A healthful diet: Factors and tips

Healthful eating means consuming nutrient-dense foods in the right quantities from all the food groups.

People often think of a diet as a specific weight-loss plan, but diet is simply the types and amounts of food we eat.

A good diet must include a balance of several food groups, as no single group can provide everything we need for good health.

With more than 2 out of every 3 American adults now considered overweight or obese, healthful eating habits are more important than ever.

There is so much information available that finding a suitable option can be overwhelming, but a few simple changes can make a diet more healthful and reduce the risk of numerous medical problems.

What is healthful eating?

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A balanced diet is central to healthful eating.

Having a balanced diet means choosing from all five main food groups, in the right quantities.

Whole grains

Examples of whole grains are wholemeal bread, pasta, and cereals, in which each grain includes the germ and bran.

To make sure the grains are whole grains, look for the word “whole” or “whole grain” on the nutritional information on the packaging.

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Choosing a variety of colors can help maximize the intake of nutrients.

The American Heart Association recommend consuming 8 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. This equates to about 4.5 cups per day for the average person who consumes around 2,000 calories.

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Juices labeled “100 percent” are considered part of this food group, but eating whole fruits or vegetables is better, as it will provide more fiber.

Research shows that a good intake of fruit and vegetables can protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

Protein

Vital for repairing tissues in the body, many protein-rich foods also contain high levels of minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc.

Excellent sources of protein include meats, fish, and eggs. Beans, nuts, quorn, and soya are protein options for those on a vegetarian diet.

Dairy

A calcium-rich diet promotes healthy bones and teeth. Dairy products are good sources of calcium. Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese are recommended.

Fats

Fats are important for brain health, energy, absorption of certain vitamins, and for skin, hair, and joint health.

Saturated fats are present in cream, fatty meat, and fried foods. Too much saturated fat can lead to heart disease.

Unsaturated fats are present in avocado and oily fish. They help reduce the “bad” cholesterol in blood.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that healthy fats should make up less than 30 percent of total calories.

Sugars

Sugars occur naturally in some foods, such as fruits, or they can be added as a sweetener. Too much sugar can lead to weight gain, heart problems, blood sugar imbalances, and other health issues.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend limiting added sugar to 6 teaspoons a day or less for women, and 9 teaspoons a day for men.

Tips

Choosing from all the food groups will not guarantee a balanced diet. Here are six tips to help you eat your way to better health.

Tip 1: Manage portion size

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