Healthy eating: menu, tips, importance, how to have
Having a healthy diet is essential for the body’s functions to function in a balanced way. In a practical way, a healthy diet consists of all macro and micronutrients. But then, what is healthy eating?
What is healthy eating
Healthy eating contains:
Macronutrients, which are carbohydrates (breads, pasta and potatoes, among others), fats (such as oils, oilseeds, avocado and others) and proteins (fish, eggs, red meat, chicken meat, among others).
And also micronutrients, which are vitamins and minerals, present in the most diverse foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, among others.
In addition, it contains fiber, a non-digestible part of plant food, which resists digestion and intestinal absorption, with complete or partial fermentation in the large intestine. They are also essential for healthy eating and are present in whole foods, fruits and vegetables.
A balanced diet consisting of these nutrients is usually quite varied, has no exaggeration and does not follow any type of fad.
Importance of healthy eating
Learn all about healthy eating – Photo: Getty Images
Healthy eating provides a number of benefits to people. It contributes to the improvement in the immune system, in the quality of sleep, in intestinal transit, in mood, in the ability to concentrate and can even contribute to weight loss. In pregnant women, it is essential for the proper development of the fetus and in breastfeeding women it will contribute to the healthy development of the baby. Among many other benefits.
Brazilian food pyramid
The food pyramid was adapted for the Brazilian population in 1999 by the health nutritionist Sonia Tucunduva Philippi, a professor at the University of São Paulo. This pyramid was created with the aim of facilitating the public’s understanding of which foods should be eaten more and which should be consumed less.
The adaptation basically involved exchanging some foods that were not so common in Brazil for nutritionally equivalent ones, but that were more frequently eaten by Brazilians.
The foods present at the base of the pyramid are those that should be consumed the most. The higher up the food is located, the smaller quantities it must be ingested.
The orientation according to the pyramid is to eat 6 servings a day of carbohydrates, such as breads, rice, potatoes, cassava and others, 3 potions of vegetables, 3 of fruits, 3 of dairy products, such as cheese, milk and yogurt, one of meats and eggs, one of beans and other legumes, one of oils and other fats and one of sugars and sweets.
Next, check out the Brazilian food pyramid:
This is the new Brazilian food pyramid
Source: Redesign of the Brazilian Food Pyramid for healthy eating
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients consist of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, they have 4 calories per gram and are divided between simple and complex.
Digestion and absorption of simple carbohydrates happens quickly leading to an increase in blood glucose levels (glycemia). Examples of foods that are sources of simple carbohydrates: fruits, honey, corn syrup, sugar. The excess of simple carbohydrates can favor health problems like diabetes.
Complex carbohydrates have a larger chemical structure (polysaccharides). Because they are a larger molecule, they are digested and absorbed more slowly, causing a gradual increase in blood glucose. Examples of carbohydrate source foods in this group: brown rice, brown bread, sweet potatoes, whole pasta. These complex carbohydrates are rich in fiber and therefore contribute to the improvement in intestinal transit, prevent diabetes, help with weight loss, control of cholesterol level, among others.
Another macronutrient is protein. It has four calories per gram and one of its main functions is to repair the microlesions that occur as a normal physiological process when practicing physical activity and to provide its regeneration and formation of new muscle cells.
Proteins can be found in animal foods, such as red meat, fish, poultry, dairy products and eggs. They are also present in foods of plant origin, especially legumes such as beans and soybeans.
The other macronutrient is fat and has 9 calories per gram. They are divided into monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats. Fats provide satiety and some of them provide benefits to the brain. Polyunsaturated fats are found in foods such as chia, flaxseed and cold water fish, salmon and sardines for example. Monounsaturated products are present in oils, such as olive oil and avocado.
Recommended amounts of macronutrients
The recommendation is that a healthy diet should consist of 40 to 55% carbohydrates, 15 to a maximum of 30% proteins, half of which are of animal origin and the other vegetable, and between 25 and 30% of fats, one third of which are saturated, a third of polyunsaturated and a third of monounsaturated.
What to eat
- Complex carbohydrates, such as fruits
- Vegetable proteins, such as soybeans, beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa
- Animal proteins, such as fish, poultry, eggs and semi-skimmed milk
- Monounsaturated fats, such as avocado
- Sources of omega 3, such as salmon, sardines and other cold water fish, chia and flaxseed
- Vitamin A, in eggs, cereals, carrots
- B vitamins in meat, milk and eggs
- Vitamin C, in fruits such as kiwi, orange and acerola, among others
Complex carbohydrates, those in which sugar takes longer to be absorbed into the blood, and a lower glycemic load, amount of sugar present in the food, are the ones that should be present more frequently in a healthy diet. Fruits, especially when eaten in their skins, and whole foods usually have these characteristics.
As for proteins, the recommendation is to eat both those of vegetable origin, such as soy and beans, as well as those of animal origin. However, a person can maintain a vegetarian diet and still be healthy. Sources of animal protein that are worth investing in are those with a lower concentration of saturated fats such as fish, poultry, eggs and semi-skimmed milk. As for those of vegetable origin, they all seem to be good alternatives, such as beans, soy, lentils, chickpeas and quinoa.
As for fats, unsaturated ones are good alternatives for health. It is worth investing in sources of omega 3 such as salmon, sardines and other cold water fish, chia and flaxseed. Foods rich in monounsaturated fats like avocado and olive oil are also great options.
Macronutrients to avoid
It is important to reduce the consumption of carbohydrate sources with a high index and glycemic rate, such as white bread, potatoes, pasta and white rice. This is because they can lead to insulin spikes that in excess favor from weight gain to diabetes.
As for protein, it is important not to abuse the consumption of red meat. Eating about 300 grams of this food a week is enough. The excess of red meat leads to a higher consumption of saturated fats which increases the risk of cardiovascular problems, among others.
Regarding fats, the same care with saturated is valid. Avoid exaggerating the consumption of saturated fat sources, especially fatty red meats and whole milk, among others.
What are micronutrients?
Among the micronutrients we have minerals and vitamins, which results in dozens of substances essential for the maintenance of life.
Some good examples of vitamins are: vitamin A, important for vision and growth, which is found in eggs, fortified cereals, milk, carrots, among others, B vitamins, great allies of the brain and which are found mainly in meat, milk and eggs, and vitamin C, which improves immunity and can be found in fruits such as kiwi, orange and acerola.
As for minerals, they are divided between macromineal, which we need to ingest in large quantities, such as calcium, and trace elements, which we need small portions, such as boron. Examples of macrominerals are iron, which prevents anemia, is good for the heart and can be found in meat, and calcium, an ally of bones and teeth that is present mainly in dairy products.
As there are several micronutrients, the best way to know that you are ingesting sufficient amounts of them is to always keep a wide variety in your diet. Try to consume all food groups and follow the concept of food variability that suggests that your diet should cover at least 30 foods. Food products, such as sausages, stuffed cookies, among others, do not count.
How to have a healthy diet
To have a healthy diet it is important that it is very varied and has all food groups. Following the concept of food variability, which suggests that your diet covers at least 30 foods, is a good idea. Remembering that food products, such as sausages, stuffed cookies, among others, do not enter the account.
Another important care is in the choice of foods. Regarding carbohydrates, it is important to prioritize complexes, such as whole-grain breads, rice and whole-grain pasta. When it comes to fats, the sources of unsaturated fats should be ingested in greater quantities, such as oilseeds, olive oil, avocado, salmon and chia. As for proteins, lean versions, such as fish, poultry, low-fat red meats and those of plant origin, such as beans, lentils and soybeans, should be prioritized.
The role of water
Water is essential for the transport of nutrients in the body and hydration. The guideline is to drink 30 ml of water per kilogram of weight per day, which is equivalent to about two or three liters of water per day. Water should not be replaced by soft drinks, juices, especially industrialized ones, let alone alcoholic beverages.