Healthy Foods for Life

Eating Healthy Food

Good nutrition is all about balance. There are several categories of foods that we need in our daily diet, but there is a certain balance we need to maintain with these foods to achieve good health.

A general list of healthy food choices include:

1.   vegetables and fruits meat
2.   poultry
3.   eggs and fish
4.   dry beans and lentils breads and cereals
5.   milk and milk products fats
6.   nuts and oils

The vegetable and fruit group is probably the most important group when it comes to good health. Vegetables and fruits are derived from living plants and contain many nutrients such as vitamins C and A, which are powerful antioxidants, minerals that our bodies need, fiber (very important for colon health) and bioflavonoids that protect us from diseases. Fruits and vegetables should be eaten in large quantities (5 or more portions a day) because they are highly nutritious and low in calories.

The grain and cereal group (also called the starch or carbohydrate food group) has gotten a reputation as being bad for people. However, the opposite is true. We need carbohydrates in our diet every day, mainly for energy. Also, cereals and grains are our best source of vitamin E, the B vitamins, essential minerals and trace elements (zinc, copper, selenium, magnesium, and potassium), dietary fiber and polyphenols. These nutrients protect us against many kinds of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Processed carbohydrates like white sugar, white flour, and white rice should be eaten sparingly in the diet, but unprocessed or minimally processed starches and grains are healthy and your diet should contain several servings of these a day, such as whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals, and brown rice.

Healthy Foods for Life

The meat, fish poultry and eggs group is rich in high-quality protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. These foods are the best sources of high-quality protein in our diet. The meat, fish and eggs group contains amino acids that can’t be manufactured in the human body, so we must get them from this food group. While we get some proteins from plant foods, there are times when we need high-quality protein from this food group in larger quantities, such as during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, the teenage years, athletic training and when one is recovering from illness or surgery. In general though, small amounts of meat, fish, eggs, milk and cheese – one or two servings per day; limit red meat (very lean) to 2 or 3 times a week and replace it with chicken or fish; choose low-fat or skin milk and cheese; limit eggs to 4 or 5 a week – in our daily diet is sufficient.

The fats, oils and nuts food group is necessary for good health, but we shouldn't overindulge in this group. Also important is to know which fats are good for us, and which fats aren't.

  • Bad fats - Saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol, which can be found in cream, butter, lard, bacon fat, meat fat, chicken skin, commercially produced cookies, potato chips and pastries, and also in vegetable margarine.
  • Good fats - Mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which can be found in sunflower, safflower, canola and olive oils, soft tub margarines and nuts.
  • Essential fats - Omega-3 and omega-6 fats, which can be found in fish, omega-3 enriched eggs, flaxseed, canola and soybean oils.

It is healthy to add a small amount of the ‘good’ fats to our diet every day.

Legumes — a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas and lentils — are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Legumes are typically low in fat, high in fiber, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They're also a good source of protein and can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol. This food group can be added to any meal as they are low in calories and high in nutrients.

As we said in the opening paragraph, a healthy balance is the key factor in a nutritious diet. Eating the right kinds of foods in the right amount equals a healthy body!

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