Visit any street market or specialized market such as fish or fruit and vegetables or supermarket and the diversity of food on offer is staggering, add to this specialized delicatessens, corner shops and wholesale shops then the choice is truly fantastic. We in Britain are particularly fortunate as we have such a multiracial society, in London alone there are over 300 different languages and dialects spoken, these 300 plus different peoples have brought their own attitudes and ideas about food with them.
We are without doubt the most multicultural country in Europe. This has worked massively in our favor when it comes to food, we tend not to have a snobby elitist attitude towards food which allows the integration of other cultures foods and habits into our culture. From the view point of eating a balanced and varied diet this is a huge advantage.
What is it we should be looking for when assessing our present diet to establish if it is well balanced and varied?
In the list below is the basis for a well balanced diet.
1. Carbohydrates. Provide a source of energy
2. Fats. These also provide energy and contain soluble vitamins.
3. Fiber. This helps the intestine to work correctly
4. Proteins. These encourage growth and repair.
5. Vitamins. Are required for good health only small amounts are necessary.
6. Minerals. Are required for healthy teeth and bones.
A balanced diet must contain all the elements in the list in the correct proportions.
The more varied you can make your diet the better. The choice of good quality food is huge, it is easy to find out about a type of food you may not have tried before with regular food and cookery programs on the TV and radio, the high number of cookery magazines and books available and of course the internet. Keeping your diet varied will keep it interesting and help you avoid that “slap it on a plate that will do”, high in salt, high in sugar, high in saturated fat processed food.
When you choose, prepare and cook your meals from raw good quality produce you know exactly what has and hasn’t gone into your food. Do not fall into the trap of assuming that providing yourself with tasty nutritious home cooked food is a time consuming operation it is not. Consider the cook in the oven ready made pizza, takes around 20-25 minutes to heat through, you can create a pasta bake within the same time and it may cost you less.
Where will you find the elements on the list?
Carbohydrates. The main providers of carbohydrates are potatoes, pasta, rice, bread and cereals. These are known as starchy foods.
Fats. We need to have some fat in our diet it helps the body to absorb vitamins and provides essential fatty acids that the body is unable to produce. Fat is also a good source of energy. There are two types of fat saturated and unsaturated we must avoid or limit use of saturated fats as these can raise cholesterol which in turn can increase the risk of developing heart disease. Unsaturated fats work in the other way helping to reduce cholesterol and heart disease. Eat oily fish, nuts and seeds, avocados, oils such as olive, sunflower and grapeseed also, spreads made from these as a good source of unsaturated fats.
Limit consumption of butter, creams, fatty meats, cheese, pastries coconut oil and cream. The recommended daily amount of saturated fat is 30g per day for a man and 20g for a woman.
Fiber. Promotes healthy bowel function, fiber absorbs water allowing waste to pass through the bowl with ease. This helps to prevent constipation and bowel cancer. Good sources of fiber are wholemeal bread and bran, wholegrain rice and pasta try not to peel vegetables if possible.
Proteins. Make around 16% of our total body weight. Foods which are high in protein are chicken, red meat, fish, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds, eggs and dairy.
Vitamins. There are thirteen vitamins that our bodies require they all have to be obtained by eating food or through supplements as our bodies can not produce them. Vitamin deficiency can lead to severe diseases and conditions. The thirteen vitamins are divided into two groups, water soluble and fat soluble. All foods have their own group of vitamins specific to them for example, vitamin B12 liver, red meat dairy. Vitamin E wheatgerm, egg yoke, nuts sunflower seeds. Each vitamin fulfills a different function, that is why it is so important to have a varied and balanced diet.
Minerals. Are extracted by plants from the earths crust, humans and animals consume the plants and so the minerals within them. There are around seven essential minerals known as macro and around ten other minerals known as micro or trace minerals, each performing a separate role additionally there are another nine or so minerals that scientific community is undecided as to their function in the body make up. Although minerals are only required in small quantities they are absolutely essential for healthy mind and body foods containing the minerals, vitamins and proteins etc that our bodies require for a healthy balanced diet can be common run of the mill such as tomatoes, leeks, cabbage, or runner beans the fresher the better,so you see there really is no excuse. That said, please do not be afraid to experiment find new ways to cook established food not only vegetables but all types of food and try as many different types of food as possible.
for healthy mind and body, foods containing the minerals, vitamins, proteins etc our bodies need are easily found, in fact the foods required for a healthy balanced diet are common run of the mill such as tomatoes, leeks, cabbage, runner beans, the fresher the better. So you see there really is no excuse.