No single food contains all the essential nutrients the body needs to be healthy and function efficiently. The nutritional value of a person’s diet depends on the overall balance of foods that is eaten over a period of time, as well as on the needs of the individual.
A healthy diet is likely to include a large variety of foods, from each of the food groups, as this allows us to obtain all the nutrients that we need. The Food Standards Agency uses the ‘Eat Well Plate’ as a generic guide to a balanced diet.
We need energy to live and this is provided by the carbohydrate, protein and fat in our diets. The balance between these nutrients must be correct to remain healthy. Getting the right amounts of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and water is also important for health.
This article on healthy eating is written by CS Healthcare, a specialist provider of health insurance.
As important as the type of foods we eat, is the amount and frequency that we include different foods in our diet. All foods can be part of a healthy diet and so there is no need to give up the foods that are a real treat. It is the overall balance of foods that is important for health.
Starchy foods such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes are also a really important part of a healthy diet. Try to choose wholegrain varieties of starchy foods whenever you can. Starchy foods should make up about a third of the food we eat. They are a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients in our diet. As well as starch, these foods contain fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins. Try to include at least one starchy food with each of your main meals. So you could start the day with a wholegrain breakfast cereal, have a sandwich for lunch, and potatoes, pasta or rice with your evening meal.
Try to cut down on food that is high in saturated fat and have foods that are rich in unsaturated fat instead, such as vegetable oils (including sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil), oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds which provide a source of the essential Omega 6 fatty acid.
Omega 3 fats are part of the family of ‘good’ polyunsaturated fats and there is increasing evidence that Omega 3 fatty acids, when eaten as part of a healthy diet, can help maintain heart health. Department of Health guidelines state that we should all eat at least two portions of fish every week, and one of those portions should be oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel. Omega 3 fats are also needed for the body’s normal growth and development. They are used to maintain the membranes of all cells including those of the nervous system, the liver, eyes and kidneys. They are also vital for good muscle function and for blood clotting. Cutting down on salt will make a dramatic difference in lowering blood pressure and the risk of heart attack or stroke. This risk can be reduced even further by eating more fruit and vegetables.
To stay healthy we also require some fat in our diets. What is important is the kind of fat we are eating. There are two main types of fat:
- Saturated fat: Having too much can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases the chance of developing heart disease.
- Unsaturated fat: Having unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat lowers blood cholesterol.
Fruit and vegetables contain potassium, a chemical that counters the effects of sodium (contained in salt):
- Sodium: Raises your blood pressure by making your body hold on to more fluid.
- Potassium: Encourages your body to remove fluid, lowering your blood pressure.
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Civil Service Healthcare is a registered friendly society authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) reg no 205346. This article is intended as general advice only. If you or a family member has any medical concerns, please contact your GP or medic. † Calls may be recorded or monitored for training, quality assurance purposes and/or prevention and detection of crime.