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What are the important foods for better living?

Eating healthy food is essential for better living. However, for a variety of reasons people find it difficult to eat the right food as they do not like the taste or they are oblivious to what is healthy. A ‘Healthy Diet’ is one that promotes and maintains good health and provides the body with all vital macronutrients and micronutrients. This is what a ‘balanced diet’ is according to World Health Organization and it is crucial for better living. In this article, you will get to know the important foods for better living and their positive effects on your health and well-being.

Nutrient-rich foods

It is a fact that people should take nutrient-rich foods as part of their diet. Foods that are nutritious are low in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats and they contain a lot of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals that the body requires. These foods nourish the body and aid in better living. Foods that are high in nutrients are

  • Grains
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  •  Dairy products
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Whole-Grain Foods: Grains are basic foods almost taken by all the people in the world. It consists of three main components; bran, nutrient-rich seeds, and endosperm which is rich in carbohydrates. Choosing whole grains over processed grains is important as it is the source of Iron, magnesium, vitamin B, and selenium. This is what a balanced diet contains. These foods contain

  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat
  • Whole grain rye
  • Whole oats

Consuming whole grain foods has been linked to lowering the risk of cardiac diseases, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.

Fruits and vegetables

The most significant components of a healthy diet are fruits and vegetables. These contain vitamin A, C, E, and other micronutrients like phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, and folic acid. Common types of fruits that are part of a balanced diet are

  • Pears and apples
  • Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons
  • Tropical fruits like pineapples
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes
  • Berries

Fruits and vegetables are low in sugar and salt and are an important source of dietary fiber that helps in ‘Weight Loss’ and lowers ‘Cholesterol levels in the body. These contain certain active substances that reduce the possibility of certain disorders including diabetes mellitus, cancer, blood pressure, and stroke. Vegetables that are included in the list of ‘food for better living’ are

  • leafy green vegetables- lettuce, spinach
  • cruciferous vegetables- cabbage, cauliflower
  • yam and potatoes
  • garlic, onions, and allium

Meat, Poultry, and Fish

A healthy diet must include reliable sources of protein; which is essential for growth and development. Meat and fish contain iodine, iron, zinc, vitaminB12, and omega 3. The protein present in meat and fish contains all Essential Amino Acids, vital for proper body functioning. Apart from this, a healthy routine is also a must for a better lifestyle. The iron present in meat has a higher rate of absorption and usage as compared to plant-based iron. An important source of vitamin D, phosphorus, and polyunsaturated fatty acid Omega 3 are Fish. Important sources of meat essential for a better living are

  • beef and lamb
  • chicken
  • salmon and other oily fish
  • tuna
  • shrimp and lobster

Dairy products

These include

  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • milk

Dairy products are an important source of Calcium and proteins. Research shows that gut health is critical to overall health. Probiotics, found in foods like yogurt and cheese, are beneficial to health and may help to preserve the gut flora in natural equilibrium.

Calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese are essential ingredients for strong bones for life.  The deficiency of calcium causes osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become brittle. Anti decay nutrients in dairy foods have a role in dental health. Milk is an essential component of a healthy diet as it reduces the risk of dental cavities and erosion.

Milk protein ‘casein’ is involved in the growth of muscle mass whereas other proteins contain all essential amino acids.

Dairy products reduce the risk of heart diseases, maintain blood pressure and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

Legumes

A balanced diet contains legumes or pulses which includes

  • beans
  • lentils
  • soya beans
  • peas
  • peanuts

These are enriched with vitamin B, antioxidants, and several minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. Legumes are the primary source of proteins and these foods are rich in dietary fibers crucial to digestive health.

Most importantly legumes and pulses reduce the risk of Diabetes and are also significant in managing this metabolic syndrome, hence necessary for better living.

Nuts: These contain high content of mono-unsaturated fats and are significant in the development and protection of the body. Proteins, fiber, vitamin K, E, thiamine, and folic acid are abundant in nuts.

Nutrient food sources

Macronutrients

Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are macronutrients and are a part of a healthy diet essential for better living. The human body requires these nutrients in larger amounts to function properly. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are the main energy source for our body.

Carbohydrates have a caloric value of 4kcal per gram. Proteins have a caloric value of 4kcal per gram while fat has a caloric value of 9kcal per gram.

Carbohydrate foods for better living

Starches, sugars, and fibers are carbohydrates and these are a significant part of a balanced diet.

Starchy carbohydrates are present in

  • beans
  • legumes
  • fruits like strawberries and apples
  • whole grain foods such as whole oats
  • corn, beans, and potatoes

Starchy carbohydrates have the benefit that they do not cause a sudden rise in blood sugar levels.

Fiber

Fiber is a complex healthy carbohydrate that aids in digestion. Experts recommend that 25-30 grams of fibers should be included in a healthy diet. High fiber foods are

  • fruits like apples
  • nuts such as walnuts and peanuts
  • vegetables like broccoli
  • pumpkin seeds
  • black beans and chickpeas

Fibers are important in lowering blood sugar levels and maintaining cholesterol levels in the body and hence must be taken for better living.

Sugars

Sugars are simple carbohydrates and result in a spike in blood sugar level after consumption so must be taken in specific amounts.  

  • RDA is 25g in the case of women
  • RDA is 36g in the case of men

Naturally occurring sugars are present in kinds of milk and fruits while Added sugars are present in juices, sodas, and ice creams, so these foods should be avoided.

People with diabetes are recommended to avoid excess carbohydrates as it helps in maintaining blood sugar levels.

According to USDA, a healthy diet is one in which half of the plate is devoted to fruits or vegetables, one quarter to whole grains, and one quarter to proteins.

Most people CUT their complete carbohydrate intake to promote weight loss, but it is not considered to be healthy. However, a low carbohydrate diet is recommended for diabetic patients or those with epilepsy.

Fats

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are referred as good fats and are a part of a healthy diet. These are obtained from

  • sesame oils
  • avocados
  • cashews and almonds
  • olives
  • soymilk
  • fatty fish
  • peanut butter
  • walnuts and hazelnuts
  • flaxseed
  • sunflower seeds

These foods help to lower the risk of cardiac diseases, LDL cholesterol levels, and hypertension and prevent forming embolisms. Adding healthy fats to the diet also promotes weight loss.

Omega 3 fatty acids are healthy fats found in fish meat. Research has shown that it

  • reduces symptoms of ADHA and bipolar disease
  • provides  protection against memory loss
  • reduces joint pain, gout, and skin dermatitis

Trans-unsaturated fats are referred to as bad fats and are present in

  • baked food items like pastries, cakes, and pizza
  • preserved foods
  • hydrogenated oils
  • fried items

 These foods not only boost LDL levels but also lower good HDL cholesterol levels and are associated with heart attacks, stroke, insulin resistance, and chronic hypertension. A balanced diet includes poly and monounsaturated fats while trans-unsaturated fats are completely eliminated for a better living and healthy life.

Proteins

Proteins are essential for immune functioning, growth, and hormone production. The RDA for protein is 0.8 g/kg of body weight. Foods that are enriched with proteins are

  • eggs
  • almonds
  • meat
  • fish
  • peanuts
  • cheese

Less intake of protein-based food results in

  • Edema
  •  Hair problems
  • Brittle nails
  • Infections
  • Muscle weakness

Hence it is concluded that a balanced diet consisting of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates is required in order to live a healthy life.

Micronutrients

Nutrients required in lesser quantities are micronutrients. These include VITAMINS and MINERALS. Micronutrients must be obtained from food items as the body cannot synthesize these.

Vitamins:

These are organic substances required for proper body functioning.

Water soluble vitamins:

These have a major role in energy-producing processes, so are essential for better living.

Vitamin B1

It is present in

  • Whole grains
  • Fish and meat

RDA for vitamin B1 is 1.2mg and deficiency of it leads to Sleeplessness, Depression and anxiety, Anorexia and irritability, and Constipation.

Vitamin B2

Vitamin b2 is present in

  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Milk

RDA is 1.3mg and deficiency leads to Anemia as it interferes with iron absorption, Blurred vision, eye disorders, Dermatitis, Migraine, and Skin disorders.

Vitamin B3:

Vitamin b3 is present in

  • Green vegetables
  • Beans
  • Meat

RDA for this vitamin is 14mg and deficiency of it leads to depression, mood changes, dementia, diarrhea and eventually death.

Vitamin B6: A must food for better living

Vitamin b6 ispresent in

  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Carrots and potatoes

RDA for this vitamin is 1.3mg and deficiency leads to neurological problems and seizures.

Vitamin B7

Vitamin b7 is present in

  • Eggs
  • Almonds
  • Spinach

RDA is 30mcg and deficiency leads to hair loss, muscle pain, fatigue and brittle nails.

Vitamin B9

Vitamin b9 is present in

  • Beef
  • Liver
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus

RDA is 400mcg and deficiency leads to fatigue, anemia, and muscle weakness.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is present in

  • Fish
  • Meat

RDA is 2.4mcg and lack of intake causes mouth ulcers, disturbed vision, and pale skin.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is present in

  • Citrus fruits
  • Bell peppers
  • Brussels

RDA is 90mcg and deficiency causes Low immunity, Rough skin, Bleeding gums, Fatigue, and Weight gain.

A healthy diet must include food items containing these vitamins in the correct proportion for a person for better living.

Fat-soluble vitamins

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is present in

  • Retinol
  • Liver and fish
  • Carrot
  • Spinach

RDA is 900mcg and deficiency of this vitamin causes blindness.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is present in

  • Fish oil
  • Milk

RDA is 600-800IU and deficiency leads to poor Calcium metabolism and low immunity.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is present in

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds

RDA is 15mg and deficiency causes decreased bone growth and blood disorders.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is present in

  • Pumpkin
  • Green vegetables

RDA is 90-120mcg and deficiency causes cell damage as it acts as an antioxidant.

Mineral-based foods

Important minerals that must be considered in a healthy diet are ‘Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, chloride, and potassium’ while other trace minerals are ‘iron, manganese, copper, fluoride, and zinc’. These minerals are mostly present in

  • Oyster
  • Chickpeas and beans
  • Pineapple
  • Peanuts and cashews
  • Yogurt
  • Juices and water
  • Dairy products
  • green vegetables like spinach

Conclusion

This led to the conclusion that foods containing all macro and micronutrients in specific amounts are deemed nutritious and beneficial to living.

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