What is healthy eating?

What is healthy eating?

When we think about what healthy eating is, the first idea that comes to mind is that we will have to eat only salad to avoid excessive calorie intake and the consequent weight accumulation.

Although the consumption of vegetables is essential, this concept does not encompass all the characteristics that make a diet balanced.

A good diet is related to the intake of the necessary nutrients to supply our daily demands, but, even more importantly, the focus must be on the foods that offer us these substances.

After all, the benefits of a healthy diet do not come from these isolated components, but from the combination of nutrients in a food or meal, considering from the different forms of preparation to the cultural and social dimension of a dish.

Thus, according to the Ministry of Health, food must meet the following criteria to be considered healthy:

Criteria for healthy eating

  1. Valuation of cultural aspects

The preferences and eating habits of each social group must be taken into account for a healthy diet, that is, it must include foods, forms of preparation and dishes that are common and appreciated according to the culture of a society.

  1. Guaranteed access and flavor

Unlike what is often imagined, healthy eating does not need to include expensive or difficult to access items, nor does it need to consist of meals with little flavor. On the contrary: it must be based on fresh foods that are widely available and that allow nutritious and tasty combinations.

  1. Variety of foods

The ingestion of different types of food is essential to offer all the nutrients necessary for the proper functioning of the body.

  1. Color diversity

This criterion contributes to a varied diet and encourages the ingestion of healthy items, mainly fruits and vegetables.

  1. Harmony between foods

The harmony of the food concerns the quantity and quality of the food consumed, in order to supply the nutritional needs while respecting the cultural and social aspects of the food.

  1. Security

Finally, healthy eating needs to meet safety requirements and not offer risks related to physical, chemical or biological contamination.

How to have a healthy diet: know the food pyramid

Considering the criteria established by the Ministry of Health, the diet can be considered healthy when it contains fresh or minimally processed, varied, tasty, nutritious and safe foods. In addition, they must be consumed in the correct proportions so that there is no lack or excess of any nutrients.

It was from these concepts that the food pyramid was developed, a graphic representation of the foods that are part of a healthy diet. For this, these foods are divided into 8 groups distributed over 4 floors, indicating the proportion with which they should be consumed. Watch:

Image: IFTM

The pyramid must be read from the bottom up, so that the foods on the lower floors are those that should be consumed in greater quantities:

  • Group 1:at the bottom of the pyramid is the group of foods rich in carbohydrates such as  brown rice ,  potato ,  sweet potato ,  potato, parsley ,  parsnip ,  green corn ,  quinoa , oats, cereals, bread and pasta;
  • Group 2:on the second floor, the vegetable group brings greens and  vegetables , including lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, endive, pumpkin,  beets , carrots, chayote, etc .;
  • Group 3:fruits and natural juices complement the vitamins, minerals and antioxidant substances supplied by vegetables in group 2;
  • Group 4:the third floor of the pyramid has foods that provide proteins. Thus, in group 4, we have milk and its derivatives, such as cheese and yogurt, which are still a source of calcium;
  • Group 5:with  beef ,  pork ,  poultry , fish and eggs, group 5 is the richest in protein, but should be consumed in moderation because it is a source of cholesterol;
  • Group 6:to finish the protein stage, this group includes legumes (such as  beans ,  lentils ,  chickpeas  and  soybeans ) and oilseeds (such as chestnuts and nuts). These foods provide vegetable protein, that is, cholesterol-free;
  • Group 7:at the top of the pyramid, there is the group of oils and fats, which includes butter, vegetable oils and olive oil. Because they are very caloric, they should be consumed in small amounts;
  • Group 8:sharing the top floor with the group of oils and fats, the group of sugars and sweets contains foods such as refined sugar, brown sugar, chocolates and other treats that should also be consumed in moderation.

To have a healthy diet, all groups must be consumed throughout the day, always respecting the proportions. Therefore, no group should be totally excluded, and substitutions should be made between foods of the same type.

Thus, based on the food pyramid, a diet of 2,000 kcal per day, which is recommended for adults without health problems, should consist of the following portions:

Group Foods Calories per serving Daily Servings
1 Cereals, breads, roots and tubers 150 kcal 6
2 Vegetables and vegetables 15 kcal 3
3 Fruit 70 kcal 3
4 Milk, cheese and yogurt 120 kcal 3
5 Meat, poultry, fish and eggs 190 kcal 1
6 Legumes and oilseeds 55 kcal 1
7 Oil and fat 75 kcal 1
8 Sugar and candies 110 kcal 1

In addition, it is important that these foods are divided into three main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and three intermediate meals (morning snack, afternoon snack and supper).

Benefits of healthy eating

Following a healthy diet is one of the main pillars to ward off the risk of disease and maintain a good quality of life. Thus, by offering nutrients in the correct proportions to your body, you enjoy a series of benefits, for example:

  • Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight:a balanced diet, based on fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, offers the number of calories necessary to maintain body functions without causing weight gain;
  • Good bowel function: inaddition to preventing constipation, fibers favor beneficial bacteria in the intestine (probiotics), which reduces inflammatory processes and prevents diverticulitis and colorectal cancer;
  • Diabetes prevention and control:by having a healthy weight, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is reduced. In addition, a balanced diet with a high fiber content helps to control the blood sugar level;
  • Protection of cardiovascular health:because it is rich in antioxidants and low in cholesterol, a healthy diet helps to protect the heart and blood vessels, preventing strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems;
  • Prevention and fight against cancer: while ultra-processed foods are rich in chemical additives that overload the body, a healthy diet offers important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to prevent and fight different types of cancer;
  • Improved mood and memory: substances such as vitamins C, D and E, omega-3, flavonoids and polyphenols, which are found in a healthy diet, contribute to the fight against depression and to the proper functioning of cognitive and memory functions .

As you can see, having a healthy diet goes far beyond just eating salad. Likewise, the benefits from this habit are also much broader than just weight control.

Source (s):  Ministry of Health [1]  and  [2]  and  Anad

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