The nutrients you should be eating include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.
Healthy eating is a very important behaviour we should all aim to adapt. Along with being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight, by eating a well-balanced diet which meets your body’s requirements, you can aid your body and brain in staying strong and healthy. Some studies have found that food is able to affect all of your body’s cells and organs (1, 2).
Plenty of medical research has also indicated that a poor diet is linked to the development of serious diseases (3, 4). Therefore by eating a healthy, well balanced diet you can drastically reduce the chances of developing the world’s leading killer diseases, heart disease and cancer (5, 6).
In order to eat healthy and to reach your body goals, you need to understand the importance of calories and energy balance. Your total calorie intake plays an important role in weight control and health (7). When you consume more calories than you burn, your body will store them in the form of fat. Whereas when you consume fewer calories than your burn and create a calorie deficit, you will lose weight (8).
Macronutrients are the three main nutrients your body requires in large amounts as they provide calories and play various other roles in your body, these include;
Carbohydrates, found in foods such as breads, potatoes, dairy products and fruits
Protein, found in meats, fish, eggs and dairy products
Fats, found in butter, cheese, fatty meats, nuts and seeds
Micronutrients are important vitamins and minerals that your body needs but in smaller doses. All vitamins and minerals are essential and play key roles in your cells and organs. Some of the important micronutrients that you should know about include;
Magnesium, needed for over six hundred cellular processes such as energy production and muscle contraction (9)
Potassium, important for controlling blood pressure, fluid balance and nerve and muscle function (10)
Iron, carries oxygen in the blood and also improves immune and brain function (11)
Calcium, a vital structural component found in bones and teeth, also a key mineral for the heart, muscles and nervous system (12)
Healthy eating also focuses on eating ‘whole foods’ a majority of the time. ‘Whole foods’ can be defined as natural, unprocessed foods which contain only one ingredient. If the food has been processed or made in a factory, it most likely isn’t considered a whole food. Whole foods are important as they are typically nutrient-dense, with lower calories and high nutrients per serving in contrast to processed foods. Processed foods on the other hand have very nutritional value, by eating processed foods in a large amount you are putting yourself at an increased risk to obesity other diseases.
Top 7 Healthy Food Groups
By understanding the different food groups, you can begin to create a healthy diet plan for yourself. By basing your diet around the following healthy food groups, you can begin to improve your health;
Vegetables, low in calories but full of important micronutrients and fibres
Fruits, naturally sweet and rich in micronutrients and antioxidants (13)
Meat and fish, an excellent major source of protein
Nuts and seeds, excellent source of fats
Eggs, whole eggs offer a combination of protein, beneficial fats and micronutrients
Dairy, usually low cost but great sources of protein and calcium
Healthy starches, easily found in whole foods such as potatoes and bread
To make healthy eating a sustainable option for yourself, aim to only adapt a diet if you can see yourself following it one year or more, otherwise it may not be the right option for you. Often people end up following extreme diets which they have difficulty in maintaining and cannot adapt long term, healthy eating habits. Statistics show that most people who attempt weight loss diets end up regaining the weight they have lost (14).
By creating and choosing a diet which you enjoy and can stick to long term and combining good nutrition with other healthy habits, such as good sleep and water intake, you can optimise your health.
For more information on healthy eating, see our nutrition and weight management course.
- Carson, T.L., Hidalgo, B., Ard, J.D. and Affuso, O., 2014. Dietary interventions and quality of life: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of nutrition education and behavior, 46(2), pp.90-101.
- Wu, X.Y., Ohinmaa, A. and Veugelers, P.J., 2012. Diet quality, physical activity, body weight and health-related quality of life among grade 5 students in Canada. Public Health Nutrition, 15(1), pp.75-81.
- McCullough, M.L., Feskanich, D., Stampfer, M.J., Giovannucci, E.L., Rimm, E.B., Hu, F.B., Spiegelman, D., Hunter, D.J., Colditz, G.A. and Willett, W.C., 2002. Diet quality and major chronic disease risk in men and women: moving toward improved dietary guidance. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 76(6), pp.1261-1271.
- Fung, T.T., Rimm, E.B., Spiegelman, D., Rifai, N., Tofler, G.H., Willett, W.C. and Hu, F.B., 2001. Association between dietary patterns and plasma biomarkers of obesity and cardiovascular disease risk. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 73(1), pp.61-67.
- Estruch, R., Ros, E., Salas-Salvadó, J., Covas, M.I., Corella, D., Arós, F., Gómez-Gracia, E., Ruiz-Gutiérrez, V., Fiol, M., Lapetra, J. and Lamuela-Raventos, R.M., 2013. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 368(14), pp.1279-1290.
- Anand, P., Kunnumakara, A.B., Sundaram, C., Harikumar, K.B., Tharakan, S.T., Lai, O.S., Sung, B. and Aggarwal, B.B., 2008. Cancer is a preventable disease that requires major lifestyle changes. Pharmaceutical research, 25(9), pp.2097-2116.
- Swinburn, B.A., Sacks, G., Lo, S.K., Westerterp, K.R., Rush, E.C., Rosenbaum, M., Luke, A., Schoeller, D.A., DeLany, J.P., Butte, N.F. and Ravussin, E., 2009. Estimating the changes in energy flux that characterize the rise in obesity prevalence. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(6), pp.1723-1728.
- Hall, K.D., Heymsfield, S.B., Kemnitz, J.W., Klein, S., Schoeller, D.A. and Speakman, J.R., 2012. Energy balance and its components: implications for body weight regulation. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 95(4), pp.989-994.
- De Baaij, J.H., Hoenderop, J.G. and Bindels, R.J., 2015. Magnesium in man: implications for health and disease. Physiological reviews, 95(1), pp.1-46.
- Ekmekcioglu, C., Elmadfa, I., Meyer, A.L. and Moeslinger, T., 2016. The role of dietary potassium in hypertension and diabetes. Journal of physiology and biochemistry, 72(1), pp.93-106.
- Abbaspour, N., Hurrell, R. and Kelishadi, R., 2014. Review on iron and its importance for human health. Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 19(2), p.164.
- Cumming, R.G., 1990. Calcium intake and bone mass: a quantitative review of the evidence. Calcified tissue international, 47(4), pp.194-201.
- Joshipura, K.J., Hu, F.B., Manson, J.E., Stampfer, M.J., Rimm, E.B., Speizer, F.E., Colditz, G., Ascherio, A., Rosner, B., Spiegelman, D. and Willett, W.C., 2001. The effect of fruit and vegetable intake on risk for coronary heart disease. Annals of internal medicine, 134(12), pp.1106-1114.
- Dulloo, A.G. and Montani, J.P., 2015. Pathways from dieting to weight regain, to obesity and to the metabolic syndrome: an overview. Obesity reviews, 16(S1), pp.1-6.