Nutrition is the science of food, diet, and their effect on the human body. A person’s diet plays an important role in their overall health, as the body needs certain nutrients in order to perform certain functions. Nutrients are categorised in different groups. Carbohydrates, fibre, fats, protein and water are considered to be macronutrients whereas vitamins and minerals are classed as micronutrients. To ensure that the suggested amount of each food group is ingested, it is recommended that people follow a healthy, balanced diet. There are many disputes between nutritionists over what constitutes a healthy, balanced diet. Furthermore, each individual is different and has different needs. For example, athletes, pregnant women and people recovering from illness will all have unique dietary requirements. However, there is a general consensus over certain principles of healthy eating:
• Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables They are full of vitamins and minerals and it is advised that we should eat five portions a day, which should make up just over a third of the food we eat each day. There’s evidence which suggests that eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day significantly reduces the chances of heart disease, strokes and some forms of cancer.
• Don’t eat too much sugar or saturated fat Having a high sugar intake increases the risk of obesity and tooth decay, particularly for people who regularly drink sugary, fizzy drinks. Too much saturated fat increases the chance of heart disease. • Eat starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain This should make up around a third of the food we eat. Potatoes, bread, rice and pasta (ideally wholegrain) are a great source of energy. It is advised to base your meals of these foods.
• Eat lean sources of protein Fish, eggs, beans, pulses and meat are great sources of protein. Lean cuts of meat are ideal and processed meat such as sausages and bacon should be kept to a minimum. Oily fish such as salmon and mackerel are recommended as are pulses, as they are high in fibre and low in fat.
• Drink plenty of liquid – 6-8 cups or glasses a day Keeping hydrated is essential to good health. Although water is the best source, they all count.
Poor diet can cause a wide range of health problems and conditions resulting from malnutrition or from eating too much of a particular food group (such as fat and sugar), including obesity, diabetes, blindness, anaemia, scurvy, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis.
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