Ultimately, a healthy diet helps maintain or improve your health. Many fad diets can help you lose weight in the short-term, but a truly healthy diet is a long-term strategy that involves consuming appropriate amounts of all nutrients, including clean water. A healthy, well-balanced diet can prevent or reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, according to the World Health Organization. Information on healthy diets, however, can be conflicting, and foods considered healthy are often relatively expensive.
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Increase in Energy
A well-balanced, healthy diet consists of adequate amounts of macronutrients and micronutrients, which provide the building blocks for the body to function. Macronutrients are types of compounds classified as carbohydrates, fats or proteins. Carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables and grains, are easily utilized by the body to produce energy. Micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids that are found within macronutrients. The B-vitamin group is largely responsible for cellular metabolism and energy production. Adequate levels of energy are essential for maintaining body processes, as well as allowing for work and exercise activities.
Strong Immune System
A strong immune system is able to fend off pathogenic microorganisms that cause disease and repair body systems before they malfunction. A strong immune system requires a continuous supply of energy, as well as various micronutrients, such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc, selenium, essential fatty acids and amino acids. A healthy, well-balanced diet provides the immune system with the nutrients it requires to operate optimally. Infections, cancers and systemic deterioration are much reduced in bodies with strong immune systems.
A healthy diet combined with some exercise is essential in maintaining an appropriate weight. A healthy weight is determined by your genetics, not the prevailing view of what might be aesthetically pleasing -- although feeling good about how you look is beneficial, too. A healthy weight provides you with more energy and reduces the risks of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoarthritis, gout, fungal infections and some cancers, according to “Nutrition and Public Health.”
Sometimes economic forces clash with health and conflicting information is generated in the media. For example, eggs are often proclaimed to be very nutritious, but sometimes also vilified as being a major source of harmful cholesterol. Soy products were once heralded as “miracle foods,” but hormonal disruptions and links to some forms of cancer have been established. Fluoridated water was said to be beneficial for preventing cavities, but has recently been removed from many baby products due to risks of dental fluorsis and other potential health hazards, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Organic foods are assumed to be of the highest quality, although the definition and requirements of organic labeling has changed dramatically over the past decade. Finally, genetically modified foods are claimed to be safe and potentially more nutritious, although testing on animals has shown the opposite to be true, according to “Contemporary Nutrition.” Determining what should be included within a healthy diet, therefore, can be confusing.
Financial and Time Investment
Foods considered to be essential to a healthy diet are relatively expensive, especially as laws have been passed to severely restrict access to farmer’s markets. Filling a grocery bag with fruits, vegetables, lean fish and meats is an expensive venture, and one that a growing number of American families are hard pressed to afford, regardless of the potential health benefits. Additionally, new regulations for food labeling, especially for organic certification, doesn’t always ensure healthier foods, but sometimes provides justification to increase prices. Preparing your own food at home also requires planning in advance to shop for healthful meal plans, as well as more cooking time than processed foods.
- World Health Organization: Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health
- “Advanced Nutrition: Macronutrients, Micronutrients, and Metabolism”; Carolyn D. Berdanier; 2009
- “Nutrition and Public Health”; Sari Edelstein; 2006
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Background: Infant Formula and the Risk for Dental Fluorosis
- “Contemporary Nutrition”; Gordon M. Wardlaw; 2010