The advantages of healthy eating are well-chronicled. However, the reality of healthy eating can be a bit intimidating especially if you are unfamiliar with the terminology, and the proper quantities of minerals and vitamins the body needs. What we learn is that being overweight or even being obese is often the result of not understanding the elements of a healthy diet and the proper quantities of minerals and proteins that the body needs to function at its peak.
Most of us do not really understand the effects and importance of what we are putting in our bodies and the effect of the foods we do consume on our mind and body. Eating healthy begins with understanding what you are eating and what you should be eating and eliminating those food products that are unhealthy.
The basic, healthy diet consists of six important nutrients:
Of these six natural and critical nutrients, only carbohydrates, proteins and fats provide calories.
Most of us are unsure about what calories are and how many we should consume per meal or per day. A calorie is a unit of measurement. They represent the amount of energy released when the body breaks down the food we consume. Therefore, the more calories a food contains, the more energy it can provide to the body.
Unfortunately, if we consume too many calories, the body stores the excess as fat. It should be understood that low carb and fat free foods can contribute to excessive caloric intake and cause calories or be stored rather than burned. Another misunderstanding is the impact of alcohol on caloric intake. Alcohol contains calories that can also contribute to caloric excess.
The body uses proteins to repair body tissue, maintain and repair body organs and muscle Proteins also comprise a major components of a healthy immune system.
Proteins are composed of amino acids; 22 of which are vital to human health. The adult body produces 14 of the necessary amino acids. The other eight, termed "essential amino acids" can only be procured through what the human body consumes.
Proteins exist in all types of foods including fish, meats, poultry, eggs, and other foods derived from animal sources. Vegetarians can compensate for animals foods by consuming plant protein present in nuts, legumes, vegetables, soy and whole grains.
New healthy diet guidelines suggest that protein intake for adults should be 0.8 grams of protein for every one kilogram of body weight. Overconsumption of protein is a problem that leans toward obesity. For example, WebMd reports that in the US, the typical diet contains twice the recommended amount of protein.
The body cannot function without carbohydrates. Carbs provide the fuel that motors the body. Carbs are a form of glucose, a sugar that is the primary source of energy for the body’s cells. A healthy adults derives about 45 percent of their caloric intake from carbohydrates.
It is a fine line between healthy carbs and unhealthy cars which are processed carbohydrates that can lead to diabetes, pre-diabetes and obesity. Most people in developed economies tend to over indulge carbohydrates.
Carbs are found in nutrient rich foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes. Less healthy carbs can be found in cookies, pastries, candy, chips and flavored beverages.
The body does not manufacture any vitamins. Therefore, our vitamin intake is derived from what we consume. The body requires 13 core vitamins that are divided into two categories:Water Soluble Vitamins - Vitamin C and all the B vitamins are examples of water-soluble vitamins. Fat soluble Vitamins - Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble vitamins.
Fat soluble vitamins can build up and be stored in the body. Excessive buildup of these fat soluble vitamins can be hazardous to the individual’s health.
Adults need certain amounts of fats to perform. About 25-35 percent of the adult body’s intake of calories should be from fat sources. Most of us consume more fat than recommended.
Certain fats are dangerous. Trans fats and saturated fats have been associated to heart disease. One gram of fat has twice as many calories per gram as a gram of carbohydrate or protein.
Fat consists of many compounds known as fatty acids or lipids. Consumption of greater than 10 percent saturated fats or any trans fats is considered unhealthy.
Minerals are another component of the healthy diet that must be consumed. Minerals are not manufactured by the body. The body needs relatively large deposits of calcium, potassium and iron. In lesser amounts, the body thrives with trace minerals like zinc, selenium and copper.
The healthy diet consists of approximately the following breakdown:
Carbohydrates: 45 to 55 percent
Protein: 10 - 35 percent
Fat: 20 - 35 percent (never more than 10 percent saturated or trans fats)
You should be aware of your intake during your earlier meals that day when deciding on what to eat at restaurants. For the most part, restaurant portions are more than most of us need to eat. Don’t be afraid to stop eating when you have met your intake quotas. You can always enjoy the leftovers later.
Whole grains are good. Fresh is best. Nonfat milk (1 percent) is preferred to 2 percent or whole milk. Restaurants tend to add sodium and often have high cholesterol products on the menu. Watch your intake. Order fresh and savor every bite.