Why is Proper Nutrition Important?
Are nutrition and health related? Is healthy eating important? Of course!
Like a finely-tuned racing car, your body needs the right fuel (food) and regular maintenance (exercise, lifestyle and mental attitude) to achieve its true health potential. Nothing is more important than healthy eating!
Put in the wrong fuel or let it go without regular use and there's no way it can deliver its full power and performance. Without healthy eating, your body's engine will cough, splutter and eventually stall.
Maintaining a balanced diet by healthy eating can:
- Give you vitality and energy for life
- Help you stay at a weight that's right for you
- Boost your immune system
- Improve sports performance
- Delay the effects of aging
- Keep you active and fit into old age
- Help beat tiredness and fatigue
- Protect teeth and keep gums healthy
- Enhance your ability to concentrate and possible alter mood
- Ward off serious illnesses like heart disease, certain cancers, mature-age onset diabetes, and gallbladder disease
Basics of Health Eating for Today
Cutting down on all fats from fatty and fried foods, butter, cream, margarine and oils is agreed on by nutritionists the world over as a way of making the modern diet healthier and reducing weight. Cutting down on saturated fat in particular is important for the heart.
Lots of Starchy Carbohydrates
We have forgotten how important rice, pasta, potatoes, bread and cereals are to our health. Forget the stodgy image of starch from years gone by! Starch is in again and may turn out to be just as critical as fibre is now.
Not just bran! Fiber, that largely indigestible part of our food and often the part that really gets us chewing, is responsible for so much good. It not only keeps our insides moving smoothly but it helps to lower cholesterol, prevent gallstones and bowel cancer, and keep our weight in check. Wholemeal and grain breads are full of it, as are brown rice, barley, lentils, beans and vegetables. To start your day, there is a wonderful array of wholegrain and bran breakfast cereals.
Vitamins, Minerals, and Anti-oxidants
Vegetables, fruit and grains carry an abundance of vitamins, minerals and numerous other natural substances (called phytochemicals) which scientists are only just beginning to discover. Phytochemicals function as anti-oxidants, which fight off free radicals that could otherwise damage our cells, membranes and DNA. Numerous studies show that people who eat lots of vegies and fruit have lower rates of heart disease and cancer.
Variety doesn't mean 10 different cereal packs in your cupboard, but rather a variety of botanically different foods. Pasta, bread, puffed wheat and couscous all look and taste different but are all derived from the one basic (but versatile) grain (wheat). So they all provide similar nutrient Substituting other grains like oats, barley, corn or rye for some wheat adds diversity to your diet and ensures a wider range of nutrients. The nutrients you miss from one food, you can make up from another.
Moderate Sugar and Sweets
Sugar in modest amounts adds to the flavour of cooking and is a useful fuel for athletes and other active people. In excess, however, sugar adds unwanted kilojoules and can displace other more important foods - particularly for children and teenagers. In chewy and sticky form, sugar also can cause dental caries (or tooth decay).
Light on Salt
Our modern diet is laden with salt. It's not until you avoid salt for a few weeks that you notice how it masks the true flavour of foods. As 75 per cent of our total salt intake comes from everyday commercial foods (including bread, biscuits, cereals, butter, deli meats and snack foods), it is imperative to buy salt-reduced or no-added-salt products.
Drink Plenty of Fluid
Two litres (8 glasses) of fluid a day is needed to keep the body hydrated and the kidneys working efficiently. In hot weather, even more fluid is required. Alcohol and strong coffee do not count, as these act as diuretics and force the kidney to excrete more fluid than normal.
Stress, tension, rushing and eating on the run all take their toll on your digestion and health. Try to relax and take the time to really appreciate the food in front of you.Not only will it increase your enjoyment and satisfaction by having a "comfortably full" stomach, this technique is often recommended as a strategy to help people lose weight.
Breakdown of the Food Pyramid
Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta
These foods provide complex carbohydrates, and important source of energy. They also provide B vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Starchy foods are not fattening if you don't add butter, cheese, or cream sauces. Select whole-grain products to maximize fiber and other nutrients.
1 serving = 1 slice of bread; 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal; 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice or pasta
Fruits are rich sources of vitamins, most notably vitamin C. They are low in fat and calories. Select fresh fruits and fruit juices, and frozen, canned, or dried fruits. Avoid fruit processed with heavy syrups and sugar-sweetened juices.
1 serving = 1 medium apple, banana, or orange; 1 melon wedge; 1/2 cup of chopped fruit or berries; 3/4 cup fruit juice.
Vegetables provide vitamins (especially A and C), are excellent sources of fiber, and are naturally low in fat. For maximum nutrients, select dark leafy greens, deep-yellow or orange vegetables, and starchy vegetables like potatoes and yams.
1 serving = 1 cup raw leafy greens; 1/2 cup other vegetables chopped; 3/4 cup vegetable juice.
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts
Animal foods are excellent sources of protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins, as are beans, nuts, and seeds. Tofu (made from soybeans) and white beans also supply calcium. Some seeds, like almonds, are good sources of vitamin E.
1 serving = 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish; 1 egg; 1/2 cup cooked beans; 2 tablespoons seeds and nuts.
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese
Milk products are the richest sources of calcium. They also provide protein and vitamin B12. Choose low-fat varieties to keep calories, cholesterol, and saturated fat at a minimum
1 serving = 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1-1/2 ounces of cheese.
Fats, Oils, and Sweets
These foods provide calories, but little else nutritionally. Exceptions are vegetable oil, which is a rich source of vitamin E (1 tablespoon is all you need), and molasses, an excellent source of iron.