Eating a balanced diet

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Eating a balanced diet

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The key to good health is a balanced diet...but it can sometimes be hard to stick to! A guide to the food groups, vitamins and minerals that constitute a balanced diet.
 - Eating a balanced diet

The key to good health is a balanced diet...but it can sometimes be hard to stick to!

Day to day
To get a balanced diet, you need to eat the following every day:
-5 portions of fruit and vegetables (about 400 to 600g) in any form (fresh, cooked, juiced, puréed)
-3 portions of dairy produce (cheese, milk, yoghurts)
-1-2 pieces of fish, meat or eggs
-1-2 tablespoons or knobs of fat (oil, butter)
-3 portions of bread

According to the above, the ideal meal consists of 1 raw vegetable and/or 1 cooked vegetable, 1 source of protein (meat, fish or egg), 1 portion of bread, 1 portion of dairy, and 1 fresh or cooked piece of fruit.
To make sure you get the right vitamins and minerals, it’s important to vary the foods you eat and to limit your intake of processed foods, which are low in nutritional value but high in fat and hidden sugar.

In more detail
Each type of food has a nutritional value made up of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat) which deliver energy, micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), fibre and water. You need all three for good nutrition.


Roles Requirements Sources
1g = 3 Kcal
The body's building blocks. Helps organs and muscles to function and develop 1g per kilo of body weight every day (e.g. 60g if you weigh 60kg). 15% of energy intake Meat, fish, eggs, dairy produce (animal protein), cereals, nuts and seeds (vegetable protein)
1g = 4 Kcal
Provides the fuel that muscles and organs (including the brain) need to function Around 55% of energy intake, preferably as starch Cereals, nuts and seeds, starchy foods, dairy produce (except cheese), fruits, confectionery
1g = 3 Kcal
Makes up cells' energy reserves and protects the vital organs Around 30% of energy intake, preferebly in the form of unsaturated fat Butter, meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, oils, margarine, oil-producing fruits and lots of manufactured foods


Vitamin Roles Daily requirements Sources
B1 metabolism of carbohydrate, function of the nervous and muscular system 1.1 mg Whole grains, meat, fish, pulses
B2 metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrate 1.5 mg Dairy produce
B3 energy production, growth, hormones 11 mg Meat, fish, grains and cereals
B5 upkeep of mucous membranes, skin and hair 5 mg Meat, fish, eggs
B6 metabolism of amino acids and proteins 3.5 mg Meat, fish, eggs
B8 growth, metabolism of protein, carbohydrate and fat 50 mg Liver, egg yolk
B9 growth, nervous system, bone marrow, red blood cells 300 µg Leafy vegetables
B12 red blood cells, growth 2.4 µg Animal products
C tissue repair, immune system, fighting free radicals 110 mg Fresh fruits and vegetables
A vision, growth, detoxification, skin 600 µg Dairy produce, eggs, coloured vegetables
D calcification 5 µg Oily fish, egg yolk, liver
E protection against harmful substances 12 µg Oils, margarine, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
K blood coagulation 45 µg Spinach, cauliflower, parsley


 Minerals  Roles Daily requirements  Sources
Calcium builds and maintains bones and teeth 900 mg Dairy produce, nuts, seeds and dried fruit
Iron makes haemoglobin, which transports oxygen in the blood 16 mg Meat, eggs, pulses, chocolate
Fluorine strengthens teeth and bones 2 mg Seafood, vegetables and dried fruit
Iodine thyroid function 150 µg Sea salt, seafood
Potassium maintains the body's water balance 50 mg Fruit and vegetables
Sodium maintains the body's water balance 1 to 1.5 g Salt
Magnesium muscular contraction, mood improvement 360 mg Dried fruit, chocolate, mineral water, whole grains and cereals
Phosphorus bone formation, functioning of nerve cells 750 mg Dairy produce, fish, meat

Also known as roughage, fibre is made up of non-digestible plant components. It’s found in both the walls of vegetable cells (cellulose, pectin) and inside vegetable cells (gum, mucilage). Fibre slows down the emptying of the stomach after a meal, giving you a full feeling. It slows down carbohydrate absorption in the stomach, regulates the passage of food through the intestines and helps prevent constipation. It also reduces cholesterol and the risk of colon cancer.
You need 25 to 30g per day and you can get it from fresh and dried fruit, vegetables, grains and cereals (especially wholegrain).

Most of our bodies are made of water. It transports nutrients and waste and stabilises body temperature. Because it is evacuated every day through urine, sweating, breathing and faeces, it has to be replaced by drinking plenty (1.5 litres of water per day) and eating foods that contain lots of water.

Health and Fitness Editor
29/01/2008 16:41:00
Reader ranking: 3.7/5
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