“He, who takes food in proper measure lives a long life and lives without disease, gets strength and alertness of mind. His children are born healthy and without any deformity or disease” – Mahabharatha.
Good nutrition is a pre-requisite for positive health, functional efficiency and productivity. It not only promotes proper growth and development, but also ensures adequate immuno-competence and cognitive development. Good nutrition provides far-reaching effects in early life and helps in the prevention of degenerative diseases in late adult life.
Optimal nutrition is achieved not through drugs, tablets, potions or pills, but through a well balanced diet. Today, commercially motivated propaganda tends to promote the use of synthetic nutrients and ready-to-eat foods are more sought after. ‘Grandma’s good old recipes’ are long forgotten for many. The common man is quite unaware of how our nutritional needs can be met through the judicious use of natural foods that are readily available. He should also be informed of the deleterious effects of dietary excesses and errors and how they can be avoided.
“Animals feed, man eats; only a man of intellect and judgement knows how to eat.”
Faulty dietary habits and unhealthy life-styles lead to problems such as diabetes, hypertension, high blood cholesterol, obesity and associated problems among the affluent while the poor suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Maintenance of optimal nutrition for positive health has become a matter of great concern today.
“He, who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.” – Arabian proverb
‘A stitch in time saves nine.’ So, if you have not thought on these lines as yet, gear up and get ready to tune your system for a diet and life style modification for a healthy living.
Your dietary habits should emphasise the phrase, ‘No fasting and no feasting! Small, frequent feeds distributed throughout the day, actually works wonders. It keeps the energy supply consistent and prevents your craving for junk food.
Variety is the spice of life! Choose from a variety of foods like whole grains, pulses, low fat dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables to fill your requirement of carbs, proteins, fats and minerals for the day. However, it is imperative to understand that you have to be watchful over the quantity of food you eat. Anything in excess can have adverse effects.
Fruits and vegetables are bountiful sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre. They are natural sources of antioxidants, vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium, flavanoids etc., all of which are protective factors for your body. A 100g serving of mixed fruit can provide your vitamin C requirement for the day. So, consume fruits and vegetables in plenty to get all the goodness in them.
Pulses and legumes are the vegetarian sources of protein in your diet. Prefer them, as animal protein intake increases your cholesterol intake too. Soya bean – the wonder bean that has 40% good quality protein is also rich in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids which have a positive effect on your heart. Sprouting legumes enhances their digestibility and their vitamin content too. So binge on your sprouts and salads.
Sugar and fat are the calorie dense elements in our diet. Keep their intake low.
Excessive use of red meat increases your risk of heart disease. So prefer fish and poultry. Egg yolk is the richest source of cholesterol. You will be surprised to know that an average sized egg contains 250-300mg of cholesterol while your permissible intake of cholesterol is less than 300mg. Fish lowers cholesterol, blood pressure and even delays clotting of blood. Small fish have loads of omega 3 fatty acids and research shows that Eskimos who consume them in plenty have reduced risk of heart disease.
Tea and coffee contain caffeine, which may have a harmful effect if consumed in excess. Limit your coffee or tea to just 2 cups per day. Salt should be used in moderation only. A high salt intake is associated with high blood pressure.
Most people are rather confused as to which oil is ideal for cooking. Vegetable oils are no doubt the best choice, but remember to use them in moderation. They have more of unsaturated fats which are preferred to the saturated fats found in animal fat. A combination of vegetable oils is the best option.
Sedentary life style with little or no exercise combined with faulty dietary habits have been attributed to the wide prevalence of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension in our society. Physical activity is a pre-requisite for good health. It increases energy expenditure, improves blood circulation and tones up your muscles. Apart from a regular exercise regime, you can also increase your physical activity everyday. Here are a few tips –
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park farther than usual from your work place or shopping area and walk down.
- Engage in physical activities like gardening or walking your dog daily.
- Wash your vehicle yourself.
- Engage in a sport of your choice.
- Reduce sedentary time spent in front of the TV or computer.
“A body which is neither too stout not too lean, but strikes the mean, is the best” – Sushruta.
So, remember, ‘Eating on time, a variety of natural plant foods, low fat milk, less salt and in quantities to maintain ideal weight with regular exercise leads you to a healthy long life.’
To sum up, here are a few tips for healthy eating-
- Be a nibbler, not a gourmet.
- Eat your salad before you eat your meal.
- Don’t starve yourself and overeat subsequently.
- Avoid deep frying and prefer steamed foods.
- Use skimmed milk instead of full fat.
- Take cereals and millets with the bran, to get the fibre in it.
- Yellow, orange and green vegetables add life to your heart.
- Use less salt.
- Drink atleast 8 glasses of water everyday.
- As age advances, eat less, exercise more.