We all have heard that cliche many times in the past but there may actually be some truth behind it.
Now what about those of you that constantly eat junk food or high fat foods? Does that mean you are junk or fat? Maybe, but not necessarily. Most people can still have their occasional sweets as long as they fit into their diet.
Your diet does not have to be overly restrictive. As a matter of fact, people who cut foods they enjoy from their diets generally do not stick to their diet and often end up binge eating (or weekend binge eating when on diets). Its much better to allow for little treats throughout the day and to develop good eating habits that will become a part of your lifestyle.
Overly restrictive diets may also lack many of the nutrients that are essential in the diet. "Can't I just have a multivitamin every morning?" you may ask. Many people do this as a safety to ensure that they have an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals. Its important to be careful when you buy supplements, especially when they promise dramatic results with no disadvantages being discussed. It also is much better to obtain vitamins, minerals and other substances in whole foods. When consumed in the diet additional benefits may result from the combination of essential nutrients as well as the compounds that may be unknown to food scientists.
Essential nutrients can all be obtained in the diet. Based on a variety of conditions, various nutrient needs may increase, however, generally even when a person has specific needs they can be met through a balanced diet. It is hard to know what exactly a balanced healthy diet is when there is so much conflicting information out there.
With so many popular diets saying carbohydrates are bad, it may surprise you to know that we need them the most out of all nutrients. Many people consume them in excess which is the problem. Carbs are essential for energy, growth, development and body processes. Although it is true the body can use other fuels when necessary, the body does not work optimally when under this starvation mode.
The next highest requirement is for fats. There are a couple fatty acids (FA) that are essential that must be consumed in the diet. These are omega 3 and omega 6 FA. Omega 3 FA are mostly found in fish and omega 6 FA are found in grains. Just because other fats are not essential does not mean they have to be avoided. If an abundance of carbohydrates and proteins are consumed they will broken down to form adipose (fat) tissue. Fat is necessary for many of the body's functions as well as for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, & K).
Proteins of course are important to consume in the diet and contain many vital nutrients, however, only 10% of your calories for the day need to come from protein sources. There are many food sources that are plant based that contain protein. The problem with plant proteins (even soy!) is that they do not contain all the essential amino acids in the correct amounts to make it a complete protein. When combined (protein from another plant protein complements it) they can form complete proteins and be used in the body. The complemental protein does not have to be consumed in the same meal for the body to use the complete protein.
A healthy diet can be consumed when a variety of foods are consumed with balance and moderation. No one food contains every nutrient needed, therefore a variety is important in the diet.
Eating healthy is not necessarily a cure or a guarantee that you won't develop chronic diseases in which nutrition plays a role. Genetic factors play a major role in the development of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
For recommendations on how much you should be consuming and for tools to help plan your meals please go to http://www.mypyramid.gov/