There is a tangible linkage of human health with the diet that we consume. Healthy eating is all about consuming a balanced diet with the right amount of nutrients – protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals which are pre-requisites for a healthy diet. We need to be mindful of the fact that our nutrient requirements keep changing, depending on our age, health condition and lifestyle. While enough has been written about what to eat and when to eat, people still don’t know how to consume a balanced diet. On this World Health day, let me throw some light on the key nutrients and their relevance for an active lifestyle.
Protein- Protein is essential for the growth and repair of body tissues, formation of enzymes, hormones and the maintenance of lean body mass or muscles. Research shows that over 70% of Indians have poor muscle health. People generally believe that muscles are important only for gym goers. Majority are not aware of the role of muscle health in maintaining an active lifestyle and averting disease. Muscular strength and endurance determine your body’s ability to move, lift things and do day-to-day activities.
Our body’s need for protein varies according to the age and condition. In general, 10 to 15 percent of your daily calories should come from protein. A healthy adult need to consume about 1gm protein/1kg of body weight (60 Kg individual should consume 60 g of Protein). Include quality protein in the diet such as eggs, fish, chicken, soya or protein supplements which are adequate in protein and fortified with vitamins and minerals. A 4-6-year-old child needs about 20 g of protein which doubles to 40 g for a 10-12-year old. It is very important that the children get right amount of protein during their growing years. If you are giving health drinks to your children, then make sure that it has the right amount of protein. A pregnant woman needs additional 23 g of protein than the woman of same age.
Fats- Dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help protect your organs and help keep your body warm. The essential fatty acids in fats also assist in brain development, blood clotting and managing inflammation. Eating foods with fat is definitely a part of a healthy diet. Just remember to choose foods that provide good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) and balance the amount of calories you eat from all foods with the amount of calories you burn. To avoid unhealthy weight gain, consumption of total fat should not exceed 30% of a person’s overall energy intake.
Carbohydrates- It is the main source of our body’s energy. It is important to select the source of carbohydrates wisely and use complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, whole grain fibers as the channel to introduce carbohydrates in diet as compared to simple sugars. For a healthy diet, sugars should represent less than 10% of your total energy intake. Reducing even further to under 5% has additional health benefits.
Vitamins & Minerals- They are present in food in minuscule amounts and are central for performing basic physiologic functions such as metabolism, immunity and digestion. Lack of vitamins and minerals causes specific deficiencies which become an impediment in leading a healthy life. Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and dairy products in your diet helps you meet nutrient requirement of most of Vitamins & Minerals.
The imbalance (Excess and Deficiency) in the consumption of above nutrients has fathered the rise of non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases which contribute to 60% of overall deaths in India. Food plays an important role in preempting the non-communicable diseases and dietary modifications supported by lifestyle change can be a leap towards leading a healthy life.
Individual action is required to deal with the cascading impact of inadequate nutrition on our health and well-being. Considering that achieving good health is about food that you eat and a lifestyle that you lead, it is important to be cognizant what you eat and how much physical activity you pursue as it is the basic formulae for a healthy life.
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