What you eat is important for your overall health. That being said, what are some components of a healthy diet? This is a question that many people ask themselves, but they often don’t know how to answer. A well-balanced, healthy diet consists of foods from the five food groups. They are complex carbs, dairy, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables and protein. The following guide will provide a breakdown of what foods are in each group, their goals and how they benefit your body.
The Goals of a Healthy Diet
The five components of a healthy diet provide the recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function optimally. And, while it’s doubtful that every meal will include all five components of a healthy diet, the goal is to achieve a balance from day to day or throughout the week.
5 Components of a Healthy Diet: A Quick Look
It’s doubtful that every meal will include all five components of a healthy diet, but the goal is to achieve a balance from day to day or throughout the week. So here’s a quick look at the importance of each major food group.
Complex carbs, also known as starchy carbs, make up the body’s primary source of energy. Starchy carbs are potatoes or grains like wheat, barley and rice, while simple carbs are sugary foods or sweets. Meanwhile, it’s essential to understand the different types of complex carbohydrates and know which ones are the healthier options.
For instance, it’s good to opt for whole grains vs. refined grains, the latter of which are simple carbs with a high Glycemic Index. If a food has a high Glycemic Index, it causes sugar spikes and, unfortunately, increases your risk of diabetes. When choosing foods that won’t make your sugar levels spike, aim for a Glycemic Index of 55 or less.
Dairy products have impressive amounts of two things most of us don’t get enough of, and that’s calcium and protein. Dairy is also an excellent source of vitamin D, which reduces the risk for many cancers and is essential for bone health.
However, all dairy items are not created equal when it comes to the benefit of your health, with some constituting healthier choices than others. As such, choose low-fat milk over butter and opt for yogurt with live cultures.
3. Healthy Fats
There is a debate about the different types of fats, but good fats are essential to your health. Healthy fats that provide necessary nutrients for health benefits include omega-three fatty acids from fish and avocado, monounsaturated fats from olive oil and avocados, and polyunsaturated fats found in fish oils and seeds (flaxseed) and nuts (peanuts) which also have protein.
Comparatively, two types of fats have been identified as potentially harmful to your health: Saturated fat and trans fat. Both of these fats tend to raise the levels of bad cholesterol. Bear in mind that fats also contain a lot of calories, which can lead to weight gain and obesity.
What about Foods High in Cholesterol?
Cholesterol gets a bad rap sometimes, but your body needs some of it to build healthy cells. Additionally, it seems counterintuitive, but some high cholesterol-rich foods like eggs, shellfish, pasture-raised steak, and organ meat are highly nutritious and won’t raise your “bad” LDL cholesterol.
On the other hand, stay away from fried foods, fast foods, processed meats, and desserts since they increase LDL cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
4. Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits provide many nutrients, and there is strong evidence that a diet rich in them can prevent cancer and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. There are also compelling preliminary results indicating that consuming some whole fruits and green leafy vegetables is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
On most days, try to work in at least one serving from each of the following: Dark green leafy vegetables, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, legumes (beans) and peas.
Foods such as fish, nuts, poultry and beans are good sources of protein that contain omega-three fatty acids and potassium, all of which are necessary for muscle growth and maintaining strong bones.
Because foods contain a lot more than protein, it’s vital to pay attention to what else is contained within them. For instance, a broiled sirloin steak is an excellent source of protein, but it also serves up a good deal of saturated fat. Also, swapping out red meat and processed meat for healthy protein sources can lower the risk of several diseases.
So, how much protein should you get daily? According to the National Academy of Medicine, adults should get a little over 7 grams for every 20 pounds of their body weight. Therefore, if you weigh 140 pounds, that means you should consume about 50 grams of protein each day.
The Role of Vitamins & Minerals
The vitamins & minerals in the five food groups are essential to good health and wellness. Some of the vitamins & minerals you’ll need to pay particular attention to are calcium for healthy, strong bones, magnesium needed for contracting muscles and potassium for blood pressure control. Also, check your food packaging to see the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) listed.
Alternatively, you can click Nutrition Data Self and use their tools to determine your RDAs for a specific vitamin or mineral. For example, if you’re looking for the RDA of magnesium, enter “magnesium” in the search field and click on the Nutrition Data link to get a list of foods containing this nutrient.
Then, you can scroll through all their data tables to compare how much magnesium is present per serving size and get a ton of other helpful nutritional information.
What about Supplements?
You need a variety of nutrients each day to stay healthy, including calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones, folic acid to create and maintain new cells and vitamin A to preserve eyesight and a healthy immune system. But, of course, the source of these nutrients is important too. Fruits, vegetables, fish, and other healthy foods contain nutrients and other substances not found in a pill, and they work together in our bodies to keep us healthy.
In other words, the conventional thinking is that we can’t derive the same synergistic effects from supplements as we would in healthy foods. Still, that’s not to say that supplements don’t work, and a recent randomized trial suggested that multivitamins might work to prevent cancer. Similar studies are forthcoming about other popular supplements, including vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
The Food Pyramid
The USDA created the familiar Food Pyramid design in 1992 that most of us are probably accustomed to seeing. The pyramid was not without controversy, however, and since its inception, researchers have found out more about nutrition and the effects of certain foods on your health.
These factors prompted the creation of food pyramids for specific audiences, such as the Healthy Eating Pyramid. This graphic, which the Harvard School of Public Health designs, replaces the USDA version. You can think of the Healthy Eating Pyramid as a grocery list where the five components of a healthy diet make their way into your grocery cart every week.
Let Us Help You Achieve Better Health & Wellness
Many diets leave much to be desired, and a healthy diet is hard to come by. Fortunately, now that you know about the five components that make up a nutritious diet, the function of supplements, and the Healthy Eating Pyramid, it is easier to find foods that will contribute to your overall health and wellness.
If you’re having a challenge establishing an effective weight loss plan, suffering from nutrition-related health issues, or still need answers to questions about nutrition, we can help. At Cool Springs Family Chiropractic, we’re committed to helping our patients achieve total health and wellness.