Health focus: The importance of eating a balanced and nutritious diet

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The start of another year prompts many of us to make certain resolutions or set goals. Often, these might involve starting a diet or trying to lose weight – making it easy to overthink the choices we make around what we eat.

Despite the popularity of various fad diets that can send some individuals spiralling into disordered eating, it’s absolutely crucial to maintain a healthy relationship with food. And eating healthily involves much more than getting your greens in, so it’s important to learn how to make food work with your lifestyle.

How healthy is the UK?

According to the findings of a 2022 survey published on Statista, at least 40% of people in the UK believe that they eat a healthy and balanced diet, with a further 10% certain that they always do.

However, the figures on obesity are quite alarming, instead indicating that the general awareness of what constitutes a healthy diet might be lacking. The results of the Health Survey for England 2021 found that 64.3% of adults living in England are either overweight or obese.

Of course, diet isn’t the only factor that contributes to weight. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that when any type of lifestyle – from a sedentary to an athletic one – is combined with a healthy, plentiful diet, the benefits can be surprising.

Why should I eat a healthy diet?

Paired with an active lifestyle, eating healthily carries a wide range of health benefits. Along with giving you all the energy you need to feel good throughout the day, a balanced diet gives you the nutrients necessary for growth and repair.

Maintaining a healthy weight and keeping your sugar consumption low also reduces your risk of developing certain diseases including type 2 diabetes.

What if I can’t afford to eat healthily?

Many Brits feel that eating healthily is inaccessible due to high food prices, which is becoming increasingly prevalent amidst the cost-of-living crisis.  But it’s always worth knowing that eating a wide range of nutritious foods, fruits and vegetables don’t need to come at an impossible price.

The biggest supermarkets in the UK often match their fresh produce with prices in budget shops, so you’ll always be able to find quality ingredients at a low price. And under certain schemes, perks like an M&S discount for NHS workers makes fresh fruit and vegetables much more affordable.

Which foods are healthy?

Generally, natural whole foods are considered the healthiest. However, those rich in natural antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are necessary too. If you’re trying to start eating a healthy diet, try to base your meals around the following:

  • High-fibre carbohydrates like brown rice, wholewheat pasta, and wholegrain bread
  • Fruits including apples, bananas, berries, kiwis, oranges and melon
  • Vegetables like carrots, broccoli, peas, kale, and leafy greens
  • Fish such as cod, salmon, tuna, and haddock

Certain types of food should only be eaten in moderation. Saturated fat is found in many foods, such as fatty meats, butter, hard cheese, cream, cakes, and biscuits. Additionally, regularly eating foods with a high sugar content could increase your risk of tooth decay and obesity.

What Does the WHO Suggest of a Healthy Diet?

According to WHO (World Health Organization), a healthy diet is essential to protect your body against several noncommunicable diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. If you eat various foods and consume less sugar, salt, and industrially-produced and saturated trans-fats, then you are having a healthy diet.

There should be a combination of various foods in your diet if you want to eat healthy, such as-

  • Cereal staples such as wheat, rye, barley, rice or maize or starchy roots or tubers such as taro, potato, cassava, or yam.
  • Legumes such as beans and lentils.
  • Vegetables and fruits.
  • The foods obtained from animals, such as fish, meat, egg, and milk.

The WHO also has some important recommendations for young children and breastfeeding babies. Breastfeeding is essential for your babies and it brings long-term health benefits. Breastfeeding can reduce the risks of developing non-communicable diseases and becoming obese and overweight later in life. It is important to exclusively feed your babies with breast milk from day one to six months of your child’s life. After six months, you can introduce your baby to various nutritious and safe complementary foods along with breastfeeding.

Why Should You Eat Plentiful Fruits and Vegetables?

Vegetables and fruits are essential sources of minerals, vitamins, plant protein, dietary fibre, and antioxidants. By eating plentiful fruits and vegetables, you can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, and certain kinds of cancer.

Why Should You Consume Less Fat?

The consumption of too much fat (especially industrially produced and saturated trans-fat) will increase the chances of stroke and heart disease. Your fat consumption should remain within 30% of your total energy intake. You should also use unsaturated vegetable oils, such as sunflower, soy, olive, or corn oil, instead of using saturated oils and fats, such as ghee, butter, lard, palm and coconut oil.

Why Should You Reduce Sugar Intake?

Your sugar intake should not exceed 10% of your overall energy intake. Otherwise, it can cause heart disease, overweight, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. You should limit the consumption of soda, soft drinks, and sweet snacks, such as cakes, cookies, and chocolates. Instead, you should eat plenty of fresh fruits.

Why Should You Limit the Intake of Salt?

Over intake of salt can increase the chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, and stroke. The salt intake of a person should be less than 5 grams per day. You should also limit the use of salt during cooking.

A healthy diet is not only essential for your physical well-being but also important for your mental well-being. Prepare a diet chart for you and maintain a healthy lifestyle. You should also focus on physical activity and avoid the consumption of tobacco. If you’re trying to improve your diet, it’s important to be doing it for the right reasons. If you’ve lost control over your eating or you’re feeling excessively worried about your weight, don’t hesitate to contact a dietician.




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