A healthy diet
"You are what you eat" - this Hippocratic phrase today, when less and less fresh and unprocessed products are consumed, is more important than ever, because exactly what we put in our mouths is made up of our cells, tissues, organs. And next - it is up to us whether they will be made of good raw materials and how much unnatural, foreign and harmful substances we will have - in the form of artificially synthesized food additives (preservatives, stabilizers, emulsifiers) and their compounds.
Our body receives almost all the necessary substances through food and water. The composition of food products and their properties directly affect our health, physical development, ability to work, emotional state, and life expectancy and quality in general.
These are not just beautiful words - there are many studies on how diet affects our health, such as: Nutritional quality and main risks of chronic diseases for men and women.
What is a healthy diet
One of the most common definitions is that a healthy diet is a diet that promotes growth and optimal development of the body, adequate nutrition, health promotion and prevention of non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
A healthy diet is not a regular weight loss or detox diet, but eating habits that will make you healthier, you will have more energy and - yes too healthy diet and mood are closely related. Improving your eating habits is the first step towards your new EU.
The main problem with modern nutrition is the increase in the consumption of processed foods, which has led to dangerous changes around the world:
- We consume too many foods high in calories, fat, sugar and salt.
- There are fewer and fewer vegetables, fruits and whole grains in our diet.
With industrially processed products, we take in not only synthetic food additives, but also too many calories (mostly with fat and sugar), which when used are converted into fats and salts, which create unnecessary water retention. And we put it all out without realizing it, both because most people usually pay almost no attention to product labels, and because they don't know how to translate the information there into "human language."
Basic principles of a healthy diet
- Balanced Energy Consumption - The average daily caloric intake is equal to the average daily caloric intake. If you are already overweight - reduce the amount of calories you need from 10-15%. You can calculate the amount of calories you need and your BMI (body mass index) HERE.
- To avoid unhealthy weight gain, total fat intake should not exceed 30% of the total calories consumed. Saturated fat should be less than 10% and trans fatty acids less than 1% of total calories. Saturated fats and trans fats should be replaced by unsaturated fats and efforts should be made to avoid processed foods (source of trans fats).
- Eat as fresh, unprocessed products as possible. That is, do not use semi-finished products, but prepare yourself. Follow the Mediterranean diet guidelines - It is not for nothing that it is recognized as one of the healthiest and included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
- Daily consumption of vegetables, pulses and fruits - at least 400 grams (in addition to potatoes and other starchy root vegetables).
- Free sugar consumption should be less than 10% of the total caloric intake, but given that sugar is often ingested unintentionally, it would be desirable to reduce sugar intake to 5%. Free sugars are all sugars added to food or drink (both added by the manufacturer, such as biscuits, and added to yours, such as coffee), as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and concentrates.
- Consumption of salt less than 5 g per day (a teaspoon without a pile) helps reduce the risk of hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
- Adequate water intake. Water should be drunk 30 - 40 ml per kilogram of body weight throughout the day. More on that why should you drink water read HERE and HERE.
- Alcohol - Do not drink at all or significantly reduce your amount of alcohol on a daily basis. However, no safe alcohol intake has been established (according to the World Health Organization). Some authors believe that small doses of alcohol are even recommended, for example, in the already mentioned Mediterranean diet, wine in small quantities, along with food is considered the norm. For comparison - 100 ml of dry red wine contains about 80 kcal, but 100 ml of vodka is already about 230 kcal.
- Breast-feeding for up to 6 months, and between 6 months and 2 years - breast-feeding in combination with proper supplementary nutrition reduces the risk of obesity and other non-infectious diseases in the future.
Don't exaggerate, remember that these are general recommendations. The exact composition of a healthy diet depends on a person's age, gender, lifestyle and level of physical activity.
For example, see how the calculation of basic metabolism (only the maintenance of life processes without additional physical activity) differs for men and women according to their age.
(15.3 х weight kg) + 679
(14.7 х weight kg) + 496
(11.6 х weight kg) + 879
(8.7 х weight kg) + 829
(13.5 х weight kg) + 487
(10.5 x weight kg) + 596
How to change your eating habits towards a healthy diet
Everyone can eat varied, balanced and healthy. And the sooner you start, the less you will be overweight and have other health problems. Usually I hear two types of reservations:
- I'm too busy, I don't have time to cook. So which is more important to you - good health or career? Do you really think that you will be happier if you sacrifice your career, damage your health and visit doctors' offices regularly after years? A balanced and healthy diet gives you more energy - reducing fatigue and increasing your ability to work - maybe that's exactly what you need right now?
- Healthy food is not delicious. Yes, I agree - if you constantly "sit" on boiled chicken fillets and lettuce leaves - it's really monotonous and not too tasty. But there are so many healthy products and ways to make them - check out this blog of mine in the prescription section and try.
Vegetables, pulses and fruits
According to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) - at least 400 grams per day. It has been shown that this is the amount of fresh vegetables and / or legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc.) and / or fruit that supply the body with the minimum amount of fiber it needs.
If you have rarely eaten these products before, increase them in your diet:
- Including vegetables in every meal;
- Using fresh vegetables and fruits as snacks.
Prefer seasonal vegetables, legumes and fruits. Eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible, expand the range of regular dishes. Try low calorie recipes with celery, turnips, pumpkins, broccoli!
The WHO recommends limiting the intake of any vegetable and animal fats to 30% or less of the total daily caloric intake, reducing the intake of trans fats and replacing saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats, preferably polyunsaturated fats.
- Eat fresh, unprocessed products. Avoid pre-processed (packaged) products, which are often high in trans fats.
- When cooking, replace margarine and refined oils with crude extra virgin oils.
- When preparing products it is better to steam, cook, grill, if baked - then choose oil suitable for frying and just smear it with the pan (not soak the products in oil). Give up or at least reduce the proportion of deep-fried products in your diet.
- Replace butter and lard with vegetable oils rich in polyunsaturated fats, such as unrefined olives, sunflower, canola, avocado, corn…
- Buy dairy products with a naturally low or reduced fat content (skimmed milk cheese, cheese and cream cheese with a fat content of around 10 - 20%, milk up to 2%, cream up to 15% or better - replace the cream with natural yoghurt).
- Buy lean meat (ideally turkey, chicken or beef) and be sure to cut off any visible fat before you start cooking it.
Excessive sugar intake contributes to both unhealthy weight gain and obesity and increases the risk of dental caries. Studies have shown that sugars affect blood pressure and lipid levels serum. This shows that reducing sugar intake helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Remember - sugar is not harmful in itself, it is harmful to take in too much sugar, because then the amount of calories you need per day is exceeded, which in turn means that the excess will most likely be converted into fat. In the form of various snacks, you can collect a lot of extra calories during the day and as a result - as if you are not eating anything, but the weight is growing. Read more about sugars HERE.
Sugar consumption can be reduced by:
- Limiting the amount of sweet snacks, sweets and sweetened beverages in the diet (carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks, fruit and vegetable juices, energy and sports drinks, prepared teas and coffees, flavored milk drinks, etc.).
- Replacing sweet snacks with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Salt (sodium and potassium)
WHO nutritionists believe that reducing salt intake to a recommended level of less than 5 grams per day could help prevent 1.65 million deaths a year. And again, don't get me wrong - salt is not a poison and our body needs it, it just shouldn't take in too much.
People often do not know how much salt they consume, because most of the salt comes from industrially processed products (Meat - bacon, ham, sausages. Cheese. Various salty snacks. Broth cubes. Soy and fish sauces, etc.).
Salt consumption can be reduced by:
- When using spices that increase the sensitivity of taste receptors to salt (such as hot peppers).
- Limiting the proportion of industrially processed food on your menu.
- Without the use of salt and high-sodium sauces,
- Restricting the consumption of savory snacks.
- By reading product labels and choosing products with a lower salt content.
- Adding more potassium-rich vegetables and fruits to your diet because potassium can reduce the negative effects of excessive sodium intake on blood pressure.