Nutrition plays a key role in human health and wellbeing. This is true throughout the lifecycle: starting from conception, and later at all stages in life: for babies, infants, adolescents, young and older adults. Nearly half of all deaths due to heart disease, stroke and diabetes are due to poor, sub optimal diet. Poor physical and mental development in children and even unfavorable pregnancy outcome has all been linked to poor nutrition. Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support to all your organs. This implies that it must contain all the essential nutrients that your body needs to render this support. In times past, food have been regarded as any edible substance that can be taken to prevent hunger or when hungry. Under this definition, a bowl of ice cream or deep fried pretzels for breakfast gets a pass mark, but can they nourish your cells? This is the reason you must answer the million-dollar question, ‘what is in your plate of food’?
The answer this question seek is not the quantity of the food, how special or pricy the foods is, but the quality of nutrients in the food which gives it the ability to provide you with nourishment and prevent non-communicable diseases. To create a healthy food plate,
1. Go for whole grains. They are minimally processed, packed with lots of nutrients and have great influence in regulating blood sugar. Foods sources include brown rice, oats, millet, fonio, quinoa, corn. All at their natural state or very minimally processed takes ¼ of your plate.
2. Be generous with leafy vegetables. The colours they bring does not only brighten the plate, it is a sure sign of nourishment for your cells. Their richness in fiber promotes healthy gut, blood sugar and weight control. As a rule of thumb, cover½ of your plate with leafy vegetables.
3. Allow some fruits.Between2-3 servings of fruits per day is recommended. Use fruits to curb your desire for sweets instead of going for that candy bar or ice cream bowl.
4. Go for the leanest cut of animal protein, limiting the processed versions like bacon and sausage. Include legumes and lentils for the array of nutrients that they can offer.
5. Choose healthy oils, and use in moderation. Sources that are plant originated like olive oil, nut oil and soy oil are unsaturated, and they offer better health benefit.
6. Replace sugary drinks with water and dairy products like milk to one or two servings per day. An unhealthy diet is one of the major risk factors for arrange of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity. A poor diet will lead to nutrient deficiencies and this will likely lead to chronic diseases. Fix your plate right to prevent nutrient deficiencies.
By Chioma Mmiriukwu
Clinical Nutritionist. RDN