nutrient-dense foods in the right proportion can help fight against diseases, control weight gain, enhance brain health, and promote overall good health. Having a balanced diet will also ensure you are not deficient in certain nutrients that may be vital to your health. Here are ways in which healthy eating can benefit your health.

Prevents Diseases and Infections

Healthy food is vital to a strong immune system. Foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients help your body fight infections and prevent diseases like diabetes, and stroke. Foods like fresh vegetables and fruits contain high amounts of antioxidants that can reduce your risk of developing cancer and protect your cells from damage. Deficiency in Vitamin A, B, C, and E deficiency, as well as zinc, iron, and selenium deficiency, might impair your immune system. Foods that are high in antioxidants and immune-strengthening phytochemicals include carrots, dark leafy greens, berries, nuts, and seeds.

Keeps Your Heart Healthy

Maintaining your blood pressure and cholesterol levels with a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy helps minimize your risk of developing heart diseases. Various research suggests lifestyle improvements such as eating healthy foods and engaging in physical activity can prevent up to 80% of premature heart disease and stroke diagnoses. Too much salt and saturated fats in your diet can lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, which can lead to chronic heart diseases. Eating a balanced diet rich in fiber and low in fat can help regulate blood pressure and lower cholesterol.

Helps You Control Your Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is important to good health. It also helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases. A balanced diet can help maintain healthy body weight. A balanced diet majorly comprises fiber, complex carbohydrates, grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables. All these foods are unlikely to increase cholesterol levels and contribute to unhealthy weight gain. 

Also, eating a balanced diet can help you to curb unhealthy eating habits. When your stomach is filled with fiber-rich healthy foods, you are less likely to crave foods with empty calories and sugar. When combined with regular exercise, eating a healthy diet can also help you lose weight.

Improves Your Mental Health

Your brain is powered by the calories and nutrients you gain from food. Getting the right mix of nutrients contributes to your brain health and can positively influence your mood. Researchers discovered that high-glycemic-load diets may trigger depression and fatigue symptoms. Eating a diet that mostly consists of foods made with refined sugar leads to a high glycemic load. Instead, swap processed foods with fresh fruits and vegetables that provide soluble fiber and complex sugar. These plant-based alternatives have a lower glycemic load.

Furthermore, a healthy diet that consists of berries, grapes, berries, leafy greens, and fatty fish promotes cognition and boosts memory. 

Good for Growth

Children and adolescents should eat a balanced diet because they are still experiencing major growth and they require the right nutrients to aid cell growth. Children who are deficient in vital nutrients may experience developmental problems. Also, pregnant and nursing mothers need a well-balanced diet that provides all the nutrients necessary for fetal growth. 

In addition, a healthy balanced diet contributes to healthy skin and hair. Eating foods rich in Vitamin E, A, and C gives you that youthful glow.

Enhances Strong Bones and Teeth

Strong and healthy bones and teeth also rely on a good diet. Calcium can be found in a wide range of foods including dairy products, fish bones, and dark green vegetables. Vitamin D also helps the body absorb calcium. A balanced diet that consists of foods rich in Vitamin D and calcium keeps the bone and teeth healthy and prevents diseases like osteoporosis. 

Tips for Eating a Balanced Diet

Eating a healthful well-balanced diet entails eating foods that cater to one’s nutritional needs. Depending on your dietary preference, you can select foods that provide vital nutrients. For example, if you follow a vegan diet, you can swap dairy foods for plant-based alternatives. Also, meat and fish can be replaced with tofu and beans as they have similar protein content. Below are other helpful tips for maintaining a balanced diet.

  • Learn more ways to incorporate more fresh vegetables and fruits into your meals.
  • Make high-fiber and starchy carbohydrates the base of your meals.
  • Use a variety of plant-based food in your meals as no single food has all the nutrients you need. 
  • Swap full-fat dairy products for low-fat alternatives.
  • Opt for freshly squeezed juice instead of ultra-processed juice that may contain sugar or additives.
  • Eat more lean protein, which can be found in foods like tofu, eggs, fish, and nuts.
  • Snack on sweet fruits as they contain nutrients and antioxidants. Candies and sweets have sugar and empty calories that are bad for your health.

The Bottom Line

Healthy eating is vital to both physical and mental health. Eating a variety of foods packed with nutrients reduces the risk of diseases, supports growth, and keeps the mind healthy. A well-balanced diet should offer all of the nutrients that you need while staying below the daily calorie limit. To attain a balanced diet, include a wide variety of healthy foods in your diet while eating more complex carbohydrates and fresh vegetables and fruits.