New Year, New Diet? Do It the Smart Way 0

01.01.2016

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New Year, New Diet? Do It the Smart Way

Basics: what does my body need to work efficiently?

Your organism contains tens of trillions of cells that are working around the clock to fulfill their given tasks – producing energy, protecting you from diseases, creating new building blocks for your system, sending nerve signals, moving muscles, and so much more.

Your cells need various components to be able to fulfill their tasks. You need to supply your cells with these components through food.

If some component is missing from your diet, it means some cells are not getting what they need to work efficiently – either some part of the cell's work is left undone or the cell needs to spend extra energy to produce a suitable replacement component. For example, iron is an important component of red blood cells, that carry oxygen from your lungs and transport it throughout your body. If you don't have enough iron, your body can't make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This can cause fatigue, shortness of breath and in some cases even anemia.

If you are eating too much of some components, it means your cells have to work overtime to either store them or break them down and remove them from your body. For example, eating too much salt will cause your cells to produce a lot of sodium, which reduces the ability of your kidneys to remove water from your body. The extra water puts a strain on your blood vessels, thereby increasing blood pressure.

Eating a balanced diet that includes enough of each component is the foundation to achieving a healthy weight and improving your overall health.

 

Each person is different – how can I find eating habits that suit me specifically?

There is no one diet that suits everyone. Your eating habits should support the strong sides of your health, and neutralize your health risks. Finding a good balanced diet will depend on other factors in your lifestyle, so you need to assess yourself as a whole. Eating habits are just one part of your overall health. You should also consider how active you are, if you have any habits that may affect your health (for example smoking, difficulty sleeping), if you have any health risks or chronic conditions, and so on.

This will allow you to choose foods that give you the most health benefits.

You can also take the health test on our front page. It analyses how your daily habits impact your health, and will show you the strong and weak sides of your health. You can also see recommendations on what you can do to improve. That will give you the awareness to choose a diet that suits YOU and you can be sure that you're not hurting your health by unknowingly making bad food choices.

 

The five food categories you need for a complete diet

When you have decided to lose weight or change your eating habits for another reason, you should make sure that you include everything necessary for your body.

These five food groups represent key nutrients that your body needs to work at maximal efficiency. Find out which food types you should eat more (or less) of.

1.    Fruit

What's included in this group:

  • pome fruits (apples, pears)
  • citrus fruit (oranges, mandarins, grapefruit)
  • stone fruit (apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums)
  • tropical fruit (bananas, papaya, mangoes, pineapple, melons)
  • berries
  • other fruits such as grapes and passionfruit.

 

Why fruits are good for you:

1)      Boosted immunity level: fruits compose of many anti-oxidants such as poly-phenolic flavonoids, vitamin-C, and anthocyanins. These compounds protect your body from oxidant stress, diseases, and cancers. They also increase your immunity level and help your body fight against diseases. 

2)      Improved digestion: fruits provide dietary fibre which helps to ward off cholesterol and fats, and helps to ensure smooth bowel movements as well as offer relief from constipation.

3)      Slowed aging process: fruits prolong the natural changes of aging. They are abundant in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Altogether these compounds protect you from damage and rejuvenate cells, tissues, and organs. You are protecting yourself from minor ailments like wrinkling of skin, hair-fall, and memory loss to major ailments like age-related macular degeneration (AMRD) of the retina in the eyes, Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancers, weak bones (osteoporosis), and more.

4)      Reduced health risks: vitamins such as vitamin C and E and different phytochemicals may reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions. Potassium and magnesium found in fruit have also been linked to lower blood pressure.

 

How much do I need: 2 servings per day.

Can be any fruit, including frozen, canned, and dried. Choose from a variety of colors to get the most benefits. Avoid fruit juice – it is high in energy but low in dietary fibre.

 

1 serving is about 5 ounces (85 kcal):

1 medium        apple, banana, orange, pear

2 small            apricots, plums

1 cup               diced or canned fruit (no added sugar)

Or only occasionally:

1/2 cup            fruit juice (no added sugar)

1/6 cup            dried fruit

 

 2.    Vegetables, beans and legumes

 

What's included in this group:

  • Dark green or cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbages, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale)
  • Root vegetables (potato, sweet potato, carrots, onions, shallots, garlic, bamboo shoots, swede, turnip)
  • Beans and legumes (pinto beans, navy beans, red kidney beans, soybeans, lima beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas, tofu)
  • Other vegetables such as tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, celery, pumpkin, squash, mushrooms, sprouts, zucchini, avocado, eggplant, okra, green peas, green beans.

 

Why they are good for you:

1)      Vitamins: this group provides you with vitamins, particularly important are vitamins A, E and C because they are not as common in other food groups, except fruit.

2)      Minerals: all yellow, orange and green vegetables are rich sources of magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron.

3)      Weight loss benefits: eating a wide variety of colorful vegetables at most meals means you will be eating plenty of lower calorie vegetables that help fill you up and control your weight.

4)      Boosted immunity: same as fruits, vegetables include many anti-oxidants that protect your body from diseases, and help the body develop the capacity to fight against these by boosting immunity.

5)      Prevents digestive problems: vegetables are packed with dietary fiber known as non-starch polysaccharides. These substances absorb excess water in the colon, retain a good amount of moisture in the fecal matter, and help its smooth passage out of the body. Eating enough fiber offers protection from conditions like chronic constipation, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and rectal fissures.

6)      Reduced risks:  vegetables (including legumes/beans) reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Also, by eating vegetables, especially colorful vegetables, there is a reduced risk of stroke and weight gain.

 

How much do I need: 5 servings per day.

Different vegetables can help protect our bodies in different ways, so it’s important to choose a variety. Note that starchy vegetables (such as potato, sweet corn) should only form a part of your daily vegetable intake. This is because they are higher in energy (calories) than other vegetables.

1 serving is about 2.5 ounces or 25-85 kcal:

1/2 cup            cooked green or orange vegetables (e.g. broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, spinach)

1/2 cup            cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils

1 cup               green leafy or raw salad vegetables

1/2 cup            sweet corn

1 small             potato

1 medium        tomato

 

 3.    Grains and cereals (mostly wholegrain)

What's included in this group:

  • Breads (wholemeal, wholegrain, white, rye, pita, lavash, naan, focaccia, crispbreads)
  • Breakfast Cereals (high fibre (wholegrain) oats, porridge, muesli, whole-wheat biscuits)
  • Grains (rice, barley, corn, polenta, buckwheat, spelt, millet, rye, quinoa, semolina)
  • Other products (pasta, noodles, rice cakes, couscous, bulgur, popcorn, flour)

 

Why they are good for you:

1)      Many nutrients: grains provide nutrients such as carbohydrates/starch (energy), protein, fibre and a wide range of vitamins and minerals including the B vitamins folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus. Whole grains are also naturally low in saturated fat and contain beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids.

2)      Prevents constipation: the high fibre in wholegrain cereals assist in the maintenance of the digestive system and helps prevent constipation.

3)      Better weight management: High fibre foods take longer to digest and create a feeling of fullness, which discourages overeating, so they can be an effective part of any weight loss program.

4)      Reduced risks: several studies have shown that wholegrains reduce risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Recent studies have also indicated a reduced risk of asthma, less gum disease and tooth loss, and healthier blood pressure levels.

5)      For vegetarians: wholegrain foods are particularly important in vegetarian diets as a source of iron and zinc.

 

How much do I need: 4-6 servings per day.

At least two thirds of grain foods eaten should be wholegrain because they include more fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than refined cereal foods (such as white bread).

1 serving is 120 kcal or:

1 slice              bread

1/2 medium    roll or flat bread

1/2 cup            cooked rice, pasta, noodles, barley, buckwheat, or quinoa

1/2 cup            cooked porridge

2/3 cup            wheat cereal flakes

1/4 cup            muesli

 

 

 4.    Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds, beans

What's included in this group:

  • Lean meats (beef, lamb, veal, pork, lean (lower salt) sausages)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, goose)
  • Fish and seafood (fish, shrimp, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, scallops, clams)
  • Eggs (chicken eggs, duck eggs)
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, pine nuts, walnut, macadamia, hazelnut, cashew, peanut, nut spreads, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts)
  • Legumes/beans (all beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, tofu)

 

Why they are good for you:

1)      Protein: this group includes foods that are considered protein rich. Protein is an important building block for our bodies – both development and repair. Your muscles, organs, eyes, skin and hair are all made from protein.

2)      Antibodies: protein forms antibodies that identify harmful bacteria and viruses in your system. They often work together with other immune system cells to destroy these antigens.

3)      Nutrient transportation: proteins are crucial for transporting nutrients around your body. For example, they bring oxygen out of our lungs and into cells, they help maintain our electrolyte levels by carrying potassium and sodium in and out of cells, and they transport vitamins between organs and cells.

4)      Blood production: lean meat is a good source of iron and B-complex vitamins. Iron promotes healthy red blood production and prevent anemia especially among women during their pregnancy.

5)      Reduced stress: the foods in this group have a lot of B-complex vitamins, zinc and Omega 3 fatty acids. An increase in Omega 3 fatty acids protects against inflammation and help ease symptoms of anxiety. This improves the mood and helps people to cope better with anxiety and stress.

6)      Weight loss benefits: your body will burn more calories to digest proteins, than it would while digesting fat or carbs. Also, a meal that is rich in protein will make you fell full for longer.

7)      For vegetarians and vegans: legumes provide many of the same nutrients as lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs and because of this they have been placed in this food group as well as the vegetable food group. They are essential in vegetarian and vegan eating patterns to get enough of the key nutrients found in this food group.

How much do I need:  2.5 servings per day for women, and 3 servings per day for men.

For ages 51 and over it is recommended to reduce by 0.5 serving/day. During pregnancy, 3-4 servings a day are recommended, due to the increased need for iron.

A serving is 120-140 kcal or:

2.5 ounces       cooked lean red meats such as beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat

3.5 ounces       cooked fish fillet or one small can of fish

2 large             eggs

1 cup               cooked or canned legumes/beans (such as  lentils, chick peas or split peas, preferably with no added salt)

2/3 cups          tofu

1 ounce           nuts, seeds, peanut or almond butter or other nut or seed paste (no added salt)

 5.    Milk products (and alternatives), mostly reduced fat

What's included in this group:

  • Milks: all reduced fat or full cream milks, plain and flavored, long life milks, powdered milk, evaporated milk, soy beverages (fortified with at least 100mg calcium/100mL)
  • Yogurt: all yogurts including reduced fat or full cream, plain and flavored, soy yogurt (calcium fortified)
  • Cheese: all hard cheeses, reduced or full fat for example cheddar, red Leicester, Gloucester, Edam, Gouda Soy cheeses (calcium fortified).

 

Why they are good for you:

1)      Strong bones: milk, cheese and yogurt provide calcium in a readily absorbable and convenient form.  Calcium helps build bone mass and improve bone health, providing protection from diseases like osteoporosis.

2)      Teeth: calcium and phosphorous in dairy products are beneficial for the development and maintenance of healthy teeth. Milk includes a protein called casein that protects teeth by forming a thin film on the enamel surface which prevents loss of calcium and phosphate from the enamel when the teeth are exposed to acids in the mouth.

3)      Healthy blood pressure: dairy foods contain a trio of minerals – calcium, potassium and magnesium, that may play an important role in maintaining healthy blood pressure.

4)      Reduced diabetes risk: studies have shown that the risk of risk of type 2 diabetes is reduced by consuming more dairy products, especially low fat dairy products. This may be thanks to the fact that dairy foods have a low glycaemic index, which helps to control blood sugar levels.

5)      Reduced cardiovascular risk: research over the last decade has shown that consuming milk, cheese and yogurt can protect us against heart disease and related conditions such as stroke and the risk of high blood pressure.

6)      Weight loss: it is thought that the calcium in dairy products helps us to lose weight by helping to breakdown body fat. Prefer low-fat dairy products. Low-fat milk actually contains slightly more calcium than full fat milk.

7)      Cultured dairy products like yogurt contain probiotics which provide a wide array of health benefits. Probiotics in the diet can enhance the good bacteria in the gut. They also have various health benefits and are a good source of many nutrients, including calcium, protein, iodine, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc. 

 

How much do I need: 2.5 servings per day. Women over 51 years need 4 servings/day. Men over 70 years need 3.5 servings/day.

Prefer low-fat milk products. Cheese is usually high in calories, saturated fat and salt and is best limited to 2-3 times a week.

A serving is 120-140 kcal or:

1 cup (250ml)        milk

1-1.5 ounces         hard cheese, such as cheddar

1/2 cup (120g)      ricotta cheese

3/4 cup (200g)      yogurt

1 cup (250ml)        soy, rice or other cereal drink with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/five-food-groups

http://www.healthyeating.org/Health-Wellness-Providers/Nutrition-Information/MyPlate.aspx

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/fruit-nutrition.html

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/vegetable-nutrition.html

http://www.newhealthguide.org/What-Does-Protein-Do-For-Your-Body.html

http://www.milk.co.uk/page.aspx?intPageID=73

http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/what-are-the-health-benefits

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