Healthy eating is not about deprivation or about unrealistic restraints put on yourself. Healthy eating is about making healthy food choices. It's about consuming the right amount of foods from all the food groups in order to achieve the healthiest life possible.
A balanced diet is the most crucial part of healthy eating. Learning the basics and achieving a nutritional balance among all the food groups can put you on the road to living a healthy lifestyle and promoting overall good health.
When it comes to healthy eating, according to nutritionists, there are five main food groups you must address – whole grains, protein, fruits and vegetables, dairy, and (healthy) fats.
Whole grains are a good source of fiber and are rich in vitamins and minerals. They promote long lasting energy and are said to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. Studies have shown that people who eat more whole grains tend to have a healthy heart.
Tip: Whole grain products need to be made with 100% whole grain.
Protein is the basic building block for growth and energy in the body. We need protein to build and repair the body's tissue. A lack of protein can slow growth, reduce muscle mass, weak immunity and the heart and respiratory system.
• Meat (chicken, turkey)
• Fish (salmon, tuna, trout, sardines)
• Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
• Beans (black beans, lentils, navy beans)
• Soy (tofu, soy milk, veggie burgers)
Tip: Focus on quality sources of protein and buy meat that is free of hormones and antibiotics.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Fruits and vegetables is the key element to a healthy diet. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber which are vital for the body to function well. Studies have found that a good intake of fruits and vegetables could protect from developing diseases such as, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Most health departments suggest that we aim for five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
• Vegetables (bright and dark lettuce, kale, mustard greens, broccoli)
• Fruits (apples, bananas, oranges, mangos, berries)
Tip: Eat a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables. Those that are brightly and deeply colored contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Different colors offer different benefits so eat a variety.
Dairy products are a good source of calcium which is important for maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Calcium is a key nutrient needed in order for the body to remain healthy and strong.
Tip: Nutritionists suggest you aim for low-fat dairy products.
Good sources of fat nourish your heart, brain, and cells. There are two types of fats satuarated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are found in animal products and processed foods. Saturated fats are not heart healthy. They are known for raising your LDL – "bad" cholestorol. On the other hand, unsaturated fats are know to be heart healthy with the ability to lower LDL – "bad" cholesterol and raise HDL "good" cholesterol.
• Saturated fats (meats, fried foods, margarine, chips, pastries)
• Unsaturated fats (avacados, nuts, olives)
Tip: Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats can reduce cardiovascular disease, help prevent dementia, and improve your mood.
HEALTHY EATING REMINDER:
A key factor to healthy eating that should not be overlooked is to limit your salt / sodium and sugar intake. Too much salt in your diet can cause high blood pressure and lead to other heart problems. Sugars can add to health and weight issues and cause energy ups and downs. Satisfy your sweet tooth by eating naturally sweetened foods, sweetening your own foods (buy them unsweetened), and staying away from sugary drinks.
Tip: Large amounts of sugar can be hidden in some foods and on food labels. Become knowledgeable about the foods you're eating and check food labels carefully.
Written by Wimberly Tidwell