Importance of a Balanced Diet – How It Can Enhance Your Health

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importance of balanced diet

A well-balanced diet consists of all the essential foods needed by our bodies for energy and nutrients for growth and repair. Here’s a refresher on why eating a balanced diet is important, and how diet and health are connected.

What Defines a Balanced Diet?

A balanced diet for good health by definition consists of different varieties of food that offer all the essential carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals that our body require for healthy functioning. Here are 5 ways in which a balanced diet benefits our body:

1. Growth and Development

The body is under a constant process of growth and repair. It needs nutrients in the form of protein, vitamins and minerals to form new cells. A balanced diet involves servings of fruits and vegetables, and lean protein from sources such as lean meats, nuts, and whole grains.

2. Weight Control

A well-balanced diet can also help in weight control in people who are overweight or people who are working to maintain a steady weight. Such a diet involves low-calorie foods that are dense in nutrients and fibre which satisfy hunger without the extra calories.

weight control

3. Supplies Energy

A calorie is a unit for energy obtained from foods. Foods with higher calories give you energy to stay alert and functioning all day. However, intake of more calories than what you need can cause weight gain.

4. Builds Immunity

Foods rich in Vitamins like A, C, E, selenium and potassium are essential for building a robust immune system that can fight off infections to keep you healthy.

builds immunity

5. Improves Mental Well-being

Along with making you strong and improving your immunity, balanced diets consisting of fish, high-quality meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables can boost mental health.

What are the Advantages of Having a Balanced Diet?

  • Choosing a balanced diet is the first step toward a happy and healthy lifestyle.
  • Vitamins and minerals are vital to maintaining healthy immunity and growth.
  • Healthy diets can protect the body from lifestyle related, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, skeletal problems and many types of cancer.
  • Balanced diets, along with fighting obesity, help maintain optimal body weight.

Why Is a Balanced Diet Important for Children?

  • Because children are continuously growing, a balanced diet which includes all the essential nutrients is vital for their development. Lack of it can lead to deficiency diseases, stunted growth and delayed milestones.
  • Their diet influences everything, from children’s brain functions to behavioural patterns. It is also critical to prevent a number of childhood disorders such as obesity and diabetes.
  • Vitamins such as vitamin C are important for building immunity and formation of collagen which is a protein needed to make healthy bones, joints, skin and blood vessels. Vitamin B is essential for the energy cycle of the body along with build and repair.
  • Minerals such as calcium are critical for the development of bones, teeth and other functions of the body. Iodine is needed for brain development, concentration and learning ability. Zinc is needed for normal growth and development along with good immune functions.
  • The importance of a balanced diet for children can be seen in the contrast between healthy children who grow up getting all the nutrients, and children with deficiency disorders and stunted growth due to lack of nutritious food.

balanced diet is great for kids

Importance of Balanced Diet During Pregnancy

Pregnant women are not only eating for the nourishment of their own bodies, but also for the growth and development for their babies. Because of this, their energy requirements (macronutrients) and requirements of vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) go up. For example, women’s energy requirement goes up by 240 calories per day during their second trimester and 453 calories per day during their third trimester to support fetal growth. Their requirement of iron is up by 975 milligrams to make all the extra blood needed to nourish the baby. A balanced diet consisting of lean meats, veggies, fruits, nuts, whole grains, dairy and healthy fats contains all the essential nutrients needed to nourish the growing fetus.

What Constitutes a Balanced Diet?

At the core of a balanced diet are all the foods that give us the essential nutrients. They include:

1. Protein

Protein is required for the growth and repair of the body. It is abundantly found in animal products and less densely found in plant derivatives.

How It Helps 

It is required for the growth of muscles, hair, to repair the body in case of injuries and any other physical processes.

How Much to Consume 

The average requirement for women is 45g, and the average for men is 55.5g per day. This number applies to highly functional individuals who have days filled with activities.

Sources 

Some of the rich sources include meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, pulses, soya products and nuts.

proteins

2. Fruits and Vegetables

These are essential to supply the body with nutrients that animal products fall short of.

How It Helps 

Fruits and vegetables offer vitamins, minerals, fibre and some protein that are important for the body. They are needed to keep diseases at bay.

How Much to Consume 

Recommended is at least 5 servings per day, with each serving consisting of different fruits and vegetables of different colour.

Sources 

They can be had as snacks between meals for best absorption. Fruit juices and smoothies are also a great way to add them to the diet.

3. Dairy

Dairy products are derived from farm animals and involve milk, cheese, yoghurt etc.

How It Helps 

Dairy products are rich in calcium, protein and good bacteria that improve our digestion. Calcium is needed to maintain healthy teeth and bones and for the development of the fetal skeleton in pregnant women.

How Much to Consume

The recommended intake of dairy products is three portions every day. Children and teens need more dairy as they are undergoing rapid growth.

Sources 

Yoghurt, milk, fromage frais, cheese etc. are some of the main dairy products.

dairy products

4. Carbohydrates

These are energy giving foods.

How It Helps 

Carbohydrates are needed to release energy in our body throughout the day for our activities.

How Much to Consume 

Carbohydrates should be taken with every meal.

Sources 

Potatoes, whole wheat cereal, rice, whole wheat bread, nuts, beans, lentils.

5. Fatty Foods

Fatty foods are essential for many of the bodily functions.

How It Helps 

Fats are essential to transport vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E and K through the body. Essential fatty acids are also important for the brain.

How Much to Consume 

Fats should ideally make up about 35% of your total energy intake.

Sources 

Dairy, nuts, grilled fish and lean meats.

fatty food

How to Encourage Your Child to Eat a Balanced Diet

  • Be a role model for them. Children imitate adults, and when they see you eating healthy, they’re likely to follow.
  • Teach healthy eating habits early on in childhood and avoid fatty, addictive foods as much as you can.
  • Make healthy snacks and treats for them every day, such as whole grain crackers, sliced apples, carrot sticks, raisins etc.
  • Do not force them to eat what they dislike; instead, incentivise eating the disliked ones for a reward such as a snack they enjoy.
  • Get them involved in growing vegetables or fruits if you have space for it. They are more likely to want to eat something they have put effort into producing.

FAQs

1. What Are the Consequences of an Unbalanced Diet?

Unbalanced diets can cause malnutrition and deficiency diseases.

2. What If My Child Is a Picky Eater and Doesn’t Eat Foods He Needs to Grow?

Make snacks out of foods he avoids that look delicious (and taste as well). Serve fruit smoothies with small portions of vegetables blended into it.

3. What If I Don’t like Vegetables?

You can always pair groups of vegetables you don’t like along with the ones that you do in a serving and eat them together to ease your dislike.

Having a balanced diet is the ideal way to acquire all the vital nutrients your body needs, and is key to a healthy lifestyle.

Also Read :

Foods to Eat for Healthy Heart and Long Life
Reasons for Switching to Organic Foods
Health Benefits of Ghee