Achieving a Balanced Diet

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1 Achieving a Balanced Diet It has long been recognised that a healthy balanced diet is an important contributor to our short and long-term health and can help to achieve a balance in both our body and mind. A healthy diet involves eating the correct amount of all the major nutrients proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins and water. No single food group will provide all the necessary nutrients. Diet is an important component of good health but it should not be a battle, make you miserable or take over your life. A healthy attitude to food is an important part of a healthy diet. Be adventurous and include as much variety in your diet as possible. This will help to ensure that you meet all of your vitamin and mineral requirements without having to depend on supplements. Overview The components of a balanced diet Carbohydrates Fruit and vegetables Liquids Fats and oils Proteins Vitamins, minerals and trace elements Carbohydrates Starchy foods that contain a high proportion of carbohydrates should make up about a third of our daily diet. Starchy foods are a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients. The following foods contain carbohydrates: Bread (including wholemeal, granary, pitta, bagels, tortillas and all other types of bread) Potatoes, plantain, yam and sweet potato Whole wheat breakfast cereals Couscous, bulgar wheat, maize, cornmeal Pasta and rice (preferably whole wheat) There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex depending on their basic structure. Simple carbohydrates - Sugars, white pasta, white rice, white breads Complex carbohydrates - these are a better source of carbohydrate as the body converts these into glucose and glycogen. Glucose is used in the blood to deliver immediate energy whereas glycogen is stored in the liver for longer-term, sustained activity. The Government recommends that about a third of our daily calorific intake should come from complex carbohydrate sources. Fibre

2 Achieving a balanced diet 2 Fibre is an important part of our diets and is found in carbohydrate rich foods as well as fruit and vegetables. Fibre is only found in foods that come from plants. There are two types of fibre: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fibre is the fibre that the body can't digest and so it passes through the gut helping other food and waste products move through with ease. Wholegrain bread, brown rice, wholegrain breakfast cereals, fruit and vegetables all contain insoluble fibre. It can help to keep bowel movements regular and avoid constipation. Foods that are rich in insoluble fibre are bulky and can help to make you feel fuller for longer. Soluble fibre can be partially digested and may help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Soluble fibre can be found in oats, beans, lentils and all fruits and vegetables. The current advice is that adults should aim for 18g of fibre of day. Fruit and vegetables This food group includes all fruits and vegetables, as well as salad, nuts, seeds and pulses (lentils and beans). Fruit, vegetables and pulses are an important part of the diet as they contain an array of vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre. It is well known that avocados, nuts and seeds are high in fat. However, these foods should not be dismissed as they contain predominantly healthy unsaturated fat. Diets low in fruit and vegetables have been found to be a risk factor in both coronary heart disease and some cancers. There are many substances in fruit and vegetables, which can contribute to protecting us against these diseases. Antioxidant vitamins comprise of Vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene and are part of our bodies natural defence against damaging particles called free radicals, which can attack cells and DNA. The fibre content of fruit and vegetables make an important contribution in helping to maintain healthy bowels. They are also naturally low in sodium and fat and high in potassium, which can help to lower blood pressure. The Government recommends 5 pieces of fruit and/or vegetables a day. This amount is easily achievable - remember dried, tinned, frozen and juice all count. Liquids You might be surprised to know that water accounts for around 70% of normal body weight - it is inside and around our body cells and part of the blood, so maintaining an adequate fluid intake is vital. Water is the basis for all our bodily functions and even a slight dehydration can have a huge effect on how we feel and how effectively we work. Thirst is an indication of dehydration so continued fluid consumption is vital throughout the day.

3 Achieving a balanced diet 3 At least two litres of water a day are recommended. This may seem like a lot but you can get some of your liquid requirement from soft drinks, fruit juices or hot drinks such as fruit or herbal teas. Caffeinated beverages and alcohol do not fall into the hydration process. High doses of these can both hinder vitamin and mineral absorption contributing to dehydration and have negative effects on our energy levels. Depending on the weather and our environment, we lose around litres a day in urine, faeces, sweat and expired air. Most adults drink 1-2 litres a day and up to one litre can come from food. We have the capacity to make water in our bodies, but not enough to match the losses incurred. A generous water intake will also help fibre in the bowel swell so it can exert its beneficial effects. Fats and oils There are two types of fats, the healthy unsaturated fats and the less healthy saturated fats and trans fats. Unsaturated fats are found in safflower, corn, olive, walnut and sunflower oils, oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds. This is a good fat and it can help to reduce blood cholesterol levels and provide us with essential fatty acids that the body needs for good health. Saturated fats are of animal origin and raise blood LDL-cholesterol, the 'bad' cholesterol in the diet. They are found in fatty meats, diary products, cakes, biscuits, pastries, chocolate, crisps. Trans fats are found in hard margarine and are formed by the hydrogenation vegetable oils. It is often used in the production of biscuits, cakes and pastries. However, many food manufacturers are working to eliminate this type of fat from their products, as it is harmful to health. Where possible, choose foods that contain unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat. A man should aim for no more than 30g of saturated fat on a daily basis and a women, 20g. Proteins Protein is required for the growth, repair and maintenance of the body s cells and tissues. They consist of long chains of individual units known as amino acids that have important roles in the body. Eight of them are deemed essential as the body cannot manufacture these acids itself and will therefore depend on protein from the diet. Different protein foods in our diet provide us with different types of amino acids. Meat is high in protein and is a good, bio available source of minerals. (Bio available means the body can extract and use the minerals easily). The minerals found in meat include iron, selenium, magnesium and zinc. Meat is also an important source of all of the B vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin and nicotinic acid, vitamin B12 and liver is rich in vitamin A.

4 Achieving a balanced diet 4 The iron found in meat is known as haem iron, which is easily absorbed by the body. Fish also contains haem iron although not in the same quantities. The iron found in cereals, vegetables and eggs is known as non-haem iron and is not so easily absorbed by the body. Iron is used by the body in the formation of red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body. A deficiency of dietary iron can lead to anaemia. Fish is another excellent source of protein. Whilst oily fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon, tuna and sardines have a high fat content, the fat is of the healthy unsaturated kind. Oily fish also contains a type of fat known as omega-3s. These compounds are known to help protect against heart disease by reducing the types of fat in the blood known as triglycerides. They prevent the formation of certain kinds of blood clots associated with narrowing of the arteries and hence coronary heart disease. Eggs are a good source of vitamin B12, riboflavin and vitamin D, which are necessary for the development, and maintenance of strong bones. Contrary to popular belief, eggs are not unhealthy. You can consume as many egg whites as desired; it is the yolk that has cholesterol-building properties if eaten in large amounts. Alternatives to Meat and Fish Pulses (lentils and beans) and their products (e.g. tofu from soybeans), and meat substitutes like Quorn are all good alternatives to meat. These alternatives are low in fat and the substitutes may be fortified with vitamins and minerals to make them nutritionally equivalent to meat. Pulses, lentils and nuts are good sources of protein, fibre and B vitamins. Dairy foods The most important constituent of dairy produce is calcium, a mineral that is essential for healthy teeth and bones. A pint of whole or skimmed milk can provide close to a day's requirement of thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin B12. Other vitamins and minerals found in milk are phosphorous, magnesium, zinc and vitamins A and D. The calcium present in dairy foods is one of the easiest forms to be absorbed into the body. Most of the body s calcium is found in our bones and teeth. Calcium is also important in blood clotting, controlling blood pressure, helping muscles to contract and relax and controlling our heartbeat. The fats in milk and dairy products are mostly saturated so try to use semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, try low fat yoghurt or crème fraiche as a healthy alternative to cream and supplement full fat cheeses with low fat varieties or cottage cheese. Eat cheese as part of a meal rather than as an additional snack. Remember that these guidelines do not apply to children. Semi-skimmed milk is not recommended for children under two, while skimmed milk is not recommended for underfives. Try to have two to three portions of these foods a day to meet normal calcium requirements. One portion is 200ml (1/3 pint) of milk, a pot of yoghurt, 30g (1 oz) of cheese or 90g (3 oz)

5 Achieving a balanced diet 5 of cottage cheese. Adolescents, breast-feeding mums and post-menopausal women require more calcium. If you do not eat dairy products, for either health or personal preference reasons, your daily dose of calcium can come from other sources such as soya milk enriched with calcium and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, dried apricots or figs. Vitamins, minerals and trace elements With vitamins and minerals, it is important to remember that multi-vitamin and mineral supplements should not be taken in place of a healthy diet. Where possible, nutrients should be obtained from food. Vitamins Vitamins are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to function properly. They fall into two groups: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are mostly found in fatty foods such as animal fats (including butter and lard), vegetable oils, dairy foods, liver and oily fish. Your body needs the vitamins listed below every day to function. However, your body stores these in your liver and fatty tissues so you don't necessarily need to eat foods containing them every day. An excess of fatsoluble vitamins can be harmful so supplements should be taken with care. Vitamin A Vitamin D Vitamin E Vitamin K Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, so you they should be consumed more frequently. As they are not stored in the body, an excess intake is not usually harmful. Water-soluble vitamins are found in fruit, vegetables and grains. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, they are sensitive to heat and exposure to the air so care should be taken in storage and cooking. Steam or grill foods for the best effect. Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin C Biotin Folic acid Niacin Pantothenic acid Riboflavin Thiamin

6 Achieving a balanced diet 6 Minerals Minerals are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to function. The body needs them in the form they are found in food. Minerals can be found in varying amounts in foods such as meat, cereals and cereal products such as bread, fish, milk and dairy foods, vegetables, fruit (especially dried fruit) and nuts. Minerals have three main functions: Building strong bones and teeth Controlling body fluids inside and outside cells Turning the food we eat into energy Essential minerals Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Sulphur Trace elements Trace elements are also essential nutrients that your body requires to function properly, but in much smaller amounts than vitamins and minerals. Trace elements are found in small amounts in foods such as meat, fish, cereals, milk and dairy foods, vegetables and nuts. These are all trace elements: Boron Cobalt Copper Chromium Fluoride Iodine Manganese Molybdenum

7 Achieving a balanced diet 7 Selenium Silicon Zinc 2004, 2007 Ceridian Corporation. All rights reserved.

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