Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is essential to maintain optimal health, both physically and mentally.
Foods are grouped according to the nutrients or nutritional substances they contain. A good diet should be balanced and contain nutrients from all groups. It is necessary to consume foods from all groups, in the right proportions, to provide the necessary nutrients to the body and keep it in good health.
Functions of food:
- Plastic: They repair and build the structures of the body. They are called building foods and are foods rich in protein (meat, fish, eggs, etc.). Some minerals, such as calcium, also perform this function.
- Energetic: They provide the energy necessary to carry out mechanical work such as that carried out during physical activity and to maintain the metabolism. Fats and carbohydrates are the two main sources of energy in the diet.
- Regulatory: They regulate metabolic functions in our body. This function is performed by vitamins.
No single type of food or food group contains all the necessary nutrients, hence the importance of maintaining a diet that includes foods from all food groups in the right proportions.
A healthy diet should include:
- Fruits and vegetables: provide fibre and certain vitamins and minerals.
- Proteins: essential during cancer treatment, as they allow the body to recover more easily and fight infections.
- Cereals: provide a large amount of carbohydrates, which provide energy.
- Milk and dairy products: they contain vitamins, minerals and are the best source of calcium.
- Lipids or fats: provide energy, but should not account for more than 20-30% of daily calories. Although it is essential to consume some fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, there are other fats such as saturated fats that are harmful and should be avoided.
- They provide the body with the energy it needs to work properly. During exercise, the body uses calories from carbohydrates; but after 20 minutes, exercise then relies on calories from fat.
- Keep skin and hair healthy.
- Help absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K, called fat-soluble vitamins.
- Insulate the body to help keep it warm.
- They provide 9 calories per gram, more than twice the number of calories in both carbohydrates and protein, which have 4 calories per gram. This is why fat-rich foods are more fattening than other nutrients in the diet.
The fats your body gets from food provide it with essential fatty acids called linoleic acid and linolenic acid. They are called "essential" because your body cannot make them on its own or work without them. The body needs them for brain development, inflammation control, and blood clotting.
Saturated fats raise the level of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, etc.
Foods with a lot of saturated fats are animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, and fatty meats.
Some vegetable oils, such as palm oil, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil, also contain saturated fats. These fats are solid at room temperature.
A diet high in saturated fat increases the build-up of cholesterol in the arteries (blood vessels). Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance that can cause clogged or blocked arteries.
Eating unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats can help lower LDL cholesterol. Most vegetable oils that are liquid at room temperature have unsaturated fats.
There are 2 types of unsaturated fats:
- Monounsaturated fats include olive oil and canola oil.
- Polyunsaturated fats include safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils.
Trans acids are harmful fats that form when vegetable oil hardens in a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenated fats, or "trans fats", are often used to preserve some fresh foods for a long time.
Trans fats are also used for cooking in some restaurants. They can raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and can also lower HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.
Trans fats are found in fried foods, commercial baked goods (fried doughnuts, cakes, and biscuits), processed foods, and some margarines.
Foods made with hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (such as hard butter and margarine) should be avoided as they contain high levels of trans acids.
It is important to read nutrition labels on foods, which will help you to know what types of fats they contain and how much.
It should be noted that all international recommendations on reducing overweight and improving obesity include, among other things, reducing the amount of fat in the diet.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), overweight and obesity and their associated non-communicable diseases are largely preventable. To support people in making choices so that the simplest choice is the healthiest choice in terms of food and regular physical activity, and thus prevent obesity, supportive communities and environments are essential.
Functions of proteins:
- Structural function: certain glycoproteins are part of cell membranes and act as receptors or facilitate the transport of substances. Histones are part of chromosomes that regulate gene expression. Other proteins such as collagen and elastin provide elasticity and strength to tissues.
- Enzymatic function: acting as catalysts for numerous relevant chemical reactions of cellular metabolism that take place in our body and that allow the development of all vital processes.
- Regulatory function: Some proteins participate and play a fundamental role in the regulation of our genes.
Carbohydrates are our main source and reserve of energy, making them an absolute necessity in any balanced diet.
At an individual level, people can:
- Limit energy intake from total fat.
- Increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as pulses, wholegrain cereals, and nuts.
- Limit intake of sugars.
- Regular physical activity.
- Achieving energy balance and a normal weight.
Individual genetics determines the response that each person has to the different foods that form part of the diet. Fortunately, this valuable information is now available thanks to the genetic test developed by tellmeGen, which allows us to adapt our diet to achieve and maintain our maximum potential and wellbeing.
Gene or region studied