Understanding exactly what makes a meal nutritious can be quite hard to get your head around. It appears there is a lot of talk around nutrition and what constitutes a ‘balanced diet’ without the use of any actual facts. There are lots of factors that come into play when we talk about a plate of food’s nutritional value, each one having its own breakdown of importance. There has been a lot of research into different food groups and their lasting effects on our bodies, so it’s important to understand exactly what it is that our bodies need. Making sure we get enough of certain food groups but not too much of others can seem quite confusing. With this in mind, let’s take a look at just how nutritious food can be and how you can incorporate it into your diet.
Before we delve into the basics of nutritional value, let’s look at what exactly nutrients are and how they help our bodies. There are six types of nutrients that are essential to your body’s functioning, these include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. All these nutrients are what provide our bodies with power and energy to carry out everyday tasks. Each one of these nutrients does, however, differ in nutritious value. We can split how nutritious each nutrient is into two categories, macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the body’s main source of power and energy, water being the largest as we rely on this the most to survive. Micronutrients are nutrients that are only required in small amounts, such as vitamins and minerals. Each nutrient we take in serves a different purpose for our body; we can determine how nutritious something is based on how much we need a nutrient and what we need the nutrient for.
Exploring the functions of nutrients
There are three main functions that nutrients will fill to keep your body in prime working order; energy, growth and repair, and metabolic function. These three core groups are essential in making sure that our bodies function correctly, we can begin to understand how nutritious a food is based on which area it helps to support and by how much.
Getting the right nutrients
Knowing just how much of each nutrient you need to keep your body on track can be difficult, but picking foods that are nutritious, healthy and balanced will make it easier. Knowing what you should have on your plate along with how much will help you to understand just what your body needs. Knowing exactly how to portion your food is a key skill that will not only keep you eating healthy but also allows you to get to know what your body needs.
Firstly, let’s look at carbohydrates. Carbohydrates should form one-quarter of your plate and are essential in providing your body, brain, organs and muscles with energy. Rice, pasta, quinoa, bread, oats and cereals are just some examples of the array of carbohydrates you can add to your plate. Wholegrain alternatives are also a sensible choice as they help to keep your digestive system functioning smoothly. Carbohydrates, although needed by our body for energy, aren’t nutritious or beneficial in large quantities. Carbohydrates are reliant on our individual activity levels meaning the more active we are and the more often we are burning off energy, the more carbohydrates we will require to meet the demands of our bodies.
Second on our plate is protein. One-quarter of your plate should be made up of protein. Having this protein is essential for growth and repair so it is important to make sure you get the right amount of protein into your diet. Protein-rich foods consist of eggs, seafood, poultry, red meat, cheese, nuts and yoghurt. These foods are vital in ensuring muscle tissue, red blood cell, hormone and enzyme production. The type of proteins we eat can be tailored to suit our individual lifestyles depending on dietary needs. Things such as illness and periods of growth are just some examples of when protein may be needed in larger quantities. However, protein isn’t all good news. Lots of proteins aren’t nutritious as they contain high levels of fat which is something we should try to stay clear of.
Lastly, at least half of our plates should be made up of vegetables. Vegetables are incredibly nutritious and encourage a healthy metabolism. A really nutritious way to keep your body in working order is to incorporate as many different types of vegetables into each meal, there can never be too many as long as you have variety. Having a variety of vegetables, pulses, fruits and nuts is a great way to cram your body with rich vitamins and minerals that are essential for keeping your body on top form.
There is nothing more important than looking after your body and sticking to the right nutrients and portion sizes is a great way to keep your health in check. Making sure that your meals are nutritiously balanced is a long-term effort, you don’t have to be strict with yourself, just keep it nutritious and proportional and you will be able to begin to reap the benefits of a healthy diet.
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