Components of a Healthy Diet

by Mary & Christina on February 7, 2011 · 18 comments

I have been getting a lot of questions about how to eat healthy lately and how to exercise and lift properly, etc so I decided to start writing more posts on these topics.  I cant hit everything I want to talk about in just one blog post so I am spreading them out a bit…so keep your eye out for them!

I thought I would start pretty basic… What constitutes a healthy diet?

The basic components of a healthy diet include the right amount of:

  • Protein (found in fish, meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, nuts, and beans)
  • Fat (found in animal and dairy products, nuts, and oils)
  • Carbohydrates (found in fruits, vegetables, pasta, rice, grains, beans and other legumes, and sweets)
  • Vitamins (such as vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K)
  • Minerals (such as calcium, potassium, and iron)
  • Water

A healthy diet should consist of (this differs depending on your activity level…I probably eat closer to 65% carbs due to running):

  • 45% to 65% carbohydrates.
  • 10% to 35% protein.
  • 20% to 35% fat, with no more than 10% saturated fat and very little (or no) trans fat.

The Food Pyramid does a pretty good job of describing how much of each type of food group you should have.  The base of the pyramid represents the grains. These are carbohydrate-dense foods like bread, cereal, rice, and pasta (6 to 11 servings per day). Vegetables and fruit are the next part of the pyramid (3 to 5 servings per day). The next level is protein, like dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts (2 to 3 servings per day of foods from the milk group and 2 to 3 servings per day of foods from the meat, egg, bean, and nut group). The top level of the pyramid is fats, oils, and sweets; these should be used sparingly.

Protein

Proteins are nutrients that are essential to the building, maintenance, and repair of body tissue such as the skin, the internal organs, and muscle.

Quinoa: a "grain" that is high in protein and is also a complete protein

Proteins are made up of amino acids there are 22 in all. The body can make 14; the other eight (called essential amino acids) can only be obtained from what we eat.Proteins are found in all types of food, but only fish, meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, and other foods from animal sources contain complete proteins, meaning they provide the eight essential amino acids.

This chart provides an estimate for how much protein you need per day:

Fat

Before I start talking about fat please know that FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT.  EATING MORE CALORIES THAN YOU BURN WILL CAUSE YOU TO GAIN WEIGHT.  Okay, so now that is settled…lets move on now shall we?  A certain amount of fat in the diet is good and necessary to be healthy. Adults should get 20%-35% of their calories from fat.

Fat is made up of compounds called fatty acids or lipids. Depending on their chemical structure, these fatty acids are called monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, or trans fats. Trans fats and saturated fats are the unhealthiest fats to eat. Trans fats are formed when manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats, such as with shortening and hard margarine. Trans fats can also be found in many foods, including crackers (even healthy-sounding ones), cereals, baked goods, snack foods, salad dressings, fried foods, and many other processed foods.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide fuel for the body in the form of glucose. Glucose is a sugar that is the primary source of energy for all of the body’s cells. Adults should get about 45%-65% of their calories from carbohydrates.

Carbohydrate sources include many foods that are nutrient-rich such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, as well as foods such as candy, pastries, cookies, and flavored beverages (soft drinks and fruit drinks), which provide insignificant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.  Carbohydrates are INCREDIBLY important…you should never ever ever eat a low-carb diet…remember its the net calories consumed that helps lose weight- not limiting essential nutrients!

Vitamins

Vitamins help with chemical reactions in the body. In general, vitamins must come from the diet; the body doesn’t make them. There are 13 vitamins essential to the body. They are divided into two categories: water-soluble (vitamin C and all the B vitamins) and fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E, and K). The fat-soluble vitamins are more easily stored by the body. Thus, you do not need large amounts of these vitamins since excess amounts can be toxic and cause a variety of problems. Because the water-soluble vitamins aren’t stored for long in the body, we must consume them daily. And, although taking large doses of these vitamins isn’t necessarily dangerous, it may be wasteful as the body eliminates the excess water-soluble vitamins in the urine.

Minerals

Minerals, like vitamins, must come from the diet; the body doesn’t make them. Many minerals are vital to the proper function of the body and must be taken in relatively large amounts (such as calcium, potassium, and iron.) Others, like trace minerals (zinc, selenium, and copper), are only needed in small amounts to maintain good

health.

How Does Water Promote Health?

Although it has no food value, water is essential to our survival. It keeps the body adequately hydrated.

Water is the most plentiful substance in the body, accounting for 55%-65% of body weight, but because the body can’t store water, we must constantly replenish it.

Calories

Only carbohydrates, proteins, and fats provide calories for your body.  Calories are the amount of energy released when your body breaks down food. The more calories a food has, the more energy it can provide to your body. When you eat more calories than you need, your body stores the extra calories as fat. Even low-carb and fat-free foods can have a lot of calories that can be stored as fat.  That’s why all those crazy diets (low carb, grapefruit, south beach etc) are no good. Losing weight is simple math…consume less calories than you burn.

Source: Web MD

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karyn February 7, 2011 at 10:50 pm

good basic solid info. thanks for putting it all in one place. including the water. i need that to be beaten into my head!

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2 BostonRunner February 8, 2011 at 9:24 am

Great post! I’ve been really trying to drink more water lately

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3 linds February 8, 2011 at 11:24 am

wait…water has no food value ?!

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7 Pawel April 25, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Great post ! Now it is easier to know, what is necessary in our diet. Well done girls !

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