How often have we heard these terms being tossed about and how often have we used them knowing only vaguely what “nutrition and balanced diet” actually mean. “A balanced diet is a combination of various essential nutrients in the proper proportion. Nutrients would bring within their purview carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fats, vitamins, mineral salts and lastly even water. Let us see how each of these contribute to our well being. Carbohydrates (essentially sugars and starches) supply us with energy while fiber keeps the guts healthy. Proteins build muscles, Fats are required for cells and other body functions. The importance of vitamins and minerals cannot be emphasized enough for their functions are vital for the human body. Water is required to flush out the waste products and remove the toxins. It is a total cleanser.
Carbohydrates are found in starches, sugars and fibers, Unrefined starchy foods like whole meal bread, rice and pasta and potatoes in their skin are considered to be the best as they contain more vitamins, contain fiber and regulate the release of energy. Refined sugar and products containing it are termed as “empty calories” because they do not contain any nutrients. They only have energy giving properties. In contrast natural sugars present in fruits and vegetables are healthy. These carbohydrates should make up at least 40-50 percent of your diet.
Next on the list are the builders of muscle proteins. Milk, milk products, beans nuts, grains, soy and wheat germ all contain protein. These should be consumed in such a way that they account for about 20-30 percent of your diet.
Fats should not be excluded form the diet. What we need to do is to ensure that saturated fats be used sparingly. Polysaturated fats, which are mainly got from plants, are considered to be more beneficial. Milk, butter, cheese, soy oil, olive oil., flaxseed oil, all contain fats. Fats should account for at least 30 percent of our diet.
No praise sung in respect of vitamins and proteins can be sufficient. From fighting infection and aiding bone growth, to promoting cell production and boosting the immune system, vitamins are vital for the human body. Vitamin A and Riboflavin is found in milk, butter and vegetables, thiamin in whole grain nuts and seeds, Niacin is found in milk, Vitamin B6 is found in spinach, broccoli and bananas, Vitamin C is found in green vegetables and citrus fruits, vitamin D is found in milk, Vitamin E is found in vegetables, rice, and bran, and Vitamin K is found in wheat germ, vegetable oil and whole grain bread and cereal.
Minerals like calcium which are necessary for bone growth and healthy teeth, copper which is require for the metabolism of iron, iron itself, Magnesium which is involved with the functioning of the nerves and spinal cords, and sodium, potassium, phosphorous and zinc can be found either in milk, grains, vegetables, fruits, cereals, yogurt or wheat germ. Drinking the proverbial 8 glasses a day of water is a must.
So nutrition and a balanced diet contribute towards good health. This means no skipping meals especially breakfast. The body metabolism is increased with the right kind of breakfast foods. Regular moderate exercise will ensure that you look good and feel good.
All this does not imply that a balanced diet is boring and uninteresting. It only means ensuring that you get the right variety of foods in your diet. An occasional treat is always on the cards.
In India, Ayurveda focuses on dietary aspects for the physical being, for the purity of mind and for the cosmic spirit. For physical well being , the focus is on adequate water and food at regular intervals. Food essentially consists of complex carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits and moderation in fat to balance the doshas. For the purity of the mind, foods like nuts, seeds of sunflower and sesame, green vegetables, milk, buttermilk, yogurt, citrus and fibrous fruits are essential. Dietary ideals for the cosmic spirit ensure that the balanced diet works best when food is eaten in non-stressful environment. In the end we see, the basic idea is the same, nutrients in the right proportion should be our mantra.