Healthy eating. It’s seemingly the ‘buzz word’ of the moment and a phrase we’re all too used to hearing. Eat your five a day, consume more fibre, stop eating sugary foods… But why should we listen to this advice and ditch the cakes for carrots? What health benefits can we derive from the food we choose to eat? I looked at what we need in our diets to lead a healthy lifestyle and why eating healthily is an important choice.
I asked Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White why he thinks a healthy diet is important:
“There’s nothing nicer than being at home with beautiful ingredients, cooking it very simply and then serving it to your friends and your family.”
What nutrients do we need for a healthy diet and why?
NHS guidelines state we need to include the following in our diets in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle:
– Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin A, Vitamin B, C, D, E and K are all essential nutrients needed in our diets.
– We should aim to consume vitamin filled foods such as Garlic which is rich in both vitamins B6 and vitamin C.
Heidi from garlic producer, The Garlic Farm On The Isle Of Wight told me more about its specific health benefits:
– Folic Acid- This is an especially important nutrient for pregnant women. Folic acid combines with vitamin B12 to create healthy blood cells and aids in reducing central nervous birth defects. It is found in many foods including broccoli and spinach.
– Calcium- This is essential for the development of strong teeth and bones, the regulation of muscle contractions and maintaining normal blood clot functioning. Dairy products and green leafy vegetables are rich in calcium.
– Iron- Iron is utilised to create red blood cells which then carry oxygen through the body. Foods containing iron include dried fruit and the majority of dark green leafy vegetables.
– Fibre- Having fibre in our diets is important to reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. It also plays a key role in improving digestive function. Foods containing fibre include wholemeal bread and fruits like bananas and prunes.
I spoke with Maxine from The California Prune Board about the health benefits of eating fibre-rich prunes:
– A limited Fat allowance, Protein and Carbohydrates are also essential components of a balanced diet.
What food groups should we include in our diet?
According to the NHS, people should aim to eat a balanced diet containing a mix of all food groups.
You should try to include:
– Fruit and vegetables
– Milk and dairy products
– Starch based foods like bread
– Meat and fish (for non- vegetarians) and non-dairy protein sources
– Limited amounts of high-fat and high-sugar foods.
This Eatwell plate diagram is useful to see how much of each food group we should be consuming: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Documents/Eatwellplate.pdf
– Additionally, following the advice of The European Food Safety Authority, women should drink eight 200ml glasses of water per day while men should drink ten to avoid experiencing dehydration.
Why is Healthy Eating Important?
The most obvious negative impact of an unhealthy diet is weight gain. In fact, the Welsh Health Survey of 2012 indicated that more than half of adults in Wales were either overweight or obese. The British Heart Foundation has also warned that if current obesity patterns continue, almost fifty percent of British people will be labelled as obese by the year 2030.
The NHS state that being overweight increases your likelihood of suffering from type 2 diabetes, heart disease and particular cancers including breast cancer. Eating healthy food is therefore claimed to be essential not only to maintain a healthy weight but to consequently reduce your risk of developing life-threatening diseases.
Eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is also important for our physical health following information issued by The Department of Health. Their studies have shown that eating more fruit and vegetables can markedly lessen the risk of several chronic diseases. Further, the antioxidants produced by these foods can help to stop damage to tissues which could lead to cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
A quick and easy way to consume more fruit and vegetables is by juicing.
Rich from juicing company Mannings Juice told me more:
I spoke to Beca Lyne Pirkis, semi-finalist on The Great British Bake Off about how to make healthy bakes using vegetables and why she believes eating foods in moderation is important:
The Mental Health Foundation point to growing evidence which shows that our mental wellbeing can be influenced by what we eat. Research has indicated that people reporting daily mental health concerns are less likely to consume fruit or fruit juices than those who do not report problems.
Foods high in sugar may be released into the bloodstream quickly and cause an initial energy ‘high’ that will not have a long-lasting effect. This can negatively impact on energy levels and general mood. Fruit and vegetables and wholegrain foods are better choices to maintain mental well-being as they raise blood sugar slowly and the vitamin B1 they contain has been considered to have positive effects on mood.
Mental health charity, Mind also note how excessive caffeine in our diets can lead to signs of anxiety, nervousness and depression. On the other hand, drinking water and consuming your five a day of fruit and vegetables can provide essential nutrients to aid mental wellbeing.
If you would like more information on mental health issues you can visit the following websites:
Are People More Concerned About Their Health Now?
I asked some exhibitors at The BBC Good Food Show what they thought:
So healthy eating is arguably important both for the health of our bodies and our minds.
It seems the well known phrase “You are what you eat” may well be true.