What does a healthy diet consist of? A variety of foods can figure into a healthy diet, allowing you to choose a number of foods that will fully support your health and well-being.
The Importance of a Healthy Diet
Before discussing what does a healthy diet consist of, it is first important to understand the significance of a healthy diet. Why eat a healthy diet? In order for your body to function optimally, you need to provide it with the fuel it needs to perform at its peak. A body under the influence of a healthy diet is leaner, stronger, and more energized. Eating a healthy diet allows you to not only fight off disease more efficiently, but to go about your daily tasks with more energy and vitality.
What Does a Healthy Diet Consist of?
A healthy diet consists of natural, wholesome foods that meet your body's nutritional needs for both macronutrients and micronutrients. In order to really understand what a healthy diet consists of, it is important to look at your body's needs for both types of nutrients, in conjunction with the US Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA).
Different bodies have different caloric needs, depending on activity level, BMI, height, weight, lean body mass and more. The best way to calculate your individual caloric needs at which you will operate at your physical peak is by calculating your basal metabolic rate and then factor in your activity level using the Harris-Benedict equation.
You can also find a good BMR calculator at BMI calculator. Once you have your BMR, you can use the Harris Benedict Equation to factor in your activity level. It is important that you are honest about your activity level when applying the Harris Benedict equation, or you may wind up eating too much and gaining weight. The number you reach after discovering your BMR and factoring in your Harris Benedict equation is the maximum number of daily calories you should eat to maintain your weight.
Your body needs the proper balance of macronutrients. What are macronutrients? Essentially they are fats, protein, carbohydrates and fiber. The US RDA calculates your macronutrient needs as a percentage of your daily caloric intake (except for fiber, which is calculated in grams).
- The recommended daily intake for complex carbohydrates is 40 to 50% of your daily caloric intake. Carbohydrates have four calories per gram.
- The recommended daily intake for simple carbohydrates is 10 to 15% of your daily caloric intake. Simple carbohydrates are simple sugars and contain four calories per gram.
- The recommended daily intake for lean protein is 20 to 30% of your daily caloric intake. Protein has four calories per gram.
- The recommended daily intake for fat is less than 30% of your diet, taken in as mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Additionally, it is beneficial to balance Omega-6 fatty acids to Omega-3 fatty acids at a ratio of 2:1. Fats contain nine calories per gram.
- There is no recommended daily intake for alcohol; however, alcohol does figure into your caloric intake and must be considered. Alcohol contains seven calories per gram.
Micronutrients are made up of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function. Intake of these essential nutrients is set by the US RDA.
Finding Healthy Foods
The best way to make sure that you get your full intake of micronutrients and macronutrients is to eat a variety of natural, colorful foods. Eating foods according to the food pyramid will help to assure that you get your macronutrient intake.
Another recommendation for a healthy diet is to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. The more processed a food, the more stripped away the nutrition is. Not only that, but the human body has evolved to eat natural plant and animal foods--not highly processed, sugar packed products--so your body will respond at its best when you eat foods that are close to the source from where they originate.
Is it Necessary to Eat Organic?
There is some debate as to whether or not organic foods make you healthier. In traditionally farmed foods, farmers use a variety of pesticides that may remain in trace amounts in the non-organic foods you purchase. Choosing to eat organic foods is an individual choice. Many swear by the benefits of an organic diet, while others claim that a good washing is all your foods need to remove trace pesticide residues. Ultimately, it is up to you whether or not you feel you can benefit from an organic diet.
Things to Avoid
Part of a healthy diet is knowing what foods detract from your health. Some foods to avoid or eat in moderation include:
- Highly processed foods
- Foods containing trans-fats
- Full-fat dairy
- Processed meats such as hot dogs
- Foods containing simple carbohydrates like white flour
- Fast food
- Foods containing a lot of sodium
Is a Supplement Necessary?
If you are eating a variety of healthy foods and including fruits and vegetables of various colors into your diet, chances are you are receiving adequate nutrition. In most cases, taking a multivitamin won't hurt, but it may be a waste of money. Many of the nutrients in multivitamins are flushed out in your urine if your body doesn't need them. Still, a multivitamin can help fill in nutritional gaps. Check with your health care provider or a dietician to determine whether or not you need a multi-vitamin.
It may sound complicated, but healthy eating isn't really that difficult. Eat a variety of foods from all food groups in moderation, and you are well on your way to a healthy you. .