We often hear people talking about “a balanced diet” for weight loss and optimum health. They insist that we should be “eating right,” and professionals are always harping on about it, as well. But what does all of this mean, actually; should we be weighing our foods before we eat them and sitting on the right hand side of the dining table? Ok, poor attempt at humor, but let’s get to the bottom of these clichés …
What Is a Balanced Diet?
Generally speaking, it’s an eating plan that incorporates all the foods, drinks and nutrients that our bodies need. It means getting in the right mix and quantity of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, meats, fish, dietary fats, salt, sugar, water and alcohol, as per government recommendations. However, the definition of “balanced” varies from country to country, and many have their own dietary guidelines and food pyramids based upon economic status, cultural limitations, regional requirements, etc. In the States, the USDA’s MyPlate (choosemyplate.gov) is the current nutritional guide.
Why is a Balanced Diet Important?
It’s important because when we eat a variety of foods in moderation, our bodies get the right amount of fats, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, minerals, protein, vitamins and water; the nutrients that we need regularly to ensure proper growth and development. Good nutrition also provides energy, ensures that our vital organs perform as they should, prevents disease and illness, and improves quality of life. When you’re eating right, your mind is sharper, your body expels toxins more easily, your cells regenerate faster, and you age slower. Oh, and let’s not forget that you stay thinner and live longer.
A Balanced Diet and Disease
The right balance of healthy foods is key in staving off disease. Overall, those who follow a sensible eating plan have stronger immune systems and are much better off health wise than those who don’t. Not only do you contract colds, flus and allergies less frequently when you’re eating right, and experience less ailments, but you are also less prone to cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, strokes, obesity, and other common deadly conditions. Heart disease alone kills millions of people around the world each year. Nutrient deficiency is known to cause disease, in fact.
A Balanced Diet and Exercise
Diet and exercise go hand in hand. Exercise is just as important for disease prevention and good health as the foods that we eat, but the only way to get the energy and nutrients that are needed to perform physical tasks is through food – a balanced mix of healthful foods. Exercising promotes bone, lung and heart health, it helps to maintain a healthy weight, builds and tones muscle, and it reduces stress and improves mood. It also boosts brain function and facilitates sleep. How we look and feel (and how long we live) has a lot to do with our physical activity levels.
What it comes down to is this: you need a variety of foods to function properly, enjoy life more and live longer. Dietary pyramids and guidelines can be quite helpful, but they are not suited to everybody. It’s up to you ultimately to establish and follow a healthy, balanced diet that is nutritious and suits your lifestyle, goals and health. Lastly, regardless of your diet, it’s not a sin to have something delicious (aka unhealthy junk food and candy) from time to time, but let it be just that, an occasional treat.