A balanced diet…yes, you can do it!

A nutritious diet has five characteristics. First is adequacy: the foods provide enough of each essential nutrient, fiber, and energy. Second is balance: the choices do not overemphasize one nutrient or food type at the expense of another. Third is calorie control: the foods provide the amount of energy you need to maintain appropriate weight-not more, not less. Four this moderation: the foods do no provide excess fat, salt, sugar, or other unwanted constituents. Fifth is variety: the foods chosen differ from one day to the next. In addition, to maintain a steady suppy of nutrients, meals should occur with regular timing throughout the day.

Any nutrient could be used to demonstrate the importance of dietary adequacy. Iron provides a familiar example. it is an essential nutrient: you lose some every day, so you have to keep replacing it; and you can get it into your body only by eating foods that contain it.  If you eat too few of the iron-containing foods, you can develop iron-deficiency anemia: with anemia you may feel weak, tired, cold, sad, and unenthusiastic; you may have frequent headaches; and you can do very little muscular work without disabling fatigue.  Some foods are rich in iron; others are notoriously poor. If you add iron-rich foods to your diet, you soon feel more energetic.  Meat, fish, poultry, and legumes are in the iron-rich category, and an easy way to obtain the needed iron is to include these foods in your diet on a regular basis.

To appreciate the importance of dietary balance, consider a second essential nutrient, calcium. A diet lacking calcium causes poor bone development during the growing years and increases a person’s susceptibility to disabling bone loss in adult life. Most foods that are rich in iron are poor in calcium.  Cacium’s richest food sources are milk and milk products, which happen to be extraordinarily poor iron sources. Clearly, to obtain enough of both iron and calcium, people have to balance their food choices among the types of foods that provide specific nutrients. Balancing the whole diet to provide enough but not too much of every one of the 40-odd nutrients the body needs for health requires considerable juggling, however.  Food group plans that cluster rich sources of nutrients into food groups can help you to achieve dietary adequacy and balance because they recommend specific amounts of foods from each group. Balance among the food groups then become the goal.

Calorie Control-
Energy intakes should not exceed energy needs. Nicknamed calorie control, this diet characteristic ensures that energy intakes from food balance energy expenditures require for body functions and physical activity.

Intakes of certain food constituents such as fat, cholesterol, sugar and salt should be limited for health’s sake. A major guideline for healthy people is to keep fat intake below 35 percent of total calories. Some people take this to mean that they must never indulge in a delicious beefsteak or hot-fudge sundae, but they are misinformed: moderation, not total abstinence, is the key. 

As for variety, nutrition scientists agree that people should not eat the same foods even highly nutritious ones, day after day. One reason is that a varied diet is more likely to be adequate in nutrients. In addition, some less-well-known nutrients and phytochemicals could be important to health and some foods may be better sources of these than others. Another reason is that a monotonous diet deliver large amounts of toxins or contaminants. Such undesirable compounds in one food are diluted by all the other foods eaten with it and are diluted stil further if the food is not eaten again for several days. Last, variety adds interest-trying new foods can be a source of pleasure.


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