Nutrition 101 - Basic food groups, what is a balanced diet, why is it important and where do supplements fit in?

Nutrition 101 - Basic food groups, what is a balanced diet, why is it important and where do supplements fit in?

Posted by Bulk Nutrients on Feb 13, 2019 in #Feature Articles.

Nutrition is a study of science that enacts the interaction between nutrients and other like-substances, including chemicals such as phytonutrients and tannins, found in food, in relation to the health, growth and maintenance of a living organism. But just like technology, it feels like we cannot keep up with all the trends of dietary advice. There always seems to be a new fad diet or superfood we are told to include into our diets. It is undeniably true that the study of diet and nutrition are areas of evolving interest, but there are some basic concepts we should know.

There are five main foods groups we need to include daily into our diets, namely: vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and a protein group. A balanced diet is one that includes these five major food groups and gives your body the nutrition it needs to function properly on a daily basis. In order to get a truly balanced nutrition intake, you should obtain the majority of your daily calories from fresh fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates, good fats, dairy products and lean proteins. Fruit and vegetables are essential sources of nutrition, and are especially rich in vitamins and minerals. Five servings with variety is the minimal suggestion. For example, just one medium sized apple or pear is equal to one serving. Not only are fruits and vegetables vital sources of nutrition, consuming enough fruit and vegetables will improve your health and reduce risk of disease. By increasing fibre, it can reduce constipation and other IBS symptoms. Starchy foods, also categorised as your carbohydrates include breads, cereals, pasta, and rice, and are an extremely important part of a healthy diet and healthy body. These complex carbohydrates are an essential source of energy for the brain, and offer the most efficient energy to fuel our bodies. However, this food group should not excess more than 1/3 of our total dietary intake. Wholegrain or wholemeal alternatives are encouraged as they usually contain more fibre, and less sugar than white varieties. Protein includes your meat, fish, eggs and beans. Protein aids growth and repair for the body’s muscles, further helping with building muscle and recovery. Protein sources are nutritionally beneficial as they contain vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and the B-group vitamins. Fish is also particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Protein should be included in every meal and can include dairy foods such as yoghurt and milk, however these sources are more important for containing other vitamins such as calcium, for bone health. You should aim for an average of three servings of dairy products daily with a 250ml glass of milk being one serving example. Good fats; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are essential for good health. Other types of fats, namely saturated and trans saturated fats, are considered the bad fats. Dietary fats are considered sources of energy for the body, but if we over eat them (which most individuals do), we store it, and it becomes fat – resulting in weight gain. Saturated and trans saturated fats are found in mostly processed foods such as butter, fast foods, biscuits, and cakes. Good fats are found in fish, nuts, avocado and olive oil, and can help to lower cholesterol and provide us with the essential fatty acids needed to help us stay healthy. Fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil are also great sources of our good fats. Two servings of these good fats a day are suggested.

A balanced diet will give you all the proper nutrition you need for your body to work effectively. Without balanced nutrition, our bodies become more prone to fatigue, infection and disease. We lose concentration and have poor performance. When it comes to a healthy diet, balance is the key to getting it right. This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amounts to achieve normal weight status. However, with overwhelming and demanding lifestyles, a balanced, healthy diet is not always achievable. The average Australian adult diet leaves a lot to be desired. Most of us are lacking some of the most essential nutrients; including calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. This is where supplements come into play, to help us make up for what we are not consuming. Supplements can definitely enhance someone’s diet, especially when we are lacking certain nutrients. However, supplements should never replace actual nutrient dense food, rather just be used as an extra aid if needed.

Some individuals will need supplements more than others, even with a mostly balanced diet including a wide variety of foods. For example, women who are pregnant need to increase their folic acid daily, by around 400 micrograms. This is not possible through diet alone, and the best way is from fortified foods and supplements, in addition to eating foods that naturally contain folate. Dietary supplements are also important for those with diet restrictions and food intolerances that can be limited to a smaller variety of foods. An individual with lactose intolerance may need a calcium supplement to make up for the lack of dairy products in their diet.

Protein intake, alongside exercise, particularly weight training and resistance training will increase muscle mass, help you lean up, and is essential for muscle growth and recovery. We do not always have time to prepare nutritious protein meals or snacks post workout. Protein shakes therefore are convenient, and can be a nutritious way to increase our protein intake straight after a workout. It is important to make sure we are still consuming a balanced diet and that protein shakes are not replacing other nutritious foods such as fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates and fibre, but rather are just another, convenient protein source. The suggested protein intake depends on an individual’s weight. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight that an individual should way. This will increase depending on an individuals exercise regime. The more training someone does, particularity weight training, the more protein they will need. My choice of protein supplement is Bulk Nutrients WPC Chocolate.

In conclusion, eating a balanced diet means consuming a variety of foods from the five main food groups; fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates, dairy, fats and protein, and minimising the bad stuff. It allows for supplementation if needed, but should not rely solely on them. Eating a balanced diet will maintain a healthy diet that providing adequate nutrition. Eating a variety of foods can boost your health status, by reducing and preventing diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

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