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By Dr. Anjali Sharma

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Significance of Healthy Food for Good Health
Healthy Balanced Diet
What do we eat and why
Food during different stages of life
Healthy eating tips   Super foods
Acid Alkali Balance   Vegetarianism
Glycaemic Index   Antioxidants
The Ayurvedic Diet
The Dietary Precautions of Sickness
Diet and Weight Management


Significance of Healthy Food for Good Health

It gives energy. ‘We are what we eat’. We all know that we eat to live. But more than giving the required energy to live (and satisfying our taste buds) food that we eat may helps us in a number of ways if it is healthy.

  • It gives energy.
  • It is required for growth and repair of body.
  • It helps to keep us healthy and avoid sickness.
  • It helps mind & body functions to work at best.
  • It helps in meeting requirement of various stages of life.
  • It may even help in treatment of diseases.

Apart from various diseases due to deficiency of various food components, our nutrition has a role in some of the major diseases of today’s life like Hypertension, Diabetes, Chronic Heart or Renal insufficiency, Gout, Obesity, Inflammatory Bowel Disease etc. It is, therefore, vital to choose our food in quantity & quality with utmost care.

Healthy Balanced Diet

A healthy balanced diet is one which provides the right amount and proportion of necessary food components required by our body. It is not a fixed type but varies with respect to our age, gender, lifestyle, health status etc. The underlying idea is to provide to our body what is healthy and necessary in quantity & quality and to avoid what is not. One does not need a training & degree in nutrition to select healthy balanced diet. For this, we need understanding that why such diet is good for us and some common sense selection along with sensible balance of taste temptation & nutritive value. To select a healthy balanced diet, it is helpful to know some basic facts about food & nutrition.

What do we eat and why
The food we eat contains macro nutrients and micro nutrients. They all have a unique role in our diet. Their deficiency leads to various health problems and diseases. The food components are energy, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, fibers and water. For details of nutrition, click here.

Food during different stages of life
One must be careful about nutrition during different stages of life. Every stage of life from infancy to old age has a different requirement. Infants and children have a rapidly growing body so they need high energy & protein diet along with higher intake of nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D etc required for growing body and mind. Pregnant and lactating mothers need to be extra particular about food hygiene to avoid food poisoning & infection. They must choose nourishing diet for themselves and child. Fibres must be taken to avoid constipation. Pregnant mothers require supplements like folic acid, iron etc and lactating mothers require Vitamin D supplement. Students must make qualitative changes in diet like higher proteins to assist their mental work. Adults must be careful about energy balance to avoid obesity and make necessary changes in diet according to lifestyle. Old age also has specific requirement. One must take into consideration decreasing body needs and health status. On the other hand lack of care in taking required nutrition can severely affect health.

Healthy eating tips

  • Include health promoting food in diet.
  • Avoid or minimize artificial food and additives.
  • Have regular eating schedule & eat balanced diet.
  • Watch out for food allergy, intolerance, spoiled food.
  • Avoid unnecessary / mega doses of vitamins and minerals.
  • Observe weekly / occasional fast to revitalize digestive system.
  • Fruits should not be mixed with other foods. Avoid incompatible foods.
  • Avoid alcohol & smoking. These are bad for digestion and overall health.
  • Be selective about food. Eat keeping in mind age, body needs, health etc.
  • Avoid or minimize unhealthy foods like refined carbohydrate, unhealthy fats etc.
  • Maintain oral hygiene, chew your food well, it helps digestion and keeps you healthy.
  • Eat diversity food. Select from variety of cereals, pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk products etc. Prefer seasonal foods like seasonal fruits. This provides higher quality nourishment.
  • Do not surrender totally to taste temptation. Keep a good balance of taste and healthy nutrition. Although it is not desirable to completely avoid eating out / junk food but one can keep hygiene in mind. Try to be high on eating wholesome, nourishing food.

Super foods
Super foods are those which improve health and have profound preventive and curative action on various health conditions.

  • Aloe Vera : Improves general health & immunity. Helps in skin disorders.
  • Banana : Rich in energy & nutrients, helps in constipation, hypertension, PMS, anemia etc.
  • Carrots : Good for vision, protects from cancer, arthritis, heart disease etc.
  • Cruciferous Vegetables : Rich in antioxidants, protects from cancer.
  • Fish : Rich in antioxidants & polyunsaturated fats, helps in high cholesterol, hypertension, arrhythmia, goiter, crohn’s disease. Good for joints & skin.
  • Flaxseed : Rich in essential fatty acids, helps in angina, hypertension lupus & other skin disorders, parkinson disease & other nerve disorders, fights infection, improve uterine function.
  • Garlic : Contains antioxidants, helps in cancer, heart disease, asthma, atherosclerosis, boost immunity and healing powers.
  • Ginseng : Improves energy & immunity. Improves concentration, reduces stress.
  • Green Tea : Rich in antioxidants, improves immunity. Helps in cancer, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, infections, premature ageing etc.
  • Red Grapes : Improves cardiac function, reduce blood vessel clogging, gastric ulcer, stroke, osteoporosis and inflammatory diseases.
  • Soy : Helps in cancer, high cholesterol, osteoporosis etc.
  • Spinach : Rich in antioxidants, helps in cancer, anemia, heart disease, mental disorders. Improves vision.
  • Spirulina : Improves energy & immunity. Helps liver function.
  • Wheat Grass : Gives energy & rejuvenation, increase hemoglobin. Said to fight tumors.
  • Whole Grains : Boost immunity, helps in cancer, arthritis, infertility & alzheimer’s disease.
  • Yogurt : Helps in digestion. ulcers, improves immunity.

Some more facts about nutrition

  1. Acid Alkali Balance : Our diet must maintain our body’s acid alkali balance. Acid diets are associated with many diseases like premature old age, rheumatism, hypertension, arthritis etc. Four fifth of our diet be alkaline diet such as juicy fruits, tubers, leafy vegetables, legumes etc. Cereals, grains, nuts, bread, meat, sugar etc are acid diets.
  2. Vegetarianism: It is said to be good for healthy living. Vegetarian diet helps in digestive process, hypertension, high cholesterol, constipation, cancer, obesity etc.
  3. Glycaemic Index : Glycaemic Index of food refers to how fast it raises the blood sugar level. It runs from 0 – 100. Glucose has GI value of 100 as reference and other food are compared to it. Foods with high GI value raise the blood sugar rapidly but one feels hungry quickly. Foods with high GI value give steady supply of energy and satisfaction. Foods with low GI value are helpful in diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol etc. Some low GI value foods are – roasted peanuts, low fat yogurt, lentils, dried soybeans, whole milk, apples, pears etc. High GI value foods are – glucose, honey, potato, steamed rice, puffed wheat, cornflakes, French fries, white bread etc.
  4. Antioxidants : Antioxidants are substances that protect body cells against the effects of free radicals which are produced when body breaks down food, by metabolism, by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, and are said to cause heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Antioxidant substances include Beta-carotene, Lutein, Lycopene, Selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Antioxidants are found in many foods like wheat grass, green tea, garlic, fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, poultry and fish.

The Ayurvedic Diet
According to ancient ayurvedic medical science sickness of a person is the result of imbalance of humour in body called dosha. Tridosha (vata, pitta and kapha) are formed from combination of five elements (called panchtatva) which are earth, fire, air, water and ether. Ayurvedic diet in addition to nourishment, corrects the tridosha and brings it back to balance to give good health.

  • Vata Dosha : People with vata dosha will suffer from worries, anxieties, impulsiveness, impatience, agitation, insecurity, insomnia, dryness, headaches, constipation, arthritis, stiff joints, cramps etc. To regain balance they must prefer warm soothing food with some fat, milk, warm cereals, nuts, warm drinks, sweet and sour food.
  • Pitta Dosha : People with pitta dosha will suffer from anger, being critical & bossy, arguementative, fitful sleep, disturbing dreams, acidity, diarrhea, hot flushes, skin eruptions, fever, night sweats etc. To regain balance they must prefer bitter, sweet and astringent food, cool or warm food but not hot, complex carbohydrates, fruits, milk, beans & other green vegetables. They must take less stimulants, sour & spicy food.
  • Kapha Dosha : People with kapha dosha will suffer from sluggishness, apathy, sadness, lethargy, clinginess, excess sleep, obesity, mucus congestion, diabetes, water retention, poor digestion etc. To regain balance they must prefer warm light food cooked with less water, stimulating food, spicy / pungent/ astringent taste, hot water lemon & hot ginger tea is good. They must take less of salt, sweets, dairy and fats.

The Dietary Precautions of Sickness
Food plays a crucial role in treatment of sickness. Good nutritional choices can aid treatment and helps in early recovery. Factors which assist in selecting food during sickness are :

  • Underlying disease condition.
  • Overall health status.
  • Diet factors required to be altered.
  • Patient’s tolerance to food.

Some of the benefits of such dietary modifications are :

  • It keeps good nutritional status.
  • It reduces complications of sickness.
  • It makes treatment more effective.
  • It avoids & corrects deficiency state.
  • It gives required energy to fight sickness.
  • It gives required change in body weight.
  • It gives rest to body by avoiding load on digestion.

Some common precautions are :

  • Avoid high salt food in hypertension.
  • Avoid food with high glycaemic index in diabetes.
  • Avoid excessive stimulants and spices in peptic ulcer & gastritis.
  • Avoid high protein diet in gout and hepatic failure.
  • Proteins and sodium is restricted in renal failure.
  • Easily digestible, high calorie & good protein diet is good in tuberculosis.
  • Take plenty of fibres in constipation, high cholesterol, diabetes.
  • Replenish water and electrolyte losses in diarrhea.
  • Take indicated nutrient in deficiency diseases like rickets, osteoporosis, anemia, hypothyroidism, night blindness, beri beri, scurvy etc.
  • Avoid indicated nutrient in allergic state and malabsorption syndrome.

Diet and Weight Management
Diet is said to be one way of weight management. But one must be very clear in what to do and what not. Some people resort to crash dieting and starve to lose weight. But such measure only spoils health & invites various diseases. Apart from various diseases like deficiency diseases of various nutrients, lack of energy, disorders in various body functions, disturbed water & electrolyte balance and disordered digestion, it gives many psychological disorders like poor self esteem, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, depression etc. In fact one need not starve to lose weight. One can eat and enjoy anything and still get required weight along with even better health & prevention of many diseases like arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, gallstones etc. All one is required to do is to adopt a flexible and sensible diet plan. See Fitness and Weight Management for details.

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