The health benefits of food have been studied by countless ancient civilizations and modern herbalists, naturopaths, and dieticians. Doctors have always told us that a properly balanced diet will help us prevent the incidence of a number of illnesses and diseases, treat most ailments, and help us live a healthy and happy life. Despite that advice, most people limit themselves to only a few types of food items, and do not always get the nutrition their body needs.
Our body requires a variety of nutrients for its daily functioning. Our health is governed predominantly by the nutritional value of food that we eat greatly, hence, it affects most of the activities that we do. Food is the sole source of energy, minerals, and vitamins for our body and is responsible for the efficient metabolism of every bodily process.
Here is a short list of nutrients that our body requires – calories, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fiber, and minerals. Along with minerals, the body also needs vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Pyridoxine, Biotin, Folic Acid, vitamin D, vitamin E, Tocopherol, and vitamin K. To get all these nutrients, it becomes necessary to eat a wider variety of food items.
Count the number of different food items that you have eaten in the past month. In most circumstances, you will not exceed 20 unique items. Now, look at all of the different types of food items that are popular throughout the world.
A major part of the daily diet is formed by cereals in many parts of the world. Cereals belong to the complex carbohydrates food group; and are rich sources of minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, oils, proteins and fats. Whole cereal grains have an outer bran coat, a starchy endosperm, and a germ. They are known as staple crops because usually cereals are cultivated in huge quantities, and they provide more food and energy than any other type of crop. Consumption of cereals is known to lower the risk of heart diseases.
Given that pulses are a great source of proteins, fiber and numerous required nutrients for the body, consumption of pulses is highly beneficial. They are also a great substitute for meat as a source for proteins. From lowering heart risk and diabetes to being a good source of folate, pulses are a great addition to your diet!
It is impossible to have a diet without any vegetables, but plenty of people, especially children avoid them. Vegetables are healthy and delicious dietary items. The high levels of antioxidants prevent the growth of cancerous cells. Naturally grown vegetables are low in fat and no cholesterol. Dark green vegetables are a good source of phenolic flavonoid antioxidants and minerals. The high percentage of fiber level in vegetables, aids in keeping the digestive track well toned. Both weight and health worries can be solved with a vegetable-rich diet.
Fruits are inevitably a part of our diets, whether on a daily basis or not; we all eat them. Sometimes when there are limited options for a quick snack, an apple or banana might just be your best options. They are natural sources of vitamins and minerals, which are essential for the proper functioning of the body. Just like vegetables, fruits are rich in dietary fiber, and help to improve the functioning of the digestive tract. For a strong immune system and overall good health consuming fruits is important.
Seeds and Nuts
Seeds and nuts are like little power houses of nutrition that need to be included in our diet. Essential for many bodily processes, as they have chemical compounds and impressively compact nutrient load. Apart from providing the required nutrients, they help prevent and fight various diseases. They also take care of your daily protein and nutrition intake. They provide unsaturated fats, phosphorus, folate, magnesium, fiber, potassium and many other nutrients.
Herbs and Spices
We use at least one herb or spice in almost every meal we make. From curbing inflammation and reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart ailments and cancer; they definitely do more than add flavour to the food. They are high in antioxidant properties and are recommended for all diets. Depending on personal choice and health requirements, choosing the right ones is important.
Some of the most popular herbs and spices are Aloe Vera, Ashwagandha, Bay Leaves, Black Cardamom, Chili Powder, Chives, Eucalyptus, Fenugreek, Peppermint, Raspberry, Red Rooibos Tea, Star Anise, Stevia, Tulsi, Turmeric.
Another unavoidable part of our diet is vegetable oil. Oils provide most of the health benefits of the vegetable source of it. Vegetable oils provide huge amount of benefits such as lowering heart risk and breast cancer, improving metabolism, and some even provide omega-3 fatty acids. Whether you use it as cooking oil, or as a salad dressing; you cannot avoid them. Choosing the right oil for your dietary and health requirement will ensure you get all the benefits from it. So make sure to include these, and try some exotic new ones as well.
Some of the popular oils include Almond Oil, Argan Oil, Coconut Oil, Corn Oil, Flax Seed Oil, Hemp Oil, Mustard Oil, Olive Oil, Palm Oil, Peanut Oil, Rice Bran Oil, Safflower Oil, Sesame Oil, Soybean Oil, Sunflower Oil.
Animals and Animal Products
The human body requires a good amount of proteins, vitamins and minerals on a daily basis. Animal meat and products are an essential source for non vegetarians for these nutritional requirements. Obviously, you can be a vegetarian in a healthy way, but it requires a lot of attention and dedication to make sure you get the nutrients that most people only access through animal products. A balance of vegetables and meat is required for the best functioning of the body.
The most popular animal-derived products are as follows.
Fish is the most important source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, after sun of course. Since our body doesn’t naturally produce omega-3, we must get it externally for proper functioning of our system, and fish is the best choice! It is rich in many nutrients and helps prevent and cure a number of diseases. It is also low in fat which makes it ideal for those working on losing weight. It reduces heart risks and blood pressure levels. Fish in its many forms is delicious and very healthy for us. It is also helpful in increasing grey matter in the brain which accelerates cognitive development.
This is definitely a huge list and a single person cannot eat everything that is mentioned on it. However, we should make sure that we have as much variety of food in our diet as possible, since the nutritional value and health benefits of each food item is different. 5-6 cereals, 8-10 pulses, 20-25 vegetables, 15-20 fruits, and 20-25 spices and herbs, and 6-8 animal products on a monthly average is a good idea, provided you are not a vegan. Click on the food items above to learn more about their health benefits and select the food items you want to add to your dietary regime based on your health requirements!