Why is Diet Important?
Eating healthy food implies eating a wide variety of different foods, but also consuming them in adequate quantities. If you think about why diet is important, you will understand that the things you eat heavily affect each aspect of your organism and life as well (1).
When you eat healthy food, you immediately feel better. You have a ton of energy and look better. If you are experiencing some issues with your metabolism, skin problems, or you are feeling tired almost always, try changing your diet. Even small changes can lead to significant results.
In this article, we will talk about what a healthy diet implies, diseases that can occur if you don’t eat healthy food in a balanced way, and we will provide some tips on how to design your healthy diet. Let’s begin!
What is a healthy diet?
Healthy or proper diet is a diet that provides the optimum caloric, vitamin, mineral, and fluid intake to our body. Also, it provides an optimal ratio of proteins and carbohydrates necessary to meet the needs of our daily activities and the proper function of our organs (2).
Medicine and nutrition science in cooperation increasingly reveal the great influence of a proper, healthy diet on the overall health of the individual and the population.
Almost all the diseases in the organism are caused by the excessive amount of waste or acids that remain in the tissues as a byproduct of the process of metabolism. Those waste acids that cannot be extracted from our organism are recovered from the colon and sent again to the bloodstream via the liver. That’s how they stay in the tissues. It is these waste products that heavily affect the condition of our organism and decide on whether it will be healthy or sick.
Proper nutrition maintains good health, meets energy needs, enables physical work to be done, and affects our mood and mental state.
The development of the concept of proper nutrition was influenced by the rapid development of the science called nutrition or the dietary science, especially the possibility of preventing and treating various diseases through food, as well as epidemiological studies that showed the connection between eating habits and “civilization-triggered” diseases.
We can say that it is very hard to give a comprehensive answer to the question “What is a balanced diet?” If we are asked what, how and why we eat, each of us will give an answer that can be justified and acceptable. But if we ask questions about how good and healthy our dietary habits are, many of us will be confused because it is not easy to answer that question. Each organism is unique and each one of us requires a specific treatment when it comes to the quality of a diet.
Modern lifestyle has an impact on the quality of life of an individual, but also on eating habits. While people generally know a lot about how to abandon poor eating habits, it is important to apply this knowledge in everyday life.
The greatest attention should be paid to gaining habits of proper nutrition and combining them with physical activity
A Guide to a Healthy Diet
Sticking to a healthy diet is not an easy task. There are many things to pay attention to. Here is the basic framework (2) of how to stick to a healthy diet:
1. Enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods
2. Eat plenty of cereal
3. Eat less fat
4. Be physically active at least half an hour a day
5. Completely avoid or drink only moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages
6. Avoid salt and salty foods
7. Avoid sweets and sweet drinks
8. Eat foods rich in calcium
9. Eat foods that contain iron
10. Drink plenty of freshwater during the day
11. Consume different kinds of vegetables and fruits that contain vitamins and minerals
12. Consume fish at least once a week.
Now, let’s talk in detail about why diet is important. A healthy diet depends on the nutrients necessary for the development of tissues. This includes protein, iron, and calcium. Moreover, a healthy diet provides enough energy for metabolism and physical activity. This is possible through a balanced intake of fat and carbohydrates (2). Also, we need nutrients necessary for the physiological functions of the body (vitamins and minerals).
The daily dose of whole grains should be about 85 grams. Whole grains are rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins, and whole grains differ from refined ones as they contain bran and grains that are taken away from refined grains (3). Whole grain products include bread, pasta, and cereals. Integral cereals, brown rice, bulgur, corn, buckwheat, oatmeal (oats), and wild rice are 100% wholemeal cereals.
These are especially important for the health of your colon and whole digestive system. Moreover, whole grains are rich in vitamins that the refined ones lack.
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibers, and these nutrients are essential for a healthy diet and proper functioning of our body (3). In addition, regular consumption of vegetables and fruits can prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as the development of some types of cancer. Most experts recommend daily consumption of about five servings of fruits and vegetables. You can take them in fresh, frozen, dried or canned form.
Proteins are essential for building and recovering tissues in the body (3). Foods rich in proteins also include essential minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B. In order to enrich your diet with proteins, which are important for building muscles, you should eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, and soy.
Consuming a lot of leguminous plants helps control blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Some of the most common legumes you should include in your diet are soy, peas, peanuts, lentils, clover, and beans (4).
Dairy products are a great source of calcium that is important for bone and teeth health. The most important dairy products are milk, yogurt, and cheese, and nutritionists say that it is good to choose those with a lower milk fat content (3). Calcium sources can also be other foods such as broccoli, cabbage or soy milk and calcium-added yogurt.
However, some people suffer from lactose intolerance. This type of intolerance is the inability to digest lactose due to the lack of lactase enzyme, naturally occurring in the small intestine. Although people are born with a sufficient amount of lactase, the production of that enzyme with age can be reduced or completely stopped and such people cannot digest lactose they intake via dairy products. However, that does not mean that you should avoid milk. The opposite, you should drink milk, but make sure to replace it with milk with reduced lactose content when compared to normal milk.
Fats and sugars
Here are some things you should stay away from refined sugar, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, sweet jams, margarine, mayonnaise, low-fat juices – or all products with a high percentage of fat or sugar (3).
There are two basic types of fat-saturated and unsaturated. Creams, margarine, and fried foods are types of food with high saturated fat, while vegetable oils and fish are rich in unsaturated fats. The consumption of saturated fat should be minimized, as their increased consumption can cause health problems such as heart disease. Sweetened foods and drinks, such as carbonated beverages and sweets, should be kept to a minimum because they are full of calories and bad for the teeth and the overall condition of our organism.
Healthy Diet Pyramid
The diet pyramid is one of the simplest methods of following a proper and balanced diet and nutrition, which will give you simple and clear instructions on how to eat healthily.
The drawing of the diet pyramid usually shows you how to plan a well-balanced diet in a very clear way. Namely, foods that make up the base of the pyramid should be taken as the basic ones, essential ones, while those from the top should be consumed from time to time and in small quantities.
However, the classic pyramid has its own shortcomings. There is no defined portion size, no healthier food substitutions within the groups, no advice on how to store food, no difference between healthy and unhealthy fat, no difference between refined carbohydrates and those of integral foods, and no healthy type of meat.
To reduce such disadvantages, the classic pyramid has changed considerably and now it is a three-dimensional pyramid that emphasizes the importance of physical activity for a healthy life. Foods are arranged in triangles of different widths, which indicates the proportion of their input, i.e. the portion.
Let’s take a look at the basic principles of the food pyramid (5):
1. The base of the pyramid consists of foods that should be the basis of everyday nutrition, namely the whole grain cereals, honey, potatoes, bacon, and corn products.
2. Fruits and vegetables are at the second level and are important because they are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber.
3. Milk and similar dairy products are rich in calcium, and poor in saturated fats and cholesterol, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. They are at the third level of the pyramid.
4. Meat, fish, eggs, and full-fat cheeses have plenty of proteins, building materials important for growth and development. They are placed at the fourth level of the pyramid.
5. At the top of the pyramid is the food to be consumed in minimal quantities, namely fat, oil, candies, and snacks. These are concentrated energy sources and only a small amount of these foods is needed for balanced nutrition.
The plate model
Simple balanced nutrition and healthy diet model called the plate model (6) is based on the fact that every part of the plate should be separated and reserved for a particular type of food in order to design a balanced diet. You should also add one cup of milk or yogurt and some fruit next to the plate to have a complete, balanced, and healthy meal leading to a healthy diet.
Diseases that arise as a result of an unhealthy diet
A range of illnesses and health conditions can be associated with a poor diet. Also, many people eat too much food, they eat greasy food, with plenty of salt and sugar, and insufficient plant fibers (1).
Diet with a lot of fat and salt can increase the risk of heart disease, while very fatty foods increase the risk of development of some types of cancer.
Due to the consumption of inadequately processed food, such as fast food, as well as a fast way of life, many people eat inadequate food, or they have an unbalanced diet. Their diet often contains lots of fat, sugar, and salt.
Many people do not take enough vitamins and minerals to keep their body healthy and provide energy to do all the activities. This is dangerous as our muscles require sodium and potassium to work properly. This is especially important for our heart.
Moreover, the effects of a poor diet in the period of physical and mental development are extreme. A well-balanced diet is very important for kids, teenagers, and adolescents.
Foods with lots of sugar and fat contain a lot of calories, which, in combination with lack of physical activity, lead to weight gain. This condition is very dangerous if it develops into obesity which then represents a burden for our blood vessels, joints, and each organ in our body.
Moreover, a diet with lots of sugar can cause tooth damage and lead to different kinds of tooth diseases.
People who do not have a fiber-rich diet can suffer from constipation and may develop colon cancer over time.
Tips for a healthy diet
- The right and best prevention and help for our health and vitality lie in a healthy, balanced diet rich in essential substances – minerals and vitamins.
- The amount of antioxidant vitamins, vitamin C, beta carotene and vitamin E, is particularly important, as they keep our immune system from oxidizing.
- The daily needs for vitamins and minerals have increased significantly in the modern age due to our hectic lifestyle. We need to take more vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins C, E and K, folate and magnesium, as well as iron minerals.
- If you are often tired, you are prone to easy bruising or you have gums that bleed even when you gently wash your teeth, these can be early signs of vitamin C deficiency in your diet. Increase the amount of vitamin C you consume.
- Smokers have lower levels of vitamin C in their body. They should increase their vitamin C consumption, even up to 1500 mg per day.
- Before and during pregnancy, you must increase the amount of folic acid in your body. It is found particularly in cabbage, spinach, and whole grains. You can also take folic acid supplements.
- Your bones need vitamin K, which can be found in green vegetables, milk, cereals, and seafood.
- Magnesium is essential for your heart and blood flow. The abundant sources are nuts, integral rice, cabbage, and green vegetables.
- Generally speaking, you should have five portions of different fruits and vegetables a day. This is sufficient to cover the daily needs of the specified vitamins and minerals.
- Make sure you design your diet as a balanced one, full of various fruits and vegetables.
- Drink around 8 glasses of water per day (2 liters).
- Accommodate your diet according to the season. Your vitamin and mineral needs vary depending on the temperature and other environmental effects.
Maintaining a healthy diet is not an easy task. At the same time, the answer to the why diet is an important question is rather long and requires time to explain and understand it.
The reduced vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid concentrations are good soil for the development of various diseases. Lower vitamin D concentration in the body can be the cause of osteoporosis. Similarly, deficiency of different vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. – nutrients in general, can lead to different unhealthy conditions in our body and, eventually, to different kinds of diseases.
Unfortunately, many of us still believe that we meet all our nutritional needs by consuming enough food to satisfy the appetite.
The eating habits of today’s average man living and working in the city are devastating. Habits are often such that we meet the energy input, we even surpass it, but the diet is never or rarely nutritious. Many of us who read a few articles or a book on a healthy think that they are right about everything related to diet and we don’t consult experts and nutritionists when it comes to balancing the food we eat.
Certainly, with all the growing interest in what we eat, it is necessary to further educate ourselves about the benefits and disadvantages of eating certain foods or their individual ingredients.
Consuming enough fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, water, dairy products, and combining these foods in healthy and adequate combinations and amounts are of the utmost importance for a healthy diet.