Good nutrition is essential for general good health, and more often than not, the diet we follow is reflected in the state of our health. Without good nutrition your body will react accordingly and leave you open to many health related problems including the onset of the symptoms of hypoglycemia.
A healthy diet really can make us feel and look great, but it’s not always clear to know what we should be eating for the best.
With this in mind, if you want to follow a healthy eating plan for good nutrition, this concise guide will equip you with a little knowledge about what is required in the way of nutrients, and which foods contain them.
There are five main food groups, which are;
- Grains & Carbohydrates
- Fruit & Vegetables
- Meat, Fish, Poultry and Pulses/Proteins
- Milk and Dairy
- Fats and Oils
In this category, are bread, potatoes, noodles, pasta, rice, and cereals. The foods in this group are our main sources of fiber, and an item from this category should be a component of every meal we eat.
Fiber is the part of plant food that our bodies cannot digest. As it helps to control our appetite and causes us to become full much more quickly, it may be beneficial on a weight management program.
Wherever possible, it is best to buy whole grain products, as opposed to refined grains, as these contain the highest levels of fiber, and can help to lower cholesterol and aid healthy bowel function. They also convert to sugar at a slower rate so you do not get a sudden peak in sugar levels thus preventing the onset of the symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Whole grains also provide us with B vitamins, magnesium and other essential nutrients, as follows;
- B vitamins : Effective in helping our bodies use the energy supplied from carbohydrates
- Magnesium : An important mineral which helps to coordinate our muscular contractions
- Vitamin E, Selenium and Phytochemicals, which may help to increase our natural defenses against diabetes and heart disease
The recommended daily minimum intake for good nutrition from this group is six portions.
Fruit and Vegetables
Foods from this category are excellent, natural sources of vitamins, soluble fiber, minerals and antioxidants.
As the majority are low fat and low calorie, they are fantastic foods to eat if you are wanting to lose weight, although regardless of this, they should be a regular component of everyone’s daily diet in order to maintain good nutrition.
It has been proven that incidence of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and obesity related issues, are far lower in people who follow a diet which incorporates a lot of fruit and vegetables. It’s also good to know that if fresh produce is not available, significant nutritional value can be gained from canned (in fruit juice, not syrup), frozen, juiced or dried fruit and vegetables. Note: Potatoes are not included in this category.
The recommended daily minimum intake for good nutrition from this group is five portions.
Meat, Fish, Poultry and Pulses/Proteins
Foods in this category include meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, pulses, nuts, seeds, soya products and vegetable protein foods
Protein is the primary structural element in every cell in the body; it’s prevalent in the blood, organs, skin and hair – but particularly in the muscles. It’s essential for growth, new tissue generation and the repair of old tissue, and it also gives our bodies heat and energy, of which protein provides approximately 10% – 15%.
As protein is not easily stored by the body, it is important to include it as part of our daily diet.
The recommended daily minimum intake for good nutrition from this group is two portions.
Milk and Dairy
This food group includes milk and milk products, such as cheese (including soft cheeses) and yoghurt, but not butter, cream or margarine.
Foods in this category are rich in vitamins, protein, minerals, and particularly Calcium, but from a health and good nutrition point of view, it is best to choose low-fat options to avoid the saturated fats, which can also be found in this group.
Calcium is a mineral which not only helps to build strong bones and teeth, but controls muscle contraction and heartbeat, and helps to ensure that the blood is clotting as it should.
For many years, milk and dairy products have long been favored as the most important sources of calcium – particularly for children – although these days, many of us prefer to obtaining our Calcium intake from other sources such as canned salmon or sardines, with the bones, dark green vegetables, soya and nuts.
However, Calcium plays an important role in helping to ensure that children develop strong and healthy bones, and reduce the risk of developing bone-related conditions, such as osteoporosis, in later life.
Phosphorus is another mineral, which can be found in cheese and milk, and also contributes to the healthy formation of our body’s structure.
The recommended minimum daily intake for good nutrition from this group is three portions.
Fats, Oils and Sugars
Although we should keep these to a sensible level, foods in this group form a fundamental part of all cell structure, act as carriers for vitamins A, D, E and K, and provide us with a concentrated form of energy. They are typically high in fat and/or calories, so wherever possible, “low” versions are better options.
Foods include butter, cream, cooking oils, ice-cream, low-fat spreads, mayonnaise, margarine, sugary drinks, salad dressings, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, candy, sweets, pastry, baked goods, crisps and chips.
Generally speaking fat is either saturated or unsaturated.
Typically, saturated fat is hard at room temperature, and is usually derived from animal sources. Found in lard, butter, cheese, solid margarine, whole milk and any product, which contains these ingredients, such as cakes, chocolate, biscuits, pies and pastries. The white fat on red meat, and underneath poultry skin is also saturated fat.
Typically, unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature and usually comes from vegetable sources – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are both included in this group.
Unsaturated fat is considered to be a healthier option, and can be found in oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon, sardines and pilchards, soft margarine, and soya, olive, sunflower and rapeseed oil.
A bit on Sugar
Sugar is not just found in sweet foods – it is a ‘hidden’ ingredient in many savory products too. Read your food labels and keep your intake of obviously sweet foods at a sensible level.
There is no recommended daily intake for fats and sugars, but to ensure good nutrition, they should be consumed as sparingly as possible.
If you’re keen to follow a healthy eating regime, or make some significant changes to your current diet, it may take a little while to become accustomed to your new eating patterns, but good nutrition can be achieved easily, and enjoyably, if you follow these simple guidelines.Picture courtesy of http://www.40days2freedom.org/proper-nutrition-for-an-active-lifestyle.html