The Ideal Balanced Diet The Reality of Healthy Eating
Dieting sounds like it should be so simple. Eat less, lose weight, right? Well, that's part of it, but it doesn't give you the whole picture regarding how to lose weight. On top of that, there is a right way to eat to be healthy. You can have the most perfectly slim body imaginable, but if you eat the wrong things, your body is still going to suffer. In this article, we're going to talk more about what it really means to eat healthy.
With all of the nutritional guidelines and recommendations out there, it can be really difficult to suss out the reality of eating healthy, because so many are influenced by old, debunked information, and others are trying to sell you on some new diet plan or weight loss regimen. It really is rather difficult to stay current and follow a scientifically proven diet plan.
Defining a Balanced Diet
Before we go further, we should define our terms. What exactly is a balanced diet anyway? A balanced diet is a diet which includes foods from all of the important food groups which is varied enough to provide you with all of the essential minerals and vitamins (micro nutrients) that you need, along with a healthy proportion of the three primary forms of energy: fat, carbohydrates, and protein (macro nutrients).
Carbohydrates Your Body's Immediate Source of Fuel
Carbohydrates get a bit of a bad wrap. This is largely because most Americans get their calories from processed carbohydrates and sugars, which are very bad for us in excess. On the other hand, carbohydrates, when sourced and prepared properly, are vital to maintaining a healthy body. In general, you should be getting around 40-45% of your calories each day from Carbohydrates. The problem is that, since Carbs are so inexpensive to process and load into your foods, and because sugars add so much cheap and easy flavor, too many of us eat way too much of the worst carbs.
In order to live healthier, you should minimize your exposure to foods containing wheat flour and white rice, along with biscuits and bread. There are lots of quality carb sources, such as oats, millets, and brown rice, which fill you up with fewer calories and provide more nutrients and more fiber. There are also lots of quality carbohydrate sources in fruits and vegetables. Beans are a great combination of Carbs and Protein, but you have to be careful with them, because they are calorie-dense.
Eat whole vegetables and fruits. Juices are too easy to break down and spike your blood sugar. Besides corn and potatoes, most other vegetables and fruits are safe for your blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates are your body's main source of Now Fuel, so it's important not to forgo Carbohydrates during your diet, because this will likely leave you tired and exhausted.
Proteins Your Body's Primary Building Blocks
With regard to quantity, you should be getting between thirty and thirty-five percent of your calories from protein. Most people eat too many carbs and not enough protein, which has a negative impact on wellness. Among the many quality sources of protein are beans, veggie sprouts, white meat, eggs, leafy greens, and milk. The body uses protein to build and maintain the body in a myriad of ways, and protein is the primary building block of all human cells. Proteins are also great because they take more energy to break down than carbs, which means that your body burns more calories. Because males have more muscle mass than females, men have a slightly higher need for protein than their counterparts.
There are many people that don't get enough protein. In the United States, 20% of adults 20-70 don't get enough protein. It's suggested that every time you eat, you should be getting at least a small amount of protein from your meal or snack. It's also suggested that, if you crave a late-night snack, that you should opt for something rich in protein and low in carbs, so that your body and brain can use the protein calories to rebuild and restore.
Fats The Body's Energy and Nutrient Storage System
Fats have had it tough over the last fifty years. This is largely due to a mixture of how poorly we understood the science of nutrition in the 70s and 80s, and manipulation by the sugar lobby and other groups that wanted to protect the interests of Big Sugar. The human body thrives when around 20% of its calories are derived from fat.
There are three forms of fat that the body needs: Omega-3 Fatty Acids, MonoUnsaturated Fat, and Polyunsaturated Fat. Omega-3 Fatty Acids are highly beneficial to the heart and cardiovascular system, and a whole lot of people don't get enough of it. Good sources of these fatty acids are sunflowers, walnuts, flaxseed, trout, tuna, and salmon.
Trans-Fats should be entirely avoided if at all possible, and have been linked to a host of negative health effects. Saturated fat (obtained mostly from full-fat dairy, poultry, and red meat) does serve a necessary purpose but should be eaten rather sparingly.
There is still some debate regarding vegetable oils vs. animal fats, but as of today, the general consensus is that vegetable fats are healthier for you than animal fats. Beyond that, cold-pressed vegetable oils are preferable over hot-pressed oils. Cold-pressed oils have a higher nutrient content, and are generally better for you.
How to Get Your Vitamins and Minerals
Micro nutrients are incredibly important, and we are best served by eating a wide variety of foods to meet our nutritional needs. Minerals don't break down easily, and can be absorbed easily through the consumption of animal products, as well as fully-cooked vegetables and fruits. Vitamins are a bit more finicky, however.
Vitamins are organic compounds, which means that they are much more sensitive to temperature and processing. Vegetables, fruits, and nuts are excellent sources of Vitamins, and you should include raw or lightly-cooked vegetables into your diet regime in order to get the highest nutrient-volume. There are many foods which will provide greater nutritional variety when fully cooked, such as onions and tomatoes. There's no exact science here, just mix fresh and cooked fruits and vegetables to provide yourself with the largest bouquet of nutrients. It's generally recommended to eat four servings of fruit daily, and 3-4 servings of vegetables daily.
One Last Note, Drink Lots of Water!
The human body thrives when it has access to adequate amounts of water. Our bodies are comprised of mostly water, and bad things happen when the body has to hoard the water that it has, rather than use it for filtration, circulation, and other necessary functions. If you don't drink enough water, this contributes (perhaps ironically) to fluid retention, along with increased acidity. Six to eight full glasses of water per day is still a great rule of thumb, though you can expect to absorb some water through your diet. Drink more water if you drink alcohol or sodas, because both of these beverages reduce your hydration.