How To Understand The Basics Of Good Nutrition

Most of us like to think we know about nutrition, but do we? We know we're supposed to eat fruit and vegetables and yet fast food is more popular than ever and we all know that we are expected to drink over 1 l liters of water a day and yet soft drinks sell more than ever. So do we really know about nutrition or do we just not care? In the current climate of vitamin supplements and general food paranoia, we can often forget that all it takes to stay fit and healthy – along side sufficient exercise – is a good, balanced diet. Instead of guzzling heavily marked super-foods or breaking down in tears after every chocolate bar, all we need to do is pay attention to what we eat, making sure we get the right amount of each of the following food groups;


Starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta should make up 30% of our diet (men should aim for six to seven servings per day, women five to six). Starch and other carbohydrates are a great energy source – much better than fats. Grains are also loaded with insoluble fiber, which, because the body can not digest it, helps carry other food and waste through the digestive system. Fiber also offers to make us feel full, so we are less likely to overeat.

Meat, fish, eggs and beans

These foods should make up about 12% of our daily diet. They are our main source of protein, which helps keep our body tissue strong and our immune system healthy. They also contain several critical vitamins and minerals without which our bodies could not function. Around 170g (6oz) of meat or fish per day is enough to keep us healthy, but too much meat can rise cholesterol levels, increasing the chances of developing heart disease. Fish is a better alternative, and we should try to eat at least two portions of fish or shellfish a week.

Fruit and vegetables

These should institute 30% of our diet. Treat the five-a-day as a minimum (five to nine servings are recommended), as these foods are our best source of vitamins and minerals as well as being very low in fat. Drinking fruit juice, adding dried fruit to cereal, and using vegetables or pulses in stir-fries and curries are all ways to improve our fruit-and-veg count, and can go a long way to improving our health. So-called super-foods such as blueberries and broccoli are obviously a good part of any diet, but it's important not to focus too much on them – often the super-food tag is little more than a marketing gimmick.

Milk and dairy

Dairy products should account for about 15% of our diet – around three servings a day is fine. As well as providing protein and vitamins A and B12, dairy products are a great source of calcium, which keeps our bones strong and healthy. Although cheese is often derided for its fat content, a little bit is fine. A bigger worry is the salt content of many cheeses and butters. Adults should be eating no more than 6g of salt every day, and levels approaching this figure are often included in these products. It's always a good idea to check the label.

Fatty and sugary food

Cakes, chocolate and the like should only make up about 7% of our diet. This means that although there's no need to completely abstain from sweet or fatty foods, moderation is the key. The odd chocolate bar or rich pudding is fine; gorging yourself on chocolate biscuits less so. It's important to have some fat in our diet – it helps the body absorb vitamins and is a good source of energy and amino acids – but fat levels need to be kept to a minimum, particularly properly processed and trans fats. These fats are linked with heart disease and strokes, so it's best to steer clear. Switching to unsaturated fats (which can be found in fish, nuts and plant oils) can actually reduce cholesterol levels – again, it's best to eat them in moderation.

The Perfect Balanced Daily Diet [];

Cereal with semi-skimmed milk Fruit juice

Tomato and mozzarella sandwich on wholemeal bread

Piece of fruit

Fruit juice

Sweet (chocolate bar / brownie etc)

Grilled chicken / salmon with sauce Boiled potatoes Broccoli Green beans

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