Nutrition is the intake of food which is necessary for survival. A healthy nutritional diet is essential for a healthy body and mind. A balanced diet helps in growth and development, strengthening the immune system, executing the all-important chemical and hormonal activities as well as cell reproduction. Food is further categorized into types and components that play a significant role in processing the biological mechanism at a very minute level. There is six main type of food that includes grain, milk products, Meat, fruits, vegetables, and oils. Water is the most important part of balanced nutrition. The major components retrieved from food are protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals that build our body healthy and immune. In this essay, the definition of a balanced diet is discussed under the WHO considerations. The essay also focuses on the important components of food and its significance in living mechanisms.
Keywords: Balanced diet, Nutrition, Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fats.
Introduction: What is food and balanced nutrition?
Food is necessary for survival, and nutrition refers to the consumption of food according to the body’s requirements. A balanced nutrition represents an appropriate quantity of multiple macro and micro nutrients that provides the potential for completing the necessities for survival by a person. A balanced nutrition strengthens the immunity and provides a power of fighting the disease causative factors. A fact sheet from World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted the basic informative facts on a healthy nutritional diet. A healthy nutritious diet protects us from non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular problems, cancer, and obesity. Physical activity is also a significant part of a healthy body, and when it is combined with a balanced nutritional diet, it can reduce the global risk of multiple health problems (WHO, Nutrition, 2016).
Nutritional Facts Recommended by WHO
According to the WHO fact sheet, healthy dietary practices, starts with birth. Breastfeeding is assumed the first best nutritional source for infants that help in developing healthy body and bones with improved cognitive capabilities. The impacts of breastfeeding have been effective for long term health benefits. The foremost advantage of breastfeeding is linked to the lesser risk of obesity and cardiovascular problems (Fieldhouse, 2013; WHO, Nutrition, 2016).
Nutrition in the form of food is broken down into energy components or calories in our bodies. For a balanced nutrition, the calorie intake should be maintained according to its expenditure. Several researchers have verified that fat intake should not be more than thirty percent of total energy consumption to avoid the unhealthy accumulation of fat tissues or obesity. The intake of salt less than 5g per day protects from hypertension, coronary problems, and strokes. WHO emphasizes to reduce the global salt intake by thirty percent. It is believed that these stats will help in fighting diabetes, obesity and other multiple problems in adults and children worldwide.
In November 2012, WHO launched a program called Global Database on the Implementation of Nutrition Action (GINA). The objective of GINA was to spread awareness about the nutrition at the global level. GINA is growing rapidly due to the requirement of such initiatives to tackle the related health problems (WHO, Nutrition, 2016).
Essential Components of Balanced Nutrition
A balanced nutrition includes sufficient intake of water and regular intake of foods from the main six food groups that are vegetables, fruits, grains, milk and dairy products, meat and oil. We acquire six kinds of nutrients from these foods that include protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. A balanced ratio of these nutrients is necessary for a healthy and disease free body. Moreover, the eating patterns are another essential determinant to maintain the health. Eating disorders are a critical issue that often results in fatal issues. Obesity and malnutrition is the product of negative eating behaviours. The requirement of food on a daily basis is different for every person which is calculated based on the height, weight, age and the level of the physical activity of that person. The BMI (Body Mass Index) method is the best measuring tool for determining the under-nutrition or excessive nutrition conditions WHO, Nutrition, 2016).
Types of Food
Grains: These are rich in carbohydrates such as starch; the legumes are the primary source of protein that includes nuts, pulses, chickpeas and beans. Grains when combined with certain protein sources such as legumes, dairy products and meat, they provide a complete food. Grains are also an excellent source of vitamins, and proteins.
Vegetables: These are the best source of vitamins, minerals, fibre, proteins and carbohydrate. WHO recommends 400g of vegetables and fruits per day for a healthy adult diet.
Fruits: These offer various vitamins and minerals and fibres. Fruits are the best source for acquiring a quick energy due to their sugar part. One twenty to one eighty ml of fruit juice is equivalent to one serving of food. Though, eating complete food is recommended because it provides fibres and other nutrients instead of only high sugar content.
Meat and Poultry Products: Meat, chicken, fish and soya beans offers a set of complete proteins when they are consumed with grain they provide essential amino acids.
Milk and Dairy Products: These products offer complete proteins along with the rich content of calcium. They are also enriched with vitamin A, and D. Nutritional experts recommend that in the case of insufficient calcium intake it is necessary to take calcium supplements especially for women. 200 ml milk glass is recommended by experts’ everyday.
Vegetable oils are also a good source of essential fatty acids. Iodized salts are recommended to be included in the food diet; it is a good source of sodium though a high salt consumption (9-12 g per day) contributes to blood pressure related problems.
Components of Food
Proteins are the backbone of the biological mechanisms as well as building units of human body. There are twenty different amino acids that are either produced by the body or acquired from the food sources. The digestion of protein results in their unit amino acid that is further utilized by the body for various biological processes. A complete protein contains all the essential amino acids. There are eight types of essential amino acids that are found in meat and other animal products, such as cheese, yogurts, eggs and milk. Partially complete protein food contains all the essential amino acids but in inadequate proportions such as legumes, grains etc. Proteins are essential components for cell and gene production multiple hormonal and enzymatic reactions body repair, muscle formation and defense against infections. Breast milk is a perfect balance of essential amino acids.
Fats: Fats are composed of carbon hydrogen and in dietary terms they are called triglycerides. Each triglyceride consists of three fatty acids that can be saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are mostly solid such as butter; they provide concentrated energy and contribute to high extent of blood cholesterol. Mono unsaturated fats present a healthy form of concentrated energy and are less harmful than poly unsaturated fats such as olive oil and peanut oil. Poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are essential for a healthy growth. These are of two types Omega-III fatty acids (Fish Oil) and Omega-VI fatty acids (Sunflower and Sesame oils). Fats are important mode of storing energy they are involved in the formation of cell membranes and body insulation.
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrate provides energy to brain, muscles, and other body parts. In combination with fats and proteins they play a significant role in the formation of cartilage, muscles, nervous system and immune system. The basic carbohydrate is known as Monosaccharide such as glucose and fructose. Fructose is found in fruits and galactose in milk. When two monosaccharide units combine the product is a disaccharide such as maltose of starch, sucrose of sugar and lactose of milk sugar. Starch is found in vegetables and grains whereas cellulose is a glucose polymer found in carbohydrates in the form of fiber. Carbohydrates are broken down into monosaccharide units during digestion which is further processed for circulation and storage by liver. The flood with high glycemic index such as bread, sugary beverages, and cookies are easily digested resulting in the elevated sugar levels that also increase the risk of diabetes.
Vitamin: Vitamins are organic compounds that are highly essential for executing the various essential life mechanisms. They can be divided into two types fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) and water soluble vitamins (B,C and Choline). The access of fat soluble vitamins may be toxic but the water soluble vitamins are eliminated through urine and so not toxic. Animals and green vegetables are rich source of vitamin A. Vitamin D is prevalently found in fish oils and fortified foods and it is synthesized on exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for the growth of healthy bones. Animals, peanuts, sunflower and flak seeds are good source of tocopherols or vitamin E. Vitamin K is essential for normal blood metabolism, which is found in cauliflower, cabbage, green leafy vegetables, cereals and through bacteria of gut. There are eight types of vitamin B that are collectively called as vitamin B complex. The source of vitamin B complex includes meat, egg, dairy products, cereal grains, lean meat and fruits and vegetables. Vitamin B especially B12 is useful for maintaining blood cells and nerve functions. The major sources of Vitamin C are citrus fruits, strawberries, blueberries, papaya and pineapple and certain other fruits and vegetables. Choline is found in egg yolk.
Minerals can be divided into two types, macro and micro. Macro-minerals are needed in large quantity such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and chlorine. Vegetables, meat and fruits are good source of macro minerals. Inside body the ninety-nine percent of calcium is attached with phosphorous, to make the skeleton strong. Magnesium helps in energy regulation and body metabolism. It is also essential for healthy tissues and bones.
Micro-minerals are needed in a very low quantity lesser than 2mg per day. Some significant micro-minerals include zinc, iodine, iron, copper, chromium and fluorine. Meat is the best source of iron that is essential for developing healthy red blood cells.
The best practice for a healthy diet is to build your food on starchy foods. On should have lots of fruit and vegetables. Fish intake with fewer intakes of saturated fat and sugar is recommended. Active and healthy lifestyle is the excellent secret to stay healthy.
Fieldhouse, P. (2013). Food and nutrition: customs and culture. Springer.
WHO | Nutrition. (2016). Who.int. Retrieved 22 April 2016, from http://www.who.int/topics/nutrition/en/