Food plays a major role in the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals. A healthy diet can help avoid serious diseases. Healthy diet may help to decrease the risk of serious diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It may also help to reduce your risk of developing some cancers. If you become sick, eating a healthy diet may help you to recover more quickly. Since, food, hunger, and diet play a much larger role when it comes to our mental health than we might think. Here are two research-backed examples of how our food habits impact our mental health.

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What is Nutrition?

Nutrition is the name for different type and kinds of chemical compounds that form our diet or are a part of it. It is responsible for growth, development, and proper functioning of the human body. As well as human ability to fight different diseases and viruses. It is due to this role of nutrition in our body functioning which makes it extremely important for us. A diet that is not balanced can result in health issues like heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal troubles, obesity, malnutrition etc.

What are different types of nutrients?

There are two types of nutrients, macronutrients, and micronutrients. Our bodies need both types in a balanced amount on daily basis.

1.    Macronutrients

Macronutrients are the type of nutrients that our bodies need on daily basis in a large amount. Macronutrients are further classified into carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

i. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates is the main nutrient responsible for providing our bodies with energy after digestion. For a healthy and balanced diet 45-65% of our daily food intake should comprise of carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates have three different kinds, i.e.

a. Sugars

Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrates. Since they have smaller molecules, they break down very quickly in our bodies and provide us with instant energy boost and eventually resulting in blood sugar crash prompting us to eat more food.

Sugar is found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. Natural sugars found in food are good and necessary for our day-to-day function, if consumed in a balanced amount but processed and added sugar like sugar found in fizzy drinks, chocolates, candies, desserts, biscuits etc. are extremely damaging to our health and might result in diseases like diabetes, obesity, and cancers. Hence, their consumption should be limited as much as possible.

b. Fiber

Fiber is a complex form of carbohydrate which play a vital role in digestion and other functions of our body. Some fiber breakdowns in our body to sugar to provide us with energy.

Fiber is found in fresh fruits and vegetables. And is considered essential for gut health and well-being which is why experts recommend diet that is high in fiber.

c. Starch

Starch are complex form of carbohydrates that is found in starchy vegetables like peas, corn, beans and potatoes, rice flour, wheat flour, pulses, and grains like oats, barley. Starch present in their natural form in food along with fiber take longer time to digest and break down in our bodies hence providing us with steady stream of energy and keeping us satiated for longer.

Starch found in food like refined Flour or maida has their fiber component removed from them which congests the system, slows down digestion which creates a sluggish metabolism, and can often lead to weight gain, stress, headaches and migraines and constipation. Hence, it is important to consume foods that are in their natural form to ensure they do not damage our bodies.

To learn more about how Carbohydrates impact our bodies, see the video given below.

ii. Proteins

Proteins is one of the three macronutrients that our body needs in large quantity on daily basis for its normal functioning. Proteins play a primary role in building of body cells and tissues and functioning of our vital organs. Proteins is the main nutrient responsible for our body’s growth.

Proteins are found in eggs, chicken, meats, fish, and legumes. Some vegetables like green beans and whole grains like wheat also have proteins.

As per expert recommendations, 10%-35% of our daily food intake should be comprised of proteins.

iii. Fats

Though fats are generally considered bad for our bodies, but they do play an extremely important role in our health and normal functioning of our body. Balanced amount of fat in our food does not only provides our body with energy but also ensures absorption of minerals and vitamins in our body cells. Fats are also vital for brain function.
Fats are divided into two categories based on their molecular composition:

a. Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are found in meats, processed food, and dairy products. A few examples from the aforementioned categories include red meat , milk cream, butter, coconut oil, etc. These fats can be identified by the fact that they become solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are unhealthy fats and should be consumed in small quantities. Taking saturated fats in large quantities can lead to high cholesterol levels leading to heart and liver diseases.

b. Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. They are found in nuts and vegetables like peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and olives. Unsaturated fats are considered good for our health especially heart health. But not all unsaturated fats are good for our health for example, trans-fat, commonly found in Banaspati/ghee, which are made by hydrogenating fats found in sunflower, canola etc. are not good for our health and should be avoided.
Since, fat is found in meats, legumes, eggs, and vegetables, it is recommended that these foods should be cooked with the minimum amount of fats or oil.

To learn about fat and its different kinds, you can check the video below.

2. Micronutrients

Micronutrients are the nutrients that our bodies need in smaller quantities. These nutrients play an important role in our body functioning and in building our immune system and deficiency in any of them can cause severe and even life-threatening conditions. There are two kinds of micronutrients - vitamins, and minerals They are both found in our food but sometimes our food lack these nutrients, so we have to get them through different supplements. Micronutrient deficiencies can cause visible and dangerous health conditions, but they can also lead to less clinically notable reductions in energy level, mental clarity and overall capacity.

Many of these deficiencies are preventable through nutrition education and consumption of a healthy diet containing diverse foods, as well as food fortification and supplementation, where needed.

3. Water

It is commonly recommended to drink 8 glasses of water daily which is almost 2 liters, but daily water requirement of a person varies depending on their activity level, the temperature of their surrounding and health conditions. People living in hot climates require more water for their body to perform its normal functions.

A Healthy and Balanced Plate

As per experts, a good and healthy plate is the one which has all different kinds of nutrients present in a balanced amount.

For healthy and balanced diet, divide your plate in four portions:

  • Add proteins like lean meat, chicken, fish, legumes to ¼ part of the plate.
  • Add carbohydrates like whole wheat or multi grain bread, corn, rice, or potato in other ¼ part of the plate.
  • To the remaining ½ part of the plate, add fresh vegetables or fruits that are high in fiber and low in starch and sugar like cucumbers, radish, salad leaves, tomatoes etc.

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