You’ve probably heard the term balanced diet mentioned many a time!
So why is eating a balanced diet important? And what even makes a diet balanced?
According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines (which we adhere to here at Equalution FYI!), a balanced diet is made up of five food groups.
These food groups are:
- Grain (cereal) foods
- Vegetables, legumes and beans
- Lean meats, seafood, tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes or beans
- Low-fat dairy including milk, cheese and non-dairy alternatives
The reason particular foods are grouped together this way is because they each provide similar amounts of key macro and micronutrients. For example, the low-fat dairy group items include calcium and protein and the fruit group items all contain essential vitamins.
It’s crucial to eat foods from each of these five groups as they all have different nutrients, and some contain higher amounts than others. That’s why we recommend not cutting out any food groups so you’re not missing any vitamins, minerals and macronutrients.
Another category that falls outside of the 5 essential food groups is considered ‘discretionary’ foods.
These foods are usually processed and higher in saturated fats, added sugars and salt, or alcohol. They mostly have lower levels of important nutrients like fibre and protein and should be consumed in moderation.
- processed meats
- potato chips
- hot chips
- fast food
- fried food
- ice cream
- soft drinks
- lollies and chocolates
Unsaturated oils and spreads also fall into the discretionary food group, but they can still be consumed in smaller amounts. These may be from olives, soybeans, corn, canola, sunflower, safflower, sesame or grapeseeds.
Olive oil, for example, is considered a healthy fat and can help promote brain function, heart health and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
You can find out more about the exact foods that fall into both the essential and occasional groups here.
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Why is eating a balanced diet important?
In short, eating a balanced diet gives your body the nutrients it needs to function at its best. It also helps prevent chronic and potentially life-threatening diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
There are many other benefits too.
Our guts are full of naturally occurring good bacteria, which we need to maintain our digestion and metabolic function.
A balanced diet rich in fruit, veggies, whole grains and legumes can provide prebiotics and probiotics to help these good bacteria continue to thrive!
You can read more about gut health and nutrition here.
Some studies have indicated a link between diet and mood.
What we eat may have a direct impact on our body’s state of inflammation, brain function and gut microbiome, all of which are all associated with mental health and the risk of developing depressive symptoms.
Eating a balanced diet packed with whole foods provides the brain with key nutrients to ensure it’s functioning at its best.
These nutrients include the likes of omega-3 fats, B vitamins and iron.
You can read more on the relationship between food and mood here.
Eating a balanced diet may also help protect your brain from cognitive decline.
According to one 2015 study, foods that contain the below nutrients are beneficial in protecting against dementia:
- Vitamins B, C, D and E
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Polyphenols, particularly flavonoids (found in fruit, vegetables and grains)
These can be found in all of the five food groups mentioned above.
Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of illnesses such as:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Some cancers
Eating a balanced diet within your daily calorie and macronutrient target will help you avoid excess weight gain and, therefore, the risk of the above illnesses.
If you need help calculating your individual calorie and macro targets based on your health goal – weight loss, maintenance or gain – that’s what Equalution is here for!
When you sign up to our app, you’ll answer a questionnaire about your own goals, lifestyle factors and dietary requirements. Our team of expert nutrition coaches will then calculate your daily calorie and macro targets and provide you with a full-day meal plan catered to them. Easy-peasy!
You can check out more about our program here.