What is A Healthy Diet?

It is widely understood that a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to avoid many long-term illness and disease. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise and not smoking are some of the simple ways a healthy lifestyle can be achieved.

Diet

A healthy diet can help to sustain your body and allow it to perform daily tasks with ease. A healthy diet gives the body the right fuel to function and helps to avoid injuries and stress. It comprises of all the major food groups i.e. carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fibre.

Figure 1, Healthy, balanced diet chart. From Macmillan Cancer Support

  • Carbohydrates or starchy foods that should ideally makeup a third of our diet. They include foods like bread, rice, pasta and potatoes. To help increase fibre intake or to make them an even healthier option, you may wish to choose high fibre or wholegrain varieties. Carbohydrate foods are a great source of energy for the body.
  • Fruits and vegetables are another important food group that give the body the required fibre, vitamins, and minerals it needs to function. The recommended daily amount is at least 5 portions (fresh, frozen, tinned or juiced) of fruits and vegetables per day and overall, this should also be approximately a third of our diet.
  • Proteins are also an important part of a healthy diet. They help the body to repair itself and provide essential amino acids, vitamins like B12, iron and zinc. Foods like meat, chicken, fish, beans and pulses are all good sources of protein. It is healthier to choose lean cuts of meat and to avoid the fat. Oily fish can also provide the body with essential omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Fish should be eaten at least 2 times per week. Pulses like beans and lentils are also a great source of protein and make a good alternative for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
  • Dairy foods are also a great source of protein, healthy fats and essential vitamins like calcium that help keep our bones healthy. They can include milk, cheese and yoghurts. It is always better to go for low-fat options or consume them in a moderate manner.
  • Although the term “fats” is not always considered healthy, our bodies do require small amounts of fats to maintain healthy functions. Fats also provide energy for the body so they can be a good fuel before strenuous activities or at the beginning of the day. Unsaturated fats are a lot healthier than saturated and can be found in vegetable oils like olive oil and sunflower oil.
  • Saturated fats which are typically found in processed foods are unhealthy and can cause problems like weight gain, higher cholesterol and eventually lead to
  • heart problems. Avoiding foods like crisps, chocolates, cakes, and sugary drinks can help to reduce your intake of saturated fats. 
  • Trans-fats are a type of saturated fat and can be a real hidden danger. These types of fats are used in a vast majority of processed foods that are available on our supermarket shelves. Foods like frozen pizzas, chips, ready meals have a high trans-fat content. Trans-fat is also a major component in south Asian fried foods, like samosas. This type of fat raises bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and can lower your good cholesterol (HDL). Ultimately, research shows that consuming high amounts of trans-fats will increase your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and strokes. 
  • Avoiding these types of fats by reading the labels when grocery shopping and avoiding foods with high saturated fat content can help reduce your risk. 
  • Similarly, switching to grilling or baking instead of frying can also help to reduce your intake. 
  • Water is essential to life and for maintaining a healthy body and mind. 
  • Drinking 8 glasses of water a day is recommended to help keep you hydrated and alert. It is also essential for flushing out toxins from the body. Plain water, juices, smoothies all contribute towards your water intake for the day, however plain water is the best option as it does not contain any hidden sugar or salt content.
Safeena - Muslim Cancer Support Network

Safeena - Muslim Cancer Support Network

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