The Balanced Diet

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In order to stay healthy, we must consume a varied diet that contains all the essential nutrients. In addition, we must limit our intake of foods that can be harmful in large quantities. Although researchers still have much to learn about nutrition and our knowledge is constantly changing, there is strong evidence about what good eating patterns are. According to government health agencies, the following guidelines are suggested for maintaining a healthful diet. It should be noted that these are only general recommendations for people who are already healthy and want to stay that way. They are not necessarily for those who need special diets because of disease or other abnormal conditions.

1. Getting Adequate Nutrients Within Calorie Needs

The greater the variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups we consume, the more likely we are to get all the nutrients we need. Choosing nutrient-dense foods and avoiding empty calories is necessary in order for us to get adequate nutrition without consuming too many calories in the process. Choose foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.

2. Managing Weight

To maintain a healthy body weight, balance the calories you consume with the calories you burn. People who are greatly overweight are more likely to develop certain chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease,and stroke. People who consume more calories than they burn off will gain weight.

To prevent gradual weight gain, make small decreases in the calories you consume and increase your physical activity. Rather than depending on crash diets, it is usually better to lose weight slowly and gradually, to develop better habits of eating, and to increase physical activity. To get all the nutrients you need while cutting down on calories, cut down on foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients, especially fat and fatty foods, sugar and sweets, and alcohol.

3. Engaging in Physical Activity

Engaging in regular physical activity promotes health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight. For general health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases, getting at least 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise every day is desirable, and more and longer vigorous exercise can be even more beneficial. In order to avoid gaining weight, adults should try to get 60 minutes of exercise most days, while at the same time not consuming too many calories. For those who wish to lose weight gradually, try to get 60 to 90 minutes of exercise most days, again while limiting calorie intake.

4. Selecting from the Right Food Groups

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products are the foods with the highest nutrient density. These foods should be strongly emphasized in a healthy diet. In particular, someone who consumes 2,000 calories a day should try to eat the following daily:

• 2 cups (4 servings) of fruit, selecting from a variety of fruits.

• 21/2 cups (5 servings) of vegetables, selected from as many of the basic vegetable groups as possible: dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, legumes, starchy vegetables, and others.

• 3 servings of whole grains.

• 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk or its equivalent in other dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese.

In the United States, these food groups, along with others including meats, poultry, and fish, form what is known as the food guide pyramid. Figure 6.1(a) shows the standard pyramid developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Although it reflects the pyramid shape of earlier versions of the food guide, the current diagram is only a generalized symbol of healthful eating patterns, with a stick figure climbing stairs to represent physical exercise. Each colored stripe represents one of the basic five food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and meat and beans. A thin stripe between fruits and milk represents oils.The thickness of each stripe represents the relative proportion of each group to include in the diet.The image contains no information on portions and portion sizes. Instead, it is intended to refer consumers to resources such as the website www.mypyramid.gov, where different pyramids can be customized based on age, sex, and level of activity.

Canadian nutrition experts have devised the "Food Guide to Healthy Eating,"usually referred to as the food rainbow because of its format (Figure 6.1e).The number of daily servings of each group,as well as information about standard portion sizes, is indicated in the Canadian rainbow.

MyPyramid

STEPS TO A HEALTHIER yOU

MyPyramid

STEPS TO A HEALTHIER yOU

GRAINS VEGETABLES

Figure 6.1a Food guide pyramid.

GRAINS VEGETABLES

Figure 6.1a Food guide pyramid.

Daily Beverage Recommendations:

6 Glasses rj[ Wurur

Monthly sweets ,

Weekly

POULTRY

FISH

Wine in moderation

OLIVE OIL

Wine in moderation

OLIVE OIL

/ FRUITS

BEANS,

VEGETABLES \\

JJ,-

Daily

BREAD, PASTA, RICE, COUSCOUS,POLENTA, OTHER WHOLE GRAINS & POTATOES

Daily Physical Activity

Figure 6.1b

The traditional healthy Mediterranean diet pyramid.

© 2000 Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust. www.oldwayspt.org.

BREAD, PASTA, RICE, COUSCOUS,POLENTA, OTHER WHOLE GRAINS & POTATOES

Daily Beverage Recommendations

6 Glasses ol Water or Toa

Daily Beverage Recommendations

6 Glasses ol Water or Toa

Daily Food Charts
Daily Physical Activity

Figure 6.1c

The traditional healthy Asian diet pyramid. © 2000 Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust. www.oldwayspt.org.

Daily Beverage Recommend ations: 6 Glasses of Water

WEEKLY

Daily Beverage Recommend ations: 6 Glasses of Water

WEEKLY

Figure 6.1d

The traditional healthy Latin American diet pyramid. © 2000 Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust. www.oldwayspt.org.

Figure 6.1d

The traditional healthy Latin American diet pyramid. © 2000 Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust. www.oldwayspt.org.

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5. Manage Consumption of Fats

Keep total fat intake between 20 and 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.This means that for a diet of 2,000 calories daily, calories from fat should be between 400 and 700.

Why not lower than 20 percent? Remember that some fatty acids are essential nutrients, and fats also carry fat-soluble vitamins. Consuming less fat than 20 percent of daily calories could be unhealthy.

Keep consumption of saturated fats, especially trans fats, as low as possible. Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids.

Consume less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.

When selecting and preparing meat, poultry, dry beans, and milk or milk products, make choices that are lean, low-fat, or fat-free.

Remember: High fat intake, especially of saturated fats and cholesterol, is associated with such conditions as heart disease and high blood pressure. Although other factors contribute to these diseases, such as heredity and smoking, following this dietary recommendation should increase the chances of staying healthy.

6. Manage Consumption of Carbohydrates

Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.These foods are the sources of the most healthful carbohydrates. Avoid prepared foods high in added sugars.

Reducing refined sugars and starches in the diet has the added benefit of helping reduce tooth decay.

7. Manage Consumption of Sodium and Potassium

Consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 tsp or 5 mL of salt) of sodium per day. Sodium, as noted earlier, appears to contribute to high blood pressure. For people who already have high blood pressure, it is especially important to cut down on sodium in the diet.The best ways to do this are to decrease the use of salt in the kitchen and at the table and to limit the intake of prepared foods that are high in salt, such as potato chips, salted nuts, pretzels, pickled foods, cured meats, and salty condiments like soy sauce.

Reduce the harmful effects of sodium by eating potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

8. Manage Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages

People who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation—defined as the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Alcoholic beverages are high in calories while providing few other nutrients. Heavy drinking may cause a variety of serious diseases. Moderate drinking—one or two drinks a day—appears to do little harm and may, in fact, be of some benefit.

Many people, including children and adolescents, pregnant and lactating women, people taking medications that interact with alcohol, and people with certain medical conditions, should avoid alcohol completely. In addition, alcoholic beverages should be avoided by people engaging in activities that require attention, skill, or coordination, such as driving or operating machinery.

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