Healthy eating should not need stringent dietary restrictions, maintaining an artificially slender physique, or depriving yourself of your favourite foods. Rather, it’s about feeling fantastic, having more energy, improving your health, and bringing your mood back into balance. You’re not alone if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the contradicting nutrition and diet advice out there. It appears that for every expert who says a certain food is healthy, there is another who says the exact opposite.

A diet high in fruits and vegetables has been scientifically established to provide several health benefits, including lowering your risk of chronic diseases and keeping your body in good shape. Making significant dietary adjustments, on the other hand, can be daunting. Rather to making large adjustments, it may be preferable to begin with a few modest ones. And starting with one issue rather than all of them at once is probably more manageable.

One of the most important things you can do to safeguard your health is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. In reality, your lifestyle choices and behaviours, such as eating a balanced diet and staying physically active, can prevent up to 80% of early heart disease and stroke.

A heart-healthy diet can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by doing the following:
  • Assisting you in maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Increasing cholesterol levels
  • Keeping your blood sugar in check.
  • Lowering your blood pressure is a good thing to do.
A balanced diet should include the following foods:

1. Protein-rich foods

Legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, fortified soy beverage, fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, lean red meats, including wild game, lower fat milk, lower fat yoghurts, lower fat kefir, and low-fat and low-sodium cheeses are all good sources of protein. Protein aids in the development and maintenance of bones, muscles, and skin. Dairy products are a high-protein food. Choose un-flavoured, lower-fat alternatives. Every day, consume protein. At least two servings of fish per week should be consumed, while plant-based foods should be consumed more frequently.

2. Limiting the use of highly and ultra-processed foods

Highly processed foods, also known as ultra-processed foods, are foods that have been altered from their natural state and contain a large number of added components. Important nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and fibre are often lost during processing, while salt and sugar are added. Fast food, hot dogs, chips, cookies, frozen pizzas, deli meats, white rice, and white bread are examples of processed foods.

Some foods that have been minimally processed are OK. These are foods that have been marginally altered yet contain few industrially manufactured additives. Almost all of the important elements are retained in minimally processed foods. Bagged salad, frozen vegetables and fruit, eggs, milk, cheese, flour, brown rice, oil, and dry herbs are just a few examples. When we say “don’t eat processed foods,” we’re not talking about these minimally processed items. 

3. Making water your preferred drink

Water is good for your health and keeps you hydrated without adding calories to your diet. Energy drinks, fruit drinks, 100 percent fruit juice, soft drinks, and flavoured coffees are high in sugar and have little to no nutritional benefit. It is very easy to consume empty calories without recognising it, resulting in weight gain.

Even if it’s 100 percent fruit juice, stay away from it. Fruit juice contains some of the same nutrients as the fruit (vitamins and minerals), but it also contains more sugar and less fibre. Fruit juice should not be used as a substitute for fresh fruits. Fruits should be eaten rather than drunk in Canada. If you don’t have access to safe drinking water, you can satisfy your thirst with coffee, tea, unsweetened lower-fat milk, or already boiled water.

4. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables

This is one of the most crucial dietary practises. Fruit and vegetables are high in nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fibre) and can help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you satisfied for longer. At every meal and snack, half your plate should be filled with vegetables and fruit.

5. Choosing foods high in whole grains

Whole grain bread and crackers, brown or wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and hulled barley are all examples of whole grain foods. They are made with the whole grain. Fibre, protein, and B vitamins in whole grain foods help you stay healthy and fuller for longer. Instead of processed or refined grains like white bread and pasta, opt for whole grain options.

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Nurse Practitioner Nadine McFarlane is a board certified Family Medicine Nurse Practitioner who provides primary care

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