We usually eat 3 meals a day and a couple of snacks to get our daily requirements of vitamins and nutrients. Are you eating the right kinds of foods and in the right amounts to get the vitamins and nutrients you require for a healthy diet?
The three main sources of nutrients are carbohydrates; Proteins; and Fats . Getting the right balance of each in every meal or snack is the best way to support good overall health. Knowing what foods provide each will help you get started towards eating a well balanced and nutritious diet.
There are two main categories of carbohydrates; simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates should be consumed in small amounts and not too frequently because they cause the blood sugar levels to spike which can lead to diabetes over time. Foods that contain simple carbohydrates are candies, sweetened chocolates, processed foods containing white flours and sugars such as cakes, biscuits, and donuts. Watch out for other foods that are high in starch such as potatoes, chips, and buns because the body will break these down into sugars. There are natural foods with simple carbohydrates as well. For example, fruit has low amounts of simple sugars and more vitamins and nutrients than processed foods. Include more fruit and less prepared sweets in your diet and you’ll be healthier for it.
Complex carbohydrates are foods that give you more energy than the simple ones. This is because they break down slower in the body providing you with energy longer. Foods containing complex carbohydrates are those made with wheat, grains, bran, and oats. Including healthy foods such as brown rice, couscous, whole wheat pasta and eggs at snack and meal times will keep you energized all day.
They can be found in food sources such as vegetables, fish or animal. Proteins are essential in our diet for the growth and repair of body tissue and can be added to our diets in foods such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheeses, and legumes. Proteins are an appetite suppressant and will help you feel full more quickly than carbohydrates will, so always make sure you include protein at every meal and snack.
Food just would not be as desirable without the fat content. Fats are essential for good health, however, too much fat can set us up for diseases. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods have the least amount of fats whereas dairy, meats, nuts, eggs, sauces, and oils contain the most fat. Prepared foods can also contain lots of fat. Fats have an effect on blood cholesterol levels. Too much-saturated fats causing the levels to rise and will increase the risk of heart disease. Mono / Polyunsaturated fats have been found to lower blood cholesterol levels and can be found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. Our body is designed to produce its own supply of cholesterol. Cholesterol added to our diets comes from meats, dairy, butter and egg yolks, not from margarine (non-hydrogenated), vegetable oils, egg whites, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Before buying and eating any food give some thought about how it has been prepared and read the content labels. Generally speaking, the more natural and fresher the food when it is prepared, the healthier it is for you. Use non-hydrogenated oils and margarine when cooking and eat low-fat dairy products. Eat more complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, lean proteins from meat and fish accompanied with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and you’ll enjoy the benefits of health foods rich in vitamins and nutrients.