What Does A Healthy Body Need?

In order to function at its optimum a healthy body needs a well-balanced diet which should include carbohydrates, protein, fats, minerals and vitamins.

Carbohydrates:

the main function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for the body. During digestion carbohydrates are converted into glucose and then absorbed into the bloodstream. It is the glucose that the body uses for energy. If energy is not immediately required, it is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen and is readily available to be converted into glucose when extra energy is required. Foods containing carbohydrates include: sugar, syrup, jam, honey, fruit, bread, puddings, cereals, potatoes.

Proteins:

these are invaluable to the body for their vital role in repairing and maintaining the tissue, muscles and blood cells. An excess intake of protein is either converted into energy or transposed into fat and held in the body for emergency use. Found in foods including: meat, fish, cheese, eggs, milk, soya beans, nuts, cereals and pulses.

Fats:

the role fats play in the body’s energy status is to supply it with a concentrated source of energy and also essential fatty acids, vital for maintaining healthy skin and the regulating body functions. Found in foods including: milk, butter, cream, cheese, suet, fatty meat, oily fish, margarine, salad or cooking oils.

Vitamins:

important for healthy functioning of cells. Present in small amounts in all foods, a varied, sensible diet including a high proportion of fresh fruit and vegetables will ensure a sufficient intake for good health although some vitamin loss occurs during cooking. Foods containing high levels of vitamins include fresh fruit and vegetables, milk, butter, cheese, eggs, margarine, fish.

Minerals:

inorganic substances found in foods from both animal and vegetable sources and required in very small quantities. They are essential for the repair of tissues, healthy formation of bones, teeth and blood cells, maintenance of body fluids and metabolic functions. Foods high in mineral content include dark green leafy vegetables, sardines, liver, kidney, egg yolk, yogurt, milk and cheese.

Achieving a balanced diet

Health authorities in Britain and the United States have drawn up guidelines for healthy eating. There are five identified by the British Health Education Authority, whilst six appear in the four-tier US food pyramid. The American pyramid differs from the British model only in that it places fruit and vegetables into separate categories. The other four groups are shared by both and include the following:

Six daily servings of complex carbohydrates

Including bread, cereals, potatoes, pasta, rice and noodles.

• Choose wholemeal brown or high fibre breads, increase your intake by making thicker sandwiches but with less filling. Eat bread with main meals and have a larger helping of potatoes, rice or pasta rather than higher fat foods.

• Don’t fry any of the foods in this group.

• Don’t spread butter or margarine thickly on bread.

• Don’t add cream or rich sauces or oily dressings to these foods.

Five daily servings of fruit

This includes fresh, frozen and canned fruits, fruit juice and dried fruit.

• Select a wide and varied range of fruits and have more than one as a dessert by making up a bowl of fruit salad. Add fruit to a sandwich filling. Make a fresh fruit or vegetable drink.

• Don’t, however, eat excessive amounts in one sitting as this could lead to indigestion.

Five daily servings of vegetables

This includes all types of vegetable.

• Use tomatoes and other vegetables, fresh or frozen, in sauces or serve as a traditional side dish or with meat or pasta.

• Don’t deep-fry vegetables – they will soak up the oil.

• If stir-frying, do so in a little oil which is healthier.

Two daily servings of milk and dairy products

This includes semi-skimmed milk, cheese, yogurt, calcium-enriched soya milk.

• Eat only moderate amounts, choosing reduced fat versions such as semi-skimmed milk or low-fat yogurt (always check the labelling before buying).

• Don’t consume large amounts of full-fat varieties of cream, milk, cheese or butter.

Two daily servings of protein

This includes oily fish, lean meat, chicken, turkey and fish.

• Eat moderate amounts of these foods, choosing only those that are lean with all visible fat trimmed. Try eating fish at least twice a week and include some oily fish such as mackerel or salmon.

• Don’t fry meat or fish.

• Don’t add fat to those already rich in oils. Instead grill, poach, steam, stir-fry or even roast – all are healthier cooking methods.

Two daily servings of fats

This includes margarine, butter, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, pastries and sweets.

• Choose lower fat brands or eat only small amounts, using spread and oils sparingly. Skim any fat from meat juices when making gravy.

• Don’t be tempted to eat more than one chocolate or fill yourself up between meals with sugary snack foods or high fat snacks such as crisps.

Little treats

You can eat as much fruit as you like – it’s a convenient snack food, packed full of goodness and available in many different shapes, sizes and flavours.

But we all need a little extra sweet treat now and then: Bread and jam: there’s nothing like a slice of bread and jam and you can still indulge, provided you chose wholemeal bread and choose a low-sugar jam.

Chocolate:

in moderation chocolate can be healthy. It can provide a good proportion of an adult’s daily copper intake, necessary to help create red cells and strengthen bones.

Cheese:

nutritious but some varieties are high in fat and should be eaten in moderation. But if you enjoy eating cheese with a meal, try those with a lower fat content such as cottage cheese, ricotta or fromage frais.

Ginger and carrot cake

2 teaspoons ground ginger

175g (6oz) dark brown soft sugar

225g (8oz) self raising flour

2 large carrots, washed and grated

1 egg, beaten

250ml (8fl oz) skimmed milk

Preheat the oven on to 190°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Line a 450g (11b) tin with greaseproof paper. Blend the ground ginger, sugar and flour into a bowl. Add in the grated carrots and stir. Add the egg to the milk and stir this into the mixture, blending in well. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for approximately 55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool.