Humans are omnivores – they eat all types of food, both from vegetable and animal origin. In fact there are only two things that humans consume on a regular and normal basis that were not, at some stage of their production, alive as either an animal or plant (keep reading to discover what these two are).
The rules of a good diet revolve around the aphorism of “all things in moderation”. A diet heavy in fat is harmful, but a totally fat free diet is also harmful. Alcohol in small to medium quantities is beneficial, but in excess is harmful. Moderate drinkers actually live longer than teetotallers. Even water in excess can be harmful.
There is no “best’ food or “best” diet, it is up to each individual to work out what is best for them, by selecting appropriately from all food groups, including carbohydrates (including sugars), protein, fats and an appropriate amount of fibre.
Generally fresh foods are better (and often cheaper) than processed and packaged foods, as they contain a higher percentage of essential vitamins that may be degraded by processing. As a result, many manufacturers add back in vitamins at the end of the processing in order to replace those that have been lost. Often they claim that their product has been “vitamin enriched” if they add in more vitamins than were originally present.
A healthy diet contains adequate quantities of six groups of substances: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. The first three contain kilojoules (ie. produce energy) and the last three do not. It is also essential to have a supply of safe drinking water. You can live for weeks without food, but only a few days without water.
In broad terms, a healthy diet is a varied one. It is not possible to put forward a diet that is perfect for everyone, since people’s needs vary according to the age and stage of life they are at, how active they are, and on many other factors. However, any diet should include these items daily:-
- protein from foods such as fish or other seafood, poultry, very lean meat, or eggs, dried peas, beans or lentils
- one yellow variety such as carrots
- two or three pieces of fruit
- cereal or grains, such as rice
- bread (some dieticians recommend that this should be wholemeal or wholegrain but others are content with white bread)
- some dairy products, preferably low-fat for most adults (women in particular should ensure that they get an adequate supply of milk, yogurt or cheese to prevent the loss of calcium in their bones after menopause which causes osteoporosis).
- the only two things that humans regularly consume that were not originally alive: salt and water, both absolutely essential to our survival.