In today’s society, eating a “healthy” diet is a major topic of discussion. With so much information available, it can be easy to get caught up in the barrage of diet tips and forget what a healthy diet really means. In this paper, I provide an overview of the basic elements of a healthy diet. I also describe how my own diet fulfills these criteria. Finally, I discuss some of the nutrition research that has been conducted on the connection between nutrition and health.
Features of a Healthy Diet
The two most important factors of a healthy diet are balance and moderation. Having a balanced diet means eating a wide variety of foods that provide an appropriate balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. In general, about 30 percent of calories should come from fat, while 12 to 20 percent should come from protein (Hanson, 2014). It is also important to ensure that these nutrients come from quality sources. For example, it is best for carbohydrates to come from fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, rather than from processed foods or foods that contain a lot of added sugar. Like carbohydrates, fats can also be divided between healthy fats and unhealthy fats. A healthy diet includes unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, with only limited amounts of saturated fat and trans fat (“Types of Fat,” 2017).
Another important aspect of a healthy diet is to ensure that it includes high enough levels of all of the essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, and potassium, among others. Often, these nutrients are available in food, especially fruits and vegetables, but in some cases, it is necessary to take a dietary supplement in order to ensure the fulfillment of dietary needs. At the same time, a healthy diet includes limits on the mineral sodium; the FDA recommends a limit of about 1,500mg per day for healthy adults (“Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” 2015).
The other key aspect of a healthy diet is moderation. It is important to make sure that calorie intake is consistent with energy expenditure, in order to avoid weight gain. At the same time, it can be unhealthy to become too obsessed about healthy eating, leading to unnecessary stress and even mental health disorders (Deans, 2011). Therefore, a healthy diet contains nutritious, but it also allows the individual to enjoy some of the less-healthy foods they love in moderate amounts.
My Eating Habits
In general, I would describe my eating habits as healthful and nutrition-focused. I try to include fruits and vegetables at every meal, and I also try to diversify my diet in order to ensure that I am getting a broad range of vitamins and minerals. For carbohydrates, I also try to choose whole grains over processed grains. For example, I use whole wheat bread to make sandwiches, rather than white bread, and I choose brown rice over white rice. I also try to make sure to get most of my fats from health sources, like avocados and extra-virgin olive oil. While some of the protein in my diet comes from meat, I try to make sure that most of it is lean meat, like chicken breast and deli-style turkey. I also get protein from low-fat dairy, soy, lentils, and eggs. At the same time, even though I am mindful about choosing high-quality foods and making sure that the amount of calories I take in is consistent with my body size and exercise level, I still occasionally allow myself to enjoy a cookie or a bowl of ice cream.
The Relationship Between Nutrition and Health
There is extensive scientific research linking dietary habits and health. Perhaps most importantly, unhealthy dietary habits can lead to weight gain and obesity, which have been correlated with a wide range of health problems, including type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, gallbladder disease, and chronic pain (“Signs, Symptoms, and Complications,” 2017). In addition, if a diet lacks particular nutrients, it can lead to health problems. One example is anemia, which can result from a diet that contains too little iron and can cause weakness and fatigue (“What is Anemia?” 2017). At the same time, diets that contain too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, as well as immune problems, kidney problems, cancer, and even osteoporosis (Strazullo, 2014). Therefore, in order to avoid short-term and long-term health problems, it is essential to maintain a healthy diet.
- Deans, E. (2011). Dieting can make you lose your mind. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201103/dieting-can-make-you-lose-your-mind
- Dietary guidelines for Americans. (2015). United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
- Hanson, M. (2014). Balancing carbs, protein, and fat. Kaiser Permanente. Retrieved from https://www.ghc.org/healthAndWellness/?item=/common/healthAndWellness/conditions/diabetes/foodBalancing.html
- Signs, symptoms, and complications. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/signs
- Strazullo, P. (2014). Sodium. Advances in Nutrition 5: 188-190.
- What Is anemia? (2017). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/anemia