Knowledge of Nutrition is Key to a Balanced Diet
Perhaps one of the truest sayings in the whole English lexicon is “you are what you eat”. The types of balanced diet or foods we consume with, the frequency with which we do so and the amounts we eat at a time are pivotal in shaping our physique, as well as determining how healthy we and our diet are, we are susceptible to disease and other ailments with proper good food in our daily diet.
The food we eat provides us with energy, most commonly measured in calories. Eating builds up the supply of calories. Consuming energy, which is accomplished via exercise and our day-to-day motions, burns calories. An excessive intake of calories without an appropriate level of energy consumption results in the body storing the calories as fat, which leads to weight gain.
Essential to a healthy balanced diet is variety in the foods you eat. It is no good only limiting yourself to certain types of food at the expense of others. By doing this, you will be depriving yourself of certain nutrients which are essential if your body is to function properly. So, what exactly do our bodies need in order to survive? To begin with, they require proteins, carbohydrates and fat. In addition, vitamins and minerals are needed in order to stimulate enzymes and chemical reactions within us. Lastly, we need water.
Carbohydrates supply us with energy, fight toxins, aid in the dissemination of proteins and nourish the brain. They can be found in the majority of foods that do not consist of fat or flesh. Carbohydrates can be divided into two sub-divisions; simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are found in foods such as fruits, milk and other dairy products. They are also found in refined sugars such as table sugar, syrups and soft drinks.
Understandably, these should not be solely relied on to provide us with our carbohydrate intake through a proper balanced diet. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as rice, noodles, potatoes, bananas and other leafy vegetables. The main difference between simple and complex carbohydrates is that simple carbs can be swiftly digested while complex carbs require more time to be absorbed by the body. Both are turned into glucose, or blood sugar.
Proteins are generally considered the building blocks of the body as they build both bones and muscles as well as repairing them when they are damaged. But this is not the only function they perform. They also assist in the digestive process and help to bolster the immune system. Proteins are generally found
in meat, fish, milk and dairy products, eggs and nuts. There are few foods which consist of only one nutrient, and so most sources of protein will also offer us either carbohydrates (vegetables) or fats (animal products).
Fats are usually considered the dietary bad boys and are usually spoken of negatively. However, the body does require a certain amount of fats in order to remain healthy. Fats are essential for growth and repairs, for regulating bodily temperatures and also for cushioning and protecting vital organs. Saturated fats are found in produce such as cream, butter and cheese. Care in their consumption is advised as they raise cholesterol levels. Trans fats, such as hard margarines and solid cooking fats, are found in the majority of shop-bought cakes and biscuits.
These are artificial fats which have been created in an industrial process and are not known to provide any benefit to the human body. Lastly, unsaturated fats contain fatty acids which are essential for our bodies. Their primary role is to help to ward off a variety of illnesses such as heart disease and arthritis. They also aid in lowering levels of cholesterol. Unsaturated fats can either be polyunsaturated, which can be found in plant and animal foods, and monounsaturated fats, chiefly found in foods such as nuts and avocados as well as vegetable oils.
Whenever some mentions the word cholesterol it genuinely carries, like calories, negative connotations. However, just like fats, our bodies do require a certain amount of it. Our cholesterol comes from two sources: the liver, which releases a certain amount each day for the body to produce hormones and bile (blood cholesterol) and some foods, known as dietary cholesterol. A high level of blood cholesterol leads to the arteries becoming blocked. Foods that may assist in maintaining a satisfactory cholesterol level include garlic, oats and oatmeal, dried fruits and soya beans.
Vitamins are crucial for growth, development and general good health. Among the functions they perform are the release of energy from food we eat and maintaining healthy hair and skin. As with everything else, a deficiency of vitamins and an excess can be deadly. A good, healthy diet should be enough for most people to gain all the vitamins they need but, depending on age, sex and lifestyle, some may need to keep a closer eye on their vitamin intake to ensure they receive the correct amounts.
Minerals are chemical elements that our bodies only need a small amount of in order to remain healthy and functional. These help us to strengthen our teeth and bones, control body fluids and turn consumed food into energy. They can be found in foods such as cereals, bread, milk, fish, fruit and vegetables. Our bodies require larger amounts of certain minerals than others. For example, we need more calcium, sodium, potassium and chloride than we do with iron, zinc and copper.
Water helps to break down minerals and nutrients, to regulate bodily temperatures and to perform such necessary tasks as waste elimination. Water is used in all cells, organs and tissues and, due to the constant loss through sweating and urination, must be constantly replenished. Water contains no calories or sugars and is thus the healthiest drinking option.
Understanding what is good for our bodies is vital in living a continuously healthy life. It is all too easy to cave into temptation and satisfy our sweet tooth, But, because a certain amount of sugar is a component of healthy living, even this can be turned into a positive if, instead of chocolates or sweets, we reach for an apple or some other fruit which contains natural sugar. We only have one body and it is therefore important that we take care of it and ensure that any deficiencies it may develop are promptly addressed
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