How to eat a balanced diet

What is a balanced diet?

Everyone always talks about “eating a balanced diet”, but have you ever wondered what that actually means?

Firstly, it is important to note that a balanced diet is essential for general health and well-being, as well as for maintaining a healthy weight. How it is achieved in practice can be very different for different people – not least because every individual is different, taking into account factors such as lifestyle, level of activity and energy demands, metabolism, pre-existing medical conditions, age, gender, health goals etc.

For example, athletes, vegetarians, vegans and those suffering from food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances will all have very different dietary requirements.

Having said that, the broad meaning of a balanced diet is simply one that includes an appropriate amount of food from the various food groups, along with plenty of pure water. Moderation and variety are key.

The modern diet

Unfortunately, in this modern age (with growing time and financial constraints), more and more people are relying on “fast foods” / “junk foods”, ready-meals, frozen foods and highly refined and processed foods to make up the majority of their meals.

Although obviously time-savers, these types of foods tend to be high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, salt, saturated fats and chemicals (such as food additives and preservatives). Not only do they fail to supply the body with the nutrients that it needs, they actually contribute to toxin build-up, which can (for example) potentially lead to digestive problems, poor immunity, weight gain and all of the problems that come with it (including increased risk of diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure etc).

Another common phenomenon is that people will often skip meals in an attempt to lose weight, which in reality is counter-productive. Not only is this approach unhealthy (and has the potential to damage your digestion and internal organs), it can actually prevent weight loss and even contribute to weight gain. Although this sounds illogical, when you think about it, it does make sense.

How skipping meals can lead to weight gain…

It is important to activate your metabolism with the right foods at certain times of the day. Skipping meals (particularly breakfast) can lead to weight gain in a number of ways.

  • When you don’t eat for a prolonged period of time, your body can go into “starvation mode” and your metabolism then slows down to preserve energy. This means that your body will compensate for the inadequate calories by burning fewer calories than it normally would. When your body goes into starvation mode it does not draw from its fat reserves for energy, making it more difficult to lose weight.
  • It tends to result in extreme hunger later in the day, which can then lead to cravings, bingeing and weight gain.
  • It gives you an uneven distribution of calories throughout the day.
  • It means you are depriving your body of the energy it needs to properly function, exercise, burn calories etc.
  • It causes low blood sugar levels and delays insulin response, which can lead to diabetes.
  • It is a temporary measure and won’t solve your long-term weight problems.

Skipping meals is therefore clearly not the answer to healthy weight loss and a balanced diet. The most effective means of losing weight and keeping off is adopting a sensible weight management plan, i.e. making healthier eating choices, exercising, drinking pure water and keeping your metabolism active. Metabolism plays a key role in how quickly you burn fat and lose weight; therefore, it cannot be overlooked as part of your plan for weight management and optimum nutrition.

Why is a balanced diet important?

Exercise alone won’t make you “healthy” – it is just one piece of the puzzle. As the saying goes, you are what you eat. A balanced diet is arguably the most important factor because it gives you access to the broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, salts, oils and other nutrients required by your body to function in an optimal way, including the energy to exercise.

Learning how to maintain a balanced diet is important for long-term health and weight management.

Where do health supplements come into it?

As a person trying to achieve a truly balanced diet and manage your weight, you might choose to take health supplements for a number of reasons, e.g.:

  1. As a result of depleted soil, long-distance importation, long shelf-life, pasteurisation, cooking methods (such as microwaving) and chemicals in our food, it is often lacking in nutrients, including digestive enzymes. For example, the level of vitamin C in vegetables can decrease by half within 5 minutes of being cut and by up to 70% after just 20 minutes. Similarly, cooking food destroys around half of the protein content and approximately 60% of vitamins and renders about 60% of the minerals non-absorbable. Nutrient-dense, food form supplements can help you top-up on nutrients easily and conveniently, every day.
  2. Restricted food choice can often make it harder to ensure you are getting the full spectrum of nutrients that your body needs on a daily basis. Many slimmers, vegans, vegetarians and others with restricted diets (such as allergy or intolerance sufferers) therefore choose to supplement their diets with tailored health foods and products.
  3. Those suffering from long-standing digestive health problems will often find that it is harder for them to absorb nutrients and lose weight. Digestive system issues are a common side-effect of being over-weight, most likely due to poor diet over a number of years. Many slimmers and those with digestive disorders therefore find that they benefit from, for example, colon cleansers and cleanse and detox supplements as part of their wider weight management programme. Others use probiotics and digestive system supplements to support their inner health and help to restore balanced levels of gut flora.

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Natural versus man-made food

Organic nutrients

Natural, organic nutrients – from, for example, fruit, vegetables and leafy greens – help to nourish the body, support natural detoxification and high energy levels and also help to naturally cleanse internal organs and alkalise the blood pH.

Organic forms of these nutritious foods means:

  • no toxic chemicals
  • no GMOs
  • a higher level of nutrients.

This principle extends also to the vitamins and other supplements you might choose to introduce into your daily diet.

Natural or man-made?

The number of milligrams you take of a certain vitamin or mineral on a daily basis is only part of the health equation. The most important factor is how many milligrams your body actually absorbs and uses.

If you buy synthetic or “man-made” health supplements, you could be wasting your money. As they are not natural, the body can’t always work out how to treat them, which means that often they are not fully absorbed. Only organic whole foods, balanced by nature, can provide your body with the nutrients and energy needed to achieve optimum health.

Even healthy people will not be able to fully digest, absorb and use most man-made vitamin and mineral pills. So imagine how little use they will be if you are ill or suffer from digestive system problems – virtually zero. They will pass through your body unabsorbed and be flushed down the toilet after a few hours.

In contrast, natural food state supplement enable the body to utilise the nutrients properly. Only natural whole foods can provide the vital elements and energy that are needed to assist our bodies to reach and maintain optimum health levels. Look after your health the natural way!

Healthy diet and nutrient intake

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all ensure our daily vitamin, mineral and general nutrient requirements were met by diet alone? Unfortunately, in today’s modern and fast-paced world most people consume a diet high in:

  • sugar
  • saturated fat
  • refined carbohydrates
  • nutrient-deficient processed foods
  • caffeine
  • alcohol. 

The lack of nutrients in the average diet is also often exacerbated by the use of prescription drugs, smoking, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, high stress levels and high levels of environmental pollution – the end result is toxic build-up, nutritional deficiency over time and inevitably the body becomes unable to cope.

Once nutritional deficiencies begin to take their toll, the body begins to break down (become ill). Symptoms can be exhibited through many different conditions.

Why you need to replenish your body’s nutrients daily

A lack of nutrients means that your body cannot repair itself fully or efficiently. Over time, this lack of nutrition can cause a host of problems, such as low energy levels, poor memory, irritability, a weak immune system and susceptibility to colds and flu – and these are just the mild issues.

The ability to recover and the speed of recovery following an illness or injury is reduced in nutritionally depleted bodies. We have to eat foods, not only for the calories, but more importantly for the nutrients found within them. This is why so-called “fast foods” and “junk foods” (non-organic processed foods) are basically useless to the body – even though they are high in calories, they provide us with very little by way of of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, essential oils, antioxidants etc).

The end result of continually eating high-calorie and nutritionally-devoid foods is therefore often obesity, low energy levels and poor health. In contrast, if you feed your body’s cells with nutritionally potent foods (such as superfoods) you will not only feel good, but will also look great and support your long-term health and vitality.

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Best diet for weight loss

A healthy diet for long-term weight loss

Nourish your body, while shedding pounds!

So, you’ve made the decision to try to lose weight for good this time and you’re raring to go. But how are you going to make your weight loss stick this time? How are you going to change your eating habits and navigate those cravings for comfort foods?

Go raw and alkalise

Natural, nutritious and alkalising raw foods (like fruits, vegetables, green leafy plants, sprouted legumes and sea vegetables) are the answer.

The best-kept weight loss success secret is that you can reach your natural ideal weight without having to count calories or starve yourself.

By eating more raw food (packed with vitamins, minerals and other weight loss friendly nutrients that haven’t been destroyed by the heat of cooking), and fewer processed, nutrient-depleted foods (high in saturated fat, sugar, salt, artificial additives and preservatives), you can control your appetite, balance your blood sugar levels, avoid cravings and awaken a more vibrant, energised version of yourself!

Cleanse and detox

If your body is bearing a high toxic load as a result of years of poor diet and lifestyle choices (including smoking), it is wise to tackle this before attempting to lose weight healthily.

This is because a toxic body will often be suffering from underlying conditions that can hamper weight loss, including food sensitivities, poor nutrient absorption, hormone imbalances and a strained liver.

For centuries, health experts have been extolling the virtues of ‘spring cleaning’ the body.

If you follow a diet made up primarily of wholesome raw foods, eliminating refined and processed foods wherever possible, your body will begin to detox naturally in any case.

If eating the right food is one side of the weight loss ‘coin’, detoxification is the other. Lower your toxic load to the lowest level possible to provide a good foundation for losing weight naturally and healthily.

Enzyme advantage

One of the many advantages of eating raw and ‘living’ foods is their rich enzyme content.

In the human body, there are around 3000 enzymes, which are required to carry out a wide range of essential biological functions. They are involved in everything from digestion and healing, to hormones and metabolism – all of which can have an impact on your weight loss efforts.

We are actually born with a finite bank of these essential, life-giving proteins. If our diet is not packed with naturally enzyme-rich foods, we need to call on our body’s own limited reserves.

What’s more, enzymes are delicate – they are damaged or destroyed when exposed to heat.

A poor diet, lacking in enzyme-rich raw foods, therefore often means that, eventually, our body starts to overwork itself to produce these enzymes, diverting energy away from other important tasks such as, for instance, burning fat.

So there you have it – 3 quick and easy ways to frame a diet that naturally supports long-term weight loss success. And the basis for all 3 is a diet high in raw, enzyme-rich and plant-based foods.

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Exercise health benefits

Why is exercise important?

Regular exercise is important for everybody, not just those who are looking to lose weight.

Our bodies operate best when they are engaged in regular activity. Conversely, health issues tend to crop up with your lifestyle is largely sedentary. The body craves movement and exertion, and it actually needs these things in order to function properly, to avoid muscle wastage and weakening, and to promote strength, vitality and longevity.

As obesity rates continue to rise, and we are seeing a growing older population, a lifestyle that includes regular exercise is a necessity. Ideally, this should be introduced at an early age for maximum benefit.

The bottom line is is to avoid inactivity for long periods; even some exercise is better than none at all. In other words, exercise is the key to good health and it can help to prevent a number of preventable health problems.

How can exercise support health?

Although exercise clearly helps to improve the appearance of the body (for example through weight loss and toning), it is also has countless other benefits for health.

Resistance training is often seen as being only for men or gym fanatics. However, exercise can take many forms and doesn’t necessarily have to involve the gym. For example, there is yoga, walking, running, cycling, boxing and countless others.

The important point to bear in mind is that exercise (any exercise) has a number of health benefits, which can contribute to the longevity and quality of life.

In particular, it is beneficial for:

  • detoxification
  • healthy digestion
  • heart health
  • weight loss (including a healthy metabolism).

Exercise is also important for muscle and bone health, and has a key role to play in maintaining a robust immune system by, for example, stimulating the lymphatic system. It is widely believed that the lymphatic system is the body’s first line of defense against disease. Exercise also improves circulation, helping to bring new fuel and energy to every cell.

In considered so important by governments that, in both the USA and Europe, there are a number of national initiatives that call for physical activity and exercise to be standard elements of both disease prevention and medical treatment for all ages.

How does exercise promote weight loss?

One of the most common mistakes that people make when trying to lose weight (and likewise one of the biggest reasons for failure) is focussing all their efforts on changing their diet, without thinking about the essential role of increased levels of physical activity.

Ultimately, your weight is dependant on the balance between the number of calories consumed each day and the number of calories burned. The main way in which exercise can assist with weight loss is through the burning of additional calories. Both aerobic and weight bearing exercise can achieve this.

Dieting alone is not going to be enough to ensure you reach your ideal weight in a healthy way, especially for the long-term. In fact, a 2006 study (Weiss et al) undertaken by Saint Louis University compared the effects of exercise combined with dieting, versus diet alone in losing fat. Although both sets of participants lost weight, only those undertaking exercise maintained their strength and muscle mass and increased aerobic capacity. Those who dieted only, lost muscle mass, strength and aerobic capacity.

Research consistently shows that regular exercise, combined with a balanced diet, is the most efficient and healthy way to manage your weight. In particular, exercise can affect our metabolism – when we exercise and eat healthily, the metabolism has a tendency to speed up and burn off excess calories and fat that it would not otherwise do, during periods of inactivity.

Getting the most out of exercising

If you are new to regular exercise, it’s important to take it slow and, if necessary, consult your doctor, a personal trainer or other qualified health practitioner before implementing radical changes to your diet or starting a new exercise regime.

Similarly, there are a number of health supplements that can support healthy weight management, athletic performance and nutrient intake. Increasing your levels of exercise should be viewed as part of a wider initiative to improve your health, including improving your diet to ensure that your body is getting all the “fuel” it needs to operate optimally.

For example, slimmers often find that protein powders and meal shakes can be helpful, because not only can they provide a low calorie source of nutrients, but the high protein content is vital for maintaining and increasing muscle and bone mass, supporting energy levels, for tissue and cell repair, for keeping the immune system strong and for preventing fatigue. And if you can find a shake that is fortified with nutrients, all the better.

A number of studies have suggested that a high-protein diet combined with exercise can support the weight management process, enhance fat loss, boost metabolism, improve muscle tone and improve blood fat levels.

As protein can assist in the repair and growth of muscle, this tends to mean that more calories are burned each day. Higher-protein diets may also help people to gain better control over their appetites and calorie intake, help them to regulate their blood sugar levels and reduce cravings. When your heart beats faster and you breathe more rapidly, it helps to lower your blood sugar level (which is why exercise is even more important if you have diabetes).

Similarly, ensuring adequate vitamin and mineral intake is an important part of any weight management programme, to ensure that you are losing weight healthily. For instance, antioxidants (such as vitamin C) are important in preventing damage by free radicals, which can be released during detoxification processes.

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