What is a Healthy Diet?
What and how much you eat is important.
There are no good or bad foods.
Some “junk food” is okay in moderation.
So the question is, what is a healthy diet?
Well this really depends on what your goals and food preferences are. What I can offer are five simple general principles that can be utilised by anyone that wants to be fit and have a healthy life.
1. Eat healthy nutrient dense minimally processed foods.
So to explain this in better detail a healthy food is one that is higher in micronutrients and lower in calories compared to other foods. They are among the richest sources of many of the essential nutrients needed for optimal health, providing vitamins and minerals that may reduce your risk of nutrient deficiencies over time.
Nutrient density is a measure of the amount of nutrients a food contains in comparison to the number of calories.
A food is more nutrient dense when the level of nutrients is high in relationship to the number of calories the food contains, so your body can also achieve its micronutrient requirements without consuming too many calories.
By eating healthy foods you will get all the essential nutrients that you need for excellent health, including vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, fibre and more for the least number of calories.
High calorie foods are not all unhealthy but many that are overly consumed are low in nutrients.
2. Eat more filling foods that are high in fibre, water and protein.
Eating more foods like this will make it easier to control calorie intake and maintain your current body composition. You cannot go wrong with vegetables as an example. People who eat more fruit and vegetables generally have a lower risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart problems, obesity and diabetes. If you consume more fruit and vegetables you will also have an easier time losing weight or maintaining body composition. Fibre is the key element in fruits and vegetables as it improves your digestive health, assists the gut bacteria and helps you feel satiated. Increasing your fibre intake will generally improve your overall health. You also gain the benefit of antioxidants and micronutrients. Do not eat the same boring vegetables every day; go shopping and try buying different veggies. Some of my personal favourites are Pak Choi, sugar snaps and asparagus.
3. Eat less refined, processed and modified foods.
Foods that are processed contain less satiating ingredients such as fibre, water and protein; in favour of more sugar, fat and flour which normally make them easier to over consume. Processed foods are normally lower in micronutrients as well.
This does not necessarily mean all processed foods are bad and an excellent example of this is a good quality whey protein.
4. Eat more protein
Protein is awesome! Studies have shown that protein is great for losing fat, maintaining muscle and staying full. Protein is required for virtually every body process. Most people can easily achieve their protein requirements, but if you are on a low calorie diet or wish to increase your muscle mass you should consider increasing your overall protein intake.
5. Avoid artificial trans-fats
There is still no solid evidence that trans-fats are bad at lower doses but it would definitely be advisable to avoid it in higher doses or generally consuming too much on a regular basis.
Trans fat is an unsaturated fatty acid which is a by-product of partially hydrogenated oils. It is found in many processed foods such as fast food, frozen pizza, microwave popcorn, snack foods and baked products. It can also be found in Special K cereal bars which most people would believe to be healthy.
Some brands of peanut butter contain trans fats and my recommendation would be to buy Meridian peanut butter as it is super tasty and contains no trans fats or palm oil.
Trans fats are used in food manufacturing as it provides stability and shelf life. It can also help enhance the flavour.
A 2006 meta-analysis found that a 2% increase in trans fat is linked to a 23% increase in cardiovascular disease.
The FDA in America have now set a deadline for companies to eliminate trans fats from their products by 2018. This will affect such products as Ritz Crackers, Sara Lee cheesecake. Twinkies, Chips Ahoy cookies, Nestle Coffee Mate and Tootsie Roll sweets.
6. Do not eat more than your calorie and macronutrient requirements
The weight you gain or lose is determined by the calories you consume (food) or expend (activity). If you wish to lose or gain weight managing your calories should be considered.
It does not matter what you eat, but the amount of calories you consume do matter.
So the foods that fit the nutrient dense and healthy category are: –
Vegetables Fruits Grains Nuts & Seeds Beans & Legumes Eggs & Dairy Seafood Poultry and meats
Try your best to consume 90% of your weekly food in the categories above to help live a healthy life.
The other 10% can be treats!
Be happy, be healthy, love life.