It is a fact that the basics of healthy eating are well documented in academic textbooks, scientific journals, and government literature. However, this basic knowledge has not been imparted to the general public in an absorbable and comprehensive form that would enable individuals to make informed choices in order to change their dietary habits and lifestyle. Despite the large volume of information available, there is a huge knowledge gap for those who need to know.
Advice on diet and health is often incomplete or biased, hence people are confused or unsure how to put the concept of healthy eating into practice. Understanding such a message is only one side of the story. Putting them into daily practice is another matter. It has become clear to me over the years that people, while familiar with general healthy eating messages such as, “eat less fat, more fiber” lack a clear understanding of the components of a healthy diet. One of the many reasons why these healthy eating messages are just that, is that they are being preached everywhere, by everyone. For example, filling a shopping cart with fat-free or low-fat products does not guarantee freedom from ill health and chronic degenerative disease, unless the diet as a whole is balanced.
While people are busy achieving life goals and developing their career, the insidious process of narrowing and hardening of the arteries may occur. This is especially likely in those who are inactive and/or have little interest in what they eat. Nutrition-related diseases, nowadays referred to as non-communicable diseases, are quite different from infectious diseases; They take a long time to become known, and upon diagnosis it may be too late to reverse the damage. Surprisingly, most obesity-related diseases, including coronary heart disease and diabetes, are often only recognized when a nonfatal heart attack or angina pectoris has occurred, or when people are in the hospital for other reasons, including annual checkups. An interesting point is that most of these health problems could have been avoided had some time been invested in evaluating and maintaining nutritional health, before it paid off. Everyone should seek means of assessing nutritional status, such as testing for cholesterol and blood sugar.
Nowadays, there is much interest in the relationship between food and health, and increasing efforts are being made to improve the health of the nation. There is a particular concern about fat, sugar, salt, dietary fiber and calcium, but the science of nutrition is much broader than that. The main objective of this article is to inform and shed some light on the main components of food, and how a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet can be achieved. This is not only for the purpose of losing weight, but also for achieving and maintaining good health. This article is aimed at those who are health conscious and therefore keen to appreciate the role of nutrition in overall health. She goes beyond the short and often incomplete message of “eating less fat” and following a “high-fiber diet,” in order to reveal the practical application of a fresh start and eating for health.
Only during the past two centuries, with the advent of dietetics, has it become possible to accurately determine the contents of an optimal diet for maintaining health. Foods provide energy and nourishment for both survival and enjoyment. Too little food can lead to disease, but too much can also lead to ill health. Therefore, it is important to strike the right balance between the amount and type of food we consume.
The past few decades have also seen remarkable changes in eating habits and meal patterns. There is now a huge variety of affordable foods available all year round. But the fact that it’s easier to get good quality food doesn’t always guarantee a healthy choice. In fact, the bewildering selection of food available can make it difficult for some people to choose the ingredients for what is considered a healthy, balanced diet. As a result, the incidence of diseases of the affluent has increased dramatically, especially in western society although developing countries are now following the same trend. Many common health problems such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and various forms of cancer (endometrial, breast, and colon) are linked to diet, either directly or indirectly.
The fast-moving world around us seems to leave us no time to prepare food, and setting specific times for meals is rare. Despite the influx of information about diet and health, people are getting fatter and becoming more unfit. This trend may be brought about by the availability of a wide range of ready meals, from supermarkets and takeaway outlets. Moreover, this type of food is often promoted through heavy advertising by all kinds of media. The modern kitchen is well-equipped with all kinds of gadgets (food processors, microwave ovens, etc.) However, cooking is increasingly becoming one of our last priorities, and the younger generation seems to have forgotten how to cook.
It is my belief that understanding the basic principles of nutrition and the impact of food and its nutrients on health, will equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to choose, prepare and consume a better diet, paving the way towards a healthier life and a better quality of life. Also important is people’s willingness to adopt changes in their eating habits and lifestyle in order to reap the benefits of eating for health.
The ways in which the adequacy of any diet can be assessed form part of dietetics. Thus knowing its principles is important, especially for those who plan and serve meals. Before moving on, it is necessary to identify the sources of energy in the diet.