Proper nutrition helps to keep you in good health and prevents many types of chronic disease. Poor nutrition may increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain forms of cancer, according to the World Health Organization. Bad nutrition can also cause you to gain weight, have bone problems and develop nutritional deficiencies. In order to improve your diet, you'll need to eat more whole foods and avoid highly refined and processed foods.
Good nutrition involves eating whole foods from a variety of food groups throughout the day. Whole foods are unprocessed, natural foods that don't contain any added or artificial ingredients. They supply you with macronutrients, which are carbohydrates, fat and protein. Your body relies on carbohydrates for energy to support brain and muscle function. Choose whole food sources of carbohydrates, such as brown rice, quinoa, oats and whole wheat bread, to get the most nutrients per serving of carbohydrate. Healthy fats, which come from nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and fish, are an excellent source of energy, help to maintain cell membranes, aid in absorption of certain vitamins and provide cushioning to organs. Healthy sources of protein in your diet, from foods such as beans, lean meat and low-fat dairy products, help with the growth and repair of muscles and tissues and the production of hormones. They also support immune function. An inadequate amount of carbohydrate, fat or protein in the diet is considered bad nutrition and may lead to compromised health.
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Good nutrition also involves the adequate intake of micronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. These nutrients are needed in smaller amounts than the macronutrients, but are essential to good health. Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, lean protein and nuts can help meet your daily needs for these nutrients. Bad nutrition from not eating a variety of whole foods may lead to deficiencies of micronutrients, such as iron, vitamin A, folate and zinc. Over time, the lack of these nutrients can lead to anemia, vision problems, birth defects and compromised immune function, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
Avoiding Bad Nutrition
An unbalanced or bad diet may contain too much of certain nutrients or may lack others. For example, a diet high in refined and processed foods, such as snack foods, fast foods, desserts, candy and soda, contains an excess amount of sugar, fat, sodium and calories. Artificial ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, stabilizers, thickeners, flavorings and colorings also contribute to poor nutrition. Avoid packaged and processed foods as much as possible to get the most nutrients and improve your overall nutrition.
Guidelines for Good Nutrition
You can improve your nutrition by following guidelines set for healthy eating. ChooseMyPlate.gov notes that a well-balanced, 2,000-calorie-per-day diet contains 6 ounces of grains, 2.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of dairy, 5.5 ounces of protein and 6 teaspoons of oil. The Institute of Medicine suggests healthy adults consume 45 to 65 percent of their total calories from carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent of calories from fats and 10 to 35 percent of calories from proteins. Men should also aim for 30 to 38 grams of fiber daily; women should aim for 21 to 25 grams daily.
- McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: The Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat
- World Health Organization: Benefits of Balanced Diet
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Micronutrient Facts
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: Chemical Cuisine: Learn About Food Additives
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: My Daily Food Plan
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids
- Merriam-Webster.com: Whole Food