The importance of nutrition and a balanced diet
Nutrition is vital for your body and all of its systems to function properly, by having good nutrition it will help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce body fat, provide your body with energy, promote good sleep and generally make you feel better. This has been proven through many scientific studies and is now well documented. By having good nutrition it has been proven that you are less likely to develop many of the present-day diseases.
What is a balanced diet?
The Foods Standards Agency defines a balanced diet as having ‘a variety of foods, basing meals on starchy foods and eating at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.’ They also recommend having moderate amounts of fish (2 portions a week one being oily) moderating the amount of protein you have and having small or occasional amounts of food high in fat or sugar.
If you follow these guidelines do you then have a balanced diet?
The guidelines are there to inform the general public of what constitutes a balanced diet in the eyes of the Food Standards Agency. If you follow these guidelines it does not mean you are eating a balanced diet.
For example the guidelines state that you should have small amounts of food high in fat or sugar. This is quite a vague statement, what is a small amount of high fat or sugary foods? People will interpret this differently, some people will believe this means they can eat sugary foods daily whilst others will think it means they can have some sort of sugary food weekly.
The guideline to base meals on starchy foods, is one that we have adopted in the UK, most people have diets that are predominantly made up of carbohydrates focusing on these foods: Bread; pasta and potatoes. The problem with this is the amount and quality of the carbohydrate people are consuming.
White pasta, bread, rice or any processed (refined) foods should be avoided because they usually have been bleached to turn them into the white colour we see in the supermarket (more appealing for the general public) it is during this bleaching process that the grains lose all of their nutritional value and our bodies cannot utilise these foods for energy.
Having high amounts of processed carbohydrates in the diet is a reason why as a nation we are becoming overweight.
What defines a balanced diet?
A balanced diet should be one based on eating a variety of different foods, and eating foods that have not been processed. This means trying natural unprocessed foods.
People should look to eat 5 portions or more of fruit and vegetables a day, to reduce the amount of processed food they eat, to ensure they drink at least 2 litres of water a day, to have a balance between the amount of carbs, fats and protein they consume, to eat oily fish weekly, to reduce the amount of table salt they have (below 6g) and to reduce the amount of sugar in their diet.