“You are what you eat” is more that just a catchy phrase your mother used to get you to eat right. It’s a profound truth. Eating a balanced diet is vital for good health and wellbeing. Food provides our bodies with the energy, protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals to live, grow and function properly. We need a wide variety of different foods to provide the right amounts of nutrients for good health. Enjoyment of a healthy diet can also be one of the great cultural pleasures of life. An unhealthy diet increases the risk of many diet-related diseases.
Health continues to decline, with millions of people each year suffering from chronic conditions that limit their activity: broken hips, arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, slipped disks, asthma, visual impairment, hearing loss, paralysis, stroke, mental impairment, lung disease, etc. Most people die in their mid-70s of heart disease, cancer, or osteoporosis (complications from hip injuries). Poor nutritional habits are a key reason.
Many scientists believe that disease and debility are not inevitable consequences of growing older. They believe that longer and healthier lives are achievable through a healthful balance of diet, exercise, rest, and relaxation.
Of course, food alone isn’t the key to a longer and healthier life. Good nutrition should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle, which also includes regular exercise, not smoking or drinking alcohol excessively, stress management and limiting exposure to environmental hazards. And no matter how well you eat, your genes play a big part in your risk for certain health problems. But don’t underestimate the influence of how and what you eat.
For example, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can begin in early childhood, but the process can be halted — even reversed — if you make healthy changes in your diet and lifestyle. The gradual bone thinning that results in osteoporosis may be slowed if you consume enough calcium, maintain adequate Vitamin D levels and participate in weight-bearing exercise. You may be genetically predisposed to diabetes, but keep your weight within a healthy range through diet and exercise and the disease may never strike you.
The keys to good nutrition are balance, variety and moderation. To stay healthy, your body needs the right balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein — the three main components of nutrition. Protein is needed to build, maintain and repair muscle, blood, skin and bones and other tissues and organs in the body. Carbohydrate provides the body with its main source of energy and Fat is the body’s secondary source of energy. Fat actually provides more energy/calories per gram than any other nutrient, but is more difficult to burn.
You also need vitamins, minerals and other substances from many different foods, and while some foods are better than others, no single food or food group has it all — so eating a variety of different foods is essential. Vitamins and minerals are needed in very small amounts and are sometimes called micronutrients, but are essential for good health. They control many functions and processes in the body, and in the case of minerals also help build body tissue such as bones (calcium) and blood (iron). In addition to the above nutrients Fibre and Water are also essential for a good healthy diet.
Moderation means eating neither too much nor too little of any food or nutrient. Too much food can result in excess weight and even too much of certain nutrients, while eating too little can lead to numerous nutrient deficiencies and low body mass. The consequences of not having a balanced diet are numerous: if you do not eat enough protein, you will not be able to grow properly; if you do not eat enough energy containing foods (eg carbohydrates and fat), you will feel very tired; and if you eat too much energy containing foods you will become overweight.
Many people in the developed world eat too much of some types of food, for example a lot of saturated fats, and become overweight. Obesity is becoming a big problem in the developed world. One third of all Americans are obese. Being obese has serious health implications including increasing your chances of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, having a stroke or getting a number of forms of cancer.
In the developing world, on the other hand, many people suffer from Hunger, or under-nutrition, whereby they do not have enough food or Malnutrition, which means ‘badly nourished’ and is as much about what you eat as how much. Malnutrition is characterized by inadequate intake of protein, energy and/or micronutrients and by frequent infection and disease.
Malnutrition creates great suffering to the individual, the family and the society. It damages people’s health and well-being and reduces their enjoyment of life. Malnutrition prevents people from being active members of their family and community. Malnourished children are too weak or sickly to attend school and learn properly which lowers their chances of good jobs and income in the future. Adults who are malnourished are less productive, have less energy to work, take care of their families and carry out activities of normal daily life. Malnutrition has high health care costs, as those suffering from nutrition- related illnesses require special care and treatment.
Malnutrition is caused by poor diets, illness and disease. Poor diet and disease act together, worsening the effects of each other. The combination of too little food and the presence of disease often results in malnutrition, especially in children. Poor, inadequate diets weaken the body, making disease and illness more likely. Disease, in turn, often increases the body’s need for food. Repeated and prolonged illnesses, such as diarrhoea and malaria, contribute to malnutrition, as nutritional needs are higher during and following illness. Frequent episodes of illness and acute infections make it almost impossible to maintain adequate nutritional status.
I hope by now you understood the importance of eating healthy food in a natural way, and include a natural, balanced diet chart to your routine.
* adopted from various sources