It is all too common these days to see the effects of a poor diet. Poor diets and obesity are one of the main causes of many diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The foundation of good health is a diet that is healthy and balanced. It is important to eat a wide range of foods including at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day. It’s also necessary to reduce the excessive consumption of saturated fat and sugar. In this way, you will reduce the risks of developing a long-term health problem.
What does a healthy diet look like?
In order to be in the best possible physical and mental condition, you should aim to:
- Eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day – try to vary the colours of these two.
- Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates like pasta, bread, rice or potatoes
- Include dairy products or their alternatives (like soya milk, oat milk, etc.)
- Eat some protein – this can be from eggs, pulses, beans, fish and meat as well as other protein options like Quorn products
- Small amounts of unsaturated spreads and oils
- Plenty of fluids – water is preferable to fresh juices or fizzy drinks
Healthy Diets in Suffolk
According to HealthySuffolk.org, an unhealthy diet is the biggest risk factor for death in Suffolk. This comes before smoking and high blood pressure.
It is difficult to avoid temptation when surrounded by fast food outlets. In fact, the local environment is a massive influence on behaviours to do with food. For children who are exposed to fast food outlets on their way to and from school will find it hard to make healthy choices.
The areas with the highest levels of deprivation also have the highest densities of fast food outlets. In some places, there can be five times as many outlets in poorer areas than in more affluent ones.
For Suffolk, the highest concentrations of fast food outlets are found in Ipswich and Waveney. These areas are also the most deprived. This access to fast food makes eating a healthy diet less likely.
10 reasons why a healthy diet is important
- Weight loss
Losing weight can reduce people’s risks of certain chronic conditions. Obesity is a known cause of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, low bone density and certain cancers
- Reduced risk of cancer
Having an unhealthy diet can mean a higher cancer risk. You can reduce this risk by maintaining your weight within the healthy range for your height.
- Managing diabetes
A person who has diabetes can help manage their conditions with a healthy diet. This will help to delay or prevent complications that are associated with the condition.
- Prevention of heart problems and strokes
There exists evidence linking vitamin E to the prevention of blood clots, which can cause heart attacks. Things that contain Vitamin E include peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, green vegetables and hazelnuts.
- Protecting future generations
Children learn by modelling and so parents who model healthy diets will pass on these tendencies to their children.
- Strong teeth and bones
Ensuring there is adequate calcium and magnesium in your diet is important for ensuring you have healthy teeth and bones. This is important for the prevention of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis in later life. You can get calcium from legumes, tofu, canned fish, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and low-fat dairy products. There are also some processed products like cereals and milk that is plant-based that are fortified with calcium.
- Improved mood
There is a close link between the diet you eat and your mood. Foods that have a high glycaemic index can lead to increased feelings of depression and fatigue.
- Improvements in memory
Having a healthy diet will give you the best start in preventing cognitive decline and dementia. A 2015 study identified certain foods and nutrients that could be beneficial. These include vitamin C, D and E, omega-3 fatty acids, fish and flavonoids and polyphenols.
- Improvements in gut health
There are lots of naturally occurring bacteria in the colon and this has an important role in digestion and metabolism. A diet that is high in sugar and fat but low in fibre increases inflammation. An excellent source of probiotics includes fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt, kefir and miso.
- Getting enough sleep
Sleep apnoea can stop you from sleeping well even if you don’t realise you’re not sleeping well. This occurs when the airways collapse or are blocked.
Take away tips
- Swap soft drinks for herbal tea or water
- Have one meat-free day per week
- Make sure that half of your plat is produce
- Drink plant-based milk instead of cow’s milk.
- Eat more lean protein from tofu, eggs, nuts and fish
If in doubt, contact a dietician.