I think we are all aware of the importance of having a diet that is rich in nutrients, but do we really know what constitutes a nutritious meal? Lets start by looking at the different types of nutrients, what they do for us and the foods they can be found in: –
These are know as the big nutrients and consist of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. You should avoid crash diets that drastically cut any of these nutrients from your diet, as they are needed by your body on a daily basis.
Proteins are your bodies building blocks and are vital for the composition of muscle structure, skin and organ tissue. Protein is also essential for a healthy immune system.
Foods rich in protein include: –
Carbohydrates are the fuel your body needs to function properly, as they provide a great source of energy. Popular diets in recent years (such as the Atkins diet) have excluded carbohydrates, but this can ave you feeling sluggish and very tired. Try and fill your diet with complex carbs rather than the ones found in sugary snacks which have little nutritional value.
Complex carbohydrates (the healthy ones) can be found in: –
- Whole Grain Bread
- Whole Grain Breakfast Cereal
- Fresh Fruit & Vegetables
It is easy to think that all fat is bad for you, the truth is though that a certain amount of fat is essential for healthy cell structure and the insulation of the body. You should try to avoid saturated fat (which raises Cholesterol) and eat foods which contain unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) can be found in: –
- Olive Oil
- Vegetable Oil
As well as macronutrients, we also have another group of nutrients which are called micronutrients. Micro means small and these are nutrients that our bodies need in small amounts. These are the vitamins and minerals that we need in our diet on a daily basis.
Micronutrients include: –
Vitamin A, B, C, D, E & K
Vitamins D and K can be produced by the body but the majority of vitamins can be found in the food we eat. A varied and sensible diet should provide all the vitamins you need, although there are also supplements available. Having extreme vitamin deficiencies in your diet can lead to poor health.
Minerals are vital for promoting healthy teeth, bones and muscles.A diet rich in fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains, lean meat, fish and dairy should provide all the minerals and vitamins that your body needs.
But how nutritious is your diet? A lot of processed foods (such as ready meals, frozen meals) bought at the supermarket have a lot of calories and saturated fat content, but very little nutritional content. The same is true of junk food, fast foods and takeaways. If you are in doubt about a food products nutritional value, always read the food labels.
Remember that fresh is always best, so pack your diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and prepare balanced meals with wholesome fresh ingredients. You will lose weight and feel great with a well balanced diet packed with nutrition.