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Healthy Well Balanced Diet

Healthy Well Balanced Diet

In this article, we will cover the concept of nutrition and a healthy well balanced diet.

After a brief introduction – mainly notions, but not without some moral reflections – we will discuss in greater detail how to divide a balanced diet into energetic macronutrients and which are the physiological conditions with greater nutritional needs.

We will then go into the details of the famous food pyramid, of the frequency of consumption, and of the standard portions, such as information tools and food education.

A “standard” fragmentation of the various meals will be proposed, assuming a “reasonable” solution for the majority of the population.

In conclusion, we will mention the “practicability” of a balanced diet and last but not least, the eco-sustainability factors.

What Is A Healthy Well Balanced Diet?

What Is A Vegetarian Diet

For balanced diet ( balanced diet, in English) means a diet characterized by the right amounts of all nutrients and nutritional factors.

” Balanced ” also means healthy ( healthy diet, always in Anglo-Saxon terms), because the nutritional balance is, directly and indirectly, correlated, as well as under various aspects, with the maintenance of the general state of health.

A balanced diet fully complies with the subjective nutritional needs more specifically than:

  1. Nutrients essential (essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals);
  2. Nutrients “in any case ” necessary, even if not considered strictly essential (such as minimum doses of carbohydrates in the medium-long term);
  3. Nutritional factors, not strictly nutritious, are also of vital importance ( water, fiber, non-vitamin antioxidants, etc.).

For the majority of the population, all nutrients and nutritional factors can be introduced in the right quantities simply by adhering to a balanced diet.

However, there is a small slice of subjects who, by choice or by necessity, are unable to satisfy their nutritional needs with food alone.

Some consider that a balanced diet should necessarily contain all the groups core of foods.

The basic food groups are 5:

  1. Cereals and derivatives – tubers;
  2. Fruits – vegetables;
  3. Meat (red, white, processed) – fish, (all fishery products, fresh and preserved) – eggs (any terrestrial animal egg) – legumes (in any form of preservation);
  4. Milk and yogurt – derivatives (cheeses);
  5. Fats for seasoning: vegetable oils – butter – others of animal and vegetable origin but hydrogenated.

However, to evaluate such a claim we should, first of all, reflect on the reasoning that led industry experts to such conclusions.

“Balanced” is an adjective that refers to the ” best diet option “, that is, the one that fully satisfies all nutritional needs with only the use of food.

Consequently, referring exclusively to healthy subjects, any dietary philosophy that requires “alternative” solutions could not be considered balanced.

However, the use of food supplements and dietetic foods is now so widespread – even among those who do not really need them – that this reasoning is deprived of any ethical or moral value.

An athlete needs to integrate as much as a vegan subject and, for both, the reason for this need is a free choice (to face a higher than normal training load or to exclude foods of animal origin from the diet).

Benefits Of A Well Balanced Diet For Health

What Is The Low-Fat Diet And How Does It Work?

Before going into the details of the specific requirements of a balanced diet, let’s explain “ why ” it is recommended to respect a balanced diet.

The benefits of a healthy diet are numerous and all refer to the condition of psychophysical homeostasis.

What is the purpose of guaranteeing psychophysical homeostasis?

  • To survival, until the death of natural causes;
  • Ensure general well-being;
  • To ensure functionality total of the base;
  • Maintain a good quality of life.

On the other hand, two very important considerations should also be made:

  1. Self-regulation mechanisms, which generally work quite well, may however be imperfect just think of the famous individual “predispositions”, both pathological and para-physiological. This means that certain metabolic or functional alterations are independent of the balance of the diet;
  2. The lifestyle of each person, especially the level of overall motor activity, significantly influences their Ergo needs: the same diet may or may not favor homeostasis in the long term based on how much and how a person moves. By eating inadequately, training is almost always a “double-edged sword”.

To be defined as balanced any diet must necessarily satisfy all individual needs but, since needs depend on subjectivity the balance of the diet is also a strictly subjective parameter.

Energy Macronutrients

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates

The carbohydrates available to humans, i.e. digestible and absorbable ones, are energetic macronutrients that provide 3.75 kilocalories per gram (kcal/g) – a value that can be rounded off to 4.0 kcal/g.

Classification based on complexity

The carbohydrates can be classified according to their molecular structure.

The most important is glucose because it can be used directly in energy production; the fructose and galactose are taken with food, on the other hand, must first be metabolized to glucose.

The complex ones (disaccharides, oligosaccharides, polysaccharides) are polymers that are classified according to the length and type of chains, as well as their organization.

The complex carbohydrate of greatest nutritional interest for humans is starch, a polymer of glucose that plants use as an energy reserve.

The friend’s animal correspondent is glycogen, produced and stored in the liver and muscles.

Why carbohydrates are important?

The primary function of carbohydrates in the body is energy.

Glucose is an essential substrate because some tissues cannot do without it (nervous system, adrenal medulla, bone marrow, erythrocytes, leukocytes, retina, lens, testes).

Other tissues, on the other hand, also use mixtures of fatty acids and ketone bodies. Furthermore, skeletal muscle can directly utilize branched-chain amino acids from contractile tissue.

If adequate amounts of carbohydrates are not consumed in the diet, the liver produces glucose from certain amino acids, glycerol, and lactic acid (glucogenesis).

Associated with the management of reserve glycogen, this process guarantees the maintenance of glycemia even in the event of a nutritional carbohydrate deficiency.

How many to take?

The amount of carbohydrates in the diet is highly dependent on the total calorie requirement. In general, however, it should take up about half the calories.

The percentage range changes according to the research institution consulted but, we could consider an interval between 45 and 65% of the total energy.

Wanting to estimate the number of carbohydrates in the diet on the physiological weight instead, we could use a coefficient of 2.0-2.5 g/kg.

In the past, carbohydrates were thought to impact metabolism differently based on their molecular structure.

The simple ones, in this case, have been in the eye of the storm for quite some time. In this regard, many institutions advised to limit them as much as possible (10-12% of total calories).

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In reality today we know that, in a healthy person, what matters is to manage the total glycemic load and the overall caloric intake.

It is however undeniable that, by consuming large and frequent portions of sweet foods (with added sucrose, glucose, fructose), the chances of exceeding the calories of carbohydrates increase considerably.

The most common monosaccharide in foods is fructose, present in vegetables and abundant in sweet watery fruits.

Among the disaccharides, on the other hand, we can mention:

  • Lactose: the natural sugar of milk, composed of glucose and galactose;
  • Sucrose: that is the classic table sugar, composed of glucose and fructose, abundant in honey, in some vegetable fluids such as maple sap, aloe, etc., and, of course, in table sugar.

Starch, the “par excellence” polysaccharide, is mainly contained in cereals (rice, wheat, corn, barley, rye, etc.), some pseudo-cereals (quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, etc.), relative flours and derivatives ( pasta, bread, etc.), potatoes and legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.).

Fatty Acids

Fatty acids

In the context of energetic macronutrients, speaking of lipids, specific reference is made to fatty acids.

FA are carbon chains (aliphatic monocarboxylic acids) which, in food as well as in the human body, are organized mainly in the esterified form of glycerol, forming glycerides (tri-, di- and mono-).

Triglycerides cannot be absorbed and require digestive hydrolysis in ac. fats + glycerol.

However, only short- and medium-chain fatty acids can enter the bloodstream directly and be transported by albumin.

Those with medium and long chains, on the other hand, together with cholesterol, enter the lymphatic circulation and move thanks to specific lipoproteins called chylomicrons.

Once passed into the blood, the chylomicrons release the lipemic load and are disposed of in the liver.

Within the bloodstream, however, the further displacement of this type of fat (liver, muscle, adipose tissue, etc.) occurs thanks to other lipoproteins (HDL, IDL, LDL, VLDL).

The use of FA for energy purposes is exclusively dependent on aerobic metabolism, that is with the use of oxygen, and they provide 9 kcal / g.

Glycerol, on the other hand, ends up in the neoglucogenic pathway of the liver.

Classification

Fatty acids can be classified according to:

  • Chain length: short (faster to absorb and metabolize), medium and long;
  • Presence and number of double bonds: saturated (free), monounsaturated (one double bond), and polyunsaturated (plus double bonds).

The presence of double bonds is one feature that determines both the properties of Physico-chemical that affects the organism of fatty acids.

At room temperature, saturated fatty acids tend to solidify, while unsaturated fatty acids have a liquid consistency.

Furthermore, polyunsaturated products remain fluid even at refrigeration temperatures.

Saturated FAs are very stable to heat, a property also shared by monounsaturates which, among other things, are less sensitive to oxidative stress.

The polyunsaturated ones, on the other hand, are extremely perishable both at high temperatures, both in light and in oxidative stress.

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential and semi-essential fats are polyunsaturated (EFA, from essential fatty acid ), respectively of the omega 3 and omega 6 groups.

These perform innumerable functions, such as fluidification in cell membranes, and are particularly abundant in nervous and ocular tissue.

Omega 3 and omega 6 also have a rather important metabolic impact.

Being precursors of eicosanoids, both pro-and anti-inflammatory, they affect parameters strictly correlated with the state of health such as systemic inflammation, coagulation, lipemia, etc.

By significantly altering the quantity and ratio of EFAs, it is possible to shift the delicate balance of eicosanoids.

That’s why you need to take them in the right quantities, proportions, and molecular integrity – like a damaged EFA not only loses its functionality, it can even be harmful.

The adequate fraction of fat in the diet is 25% (for adults) or 30% (for growing subjects) with respect to the total energy of a norm caloric regimen.

For the adult, wanting to estimate them on the physiological weight, the coefficient should be 0.5-1.5 g / lbs.

Note: Healthy people are advised not to take more than 300 mg/day of cholesterol.

Why is it not advisable to eliminate fat in the diet?

First of all because among fats, as we have said, there are various essential molecules.

Secondly, because the very important fat-soluble vitamins are also diluted in fats, respectively: Vitamin A,  D, E, and K. Without lipids, these nutrients will also be lacking (also for absorption reasons).

Nonetheless, because the ability to use the fat on a cellular level for energy is “trainable”.

In a slimming diet, removing them completely would also reduce the dedicated enzymes with the consequence (in the long term) of compromising weight loss.

Where Are Fatty Acids Found?

Fats are found in both animal and plant foods.

Let’s say that, in unprocessed foods, the presence of unsaturated fats is greater in the vegetable kingdom.

Milk and dairy products, in addition to the adipose tissue and offal of various animals, contain higher levels of saturated fat.

Omega 6 is found in both oilseeds and meat, albeit at different concentrations based on the specific fatty acid.

Omega 3 ALA is typical of vegetables, while EPA and DHA are characteristic of sea fishing and seaweed products.

The primary dietary sources of fat for humans change according to local habits.

It must be said that, following globalization, what we are going to exhibit is gradually losing its meaning.

Around the Mediterranean Basin, the fundamental source of fat should be olives (extra virgin olive oil), seasonal oil seeds, and fish products.

In Central Europe, butter, cheeses and adipose fats of land animals (eg pork, cattle) acquire greater importance. In the Northern portion, on the other hand, fishery products should have a higher role.

To date, in the indigenous populations of Africa (and especially in the central-northern portion) there is a conspicuous use of palm oil and other vegetable sources.

The pro-English populations of Southern Africa, on the other hand, have inherited part of the Anglo-Saxon traditions.

In South America, sources of fat are numerous but traditionally they would be avocado fruit and pork fat.

North America and Australia have no real tradition, and have inherited the ethnic habits of the settlers; they abound with the fat of meat and milk (butter and cheese).

Some areas in the extreme North American continent still consume obsolete animals such as moose and seals.

In South Asia and Oceania, coconut and fishery products have played a very important role, as have soy and rice (related oils) in North Asia.

Proteins

Proteins

The proteins are large molecules polymer formed by said monomers amino acids (AA). Based on the combination of AAs, proteins also acquire very different and highly specific structures.

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Dietary proteins, after undergoing digestion, are absorbed into the individual amino acids that can be used in the body for:

  • protein synthesis;
  • energy production, after conversion into glucose or ketone bodies, or by direct oxidation in the muscle;
  • synthesis of fatty acids – when acetyl Coenzyme A is in excess.

Overall, the energy potential of food proteins corresponds to 4 kcal/g. However, not all amino acids are created equal.

Amino Acids

The amino acids that can be used for the synthesis of proteins are called photosynthetic.

Some are called essential ( EAA ) because they must necessarily be introduced with the diet. Starting from these, the organism can synthesize the other non-essential ones.

Those capable of entering the glucogenic pathway are called glucogenic AAs, while those that can be used in ketogenic life are called ketogenic AAs – some possess both.

Only 3 of the essentials are also branched (BCAAs) – we have already talked about their muscle use for energy purposes.

Biological Value

The biological value (BV) is the qualitative evaluation criterion of food proteins. The more they resemble humans, in terms of quantity and proportions in EAA, the higher the VB.

The food proteins with the highest biological value are, on average, those of animal origin: egg, milk and derivatives, meat and fish.

Of the vegetable kingdom, the only “relevant” ones with a high biological value are those of soy and algae; alternatively, it is possible to combine in the diet – even not in the same meal – foods belonging to different groups (eg cereals and legumes) with the aim of compensating for the limiting amino acids.

Protein requirement is too vast a topic to be summarized in a few lines.

Let’s say that, for the general population, more or less 1.0 g / lbs of physiological weight is recommended (depending on the bibliographic source consulted), or 13% of norm caloric energy.

Body composition, age, level of physical activity, any special and pathological conditions can drastically increase this demand (such as bodybuilders in the process of cutting calories).

On the other hand, some diseases (especially kidney diseases) require that dietary proteins be reduced to a minimum wage.

Where are proteins found?

Proteins are ubiquitous. Abound in meat, fish, eggs, and derivatives lean of milk – sources which, however, as we said also boast the most VB.

They are present, but not very concentrated and usually with a lower BV, in legumes and cereals in natural form.

However, there are several processed vegetables, used above all in vegan diets, with a high protein content; some examples are tofu, wheat muscle, tempeh, seitan, Mopar, etc.

For omnivores, in order to guarantee the protein VB, it is recommended to take at least 1/3 of the total proteins from foods of animal origin.

What To Eat In A Balanced Diet?

What To Eat In A Balanced Diet?

By food pyramid, we mean the graphic representation of the quantities, intended as a standard portion and frequency of consumption, typical of a balanced Mediterranean-style diet.

The behavioral promotion campaigns based on this representation are aimed at recovering the food tradition of the Mediterranean diet in the whole population.

However, it is not recommended to interpret “rigidly” what is suggested. Scientific research is constantly evolving and, with it, the guidelines for a healthy and balanced diet.

However, we must not make the opposite mistake either, risking excessively altering the nutritional balance through “do it yourself” or “free interpretation”.

The food pyramid is divided into 6 floors which, in scale, propose the various food groups with different colors in order to emphasize that each is characterized by a different content of nutrients and requires different quantities.

Before the base, the pyramid should be equipped with solid “foundations”, respectively structured by the so-called ” fundamental assumptions “, namely:

  • Regular physical activity (sport or general motor exercise);
  • Sleep adequate and manageable levels of stress;
  • Psycho-emotional balance.

Entering into the merits of the pyramidal structure, at the base we find water and foods of vegetable origin that are not very energetic but rich in vitamins, mineral salts, water, fibers, antioxidants, etc .; or vegetables and sweet-sour fruit.

Proceeding upwards, from one floor to another, you can see the food groups with higher energy density and lower overall quantity.

The second level consists of cereals, potatoes, their flours, and lean derivatives (pasta, bread, polenta, etc.).

Let’s move on to meats, eggs, fish products, both fresh and preserved (such as cured meats), and legumes.

So we come to milk, derivatives, and condiments (oil, butter); and finally to sweets and spirits – top of the pyramid.

Here are some additional considerations:

  • Baked goods, both savory and sweet, which contain different ingredients such as eggs, fats, etc. they should not be consumed with the same criteria, but to a lesser extent;
  • It is good to specify that a balanced diet could contain only greens and vegetables, to the detriment of sweet-sour fruit, but not the other way around. In fact, among vegetables and vegetables, there are several not very sweet fruits (tomatoes, courgettes, etc.) but still having the other nutritional properties of what we “traditionally” call “fruit” (apples, pears, etc.);
  • Compared to foods of animal origin, lean fresh meat seems to have to occupy the greater role than other products (fat, cured meats, etc.);
  • Butter can be included in the group of ordinary condiments, inadequate portions, and provided that its frequency of consumption does not exceed 1/3 of the total. The other 2/3 should consist of extra virgin olive oil or other cold-pressed seeds (with a similar distribution of fatty acids);
  • Olives, avocados, coconut, oilseeds are nutritional sources of fat but are not included in the condiments. Using extra virgin olive oil in the right quantities, their presence in the diet is not necessary, but they can be contextualized by balancing their portion with that of the lipid condiments;
  • Honey, jams: these are an ingredient for widely consumed breakfast. They are a source of highly concentrated simple sugars and, as such, the useful portion is a few grams.

What Is The Standard Portion?

The standard portion should be understood as a unit of measurement specifically referring to each individual food.

To cover individual nutritional needs, the number of standard portions is then associated with the frequency of consumption parameter – which we will see better below.

The standard portion can be estimated in various ways it is possible to evaluate the standard portion thanks to a list of home and commonly used measures.

However, this method is negatively influenced by the multiplicity of tools normally used in the kitchen (spoons, cups, glasses, etc.).

This is why many other systems have also been conceived to identify the standard portion, such as the comparison to two-dimensional (photos, drawings, etc.) and three-dimensional (objects, etc.) models.

The use of hands and fingers is then particularly convenient and useful, as it is commensurate with the anthropometric characteristics of the subject.

Consumption Frequency

It defines the weekly frequency of consumption as the frequency with which eat foods within 7 days. This parameter depends on both the specific nutritional characteristics and the standard portion.

The frequency of consumption refers in general to the macro groups and subgroups of foods, but more microscopically it should be applied to each individual product.

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In fact, to ensure the adequacy of the fingers, certain foods should be eaten several times a day or a week; in general, however, it remains logical to deduce that, taking for granted the standardization of the portions, the quantity of the same will have to vary according to individual needs.

The consumption frequencies defined by the Society of Human Nutrition were drawn up on the basis of the quantities in grams of the standard portions by type of food and the energy and nutritional composition of the foods.

Calories To Be Taken In A Balanced Diet

Calories To Be Taken In A Balanced Diet

The caloric level to be taken in a balanced diet basically depends on: anthropometric characteristics, metabolic commitment linked to age, and the total amount of physical activity carried out.

A balanced diet must first provide all the energy needed to maintain a normal weight.

What if the weight is excessive?

Certainly, the most suitable diet would be low-calorie, i.e. with an energy intake lower than necessary, in order to guarantee a reduction in fat mass up to normal weight.

But can a low-calorie diet be defined as balanced?

Theoretically yes; even if, in the absence of a time limit (or a goal), by definition, an “energetically insufficient” diet does not satisfy the principle of indefinite homeostasis. However, it shouldn’t be overly restrictive.

What if the weight is insufficient?

The most adequate diet would be high-calorie, that is, with an energy intake higher than necessary, in order to restore the physiological weight.

But can a high-calorie diet be defined as balanced?

The same reasoning applies to the low-calorie diet.

Example Of A Balanced Diet Menu

Example Of A Balanced Diet Menu

We have made it clear that a balanced diet must provide all the nutrients necessary for maintaining health.

We now propose a hypothetical menu, conceived for a healthy person without any different nutritional requirements.

We underline, however, that there is no “ideal meal”; whatever it is, it is inexorably linked to the caloric and nutritional amount of the whole day – indeed, of the week – which is why all the proposals (breakfast, snacks, lunch, and dinner) will be part of the same norm caloric menu.

Breakfast

It usually makes up about 15% of your daily calories.

” The breakfast is the most important meal of the day ” Yes, but also no!

In the sense that it depends a lot on both personal habits and the metabolic state and the central nervous system in the morning.

We do not intend to criticize those who skip it daily, nor those who would feel “faint” without it.

On the other hand, it should be remembered that, in the case of being overweight and a slimming diet, those who choose to radically change their habits tend to obtain greater results than those who persevere in their routine.

  • Cow’s milk, whole or partially skimmed (250 ml)
  • Breakfast cereals (35 g, about 7 tablespoons)

For lactose intolerant, traditional milk can be replaced by delactosed milk at the same level of skimming.

For allergy sufferers or vegans, there are plant-based alternatives fortified in calcium and riboflavin. Breakfast cereals can consist of oatmeal, cornflakes, muesli, puffed rice, etc.

Snacks

They are generally 2 and usually contain about 5% of the daily calories.

Their importance is:

  • notable in sedentary subjects or those who practice mild motor activity to reduce appetite at main meals;
  • crucial for busy athletes, to support performance, or to optimize post-workout recovery.

Valid alternatives are valid for those who are not physically engaged:

  • Fruit, always in season and varying the type (150-200 g);
  • 0% fat or medium skimmed yogurt (150-200 g), including fortified soybean;
  • Rice or legume cakes (about 25 g).

For very busy athletes, it may be recommended to also include a third protein snack at the end of the training session (20-40 g), “possibly” consisting of a protein shake.

Lunch

It should be the biggest meal, with around 40% of the calories.

Any third snack of the athlete (if on a low-calorie diet) can reduce the calories from this meal.

  • Cereals or derivatives (pasta, polenta, bread, etc.), wholemeal or white, but also pseudo-cereals and dried legumes (about 120 g); it is possible to replace them with potatoes 3.5 times higher; Pay attention to the caloric differences linked to the single proposals mentioned;
  • Vegetables or total vegetables, raw or cooked, to season the first course and as a side dish (150-300 g);
  • Hard-boiled eggs, lean salami, natural tuna, light cottage cheese (100 g);
  • With a portion at the bottom of cereals or derivatives for first courses, a 30 g slice of wholemeal or white bread can be inserted;
  • Extra virgin olive oil (15 g).

Dinner

It should be the second-largest meal, with around 35% of the calories.

Any third snack of the athlete (if on a low-calorie diet) can reduce the calories from this meal.

  • Cereals or derivatives (pasta, polenta, bread, etc.), wholemeal or white, but also pseudo-cereals and dried legumes (about 120 g); it is possible to replace them with potatoes 3.5 times higher; Pay attention to the caloric differences linked to the single proposals mentioned;
  • Lean meat, lean fish, eggs, lean ricotta (200 g); if you want to include aged cheeses, the portion is reduced to about 80 g, or to double by eliminating the oil from seasoning;
  • Vegetables or total vegetables, raw or cooked, to season the first course and as a side dish (150-300 g);
  • Extra virgin olive oil (15 g).

Balanced Diet In The Various Age Groups

As we have now reiterated several times, the balance of the diet depends above all on nutritional needs.

The first criterion of differentiation is, without doubt, the age of the population group or of the person in question.

In the central band of this group (adults), we should also divide the males from the females.

Following, the possible presence of special physiological conditions (pregnancy, breastfeeding) and, if possible, the anthropometric characteristics.

But let us now return to the correlation between age group and nutritional balance. Starting from the youngest (childhood, puberty, and adolescence) we can see greater requests for:

  • Water: with adequate intake (AI) of 800 to 2500 ml/day (peak in males aged 15-17);
  • Energy: with higher average energy needs (AR) in adulthood (peak in taller and heavier adult males, and with a higher level of physical activity than the others);
  • Proteins: with recommended intake for the population (PRI) estimated in g / lbs * day ranging from 11 g / day total (infants) up to 62 g / day total (for males aged 15-17);
  • Fats: with adequate intake (AI) higher in infants (40%), ensuring 250 mg of EPA + DHA, and an additional 100 mg of DHA (pregnant women and nurses require another 100 mg of DHA); saturates should be below 10% and cholesterol below 300 mg/day;
  • Minerals: with adequate intake (AI) higher in growing subjects and pregnant women and nurses, especially calcium and iron;
  • Vitamins: with adequate intake (AI) higher in pregnancy and breastfeeding, with the exception of it. D which should be taken in higher quantities in the elderly.

Note: carbohydrates play a lower percentage role than other energy macronutrients compared to other age groups.

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