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Diet Basics

What should you eat for a healthy diet?

Most of what we eat are macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats and protein, hence it’s important to be eating the right amount. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. They are essential for a healthy diet, although we consume them in much smaller quantities.

This page will give you an overview about the basic diet nutrition. If you want more specific diet advice, visit our pages about losing weight or gaining lean muscle.

A healthy and balanced diet should contain carbs, healthy fats and protein. To lose fat, you should eat a high fibre and protein diet.

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates are fuel for our body and are the main energy source for our body during high intensity exercise.

What should you eat?

here are simple and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice or wholewheat bread, are generally healthier as they contain less sugar and more fibre and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Eating high fibre foods, especially green vegetables, will help your digestion. Fibre also has a high thermic effect (TEF), which means that you burn more calories when the food is processed and digested

Complex carbs also usually have a lower GI (Glycemic Index) which means that the energy in the food is released more slowly. They also have a higher thermic effect (TEF).

Healthy carbs

High Fibre foods

PROTEIN

Proteins, which are made up of amino acids, play a vital role in a number of bodily functions and are needed to help repair and grow our muscles.

A high protein diet can help you lose fat as high protein foods are more filling and have a high TEF (20-30%). This means that you may eat less calories and more of these calories are burned off.

High Protein Foods

Fact

Fats are an energy reserve and protect our vital organs. They are important and 20-35% of your total daily calories should come from fat.

We should eat less saturated and trans fats, which are found in fatty meat, dairy, cakes, fast food and palm and coconut oil. Most of the fats we eat should be unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), which are found in nuts, avocado, fish and olive and vegetable oils.

Remember that fats are higher in calories. 1 gram of fat is 9 calories, whereas 1 gram of carbohydrates or protein is 4 calories. Fats also have a lower TEF (0-3%), so eat small portions.

Healthy fats

Micronutrients – Vitamins and Minerals

Micronutrients are used by our bodies in small amounts and don’t have any calories, but are still an essential part of our diet. These vitamins and minerals serve a range of functions which we need to be fit and healthy. Some micronutrients are also antioxidants, which help to prevent cell damage from free radicals, which are linked to various illnesses, such as cancer.

There are 13 essential vitamins and many minerals, rather than give you a long list, here is our advice to help you eat a healthy diet.

6 Diet Tips for a well-balanced, nutrient rich diet

  1. Eat vegetables with every meal and snack on fruit – You should eat at least 5 different portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  2. Vary your diet – Rotate protein, carbohydrate and fat sources (these will contain different types and amounts of micronutrients), and eat different types of vegetables of different colours.
  3. Eat fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna, at least once a week. These are a good source of B Vitamins.
  4. Fill the holes in your diet. If you exclude certain types of food from your diet, such as meat or dairy, find replacements that contain the nutrients you miss from these foods
  5. Check food labels. Many packaged foods advertise that they contain vitamins and minerals. Check the nutritional information label, as they may only contain a fraction of your recommended daily allowance. You may save money and get more nutrients from fresher or less processed food sources such as fruits and vegetables
  6. If you do tips 1 – 5 you probably do not need to take micronutrient supplements. However, if you exercise regularly, or have health issues, you may want to consider supplements as you may need extra nutrients in your diet. If you do, check nutritional information labels to make sure that a sufficient amount of the nutrients you need. You may also need to consult a medical professional. Learn more about supplements here.

Affordable and nutritious foods

There are lots of foods which contain varying amounts and types of micronutrients. Below are a few, which are inexpensive, healthy and easy to buy. Remember that you need to eat a variety of food in a balanced diet in order to have a healthy and nutrient rich diet.

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