What Does a Healthy Diet Really Look Like?

May 23 2017

Take five different health magazines and you’ll find five different perspectives on good nutrition. Nowadays, it’s easy to get confused on what healthy eating looks like. For a vegan, good nutrition involves going meat free. Athletes will tell you that a balanced diet should be high in protein and complex carbs. Some experts claim that gluten, dairy, and grains have no place in a healthy diet.

What’s Good Nutrition All About?

With so much conflicting information, most people don’t know what to eat anymore. The food choices you make each day impact your health. Certain foods can prevent diseases and boost immunity. Some may even lower your risk cancer and reverse aging. Others weaken your immune system, cause weight gain, and deplete calcium from your bones.

What you should eat also depends on your health and fitness goals. An athlete or a bodybuilder has special nutrient requirements. Diabetics require a different diet than those with celiac disease or lactose intolerance. If your goal is to lose weight, you might have to limit certain foods that considered healthy. For instance, starches are a staple of good nutrition, but boast large amounts of carbs that may keep you from losing weight. Nuts and vegetable oils are chock full of nutrients, but have a high calorie content, so they should be consumed in moderation.

Healthy Eating Essentials

Good nutrition should provide your body with optimum amounts of micro and macronutrients. Protein, fats, and carbs are the three primary macronutrients and can be used for energy. Thus, you need them in large amounts.

The more active you are, the higher your protein intake should be. Athletes and active individuals need more protein and complex carbs to recover from training and reach their fitness goals. Dietary fat is essential too. Good fats, such as those found in olive oil, avocado, sardines, salmon, tuna, and nuts, fight inflammation and delay aging. They also promote cardiovascular health and lower bad cholesterol levels.

Vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals are classified as micronutrients. These compounds regulate metabolism and immune function, support cell growth, and assist with digestion. Some nutrients, such as vitamin C, increase immunity and enhance your natural defense mechanisms. Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption. Zinc and magnesium promote bone formation, regulate digestion, and keep your brain sharp.

A balanced diet should support your goals and keep your body functioning at its peak. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to good nutrition. Ideally, your daily calories and macros should come from whole, unprocessed foods, such as fresh fruit, veggies, seeds, raw nuts, lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy. Choose local and seasonal produce as often as possible. Organic foods are much healthier and nutritious than conventionally growth foods, so include them in your diet. They do have a higher price tag, but it’s worth the price. At the same time, it’s important to cut back on sugar, hydrogenated fats, additives, preservatives, and other chemicals. These compounds provide nothing but empty calories and cause long term damage to your health.