1. The Importance of a Healthy, Balanced Diet
2. Focusing on Diet Quality
3. The Impact of Food on Both Human Health and the Environment
Proper nutrition and a balanced diet are crucial for both human health and the environment. The types and amounts of food that people consume are major determinants of human health and can cause diseases such as coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, stroke, and colorectal cancers. Furthermore, agricultural food production emits approximately 30% of global greenhouse gases, which directly impact the environment. Land use, nutrient pollution, freshwater withdrawals, and negative environmental effects are other direct impacts of agricultural food production. It is important to understand the complex and multifaceted food-dependent linkages between diet-dependent health outcomes and environmental impacts to make better decisions regarding food choices, food products, and food policies. By improving food choices and products, both human health and the environment can benefit, therefore, it is necessary to increase awareness of how food consumption affects both human health and the environment.
This can potentially lower the risk of diet-related illnesses, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower the water and land used in agriculture. However, it is not just up to individuals but corporations and policy-makers also have an essential role to play in promoting healthier and sustainable food systems. For instance, using evidence-based policymaking, by encouraging healthy and eco-friendly food options and reducing harmful ones can be an effective way to increase both human health and environmental sustainability. Improving collaboration and dialogue between nutritionists, scientists, and environmentalists can lead to improved knowledge sharing and decision-making on promoting healthy and sustainable diets.
4. Make Half of Your Plate of Vegetables
5. Choosing Whole and Intact Grains
Choosing whole and intact grains is essential for maintaining a balanced diet. Whole grains contain the bran, germ, and endosperm, while refined grains only contain the endosperm, which is lower in nutritional value. The bran and fiber in whole grains help slow down the breakdown of starch into glucose, preventing spikes in blood sugar levels. Additionally, fiber in whole grains aids in digestion and helps prevent the formation of blood clots that can lead to heart attacks or strokes. Whole grains also contain phytochemicals and essential minerals like magnesium and copper, which have been researched for their potential to protect against certain types of cancers.
Processing of grains can strip them of their valuable nutrients. Industrialized roller mills strip grains of their bran and germ, making them easier to chew and increasing their shelf life. This results in highly processed grains with little nutritional value. Fluffy flour that creates light bread and pastries is made from refined grains. This process strips away more than half of the grain’s B vitamins, virtually all of its fiber, and 90% of the vitamin E.
6. Healthy Protein Sources
Protein is a vital macronutrient required for the growth and repair of muscles and other soft tissues. Besides, it acts as a fuel source and is a building block for enzymes and hormones. While the human body needs protein in large amounts, it doesn’t store it. Thus, it is necessary to consume adequate amounts of protein regularly through one’s diet. Foods such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, and legumes are rich sources of healthy protein. Consuming more protein than necessary may lead to health problems such as kidney and liver damage.
An egg is an excellent source of protein, with one large egg providing up to 6.3g of protein. While egg whites contain almost pure protein, including the yolk makes it a nutritional powerhouse containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats. Almonds, pistachios, and cashews are also notable for their high protein content. Almonds, in particular, are nutritious tree nut that also offers essential nutrients like fiber, vitamin E, and manganese. Other high-protein foods include cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt, and lean meat like chicken and turkey. Replacing red meat with beans, soy products, nuts, fish, or poultry is also an excellent approach to reducing the risk of developing diseases linked to red meat consumption.
7. Importance of Healthy Vegetable Oils and Avoiding Unhealthy Oils
8. The Role of Physical Activity in a Balanced Diet
9. Limiting Foods High in Sugar, Salt, and Unhealthy Fats
A healthy diet is essential to protect against malnutrition and diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. A balanced diet includes limiting sugary, salty, and unhealthy fatty foods. To maintain a healthy weight, one should consume energy in balance with physical activity. Fat intake should not exceed 30% of total energy intake, and saturated fat intake should be less than 10%. Trans-fats should be as low as 1% of total energy intake. The consumption of unsaturated fats is recommended, and industrially-produced trans-fats should be eliminated. The intake of free sugars should be less than 10%, and salt intake should be within 5g/day. WHO member states have agreed to reduce the global population’s salt intake by 30% by 2025, and halt the rise in diabetes and obesity. Such measures will prevent hypertension and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in adults.
In particular, limiting the intake of foods high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats is important for maintaining good health. Free sugars should not exceed 10% of total energy intake. This includes added sugars such as those found in sugary drinks, cakes, and sweets. Such measures will reduce the risk of developing non-communicable diseases later in life. Unhealthy dietary practices coupled with a lack of physical activity can lead to overweight and obesity, which are major global risks to health.