Being healthy starts from the inside out. It entails being conscious of what goes into your body. Sometimes, it even involves ‘when’ and ‘how’ it goes into your body. In this day and age, we are now more conscious than ever that a healthy body is largely the product of a healthy diet.
Simply put, a healthy diet is one that helps to maintain or improve a person’s general health. It could refer to foods that provides essential nutrition such as fluids, macronutrients, micronutrients and sufficient calories.
•A healthy diet helps to fortify the body against malnutrition in all its forms.
•It helps prevent the manifestation of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, cancer, scurvy, etc.
•It aids in slowing down the ageing process, improves general beauty in skin, hair, nails and teeth.
•It improves growth and development in children and provides youthful energy for activity in adults.
•It helps promote longer span of life.
It is very important to know what to eat to maintain or improve health. This knowledge should form a fundamental aspect of living for a human being and should be at one’s fingertips, so to speak.
For adults, a healthy diet should include:
•Fruits, vegetables, legumes (e.g. lentils and beans), nuts and whole grains (e.g. maize, oats millets, wheat and brown rice).
•Fruits and vegetables, excluding potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and other starchy roots, at least 400 g (i.e. 5 portions) a day.
•Less than 10% of total energy intake should come from free sugars. This is equivalent to about 12 level teaspoons or 50 g, for a 2000 calories diet.
•Less than 30% of total energy intake should come from fats. Unsaturated fats obtainable from fish, avocado and nuts, sunflower, canola, soybean and olive oils should be preferred to saturated fats found in fatty meat, butter, palm and coconut oil, cream, cheese, lard and ghee. (Avoid trans-fat)
•Less than 5 g or one teaspoon of salt a day. Iodized salt is standard.
For infants and young children, 2 years and younger, a healthy diet should include:
•Exclusively breast milk, for the first 6 months.
•Continuous breastfeeding until the age of two and beyond.
After 6 months, complementary nutrient-dense variety of foods along with breast milk, excluding salt and sugars.
The above dietary advice is in line with standards supplied by WHO, World Health Organization.
To complement your healthy diet, it is important to engage in physical exercise and avoid sedentary habits.
The following are some things to take note of in maintaining a healthy diet:
•Studies have shown that eating slowly may help to reduce the number of calories you consume at meals. So, eat slower and chew a lot more.
•Avoid refined or processed foods. Choose whole grain bread over refined grain.
•Sit down with a pen and paper and take inventory of what you eat. Prepare a list of healthy choices before going shopping. If you need help, go online.
•Increase your protein intake and reduced your intake of carbohydrates.
•Drink lots of water.
•Bake and roast instead of grilling and frying.
Include supplements with your diet, especially Omega-3 and Vitamin D. Avoid fast foods. Try slow foods instead!
Finally, a healthy diet ultimately determines your quality of life. You can’t live without food, but you can’t live long and healthy without a healthy diet.