A healthy diet is the basic requirement for physical and mental well-being and for the performance of our organism. Although most people are aware of the importance of a healthy diet, reality in our affluent society often looks different. The modern diet and lifestyle has not only brought us a diverse range of food and drinks, but also faulty nutritional behavior. Unfortunately, these play a crucial role in the development of civilization diseases such as high blood pressure, elevated blood lipid levels, diabetes, obesity, stroke and heart attack.
What does a healthy diet mean?
Eating healthy means a low-fat, carbohydrate-rich, balanced mixed diet with adequate hydration. It ensures optimal supply of the nutrients carbohydrates, protein and fat, the micronutrients vitamins, minerals and trace elements and with fiber and water. Our body needs these nutrients as fuel to sustain vital functions, growth and activity.
The three main nutrients
Protein, carbohydrates and fats are the three main ingredients of our diet. Of these, fat contains the highest energy content of 9.3 kilocalories (39 kJ) per gram. Carbohydrates and protein have an equivalent energy content of 4.1 kilocalories per gram. In a healthy, balanced diet should
- 50-60 percent of the daily calorie intake from carbohydrates
- 15-20 percent protein and
- 25-30 percent come from fat.
As numerous studies prove, the average citizen of the industrialized world consumes far more fat calories. Depending on the country, the fat content accounts for 40 to 50 percent, sometimes even more of the daily food. As a result, the emergence of obesity is preprogrammed.
Your daily calorie needs depend primarily on your gender, age, and level of physical activity. For light physical work, it is a maximum of 2000 kilocalories for women and 2300 kilocalories for men. With heavy physical activity it is higher; however, a maximum of 3100 kilocalories for women and 3500 kilocalories for men.
Proteins are the most important building materials of our body. They consist of small units called amino acids. Protein molecules not only build up all cells, organs and nerves, but also hormones, enzymes and messengers. Eight of the 20 amino acids the organism can not make itself; they are essential, vital, and must be ingested with food. In addition, protein is also an energy source.
Proteins are of animal or vegetable origin. They are found in meat, sausages, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, cheese, milk and dairy products. In plant foods, they are mainly in legumes, soy products, whole grain cereals, nuts and cabbage. Generally, a daily intake of 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight is recommended.
It is often made the mistake of equating animal protein with meat. In addition to the egg, milk and dairy products provide high quality protein. Animal protein sources are often fatty. Therefore, vegetable protein sources are also recommended because it usually takes much less fat.
Carbohydrates are the main energy sources for humans. One distinguishes between simple, double and complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates (monosaccharides) consist of a single sugar component: like the glucose in honey or the fructose in the fruit. Double sugars (disaccharides) are composed of two such building blocks. These include the sucrose in the cube powder or granulated sugar or the lactose from the milk.
Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) are composed of very many sugar building blocks, which the body must first disassemble. These carbohydrates are found, for example, in cereals, whole grains, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, legumes and also in fruits and vegetables.
- The carbohydrate portion of our diet should consist primarily of complex carbohydrates. Because they first have to be broken down in the small intestine, they enter the blood more slowly but more slowly. It comes to a constant blood sugar level over a longer period of time. This allows a constant supply of energy over a longer period of time. In addition, these carbohydrates provide important vitamins, minerals and fiber. The body must also, as with protein, spend energy to make long-chain carbohydrates utilizable.
- The simple sugars (mono- and disaccharides) are more rapidly converted into glucose by the body and get into the blood faster. They cause the blood sugar level to rise rapidly and increase insulin secretion. More insulin is called increased depletion of glucose, a lowering of blood sugar levels and a renewed feeling of hunger.
You should therefore consume less simple carbohydrates and perform better in complex. Superfluous carbohydrates are not simply excreted, but stored as endogenous starch in the liver and muscles as quickly usable energy. In addition, under certain circumstances, excess glucose can be converted to fat. As a result, with very carbohydrate-rich diets (over 500 grams of sugar a day), even if it is low in fat, the well-known fat deposits arise.
Fats are now widely considered to be fattening because they have twice as many calories as carbohydrates or protein. But without fats, our body does not get enough. Because fats serve as an energy source, flavor carrier and are indispensable for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K from the intestines and blood circulation. The smallest components of fats are subdivided into unsaturated and saturated fatty acids after their formation.
- Saturated fatty acids are mainly found in animal foods such as butter, cream, mayonnaise, meat, sausage, cheese but also in palm and coconut fat. Saturated fats are mainly involved in the development of civilization diseases and easily storable for the body.
- Unsaturated fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, are essential substances that the body relies on. They occur mainly in vegetable oil, seeds, avocados, legumes, cereals, as well as in sea fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel and tuna. They fulfill many important functions in the organism, for example as building materials of the cells and nerves and as a source material for the formation of hormones.
Many people consume too many saturated fats daily. This makes you permanently overweight and sick. It leads to elevated blood lipid levels, elevated cholesterol levels and as a consequence to the formation of arteriosclerotic deposits on the walls of the blood vessels ("arteriosclerosis"). This increases the risk, for example, of contracting a thrombosis or suffering a heart attack.
In practice: Eat no more than 60 to 70 grams of fat daily and fewer foods rich in saturated fat. Instead, twice a week, you should build a portion of sea fish and high-quality vegetable oils into your diet and watch out for hidden fats in sausage, chocolate and more.
Caution should also be exercised with the combination of fat and fast-acting carbohydrates often found in cakes filled with cream or butter. They lead to an even faster storage of fat in our fat cells.
Water / liquid
Water is another vital part of our diet, though it contains no energy and only insignificant amounts of minerals and trace elements. Water is a component of our body cells, blood and lymph and is needed as a transport for nutrients and metabolites, digestive juices, as temperature regulators and solvents.
The water content of the body depends on the age, gender and body fat content. An adult person consists of around 60 percent water. This shows the importance of water for our body. The minimum fluid requirement is 1.5 to 2.0 liters per day and should be covered with water, tea and unsweetened, best diluted fruit juices.
Because of its effect on the gastrointestinal tract (stimulates the production of gastric juice and bile) and on the nervous system, coffee should be consumed only moderately. Coffee and black tea also contain waxes and roasts that can cause stomach irritation. Excessive enjoyment of sweet drinks should also be discouraged, since these are reflected in the calorie account.
This term incorrectly associates something negative, just ballast. They fulfill important tasks for humans, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. They are indigestible plant fibers, which for the most part also belong to the complex carbohydrates. Due to their great water binding and swelling capacity, they are of great importance for digestion. They bind excess stomach acid and swell in the intestine. The intestinal activity is promoted and constipation is prevented.
Fiber is found, for example, as cellulose and pectin in lettuce, vegetables and cereals. However, it is important that enough is consumed in a high-fiber diet, otherwise it leads to a hard bowel movement. It is recommended to take at least 30 grams of fiber per day.
Dietary fiber is particularly recommended for weight loss, as they swell up in the stomach, leave the stomach only slowly and thus give a longer feeling of fullness.
Vital substances (micronutrients)
Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. Vitamins can not be produced by the body or only in small quantities. That's why you absolutely have to be ingested with food. They are often components of enzymes, the little helpers that make our metabolism possible.
Metabolism means digesting food and gaining energy, building or renewing cells in tissues and organs, and not eliminating what is needed. If vitamins are missing, the smooth flow of important digestive and transformation processes is disturbed. A large part of the main nutrients can only be made accessible to the body with the help of vitamins.
Many areas of action of the vitamins are well known. Vitamin K is responsible for blood clotting, vitamin A for vision and vitamin D for the incorporation of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals into bone tissue. The B vitamins are often components of enzymes and are therefore involved in many metabolic functions.
Vitamins can be divided into two groups: In the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and the water-soluble vitamins of the B group and vitamin C. They are mainly contained in fresh food. They are easily lost during prolonged storage and heat. Fruits and fruits are therefore only briefly steamed or stewed. In addition, water-soluble vitamins are only stored in small amounts in the body. Therefore, the human organism relies on the regular intake of this vitamin group.
Minerals, like vitamins, are not sources of energy. However, they are indispensable for many body functions and can not be produced by the body. They form bones and tooth substance, support enzymes, provide the conduction of nerves, control the permeability of cells and regulate the pressure in the tissue.
Important minerals include: iron for the formation of red blood cells, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus for bone formation and iodine for good thyroid function. Minerals, which are needed only in very small quantities, are called trace elements. Milk, liver, whole grains and vegetables are particularly rich in these nutrients and should not be missing on your diet. Also mineral water is a good mineral supplier.