A Detailed Guide on the Importance of a Balanced Diet
Category: Healthy Living
Posted on July 17, 2021
Scott is passionate about health and wellness, and enjoys writing on various topic surrounding these fields. Scott lives in Seattle and spends his free time restoring old furniture and playing pickleball with his friends.
When did you first go on a diet, how long has it been, and have you achieved the results you set out to yet?
Chances are, it's been years, and you haven't reached your goal yet. Why? Over 80% of diets fail. It's time you focus on the importance of a balanced diet rather than fad diets and weight loss pills.
But with a booming diet product industry, it's hard to sift the fact from the fiction. If you want to have optimum health and a body that supports you, the key is consistency, not extreme measures.
In times of desperation, it's easy to resort to a quick fix; it's time to learn about a sustainable approach to nutrition and health.
Read this detailed guide to why you need a balanced diet for excellent health.
What Is a Balanced Diet
This may seem simple, but there are many components to a balanced diet that often get forgotten. A trend towards healthy eating is increasing, but this does not mean more people are eating a balanced diet.
Orthorexia Nervosa is the focus on and obsession with eating healthily. However, many people with these tendencies end up eliminating entire food groups in an attempt to be healthy. Although many people may not have an eating disorder, many people exhibit tendencies towards this way of eating.
This is not a balanced diet.
You'll have heard the trends: 'carbs make you fat,' 'protein burns fat,' 'MCT oil boosts metabolism.' All these trends encourage you to limit or increase certain food groups.
A balanced diet incorporates all aspects of natural foods. Ultra-processed foods aren't necessary for a balanced diet, but you shouldn't penalize them and eliminate them 100% unless you're happy to. Again, balance is key.
How to Have a Balanced Diet
So what does a balanced diet look like? You need to incorporate all the key natural foods and food groups as defined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This includes:
- Protein (5.5 ounces per day)
- Vegetables (2.5 cups per day)
- Fruits (2 cups per day)
- Whole grains (3 ounces per day)
- Seafood (8 ounces per week)
- Low-fat dairy (3 cups per day)
- Oils (27g per day)
- Refined grains (no more than 6 ounces per day)
- Calories from processed/ultra-processed foods (no more than 270kcal per day)
This is only a basic list of recommendations, and for each group, there are extra considerations. The takeaway message from these guidelines is that a well-balanced diet is essential if you hope to meet the recommendations.
The shift towards intuitive eating is good for the population; ask yourself if your meal is healthy, and you probably already know the answer.
Looking at your plate, you should be able to tell what each food is. The closer your meal is to the foods in their natural form, the better. If you have a meal with a list of ingredients you've never heard of, it's best to limit your consumption of these foods.
An easy way to make sure your diet is balanced is to visit the grocery store and add plant foods to half your plate in each meal.
Balanced Diet for Weight Control
Your calorie requirements are different depending on your age and sex; adult males need around 2500kcal, and adult females need around 2500kcal. However, this varies depending on your activity level.
Obesity is nothing new to America; around 69% of Americans are overweight or obese. It's widely accepted that being overweight increases mortality, blood pressure, and cholesterol. If you're overweight, you're at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and more.
It's not that we're overeating; the problem is what we're eating.
The typical American diet is high in calorie-dense, ultra-processed food. A switch to natural, whole foods would mean an increase in the volume of food eaten for most people while still consuming fewer calories.
If you're trying to lose weight, incorporating balance into your diet is the single, best thing you can do. There is no need to be hungry, and you can eat a variety of foods that means you won't get bored with your diet.
If you have constant cravings for sugary foods and feel like you put on 7lbs if you look at a hamburger, you may have problems with insulin and blood sugar; this makes weight loss harder. It's worth visiting a healthcare practitioner for a blood test.
Balanced Diet for Gut Health
One of the most groundbreaking areas of nutrition science in 2021 is gut health. Our gut has a direct link to our brain, affecting metabolism, immune system, happiness, health, and cravings.
We have millions of bacteria in the gut that are well adapted to thrive on the foods that are most abundant in your diet.
Whereas virtually every other area of nutrition is contested, everyone agrees that a diverse, plant-based diet is excellent for the gut microbiota. Fermented foods and immune-boosting foods will help nurture good bacteria and keep you healthy.
A healthy gut will help you with digestion, weight loss, happiness, and general health. Don't underestimate the importance of looking after your gut; add plant foods to every meal you eat.
Balanced Diet in Disease
21st-century medicines and vaccinations and have decreased our risk of dying from plague and acute illness. However, our risk of developing chronic disease is increasing, many of which are directly attributed to an unhealthy diet.
1. Type 2 Diabetes
As the prevalence of obesity increases, so does diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is when your body becomes resistant to insulin (the hormone that lowers your blood sugar), and you can't regulate blood sugar levels.
If you have chronic high blood sugar, you'll experience tiredness, headaches, increased thirst, frequent infections, and vision problems.
A balanced diet low in sugar can help regulate your blood sugar and nurture the body into responding to insulin again. In many cases, diabetes is reversible with diet and exercise changes.
2. Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term for conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. Fatty build-ups around the arteries usually cause it, and a high-fat diet is one of the main risk factors.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of mortality in America.
Developing a balanced diet helps to regulate cholesterol and fatty deposits around the body. Increasing intake of vegetables and exercising is essential to managing cardiovascular diseases.
If you're at risk of cardiovascular disease, you should take a careful look at how much fat and sugar you're consuming.
3. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD is a dietary condition where stomach acid flows back up the esophagus; it's a common condition in America and can vary in severity.
While a small amount of acid reflux is normal, you may have GERD if you're experiencing chest pain, regular heartburn, difficulty swallowing, or regular food regurgitation.
A balanced diet is the best thing you can do to prevent GERD; you're unlikely to develop GERD if you're eating well. However, if you do have the condition, a specialist GERD diet plan can help to relieve your symptoms.
This may include avoiding high-fat foods, citrus foods, spicy foods, coffee, and alcohol. However, GERD should always be treated by a dietitian or nutrition professional to ensure the plan is appropriate and safe.
4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
10-15% of Americans have IBS. The main symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain and difficult bowel movements. The exact causes are unknown, but the first-line treatment is always a dietary modification.
Some people find that a healthy, balanced diet is enough to eliminate their symptoms. Others have specific trigger foods that they have to avoid. For almost all IBS sufferers, a balanced diet will help symptoms enough that a medicated approach isn't necessary.
Barriers to Having a Balanced Diet
No one is disputing the idea that a balanced diet is good, and everyone knows what they should be eating. But for some reason, we don't. The lure of fast, convenient, tasty food proves too much for many of us.
There are entire branches of science dedicated to behavior change, and food intake has been studied extensively. There are five key barriers to changing food habits that people battle with.
The first barrier to dietary behavior change is simple. We're not in the habit of eating a balanced diet. It takes ten weeks to make a new habit - that's a lot of meals, consistency, and motivation.
Breaking a bad habit as fundamental as food choices is difficult. Don't underestimate what you're doing; it's not just a diet, it's a significant lifestyle change.
Professional support can be exponentially helpful if you're changing your diet. A dietitian, nutritionist, or other health professionals can give you ongoing support and keep you accountable for the time it takes to build your new habit.
Set yourself a 10-week goal, with 1-week sub-goals to remind yourself of the bigger picture when your motivation is low.
2. Taste Preference
Another common reason for failing to eat a balanced diet is a taste preference. People prefer junk food, and that's that. Or is it?
Convenience food has been carefully engineered to keep us coming back for more. Our gut bacteria and taste buds become accustomed to the food we eat most often. It's the gut-brain connection that tells us we want that hamburger instead of a salad.
Many people find that after 30 days of eating a diet without ultra-processed foods, they no longer crave these types of food—experiment with cooking with a range of foods, making gourmet alternatives to fast foods.
If you crave junk food, it may be worth detoxing from it for a short time to see if your cravings change.
The perception that healthy food is expensive is not always correct. Yes, some healthy food is pricey, but so is take-away. There are plenty of ways to make a healthy meal for almost no money.
A quick google search for 'cheap healthy meals' will reveal many options you'd never thought of. A great way to make cost-effective, healthy meals is to bulk buy and freeze. Then you have leftover meals for when money is tight.
The real beauty of ultra-processed food is the convenience - there's no denying it. However, there are ways around this.
First, preparation is critical. Plan your balanced meals at the start of the week, do the necessary shopping and food prep when you're feeling motivated. Next time you're about to stop at the drive-through, remind yourself of the food that you've prepped at home.
5. Family and Friends
Finally, the influence of friends and family is so important to acknowledge when you're changing a food habit. It's so challenging to eat well if people around you are doing the opposite.
If your family are on board, that's great you can motivate each other. However, all too often, they aren't interested in making changes.
If you're the cook, try making a meal with two components. Half the meal can be nutritious and balanced; the other half can be whatever your family is craving. Then all you need to do is adjust the ratio of which parts of the meal are on each plate. It's a win-win for everyone at the table.
Don't Underestimate the Importance of a Balanced Diet
There you have it, a detailed guide to the importance of a balanced diet. Hopefully, you're feeling well informed and motivated to make a change.
The only real barrier to behavior change is your own mindset; the sooner you shift it, the sooner you'll begin to feel better.
If you're ready to be happy and healthy, there's no better time than now.
Did you find this article helpful? Contact us today for more educational advice about protecting your health.