Having outlined the four pillars of health in my last post I thought I would expand on the first of the pillars, a healthy balanced diet, in this one.
A good healthy diet needs to supply all three macro-nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) as well as a wide range of micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients etc.) By supplying your body with the nutrients it needs you will ensure it is able to function properly and maintain good health well into old age.
What you don't need is processed, refined and sugary foods. These will do nothing to promote optimum health, but will instead rob you of your health, as well as contribute to weight gain. Your body will deteriorate due to the effects of ageing faster than it otherwise would and your quality of life will be greatly reduced, particularly in your later years. A little of this type of food, say once or twice per week, will not do you any harm; but for the most part you should avoid them.
Instead eat natural whole foods if you want to stay in the best of health for as long as possible. So lets take a look at each of the essential categories of a well balanced diet in turn...
These are essential for muscle growth and repair, and they have many other functions in the body too. So it's crucial that you get a reasonable amount of protein in your diet each day. The best sources of protein are meat, fish and eggs. Dairy (milk and cheese) is also very good, but some people do have problems with the lactose, in which case they should be avoided. It's no big deal really; dairy is not crucial to a healthy diet as some people would have you believe.
Nuts and beans are also fairly good protein sources, but they do not contain as good an amino acid profile as the animal proteins listed above.
Carbohydrates supply your body with glucose, which is your main source of energy. Good sources of complex whole food carbohydrates are whole grain products (particularly brown rice and oats), potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Many people have a problem with gluten however, in which case foods that contain gluten (wheat, barley and rye) should be avoided too. If you want to find out if you are intolerant to gluten, take it out of your diet completely for a month. Then eat a lot of it all at once. If you experience gastrointestinal distress from doing this you'll know you should not be eating gluten containing foods.
By consuming complex carbohydrates rather than refined white flour and sugary foods you'll be getting your glucose in the form of starch together with fiber and a range of vitamins and minerals. So the glucose will be released into your system slowly, rather than the big sugar rush and insulin spike that you'll experience when eating refined foods.
Not all fats are bad. Quite the contrary in fact. You need healthy fats in your diet for all sorts of reasons. Good sources of healthy fats are oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados. Coconut oil and olive oil are good healthy fats too.
Avoid all refined and synthetic oils and fats though. These include margarine and all refined vegetable and seed oils.
Sources of Micro-Nutrients
You'll get a good supply of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients from the foods already discussed, but the majority of them are obtained from vegetables, and perhaps some fruit.
Green vegetables are some of the most nutrient dense foods that exist and you can eat as much of them as you want. Root vegetables are good too. Berries are the most nutritious fruits, but many other types of fruits are beneficial too in moderation. The downside of fruit is that it does contain sugar and many fruits are not too rich in nutrients either, so don't eat them in excess.
So if at each meal you have a good source of protein, some complex carbs and plenty of vegetables, ensuring you have a moderate amount of healthy fats in there too, you will have all the essentials of a healthy balanced diet. And this will help to maximize both your life expectancy and your quality of life too.