Foods are known as building elements of the body. The food consumed in diet should consist of carbohydrates, protein, and fats, which provide calories and vitamins, minerals and water, which are very essential to life and good health. Fiber is another important element of a balanced diet and ensures healthy digestive tract. Every food we eat not only comprises of more than one nutrient, but also has different number of calories.
Carbohydrates are sugars and starches. They are necessary for energy generation, for the breakdown of protein, and to protect the body from various toxins. They also help in preventing dehydration. Carbohydrate are essential to take care of the functional activity of the cells, apart from producing energy required for the functioning of the human body.
High carbohydrate food are jowar, ragi, rice (raw), whole wheat flour, whole bengal gram, green gram, kidney beans, apricot (dry), dry dates, honey, jaggery. Low carbohydrate food are spinach, bottle gourd, cucumber, snake gourd, straw berry, cow’s milk, butter milk, cauliflower, ladies finger, tomato (green), melon, fish, curd, and beet root
Fiber is the element of the food that cannot be digested. Fiber helps in removing toxic substances and excess cholesterol from body. High fiber diet also helps in preventing constipation, and reduces possibility of colon diseases. Fiber helps in protecting against diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. 25 to 35 grams of fiber must be consumed every day.
Food sources of fiber are whole grains (bran consists of highest fiber content), which are less processed. This consists of breads and cereals, whole-grain pastas, and brown rice, nuts and seeds, Legumes like dried peas, beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables.
Fats are essential for health as it is a part of all cell membranes, and is vital source of stored energy in body. Fat generates more energy than carbohydrate and protein. It also helps in the consumption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats helps in keeping the body warm, maintaining hair and skin, and protecting the important organs. It should be consumed to 30 percent of total calorie intake whereas saturated fats should be consumed less than 10 percent of the total calorie intake.
Saturated fats are obtained in animal products like butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, and fatty meats and in some vegetable oils like coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils. Unsaturated fats like monounsaturated fats are found in olive and canola oils and polyunsaturated fats are found in fish, safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils.
Vitamins are essential for the cellular functioning of body. They are chemical substances, which help the body in producing energy, building proteins, making cells, and repairing injuries. Vitamins also help in regulating the nervous system, and building genetic material, red blood cells, and hormones. Vitamins are mostly found in vegetables and fruit, but can also be obtained from dairy products, poultry, fish, meat, and eggs.
Minerals are inorganic substances, which are essential for body in formation of teeth, bones, and blood cells, regulation of body fluids and to help in the chemical processes of the body. Macro minerals (100mg a day) consist of calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphorus, sulphur and potassium sodium. Trace minerals (very small quantity) include copper, cobalt, iodine, iron, fluoride, manganese, selenium, zinc, and molybdenum.
Food that contain essential minerals, also consist of other energy providing material. Milk is valuable source of calcium, Vitamin D, and protein.
Water is essential for life. Water is essential to metabolize food, dissipate heat through sweating, and expel toxins in the urine. For a healthy body minimum 8 glasses of water a day is required. It cleanses the body, maintains the skin, organs and hair in good condition, is essential to generate digestive enzymes, assist the body to gather the nutrients from food and liquids, helps to regulate the body temperature, and is required for proper cell function. Women should consume more water than men.
Proteins are a part of hormones and enzymes and helps in forming antibodies to withstand infection, building muscles, and repairing damaged tissues. The excellent sources of protein are animal foods like chicken, meat, fish, cheese and eggs. But plant proteins like beans (soy beans), lentils, nuts, and seeds are healthier because of their less fat content.
If there is any problem in covering all the above elements in diet then it is a good idea to take advice from a state registered dietitian and use supplements if necessary.