Having a healthy diet is very important for the body’s functions to function in a balanced way. In general, a healthy diet should consist of all macros and micronutrients.
What is healthy eating?
A good healthy diet should have:
- Macronutrients, which are carbohydrates (breads, pasta and potatoes, among others);
- Fats (such as oils, oilseeds, avocado and others);
- Proteins (fish, eggs, red meat, chicken meat, among others);
- Micronutrients (such as vitamins and minerals, present in the most diverse foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, among others).
It must also contain fiber, a non-digestible part of plant foods, which is resistant to digestion and intestinal absorption, whether with complete or partial fermentation in the large intestine. They play an important role in healthy eating and are also present in the famous whole foods, fruits and vegetables. A diet that is composed of these nutrients in a balanced way tends to be quite varied, without exaggeration and does not usually follow any type of fad.
What is the importance of healthy eating?
Com uma alimentação saudável, você tem vários benefícios. Ajuda a melhorar o sistema imunológico, a qualidade do sono, o trânsito intestinal, o humor, a capacidade de concentração e pode até ajudar na perda de peso. Para a gestante é muito importante para o desenvolvimento saudável do feto e na nutriz ajudará no desenvolvimento mais saudável do bebê. Entre muitos outros benefícios.
Brazilian food pyramid
The food pyramid was reformulated by the health nutritionist Sonia Tucunduva Philippi (professor at the University of São Paulo) for the Brazilian population in 1999. This aims to facilitate the understanding of citizens about which foods should be eaten more frequently and which should be avoided the most.
The reformulation was in general in the exchange of some foods that are not very common in Brazil for others with the same nutritional value, but that were very ingested by Brazilians.
The foods at the bottom of the pyramid are the ones that should be eaten most often. The higher the food is located, the less it should be eaten.
The orientation given by the pyramid is to ingest:
- 6 porções de carboidratos ao dia, como pães, batata, arroz, mandioca e outros;
- 3 porções de vegetais;
- 3 frutas;
- 3 laticínios, como queijo, leite e iogurte;
- 1 carne e ovos;
- 1 de feijão e outras leguminosas;
- 1 de óleos e outras gorduras;
- 1 de açúcares e doces.
Check out the Brazilian food pyramid below:
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients are fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Carbohydrates represent the main source of energy for the body, they are contained in 4 calories per gram and are divided into simple and complex.
The digestion and absorption of simple carbohydrates quickly leads to an increase in blood glucose levels (glycemia). Examples of foods that have simple carbohydrates: fruits, honey, corn syrup and sugar. Excessive consumption of simple carbohydrates can lead to health problems such as diabetes.
In the case of complex carbohydrates, their chemical structure is greater (polysaccharides). Because it is a larger molecule, its digestion and absorption is slower, causing a gradual increase in blood glucose. Examples of foods that have complex carbohydrates: brown rice, brown bread, sweet potatoes, wholemeal pasta. These complex carbohydrates have many fibers and thus have a major contribution to improving intestinal transit, preventing diabetes, helping with weight loss, cholesterol level control, among others.
Another macronutrient is protein. It contains 4 calories per gram and one of its main functions is to repair microlesions that normally occur as a physiological process when physical activity is practiced and to regenerate and form new muscle cells.
As proteínas são mais facilmente encontradas em alimentos de origem animal, como carnes vermelhas, peixes, aves, laticínios e ovos. Também podem ser encontrados em alimentos de origem vegetal, principalmente em leguminosas como feijão e soja.
The last example of a macronutrient is fat, it contains 9 calories per gram. They fall into three categories: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated. Fats promote satiety and some of them promote benefits for the brain. Polyunsaturated fats are easily found in foods such as chia, flaxseed and cold water fish, such as salmon and sardines. Monounsaturated fats are found in oils, such as olive oil and avocado.
Recommended amounts of macronutrients
It is recommended that a healthy diet has in its composition 40 to 55% of carbohydrates, 15 to 30% of proteins, half of which must be of animal origin and the other half of vegetable origin, and between 25 and 30% of fats, being that a third should be saturated, a third polyunsaturated and a third monounsaturated.
What to eat
- Vegetable proteins, such as soybeans, beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa;
- Animal proteins, such as fish, poultry, eggs and semi-skimmed milk;
- Complex carbohydrates, such as fruits;
- Monounsaturated fats, such as avocado;
- Vitamin A, in eggs, cereals, carrots;
- B vitamins in meat, milk and eggs;
- Vitamin C, in fruits such as kiwi, orange and acerola, among others;
- Sources of omega 3, such as salmon, sardines and other cold water fish, chia and flaxseed.
Complex carbohydrates, which must be present in a healthy diet, are those that have sugar that takes longer to be absorbed into the blood, and has a lower glycemic load.
In the case of proteins, those of animal and vegetable origin are recommended. Vegetarian people can also have a healthy diet, since all proteins of plant origin are recommended. Those of animal origin are worth those with saturated fat such as fish, poultry, eggs and semi-skimmed milk.
As for fats, unsaturated ones are good alternatives for your health. You can invest in sources of omega 3 such as salmon, sardines and other cold water fish, chia and also flaxseed. Foods that have a lot of monounsaturated fats such as avocado and olive oil are also very good options.
Macronutrients to avoid
It is important to consume few sources of carbohydrates that have a high index and glycemic rate, as is the case with white bread, potatoes, pasta and white rice. Because they are able to lead to reaching insulin spikes that in excess facilitate weight gain and diabetes.
As for protein, it is essential not to abuse red meat, eating about 300 grams per week is enough. Excessive consumption of red meat leads to a higher consumption of saturated fats, thus increasing the risk of cardiovascular problems, among others.
Regarding fats, the utmost care with saturated fats is essential. Avoid exaggerating the consumption of saturated fat sources, especially those fatty red meats and also whole milk, among others.
What are micronutrients?
Among the micronutrients are minerals and vitamins, which results in dozens of substances that are essential for maintenance and a good quality of life.
Some of the good examples of essential vitamins are: vitamin A essential for vision and for growth it is found in eggs, fortified cereals, milk, carrots, among others, B vitamins, are great allies of the brain and are found in large quantities in meats, milk and eggs, and vitamin C, which is essential for immunity, can be found easily in fruits such as kiwi, orange and acerola.
As for minerals, they are divided into macrominerals, these we need to ingest in large quantities, such as calcium, and in trace elements, these must be ingested in small portions, such as boron. Other examples of macrominerals are iron, an ally in the prevention of anemia, good for the heart and found in meat, and calcium, a great ally of bones and teeth and found mainly in dairy products.
As there are many micronutrients, the best way to know if you are ingesting sufficient, exaggerated amounts or few of them is to always maintain a good variety in your diet. Try to consume as much of the food groups as you can and always follow the concept of food variability that indicates that your diet contains at least 30 foods. Types of food products, such as stuffed crackers, sausages, among others, do not count.
How to have a healthy diet
In order to have a healthy diet it is extremely important that it has the maximum variety and has all food groups. It is necessary to follow the concept of food variability, which indicates that in your diet you have at least 30 different foods. Recalling that food products, such as stuffed cookies, sausages, among others, do not enter the account.
Another precaution to be taken is in the choice of foods. Regarding carbohydrates, complexes such as whole grain breads, rice and whole grains should be prioritized. In the case of fats, those considered sources of unsaturated fats are included in the list of those eaten in greater quantities, such as oilseeds, olive oil, avocado, salmon and chia. Speaking of proteins, leaner versions, such as fish, poultry, red meats that have little fat and those proteins of plant origin, such as beans, lentils and soybeans should be prioritized.
The role of water
Water plays an essential role for the transport of nutrients in our body and for hydration. It is recommended to ingest 30 ml of water per kilo of the person in the day, this is equivalent to about 2 or 3 liters of water per day. Water cannot be substituted in any way for soft drinks, juices (especially industrialized ones), let alone alcoholic beverages.
Menu suggestions for healthy eating
Veja a seguir a distribuição calórica de cada refeição baseada em uma dieta de 2.000 kcal, composta por 6 refeições diárias.
- Breakfast: You should prioritize cereals, whole grain breads and oilseeds. To drink: natural juices, coconut water, teas, milk or coffee. The ideal breakfast should have 20% of your daily consumption, thus being about 400 kcal;
- Morning snack: It is necessary that this meal is light and fast, composed of low glycemic index foods (of slow absorption), such as fruits, oilseeds, natural and whole foods. To drink: natural juices, teas or coconut water. The ideal morning snack should have 5% of your daily consumption, thus being about 100 kcal;
- Lunch: The recommended dish should be divided into four parts for lunch: two parts should be filled with salads and vegetables, a part made up of carbohydrate sources and a part made up of protein sources. To drink: natural juices or teas. The ideal lunch should have 30% of your daily consumption, thus being about 600 kcal;
- Afternoon snack: Make snacks consisting of carbohydrate, protein and good fat. Pay more attention to natural and whole foods. Other good options are dried fruits, cereals or nuts. To drink: Prioritize coffee, teas or yogurts. The afternoon snack should have 15% of your daily consumption, thus being about 300 kcal
- Dinner: it must be composed of carbohydrates, proteins (of simple digestion), fats, vitamins and minerals that must be provided in an adequate way. Fruits and vegetables are good suggestions for this meal. To drink: Prioritize natural juices and teas. Dinner should have 25% of your daily consumption, which is equivalent to 500 kcal;
- Supper: Choose to make a snack that is rich in protein. If you want, you can add a fruit, as it is a light carbohydrate or, at most, 1 whole toast. The supper should have 5% of your daily consumption, which is equivalent to 100 kcal.
This example can vary according to each eating habit and the dietary needs of each person, but based on it we can observe that we should not eat too little in certain periods and exaggerate in others.
Foods that are not healthy
- Industrialized and sodium-rich foods;
- Ready seasonings among others need to be avoided.
Foods that contain a lot of saturated and trans fats are others that should be avoided, especially trans that cannot exceed two grams per day. Foods that are rich in saturated fats are usually red meats, especially fatty ones, whole milk and its derivatives and also yellow cheeses.
Examples of foods that contain trans fat are:
- Solid or creamy margarines;
- Cookie fillings;
- Packaged and frozen snacks, such as party snacks or frozen pizza;
- Pre-baked or fried foods;
- Instant noodles;
- Powdered soups and creams;
- Ice creams;
- Microwave popcorn;
- Icing ready for consumption, among other processed foods.
Although they are totally harmful to health, it is very difficult to restrict their consumption completely. Know that doing this is not a necessity to maintain a healthy diet, just do not consume them in an exaggerated or constant manner. For example: Suppose a person has 5 meals a day, which is equivalent to 35 meals a week. If 30 of the 35 meals are healthy and 5 are not, this will certainly not compromise your health or prevent you from being a healthy person.
Tips for healthy eating
- Drink a lot of water;
- Chew well;
- Don’t go without eating;
- Prioritize natural foods;
- Try to enjoy eating (eat what you like!);
- Eat without haste;
- Replace not-so-healthy foods;
- Eat 5 to 6 meals a day;
- Do not eat while performing other activities;
- Set weekly goals;
- Be persistent;
- Introduce fruits to the menu;
- Combine foods.