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A healthy lifestyle starts with eating the right food at the right time in the right quantities. Photo: Reuters

Food, in general, is pretty amazing. It allows us to experiment with a multitude of flavours and experiences. Sometimes, just a bite of our favourite food may transport us back to a certain time or place.

Never, however, underestimate its powers because what you put in your mouth truly matters. It is vital to remember that what you eat today will have an effect on your health tomorrow – and sometimes, immediately.

Now, think of the human body as a machine. To run smoothly without err, it would need proper ‘fuel’ and regular ‘maintenance’. These are equivalent to nutrients found in food and physical exercise.

Generally, good nutrients ensure regular bodily function while the lack of them may put your body at higher risks of diseases and infections. It may also hinder your vital organs and tissues from performing effectively, Healthline says.

It also pointed out the importance of educating oneself about making the right choices and maintaining a healthy diet from a young age, as bad eating habits may be difficult to get rid of once it became a routine.

So what should we eat?

According to the University of Leeds, a balanced diet should comprise of six main components namely carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and water. Together, and when taken in the right dosage, they make a foolproof formula towards sustaining one’s overall wellness.

In other words, a balanced diet is achievable by incorporating one type of food from every nutrient group below:

1) Carbohydrates

This is the most basic source of energy. The digestive system will process carbohydrates into glucose, or blood sugar, which will then be translated into energy.

Be selective! You would want to stay away from simple and processed carbohydrates. Instead, opt for complex carbohydrates that derived from natural sources. They will take longer time to dissolve and contain not only sugar but starch and fiber too.

Source: Grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds and legumes.

Tips: Think starchy, whole-grain food items!

2) Fats

While the word gives a lot of people the heebie-jeebies, the truth is that there are good fats, also called unsaturated fats, that the body requires to regulate our own temperature and dissolve other vitamins such as A,D,E and K, among others. For more information on the different types of fat, try searching for “The F Word” on Khmer Times’ website.

Source: Sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil and fatty fish such as salmon, trout, catfish and mackerel.

Tips: Say goodbye to food items containing trans-fat such as fast food, baked goods and fried food.

3) Protein

Every cell in a human body needs protein for one reason or another. It is essential in the process of building and repairing cell tissues, bones, skin, blood and muscles. It also helps generate enzymes, hormones and other vital chemicals. Pregnant mothers need a lot of good protein to help with fetus growth.

Source: Meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, grains, nuts and seeds.

Tips: Go straight to the natural sources instead of manufactured and processed items like protein shakes.

4) Vitamins

There are mainly 13 vitamins, including Vitamin C, A and D, that are essential for good health and they occur naturally in human bodies. However, we still need to reinforce them in order for our body to grow and develop accordingly. Deficiencies may cause diseases such as scurvy and rickets.

Source: Vegetables, grains, poultry, fruits, legumes, fish and meat.

Tips: While supplements may be recommended for those with deficiencies, it is always better to head straight to the source.

5) Minerals

Minerals are not something the human body needs in abundance but some of them such as iron, potassium and calcium are vital for the growth and development of healthy bones and teeth. They also assist blood circulation.

Source: Dairy products, meat, fish, cereals and fruits, especially bananas.

Tips: If you suffer from kidney problems, you may want to take a reduced amount of food that contains potassium as your body will no longer able to excrete the excess potassium which could thereafter trigger hyperkalemia.

6) Water

As the human body is made up of 60 per cent water, we need to ensure it is replenished to avoid dehydration and other health risks that could entail. Water is amazing because it helps with general lubrication of muscles and joints, and at the same time it also transports other nutrients to respective body parts that need them.

Source: Various food and beverages such as tea, milk, fruits and vegetables.

Tips: Yes, we do need at least eight glasses of water daily!

What a balanced meal could look like

Now, if you were taking notes, you would realise that the step in the right direction is not a big and an impossible one. Based on the abovementioned, a balanced meal in a day-to-day life could be:

A banana or a few slices of wholegrain bread+ a glass of milk + one to two glasses of water

Mid-morning snack
A bowl of mixed fruits and one to two glasses of water

A small portion of rice + a side of fatty fish or chicken + two large portions of vegetables + a few slices of fresh fruits + one to two glasses of water.

Mid-afternoon snack
A bowl of steamed peanuts + one to two glasses of water

Two portions of leafy greens + a side of protein of your choice + a small portion of brown rice or wholemeal bread + one to two glasses of water.

Evening snack
Pumpkin seeds or watermelon seeds + one to two glasses of water

If you still need more reasons…

If you were not convinced by the promise of general wellness and positive changes that come with a balanced diet, it should be noted that a happy and healthy lifestyle will also keep your body in the right shape. Wouldn’t you want to attract just the right attention to yourself?

According to the World Health Organisation, you can also grab this opportunity to get creative with the way you prepare food.

Remember, healthy food can be tasty, too!

The above article is intended for informational purposes only. AIA accepts no responsibility for loss or allergy which may arise from reliance on information contained in the article.

Resources: World Health Organisation, MedlinePlus, Healthline, University of Leeds, Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, WebMD and UK’s National Health Service.

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