By: Garima Lohumi
An old saying “we are what we eat” brings out the importance of diet in staying healthy. A human body is just like a sophisticated machine which requires energy, regular care and maintenance.
Energy is required for metabolic and physiological functions, day-to-day activities and maintenance.The requirement varies with age as additional energy is needed for growth and in case of women it increases significantly during pregnancy. The food we eat provides all the nutrients the body needs to meet its energy requirement. Thus, a balanced wholesome diet is essential for a healthy body.
The food contains nutrients, micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals which the body needs in very small amounts. However, no single food contains all the nutrients and it is, therefore, important to have a balanced diet which provides energy and all essential nutrients. It means that one will have to eat a variety of foods to maintain a robust and healthy body.
Staple foods like rice, maize, wheat, potatoes and barley, must constitute a major part of the diet as they are a good source of energy. However, they are not adequate to meet all the requirement of nutrients and additional items like beans, peas, lentils, groundnuts and dairy products which are rich in good-quality proteins have to be included.
For non-vegetarians meat is a good source of proteins. Intake of fruits and vegetables is essential as they supply minerals and vitamins to the body and strengthen the immune system. They are also rich in antioxidants and provide extra energy to body.
There are some food items like lemons, garlic, broccoli olive oil, yoghurt, oats, cinnamon , beans and nuts which are rich in nutrients and vitamins and they must form part of the diet. Lemons are rich in vitamin C, the flavonoids within the juice of lemons contain antioxidants and cancer fighting properties that is why they are useful in treating so many ailments.
They are useful in treatment of a host of conditions like throat infections, indigestion, dental problems, rheumatism, obesity, respiratory disorders, cholera and high blood pressure. A lemon a day helps to strengthen the immune system, cleanse the stomach and also works as a blood purifier. A lemon in one glass of lukewarm water and drink it empty stomach in the morning.
Garlic is a rich source Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Manganese and also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients that we need and also has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It boosts immunity, reduces blood pressure, cholesterol and prevents cardiovascular problems and the risk of cancer.
Olive oil is one of the healthiest oil due to high ratio of mono-unsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids. It is packed with antioxidants called phenols, which protect artery walls from cholesterol buildup. Use virgin or extra virgin oils, which are extracted by pressing only. Similarly, broccoli also has phytochemicals and antioxidants which make it number one cancer fighter. It helps in reduction cholesterol and detoxification, besides improving digestion.
Yogurt is a great source of bone-building calcium, and contains probiotics, which help maintain the balance of bacteria necessary for a healthy digestive system. It is beneficial for those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, urinary tract infections and ulcers. Dieticians recommend low-fat or fat-free yogurt with live cultures in daily diet.
The requirement of fibre can be met by taking oats, salads and fruits. Oats help to control cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart attack by about 10 percent. A minimum 10 grams of soluble fibre each day is essential and oats are a good source of it.
Soluble fibre in beans absorbs cholesterol which helps the body to dispose it before it gets deposited on artery walls. Studies have established that high soluble fibre diet can lower the cholesterol levels up to 15 percent. Beans contain more protein than any other plant food but it is incomplete protein, lacking some essential amino acids. For complete protein it has to be complemented with grains like rice.
A rich source of unsaturated fats nuts are essential to keep the heart in good shape. Several studies have shown that t those who eat nuts live longer. Walnut takes the top spot with its high level of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and omega-3 fatty acid which are considered good for the heart. It also helps to lower bad cholesterol and maintain healthy levels of good cholesterol.
Among spices cinnamon, which contains important minerals like manganese and calcium, is the most effective healing agent. It is rich in fibre and has antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. It also helps to control blood sugar and thus very useful for diabetic people. The apple pie spice also helps to prevent blood clots and destroy E. coli and various other types of bacteria.