A balanced diet is paramount for maintaining a healthy life. A diet constitutes different necessary nutrients that impact a body’s growth and development. A balanced nutrition diet contributes to maintaining good health by balancing nutrients. Also, without balanced nutrition, your body is more prone to disease, infection, and fatigue. According to studies, 4 of the top 10 leading causes of death in the world are directly linked to diet.
We are what we eat. The foods we eat have a profound impact on our physical and mental health. Scientific evidence shows that a healthy diet can help people achieve and maintain good health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Evidence also suggests that there is a close relationship between diet and mood. A healthy diet may help maintain brain health too. It is proven that diets with a high glycaemic load may trigger increased symptoms of depression and fatigue. It is well documented that there are many nutrients and foods (vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and fish) that protect against cognitive decline and dementia.
Here, we discuss details about a diet and highlight the impact of deficiency of a balanced diet within the human body.
What is a balanced diet?
A balanced diet is a diet that contains all the essential nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, fats, minerals, and water in the correct proportion. Following are some of the important points regarding a balanced diet-
- It is important for our body’s normal growth and development.
- It can be achieved by eating a variety of food items since there is no single food item with the correct amount of all the essential nutrients.
- The quantity of nutrients in a balanced diet always differs with age, sex, and physical activities taken by an individual.
- Eating a balanced diet requires a certain amount of knowledge and planning.
- The basic composition of a balanced diet is highly variable as it changes from country to country depending upon the availability of food items.
- The nutrition group of ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) has recommended the composition of a balanced diet for Indians.
- The major components of a balanced diet include cereals (like rice, wheat, and jowar), pulses, roots and tubers, fruits, milk, and dairy products, fats and oils, sugar, and groundnuts. They also recommended an intake of meat, fish, and eggs for non-vegetarians.
Importance of a balanced diet
Let us understand why it is important for us to have a balanced diet:
- Our body requires a proper supply of nutrition to work efficiently and be fit and healthy.
- Without balanced nutrition, the human body is more prone to diseases, infections, fatigue, and poor performance.
- Children with a poor diet may cause a risk of frequent infections and underdeveloped body growth. They can develop bad eating habits, which can continue for the rest of their lives.
- They are also at higher risk of obesity and other diseases that make up metabolic syndromes, like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
- A balanced diet can help to combat all the negative effects of hormonal imbalance.
What are food groups?
Each of the food items that we eat contains a variety of nutrients. The foods we eat are divided into different groups so that each food group contains food having similar nutritional properties or biological classification.
The ‘Basic Five Food Groups’ that are required to be on your balanced diet plate are as follows:
- Cereals, grains, and products
- Pulses and legumes
- Milk and meat products
- Vegetables and fruits
- Sugars and fats
What is a balanced meal?
Balanced meals include one food from each food group- cereals, pulses, legumes, milk and meat products, fruits and vegetables, fats, and sugar. While planning a meal one must try to include “five of five.” Here are a few examples of how to do it:
- Chapati /rice with dal and vegetables. Add curd and fruit for a balanced, nutrient-rich family meal.
- For porridge made with milk for breakfast, consider adding nuts and fruit to add flavour to the porridge, and maybe a piece of paneer / boiled egg/ sprouts to boost the protein.
- Add more vegetables into Upma/Dalia/Poha or add fruit into a green salad.
Tips for having a balanced diet every day
- Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Fill just over one-quarter with grains.
- Fill just under one-quarter with protein foods.
- Add dairy on the side (or a non-dairy replacement).
Important elements that make up a healthy dietary pattern:
- Vegetables – dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables.
- Dairy, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yoghurt, and cheese, and/or lactose-free versions and fortified soy beverages and yoghurt as alternatives.
- Protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products.
- Oils, including vegetable oils and oils in food, such as seafood and nuts.
Foods to avoid
Just as it is important to include certain foods in a balanced diet, we should also keep in mind to avoid certain foods from our daily diet. These are harmful and are implicated in various lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, ADHD and even cancer.
The foods that we should keep away from are –
- Highly processed foods
- Refined grains
- Added sugar and salt
- Red and processed meat
- Trans fats
The recommended limits are:
- Added sugars: Less than 10% of your calories per day.
- Saturated fat: Less than 10% of your calories per day.
- Sodium: Less than 2,300 milligrams per day (and even less for children younger than age 14).
- Alcoholic beverages: Drinking less is better for health than drinking more.
A balanced diet has a whole gamut of benefits from improving our physical fitness and preventing disease to maintaining our mental well-being. In today’s age of instant food ordering apps, it must be our conscious endeavour to incorporate a balanced meal into our everyday lives. Embracing a balanced diet, proper water intake, adequate exercise, and quality sleep all work in tandem to help us lead productive and healthy life.
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