Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is critical in the maintenance of our health, including keeping a healthy weight and reducing the risk of other conditions and diseases. When it comes to keeping your diet as healthy as possible, there are some important key factors that I recommend everyone take into consideration, and they are:
• Eat an array of different foods •
• Focus on incorporating more fruits and vegetables •
• Include moderate amounts of healthy oils and fats •
• Decrease salt and sugar intake •
While a healthy diet should consist of plenty of fruits and vegetables, it’s important that these aren’t the only foods you eat. In addition to fruits and vegetables, a healthy, well-balanced diet should consist of a variety of healthy foods, including whole grains, legumes (such as beans and lentils), and foods that come from animal sources (for example, meat, fish, and dairy – i.e. milk and eggs.) When your diet is diverse, your body is obtaining the appropriate amounts of essential nutrients that it needs in order to fully function. You’re also less likely to become sick of certain foods the more diversity your diet has. Furthermore, healthy diets are also important for the growth and development of children, and it also helps seniors to be healthier and lead lives that are more active than they would if they weren’t getting enough healthy foods in their systems.
Back to fruits and vegetables for a moment, though. While you can consume ones that are cooked, try to avoid overcooking them as this can cause them to lose important vitamins and therefore lose their nutritional value. If possible, it’s instead recommended that people try to eat vegetables that are raw, and fruit that is fresh as opposed to ones that are canned or high in sugar. If you’re going to eat canned fruits or vegetables, make sure they don’t have any added salt or sugar. Fruit and vegetables are sources of essential vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, and plant protein. By having a diet high in fruits and vegetables, you will have a lower risk of developing things like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.
It’s also important to know the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats. Trans fats and saturated fats (i.e. butter, coconut and palm oils), for example, should be avoided. They are commonly found in fast food, fried food, and foods that are baked. Instead, aim for unsaturated vegetable oils such as olive oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, or soy. Certain meats are also higher in fats than others. White meat, for example, is recommended as it is lower in fats compared to red meat. However, there are certain instances where you may need to consume more red meat than not. For example, red meat is a good source of iron for someone who is iron deficient. You should also limit or avoid your intake of processed meat, such as deli meats, as they are also higher in unhealthy fats. Consuming too much fat, especially if they’re the wrong kinds, can result in a higher risk of developing heart disease and suffering a stroke.
Salt and sugar should also be limited. Many foods, such as those that are processed, tend to be quite high in both ingredients, so it’s always a good idea to pay attention to the nutritional labels on the foods you buy before purchase and consumption as this will let you know exactly how much sugar and/or salt you’re getting. Certain condiments, such as soy sauce, which is commonly used for cooking, is also high in salt and sodium. While the body needs a certain amount of sodium, too much can become harmful to your health – and, believe it or not, sodium is actually something that one can become addicted to over time. Fruit juices and sodas are also usually high in sugar, as are those fancy drinks you get at your local coffee shop, so intake of these should be limited as well.