Food constitutes of 5 main elements. Carbohydrates, Protein, Fats, Vitamins and Minerals. All five elements are important for the growth and maintenance of our body.
Lack of any one for an extended length of time can mean the onset of some disease. Excess of one or more of them also translates into other problems like obesity and other problems.
It is therefore important to know what are these components & how much do we need each of them for leading healthy and trouble free life. Because diet is the cornerstone of good Health.
A typical distribution of the major three components in a diet can be:
- Carbohydrates: 45 to 65 % of total calories intake
- Fat: 20 to 35 % of total calories
- Protein: 10 to 35 % of total calories
Acceptable ranges for children are similar to those for adults, except that infants and younger children need a slightly higher proportion of fat (25 %-40%).
There is a general consensus among health professionals that the Mediterranean Diet is healthier than the North European and American diets because more grains, such as spaghetti, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and olive oil are consumed.
Mediterranean diet is a modern nutritional model inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of some of the countries of the Mediterranean basin, particularly Southern Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Turkey and Spain.
A main factor in the appeal of the Mediterranean Diet is its rich, full flavored foods. Mediterranean diet is known to help longevity and keeps away heart disease and other diseases. As a mono unsaturated fatty acid, olive oil, in the Mediterranean diet, does not have the same cholesterol-raising effect of saturated fats.
Common to the diets of these regions are a high consumption of fruit and vegetables, bread and other cereals, olive oil and fish. This makes them low in saturated fat and high in mono unsaturated fat and dietary fiber.
The Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats found in some fish such as salmon and herring and in smaller amounts in eggs and chicken.
One gram of carbohydrate generates 4 calories.
Balancing Fats, Carbohydrates, and Proteins is a very important part of a healthy diet. If you are diabetic, your dietitian and doctor will help you focus on low-to-moderate carbohydrates along with healthy fats.
A balanced diet is one which contains carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, mineral salts and fiber in the correct proportions. Complex carbohydrates, such as starches (pastas), are basically high energy sources that are easy for the digestive system to break down. Thus, during digestion, carbohydrates are immediately converted into energy instead of being stored as fats at the end of the process like most foods. In theory, eating carbohydrates provides the body with ready-to-use energy sources. So, the more carbs you eat, the less fat you need to burn in order to create energy.
The truth is, the leanest and longest living people in the industrialized world are the Japanese whose diet is dominated by carbohydrates and is low in fat.
High carb foods like grains, rice, and vegetables are daily staples of the Japanese diet, and intake of high protein, high fat animal products are minimal. This means that the body does not need to burn stored fats (how most food ends up after going through the digestive system) in order to create energy for bodily functions and activity.
One gram of fat generates 9 calories.
There are three types of fats:
- Saturated fat
- mono unsaturated fats
- polyunsaturated fats
From health point of view mono and polyunsaturated fats are preferred.
Vegetarians do not have to be overly concerned about combining proteins and consuming multiple vitamin supplements. That is because a well-rounded vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, vitamin A, n-3 fatty acids and iodine.
However, eating primarily plant-based foods doesn’t guarantee keeping total fat or calories in line. To keep health risks low and optimize benefits, it is important to continue to read food labels, control portion sizes, limit total fat and limit calories.
Liver converts saturated fat into cholesterol. While some of the branded food items may not have cholesterol per say but may contain saturated fat which ultimately gets converted into cholesterol. Therefore we need to read labels.
Calories that are generated from fats should be from mono unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Balancing Fats, Carbohydrates, and Proteins is a very important part of a healthy diet. We think that the growing problem of obesity is actually due to too much sugar and starches in the diet and not enough naturally occurring good fats in food. However, pure natural fats in the form of butter, cream, cheese and dairy in conjunction with unprocessed meat, poultry, fish, nuts, vegetables and fruit is the way to a truly healthy diet.
The biggest benefit of this, is when you are running on fat for fuel. Then you usually do not see as big of hunger fluctuations as when you are on carbohydrates therefore it makes the dieting process much more tolerable.
If on the other hand you find energy goes up when you are eating more fat rich foods and have been lower in carbohydrates, then this diet is likely the good option for you.
One gram of protein generates 4 calories.
Typically we need 1 gram of protein daily per kg of our weight. We need to eat enough carbohydrates and fats daily so that protein is not used as fuel. Protein has very special job of regeneration of our body’s cells. Protein is especially important to a growing child, it is essential to seek the advice of your dietitian if you are bringing up a child on a gluten-free vegetarian or vegan diet.
In a well-balanced vegetarian diet, the best sources of proteins come from foods like beans and peas, seed and nuts, and fungi (mushrooms). Tofu is a well known soy bean meat substitute that is high in protein.
Pasta and whole wheat breads are also good sources of proteins essential for cellular growth and virtually all biological processes. Some gluten-free flours are low in protein, because they have had the gluten removed, which is itself a protein.
Vegetarians can get protein from nuts & seeds, pulses, the non-gluten containing cereals, soya products, milk, cheese and free range eggs.
Make sure some protein is included in each meal, and practice protein complementation with the vegetable proteins, for example, combine a nut or pulse dish with a suitable cereal.
Meat that is processed and sold through retailers has been exposed to a number of chemical agents. While vegetarian diets span a range from simply excluding red meat to excluding all animal products from meat, poultry, and fish to dairy, and eggs (vegan), any level of increasingly plant-focused eating can be appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence.
Tofu is a well known soy bean meat substitute that is high in protein.
People should also limit red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
A major study from the World Cancer Research Fund found that an estimated 39 per cent of 12 major cancers could be prevented by cutting down on red meat and alcohol while eating more fresh fruit and vegetables.
Eating red meat sparingly seems to also increase health. A balanced diet would include :
- Proteins: meat, poultry, fish, eggs
- Veggies and fruits: especially broccoli, spinach, berries
- Whole grain carbs: oats, rice, potatoes, breads, grains
- Healthy fats: Omega 3/6/9 (no trans fats)
- Low junk food consumption (one or two meals a week)
- Lots of water
And try to eat things in their most natural state, unprocessed, avoid anything coming out of a box.
Rich in grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, a plant-focused diet provides a host of phytonutrients or plant-based chemicals that do hundreds of things to promote health including boosting the immune system, fighting inflammation and repairing cells.
Plants provide dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals needed to maintain health. In addition to reducing heart disease risk, people who follow a vegetarian diet have reduced their risk of high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and digestive disorders.
Vegetarians do not have to be overly concerned about combining proteins and consuming multiple vitamin supplements because a well-rounded vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, vitamin A, n-3 fatty acids and iodine.
In a well-balanced vegetarian diet, the best sources of proteins come from foods like beans and peas, seed and nuts, and fungi (mushrooms). Cooking food in cast iron pans can also add iron to the diet.
Learn more about supplementing a healthy and well-rounded vegetarian diet with wild foods you can find in your front yard garden. Over 40 per cent of breast and bowel cancer cases could be avoided be eating a healthy diet, a report has claimed.
Professor Mike Richards, the Government’s cancer tsar, said: “The evidence linking diet, physical activity, obesity and cancer has become stronger over the last decade and this report can play a part in people adopting healthier lifestyles.
After not smoking, it is clear that diet, physical activity and weight are the most important things people can do to reduce their cancer risk. And even more are linked to poor diets, drinking too much alcohol and not doing enough exercise.