In this, our second part of our two-part series on a healthy diet, we will go into some specifics of what you need in a healthy diet. In our first part, we presented the need for a healthy diet plan. Now, we will go into specifics of the execution of that plan. There are reasons why you need to consume foods in the five food groups in appropriate portions. You need to give your body the fuel it needs to get through the day and the vitamins and minerals to keep it healthy. Finally, you need to hydrate with water to keep your blood pressure in the right range and to deliver your cells the things they need while transporting waste to be expelled from the body. We’ll also present things to cut out of your diet for the best health results.
When I started to notice I wasn’t eating right, I came up with a plan to improve that aspect of my life. It involved a two-pronged approach: limiting my consumption of fast foods and doing a self-evaluation of the foods I was buying to fix myself. Limiting consumption of fast foods is pretty self-explanatory. Those foods are convenient; but, generally have more of the bad stuff you shouldn’t be eating and less of the stuff you should. The second prong involved stepping back for a moment when I was going through the checkout line at the grocery store and evaluating what I was buying. Did I have fresh fruits and vegetables? Was I buying lean meats and fish? How much sugar was represented in my groceries? Was the bread I was buying whole-grain? In this way, I ate more of the things which were healthy for me and less of the things that weren’t. It wasn’t an easy process and, I have to admit, not every shopping experience resulted in a “perfect” mix of foods. Still, I began to buy the right foods and saw a corresponding improvement in the way I looked and felt. Confirmation.
Still, it wasn’t easy. So many of the food choices we see advertised today are unhealthy for us. It’s not enough to simply fill up on fruits and vegetables (although, they are important). Apples, oranges, carrots, beets, blueberries, strawberries, beans, and on and on. Those are the types of foods that help provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function efficiently and stay healthy. You may have sworn off many vegetables as a kid. But, you can’t afford to do so as an adult.
The rest of your diet needs to include foods from those other groups. Lean meat and fish help supply the body with protein to support your muscles. They also provide vitamins and minerals not readily available in other foods. One other potential benefit of eating fish is the fish oil you will consume. Fish oil gained prominence in the 1980s-1990s as a potential treatment to reduce bad cholesterol. It became a “go-to” cholesterol treatment prescribed by many doctors. However, later studies call into question whether fish oil actually provides the represented benefits. I like fish; so, I make it a featured part of my diet whether fish oil is beneficial or not. You will have to make your own decision.
Dairy sometimes gets a bad rap. Regardless, it needs to be part of your diet. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to be consuming ice cream or whole milk. Low-fat dairy products are preferred. You should avoid cheese in most instances. One popular dairy product that has significant dietary benefits is yogurt. Yogurt helps replace the good bacteria in our gut which aids digestion. You can be eating all the right foods in your diet; but, if your body has difficulty processing it, your diet may be self-defeating.
This may sound contrary to any diet advice you have ever heard. You need to be eating SOME starchy foods like bread (make it whole-grain), rice, pasta, and potatoes. The reason why is pretty simple: those foods provide your body the energy it needs to power your increased physical activity. Remember, you need to be exercising regularly and starchy foods provide your body the fuel it needs to make that happen.
Finally, with your cells burning more energy and your joints needing lubrication to support your exercise habits, it’s important that you consume plenty of water. The water will help keep your cells vibrant. Don’t be surprised if you are fatigued (especially initially) after exercising. While you cool down, make sure to drink lots of water. Then, throughout the day, continue to drink water at every opportunity. This will be much healthier for you than drinking pop, tea, coffee or even sports drinks. It’s recommended to drink at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water every day.
Things Not Part of a Healthy Diet
Okay, here’s the part of a diet article you hope never appears. So far, it’s been full of advice on what you are supposed to eat. Now it’s time to address all those delectable things you should avoid.
When you’re trying to put together a healthy diet (especially to lose weight) what’s the one thing you must avoid? That thing is fat. If you are preparing your food yourself, it’s relatively easy to avoid fat. However, that task becomes much harder if the food you are buying is processed food. If you’re eating something processed, the odds are pretty good that it will contain hydrogenated fat. This is the worst kind of fat that studies confirm helps speed cardiovascular disease and obesity. You should avoid sausages, lard, butter, cake, pastry, cream, biscuits, and any other foods whose labels include hydrogenated fat in the ingredients. My mouth is watering a little bit after writing this paragraph.
Another thing you should eliminate to create a healthy diet is excess sugar. Your body needs fuel, and as we discussed in an earlier paragraph, starches help provide that fuel. Those starches are comprised of chains of sugar molecules. So, if you are getting an appropriate amount of starches in your diet, you don’t need any more sugar. The simple sugars you get from eating fruits high in fructose are commonly known as carbohydrates. Those simple sugars also contribute to your body’s needs. The sugars you need to avoid are found in pop, some cereals, and especially candy. Feel free to get dressed up at Halloween. Just remember not to overdo eating the candy you might accumulate trick-or-treating.
Finally, you need to moderate your intake of salt. The chemical composition of salt is sodium chloride. It is a necessary part of a healthy diet. Appropriate levels of sodium help promote healthy blood pressure by regulating blood fluids. Salt is important for the health of your kidneys, liver, and heart. A proper level of salt intake is 1500 mg-2300 mg per day. If you are eating a healthy diet, you can get your recommended daily salt consumption from dairy products, seafood, meats, some vegetables, and eggs you are already eating. Unfortunately, many of us in the US consume an abundance of salt in the processed foods we eat. Some are consuming up to and more than 3400 mg of salt per day. That’s more than 50% above the recommended daily consumption of salt. You can see where there is ample opportunity to reduce salt intake and help avoid the unhealthy effects of too much salt. These include dementia, kidney disease, strokes, and heart attacks.
Making sure you have a healthy diet takes some effort but it isn’t that difficult. You need to have a plan that includes eating foods from the five food groups in the proper proportions. To make it easier to avoid boredom which can derail your healthy diet plan, you need to get creative and mix up your meal choices. Hydration with water is absolutely critical to regulate your blood pressure and keep yourself healthy. Finally, you need to avoid hydrogenated fats, and excess sugar and salt. By following the advice in this article, you will be well on your way to enjoying the benefits of a healthy diet.