A balanced diet draws from all basic food groups to provide the body with the right types and amounts of nutrients for both nutrition and energy. To do this, most medical professionals recommend eating at least four servings of fruits, four servings of vegetables and six servings of grains each day. This should be accompanied by 6 ounces or less of lean meats, poultry or fish and two to three servings of low-fat dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt.
Obesity is the most common health problem associated with an unbalanced diet, affecting one out of three people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you're unable to balance your caloric intake with your level of physical activity, you will gain weight. When this weight gain leads to an excessive amount of body fat, to the point of increasing your body mass index to 30 or higher, you're considered obese. Eating a wide array of nutrient-dense foods in conjunction with a calorie-controlled diet and regular physical activity can help prevent and treat this condition.
Cardiovascular problems are some of the more serious health complications of an unbalanced diet. Diets high in fat, cholesterol and sugar and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains tend to increase the risk of not only high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, but also coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis — a narrowing of the arteries. This increases your risk of both heart attack and stroke. Like obesity, eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains with moderate amounts of low-fat dairy and lean meats in combination with regular exercise can help prevent and treat many cardiovascular problems.
Another potential risk of an unbalanced diet is type 2 diabetes, particularly when this diet leads to an excessive amount of weight gain. According to research published in 1989 in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," the risk of this particular disease is often related to both the degree and duration of obesity. This means the more excess fat you carry, the more likely you are to develop type 2 diabetes. The same can be said for the length of time you're obese. Again, maintaining a calorie-controlled diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help prevent type 2 diabetes. You can decrease your risk even further by remaining physically active.
An unbalanced diet can also increase the risks of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease. Like diabetes, this risk is usually associated with excess weight. When you're overweight or obese, you're placing more stress on the joints than they are built to handle, causing their cartilage to wear down over time. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces this strain and could help relieve the pressure contributing to the breakdown of cartilage.
Not eating a balanced diet can lead to malnutrition. In this situation, your diet doesn't provide the body with all the nutrients it needs to function optimally. In fact, malnutrition can occur if you're diet is deficient in just one nutrient, according to the MedlinePlus online medical encyclopedia, so it's best to eat a variety of foods, such as fruits, vegetable, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy, lean meats and fish to ensure you're getting everything the body needs.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Adult Obesity Facts
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Unbalanced Diets as a Cause of Chronic Diseases
- MedlinePlus: Malnutrition
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH
- The Merck Manual of Medical Information: Undernutrition