Finding your fit52 path means a lot more than just working out. Health is a daily practice across all facets of life: physical, mental, and nutritional.
Eating a balanced diet may sound straightforward, but anyone who has actually tried to maintain a healthy diet knows that it can be a lot more difficult than the basic “eat your veggies” advice that we all heard growing up. To help you get started, our health experts want to break down some of the confusing terminology surrounding healthy eating.
What Does It Mean To Eat a Balanced Diet?
At the end of the day, what really matters is that you maintain a healthy balance of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and fibers.
Let’s explore each of these further:
To understand why antioxidants are good for you, you need to know what a “free radical” is.
A free radical is a molecule that causes oxidation, which at high levels can cause severe health risks such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Antioxidants naturally combat these free radicals. Your body produces a number of organic antioxidants, and without them, free radicals can produce very rapidly and eventually cause death.
Your body needs to maintain a certain balance between free radicals and antioxidants. If your body has too much of either compound, the resulting imbalance can lead to oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is what happens when your skin and tissue cells begin to deteriorate; in other words, your skin begins to show signs of aging. Although this is a completely natural process, factors such as an unhealthy diet, smoking, and prolonged exposure to sunlight/pollution can heighten oxidative stress.
Antioxidants are found in all whole foods (foods of plant or animal origin). Your life depends on certain antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and E, so intaking a sufficient amount of antioxidants is important. However, too much vitamin C and E can also lead to oxidative stress.
With this in mind, you should be eating foods with antioxidants with the goal of maintaining a healthy ratio with the free radicals in your body. It’s all a balancing act!
Vitamins & Minerals:
Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients for human life. They perform hundreds of roles in your body: they help grow bones, heal wounds, strengthen your immune system, repair cellular damage, and convert foods into energy.
Many people choose to consume vitamin supplements. Although these can be a necessity for medically deficient diets, supplements cannot completely replace the natural vitamins found in our food sources.
So what is the difference between vitamins and minerals? Vitamins are organic and can be broken down by heat, air, or acid. Minerals are inorganic and hold on to their chemical structure.
What this means for your diet is that you consume vitamins directly from our food, while minerals are consumed through multiple steps in the food cycle (they first begin in soil and water, then are absorbed through plants/animals/seafood, then finally are consumed by you). Vitamins are also vulnerable to losing their nutrients through cooking and storage, so it’s often best if you consume them directly from the source.
Fiber is essential for your digestive health (the leading health concern for most North Americans). It lowers cholesterol, maintains blood pressure and sugar levels, and slows digestion to keep you feeling sustained longer, which can help you with portion control and weight management.
One of the best ways to prevent heart disease and maintain cardiovascular health is to consume sufficient fiber. Specifically, try incorporating high-fiber foods into your diet such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.