A healthy mind and a fit body is the direct outcome of the sound nutritional choices that we make. More and more people are forsaking healthy food and consuming fast foods that do the body more harm than good. Mounting research suggests that intake of fresh, home cooked and seasonal foods is imperative to ward off lifestyle diseases and maintain optimum body mass indexes especially in today’s fast paced and hectic work environment.
Here are some of the top healthy and unhealthy food groups that will influence your eating behaviour and help you understand the science of nutrition better.
It is recommended that 4-6 servings of fruits and vegetables must be consumed daily for good health. Fruits are great for soft skin and a glowing complexion. Fruits like papaya and mango are a rich source of vitamin A that is needed for healthy eyesight.
Fruits contain antioxidants that ward off certain diseases like cancer. They are a vital source of crucial B vitamins that help to enhance immunity. Consume fresh fruits that are in season. Canned and packaged fruits are high on sugar and preservatives and not a very healthy option.
Vegetables especially used for salads are best eaten raw. These include lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, radish, bell peppers and green leafy vegetables. Green vegetables are a rich source of iron that is needed for optimal haemoglobin levels.
Veggies also contain vitamins and minerals that help to digest food better and help it to be absorbed faster into the body. Veggies are crucial for blood and bone health. Make sure that young children get their regular dose of veggies especially in their critical growth years.
Lean meats like fish and chicken are excellent sources of muscle building protein. Protein is needed by the body to repair torn and worn out muscles. Choose lean protein like fish and cook it in minimal oil to get maximum nutrient benefits.
Whole grains like wheat with its husk are a good source of essential carbohydrates. The body for energy and sustenance needs carbohydrates but not all carbs are good. Simple carbs like sugar, starch and refined flour are unhealthy whereas complex carbs like multi grains, oatmeal and barley are excellent for the body’s metabolism. They have a low glycemic index i.e. they release sugar into the blood very slowly.
Nuts in moderation are very good for the health. Nuts like dates, walnuts, raisins and peanuts are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids, which are vital for good hair and skin.
These are essential fats, which also elevate the good cholesterol in the body and reduce the bad cholesterol.
The list of unhealthy foods is unending. Not only do these foods cause serious weight gain and ill health, they also cause lifestyle diseases like blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Here are some of the top unhealthy foods.
White sugar kills in more ways than one. It is one of the leading causes of type II diabetes. It causes excessive weight gain and insulin resistance in the body.
Sugar must be had in very small and limited quantities. Doctors recommend not more than 2-3 tea spoons of sugar in a day. This sugar is found in cakes, biscuits, chocolates, ice creams and other sugary foods.
Refined flour is white flour like maida, which is primarily used in baking cakes and pastries. It is not good for the health because it metabolizes rapidly in the body and elevates blood sugar levels. It also has more calories and is responsible for weight gain in the body.
Vegetable oils elevate the bad cholesterol in the body. Refined oil like sunflower oil has the highest quantity of saturated fat, which clogs arteries and leads to the formation of heart attack causing plaque.
Stick to healthier versions like canola oil, safflower oil, olive oil and groundnut oil, which are high sources of PUFA and MUFA.
Butter And Ghee
Butter and ghee are high in saturated fat and should be had in strict moderation. Excess consumption of ghee, margerine and butter lead to elevated cholesterol levels and obesity.
Canned And Preserved Food
Food that is eaten out of cans and cartons is never healthy. That is because it is loaded in sugar, salt and preservatives to help retain its freshness.
Even cartons of juices, which claim to be healthy, are high in their sugar content and not one of the best things to eat especially if you are on a diet and plan to lose weight.
Red meat has received the thumbs down due to its high fat content. Red meat like pork, beef and mutton are high on lard, which increases the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. Stick to leaner versions of meat like fish and chicken in order to meet your protein requirements.
Burgers, Pizzas And Fries
These foods have been aptly named ‘junk food’ due to their empty calories and zero nutritive value. They are high on saturated fat and low on vitamins and minerals.
One slice of pizza can give you an additional 500 calories in a day. French fries are high on refined oil and starch, which can ruin your diet programme. These are best had in moderation and only as a special treat.
Food Containing Monosodium Glutamate
Monosodium glutamate also known as ‘ajinomoto’ is a flavouring agent which is used in Chinese and oriental cuisine to enhance the flavour of the food. The compound has been banned and is not recommended for pregnant women as it can harm the developing foetus.
Similarly, some varieties of fish have dangerous levels of mercury in it and are not recommended to be eaten in very large quantities. By making healthy food choices you can enhance your overall health to a great extent. You cannot completely ban unhealthy foods from your diet, as it is practically impossible. However, you can curtail their consumption so that they do not harm the body.