There are five components of a healthy diet. Thats it! No one is more important than another, and any particular one by itself is not enough to guarantee a healthy diet. However, together they will be the foundation and basis for your healthy and well-being.
Using the first five letters of the alphabet, we will establish a simple system to help us in remembering and understanding each piece of the puzzle.
Drumroll... Here they are:
Adequacy refers to eating foods that provide enough of the 50 essential nutrients our body must obtain from diet alone. Foods that have a high-density of nutrients are considered superfoods and incorporating them in your healthy diet plan is the easiest path to achieving daily adequacy.
Without adequacy, malnutrition forms creating an array of problems ranging from a weakened immune system to death. These conditions depend on the severity of the deficiency and which essential nutrient(s) are lacking in the diet.
Balance is understanding foods provide differing amounts of nutrients than others. Plant and animal food sources are separated into groups based on common physical characteristics. One of these characteristics among each food group are similar nutrient profiles. This means many, if not all, of the foods in each group are quality sources for particular vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients (carbs, fats, & proteins).
For example, vegetarianism is often thought of as the "healthiest" way to eat, but people who strictly follow this diet can have issues balancing intakes of iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
Control of the amount of energy coming into our body is one of the critical components of a healthy diet. For dietary purposes, energy is measured in units known as calories. One calorie is such a small amount of energy that our body need hundreds of thousands on a daily basis just to survive.
For sake of simplicity in food labeling and discussion, they are grouped by the thousands known as kilocalories (k/cal) where the metric system is predominant. Under the US standard system of measurement, it is a bit more confusing. The "c" in calorie is always capitalized as "Calories."
So 1 k/cal = 1000 calories = 1 Calorie. Makes sense?
Controlling calories effectively regulates the equilibrium of energy in our body. Dietary guidelines have been created by governments and global non-profit organizations to suggest caloric intakes for large groups of the population.
We can refer to those guidelines as a rough boundary, but there are many factors including your physique, lifestyle, and age that we will use in determining a caloric intake for your personalized healthy diet plan. Remember, you are unique!
The previous three components of a healthy diet are the 'meat and bones' from a nutrition science standpoint. To recap, a healthy diet needs to provide an adequate amount of essential nutrients while maintaining a balance between each nutrient and controlling caloric intake.
Diversity in the range of foods, particularly in the developed world, has never been greater at any other point in history. While a debate enrages about monoculture and its effects on the global food supply, it is safe to say the days have long passed where we are limited to what is grown locally. Diversity gives us the option to get our ABC from over 20,000 edible species of plants, 1500 different fruits, nuts, seeds, and leaves, as well as hundreds of species of animals.
Eating an array of foods will create diversity, increasing the probability of getting enough of particular nutrients and in a proper balance.
Efficiency is all about making the most of each meal. Among nutritionists, meal portioning is highly debated and considered to be a primary cause of the global obesity epidemic. While moderation in the size of each meal is important, the foods that we choose to eat can supercede the vast amount of attention needed in portioning.
Volumes of books written about portioning and preaching moderation in eating all rely on one underlying assumption. All of us are eating large amounts of calorie dense foods which supply little or no additional nutrients.
Being conscious of the components of a healthy diet empowers each of us to make better choices when at the market, preparing a meal, or dining out.
Remember the five components of a healthy diet and how they interact with one another...
Diversity + Efficiency = Adequacy & Balance & Control
Moving forward, we will take a look a more in-depth look at food groups, including which are good for us, which are not; which to focus on, which to not; and in the process redefine a few, putting to rest the idea our government has our best personal interests in mind.
**As always, feel free to use the navigation below to backtrack and get an overview of Healthy Diet Mentor and our plan to get you on your way to a lifelong healthy diet.
Your Healthy Diet
What is a Healthy Diet?