Nutrition

Have you ever wondered what exactly constitutes a healthy diet? 

Messages about healthy eating have been around for decades. 

Dietitians and health professionals have been promoting a consistent message about the types of food we should consume more of, or not in. 

What’s covered here:

Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods. 

Maintain a healthy weight. 

Choose lots of fruits, vegetables and grains. 

Choose a diet low in fat, especially saturated fat and cholesterol. 

Use sugars only in moderation. 

Exercise regularly. 

Get sufficient rest every day.

If you smoke, do so as infrequently as possible, and eventually quit. 

Take alcoholic beverages in moderation. (1)

What Constitutes A Good Diet?

It is one that consists of proteins, carbohydrates (sugar and starches), fats, vitamins and minerals in the right proportions.  

Your body needs a regular supply of these nutrients to grow, replace worn-out tissues and provide energy. 

Balance, variety, moderation and adequacy are key to maintaining good health. 

Balance means eating the recommended number of servings from each food group on most days. 

Variety within each food group (for example, eating different fruits from the fruit group instead of only eating apples) ensures that you get all the nutrients you need, since no single food provides all nutrients. 

Eating a wide variety of foods will also help you avoid eating too much of any substance that may be harmful. 

Moderation means eating a little of everything but nothing in excess. 

Adequacy means are you having enough of a specific nutrient in your diet. 

There is no such thing as good or bad food. 

There are only good and bad diets. 

All types of food can fit in a healthy diet if you eat everything in moderation.(2)

Why Is A Healthy Diet Important?

By keeping a healthy diet, we can maintain a healthy body weight and reduce our risk of developing diet-related diseases such as heart disease and cancer. (3) 

However, maintaining a healthy diet is not as straightforward as it may seem. 

There is much confusion among the general public about what constitutes a healthy diet, as well as a belief by many that they are already keeping a healthy diet. 

For example: 

71% of people agree with the statement “I do not need to make changes to the food I eat, it is already healthy enough”. (4) 

A healthy diet and lifestyle in adulthood aims to: 

Ensure that you are fit, healthy and full of vitality in the short term.  

Minimize the risk of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis in the long term. (5)

What Is Nutrition?

It refers to the role that food plays in relation to the well-being of the human body. 

The food we eat can have a huge impact on our health and well-being. (6) 

Hence, a balanced, nutritional diet is one that provides all the essential nutrients in the right quantities for health. 

In fact, it is important to understand that the science of nutrition is still in its infancy. 

Centuries ago, scientists were busy discovering new stars and galaxies while the first vitamins were only discovered decades ago! (7)

Nutritional knowledge changes constantly. 

If you follow the news, you will notice that certain types of food come into go out of favour with nutritionists and doctors alike. 

It is fair to say that nutrition is an evolving science, another those who study nutrition are pioneers of a new frontier. 

From what science has shown us to date, we know that everyone needs about 6 types of essential nutrients to stay healthy. (8)

What Are The Classes Of Nutrients? 

Since no single food supplies all the nutrients needed for an adequate diet, consumption of a variety of food is necessary. 

An adequate diet is one that supplies us with enough food to sustain life while promoting growth and good health. 

The quality and quantity of food that we give ourselves will determine whether we have a balanced diet. 

For sufficient nutrient intake, a balanced diet should contain no fewer than 1200 calories per day for adult women and no fewer than 1800 calories for adult men. (9)

What Are Calories? 

A calorie is a measurement of the energy that food supplies to the body. Each type of energy-providing nutrient provides a different amount of calories. 

Protein – 4 calories / gram 

Carbohydrates – 4 calories / gram 

Fats – 9 calories / gram(10)

Macronutrients

3 of the major macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. 

A healthy diet that provides our body with the best macronutrient balance can be found below:

Carbohydrates

45% – 65% should come from this nutrient group.

Protein

10% – 35% should come from this nutrient group.

Fat

20% – 35% should come from this nutrient group.

Water

8-10 glasses a day or as required. Take sips of it.

Fiber

14 g/1000 kcal of calorie consumption.

Micronutrients

Needed in small amounts, include: 

Vitamins

Water Soluble

  • Thiamine (B1)
  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Niacin (B3)
  • Pantothenic Acid (B5)
  • Pyridoxine (B6)
  • Biotin (B7)
  • Folic Acid (B9)
  • Cyanocobalamin (B12)
  • Vitamin C

Fat Soluble

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E

Minerals

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • Chromium
  • Molybdenum

Phytonutrients

Each color serves a unique purpose. Be sure to choose food items of different colors in this category.

References

  1. The American Heart Association diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. www.heart.org. (2021, November 23). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations#.V8rLEJh97IU

  2. My healthy plate. HealthHub. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.healthhub.sg/programmes/55/my-healthy-plate

  3. World Health Organization. (2022, March 11). Benefits of a balanced diet. World Health Organization. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/disease-prevention/nutrition/a-healthy-lifestyle/benefits-of-a-balanced-diet

  4. Kearney M;Gibney MJ;Martinez JA;de Almeida MD;Friebe D;Zunft HJ;Widhalm K;Kearney JM; (n.d.). Perceived need to alter eating habits among representative samples of adults from all member states of the European Union. European journal of clinical nutrition. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9222721/

  5. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Healthy diet. World Health Organization. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://www.who.int/initiatives/behealthy/healthy-diet#:~:text=A%20healthy%20diet%20is%20essential,are%20essential%20for%20healthy%20diet.

  6. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Nutrition. World Health Organization. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://www.who.int/health-topics/nutrition

  7. RD;, S. (n.d.). The discovery of the vitamins. International journal for vitamin and nutrition research. Internationale Zeitschrift fur Vitamin- und Ernahrungsforschung. Journal international de vitaminologie et de nutrition. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23798048/

  8. Green, S., & Shallal, K. (2020, August 23). Essential nutrients. Nutrition Essentials. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://open.maricopa.edu/nutritionessentials/chapter/essential-nutrients/#:~:text=There%20are%20six%20classes%20of,water%2C%20vitamins%2C%20and%20minerals.

  9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Healthy eating plan. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/calories.htm

  10. How many calories are in one gram of fat, carbohydrate, or protein? NAL. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://www.nal.usda.gov/legacy/fnic/how-many-calories-are-one-gram-fat-carbohydrate-or-protein#:~:text=Carbohydrates%20provide%204%20calories%20per,provides%209%20calories%20per%20gram.