Most of us eat foods that make us fat, tired or just plain sick. We eat this way because it’s affordable, convenient, or because we ate that way as a child. As a result, we end up taking pills (supplements, painkillers and antibiotics) that we could probably avoid if only we’d learn to eat the right food in the right quantities—foods that would make our diets and our bodies more healthy.
Identification -A healthy diet balances the nutrients necessary to maintain the human body. It provides nutrients that are specifically needed at certain times in life, during certain seasons, and by certain types of people.
Function -Nutrients we consume in our diet help build blood, nerves, bones and tissues. They produce hormones essential to growth, reproduction, nerve and bone formation, and mental health. Antioxidants detoxify poisons that are present in our systems, help produce energy, and contribute to bone and muscle development. A healthy diet balances carbohydrates (for energy), fat (for cells, immune system and vitamin absorption), fiber (for control of cholesterol, blood sugar and regularity) and the grand assortment of proteins, vitamins, minerals and trace elements in the proper proportions to keep the body growing or renewing itself, to keep tissues supple, the immune system strong, and nerves functioning properly.
Considerations -When planning a balanced, healthy diet, some special considerations may apply. Children and women need more calcium (and vitamin D used to process it). Men need more fiber. Those with medical conditions like diabetes must avoid certain foods or limit quantities of certain nutrients. Overweight people need to limit intake and spread out their eating pattern to keep the body’s carbohydrate-burning mechanisms operating. Underweight people may need to increase their fat-to-protein ratios. None of these diet components operate in isolation. A healthy diet depends on balancing nutrients in a unique pattern for a specific person. For maximum benefit, foods should be fresh, unprocessed and prepared using cooking techniques like grilling, broiling or steaming that add as little extra fat, sodium or other unnecessary ingredients as possible.
Misconceptions -Most people do not need vitamin supplements if they eat a nutritionally balanced diet that takes into account any allergen, gender or age-related needs. Chemical cocktails marketed as vitamins are coming under more scientific scrutiny for the false sense of security they give people who feel free to eat the wrong kinds of foods because they’ve “taken their vitamins.” Also, you can take too much of a good thing. Many vitamins and minerals have unpleasant, even toxic, side effects when over-consumed.