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Eating a Balanced Diet

Diet and Nutrition Videos

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Balancing Your Diet

Eating a healthy balanced diet is all about getting the right nutrients into your body and avoiding foods that do you no favours. Our bodies are complicated machines that require lots of different things in order to function. We need the calories that our bodies turn into energy. We need proteins that allow our bodies to grow and repair tissue. We need iron and vitamins, minerals, fibre and even small amounts of alcohol.

A diet that contains all of these things in the right amounts helps us keep healthy. It can significantly lower the risk of heart disease, strokes and diabetes. Eating right can improve bowel function, which means we’re less likely to experience uncomfortable bouts of diarrhoea or constipation.

Is it difficult to stick to a healthy diet?

Let’s be clear. There is a big difference between diet and dieting. Most of us associate the word ”dieting” with starving ourselves of our favourite foods to control or lower our body weight. For many women the idea of going on a diet fills them with dread. It needn’t.

Eating a healthy diet doesn’t mean that you have to give up the food you love. A healthy diet means eating a variety of foods that can provide your body with the fuels that it needs to get you performing at 100%. You don’t need to starve yourself or eat salad three times per day. You just need to eat plenty of the good stuff and cut back on the bad stuff.

The food groups

Some of the food we eat does us very little good. Food high in saturated fats cause cholesterol levels in our blood to rise. This leads to furring in our arteries, which causes heart disease and strokes. The good news is that you can avoid these diseases by cutting down on these foods.

A healthy diet is made up of foods from five groups:

1. Cereals and starchy foods

2. Fruits and vegetables

3. Milk and dairy products

4. Meat and high protein foods

5. Fatty and sugary foods

The good stuff

The first group includes things like bread, rice, pasta, muesli, porridge and potatoes. About one third of your diet should come from this group. Another third should come from the second group. Getting a good variety or fruits and vegetables is important. Eating the same thing every day isn’t as healthy as getting a wide variety.

Groups 3 and 4 should make up most of the remainder of your diet. When it comes to milk and dairy products, try to reduce your saturated fat intake by sticking with skimmed milk and low-fat dairy products. Dairy gives you calcium and some protein so don't cut it out altogether – just always keep an eye on the fat content. The same rule applies to meat and high protein foods. A lot of red meats have high amounts of saturated fat. Make sure you eat lean cuts or, better still, get more of your protein from pulses like lentils and beans. Not only are they lower fat but they're full of

The bad stuff

Group 5 foods are often called “empty calories”. They are full of saturated fats and sugars that release energy quickly into the blood stream. They have no nutritional value and are a major cause of diabetes. Your body likes its energy to be provided regularly and in manageable amounts. Most food that you eat takes time to digest and this means that your energy levels are maintained over a longer period. Group 5 foods release all the glucose very quickly pushing up your blood glucose levels far above what you need. Your body produces insulin to compensate. The long-term effect of having heightened blood glucose levels is that your pancreas becomes damaged and your body becomes less responsive to insulin. This is the major cause of diabetes in obese adults.

Saturated fat in foods causes heart disease by furring up the arteries. The LDL-cholesterol that our bodies produces hardens inside the arteries and can cause clots.

10706 Revised November 2012

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