What are the essential components of a healthy diet

Living a healthy lifestyle includes eating a nutritious diet that provides your body with all the essential nutrients it needs for optimal health. Having a healthy diet increases life longevity, decrease in hospital visits and over all reduction in the likelihood of disease.

But a poor or unhealthy diet for any sustained period of time can be very detrimental to long term health, developing in increased weight gain, fatigue and susceptibility of disease for the individual.

What are the essential components of a healthy diet

What are the essential components of a healthy diet? First and foremost, a healthy diet rests on the idea of moderation of all foods. While our bodies need carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals, an increase and or over consumption in any of these can produce unhealthy effects on our bodies and overall health.

Whether you are trying to lose weight or simply want to maintain a healthy weight, understanding the essential components of nutrition will help you plan a healthy balanced diet.

What are included in a healthy diet?

For any diet to be considered healthy, it should incorporate a balanced amount of all the nutritional components and elements needed to sustain life.

1. Carbohydrates – are a type of macronutrient which occur naturally in plant-based foods.

Perhaps you were told to avoid carbohydrates if you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, but foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet because they provide the body with glucose which is then converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity.

So instead of totally eliminating carbs from your diet, you can go for the healthiest source of carbohydrates such as unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains (oats), vegetables (sweet potatoes), fruits (bananas) and beans.

These foods promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.

What are the essential components of a healthy diet?

2. Proteins – are large complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body including most of the work in cells. They are required for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.

Great sources of protein include dairy products, eggs, beans, seafood, meat, nuts, beans and soy. Proteins from meat and animal products are complete proteins which means they can supply all the amino acids the body needs, while plant proteins (rice and beans) which are incomplete proteins, must be combined to get all the amino acids your body needs.What are the essential components of a healthy diet?A high protein diet can help you shed those unwanted pounds and also keep your belly full. But it’s important to eat the right amount and the right kind of protein to get its health benefits. Two sources of proteins which are not commonly thought of and also suitable for vegetarians are quinoa and soybeans.

What are the essential components of a healthy diet?

3. Fats – are essential part of our diet and are important for good health.

Despite the belief that fats are bad for you, they are required for general health. But to help make sure you stay healthy, it is important to eat unsaturated fats in small amounts as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Unsaturated fats help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels when they replace saturated fats in the diet.

Foods that are rich in unsaturated fats include nuts, flax seeds, avocado, peanut butter, sardines, salmon and vegetable oils. Saturated fats are found in dairy foods (butter, cream, full fat milk and cheese), palm oil, coconut, coconut milk and cream and cooking margarine.

Manufactured and packaged foods such as potato chips, deep-fried and high fat take away foods, cakes and pastries are also high in saturated fats. Cutting down your consumption of or totally eliminating foods high in saturated fats will help you in your pursuit of a healthy diet.

What are the essential components of a healthy diet?

4. Vitamins and Minerals – are essential nutrients because they perform hundreds of roles in the body to keep it healthy.

They help heal wounds, shore up bones and bolster your immune system. But although vitamins and minerals are all considered micronutrients, they differ in basic ways. Vitamins are organic and can be broken down by heat, air or acid and assist with various bodily functions such as metabolism of macronutrients and the building of body tissue, bones and blood.

Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic and hold on to their chemical structure and they help maintain the proper balance of water in the body.

The best approach to ensure you get a variety of vitamins and minerals in the proper amounts is to adopt a broad healthy diet that involves an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, low-fat protein and dairy products.

If you are unable to get these vitamins and minerals from natural foods, a daily multivitamin tablet can be used as a supplement. Most multivitamin supplements also contain minerals.

What are the essential components of a healthy diet

5. Water – is necessary not only to maintain proper bodily function but it is also good for healthy skin and aids in disease prevention.

Water is probably the most important component of a healthy diet. You can survive without food for up to a month but you won’t survive for more than 5 days without water. Every individual should aim for 8 to 10 glasses (330 mL) of water daily.

What are the essential components of a healthy diet

*Read here: The Importance of Water to the Body 

Is your body getting the right balance of nutrients? There are no excuse for unhealthy eating. Advance meal planning enables healthier eating habits. You may want to plan your meals in advance using the following guidelines:

a) Carbohydrates – 40 to 60 % of daily calories

b) Protein – 20 to 30 % of daily calories

c) Fat – 20 to 30 % of daily calories.

Committing to a healthy diet can be one of the smartest decisions you ever make because eating well does not only make you look and feel better, it can also save you money on future health costs.


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14 thoughts on “What are the Essential Components of a Healthy Diet?”

  1. Thanks for the wonderful breakdown of all of the different essential parts of the diet. Do you have any specific recommendations on keeping track of what I’m eating on a daily basis? I feel like I do a decent job, but I’ve tried a food journal before on paper and had absolutely no luck with it.

    I’ve heard there are a few apps and some trackers out there, but do they handle the calorie counting for me or am I still going to have to manually punch every single item in?

    1. Hello Craig,

      Tracking your daily food intake is quite a challenge for most people who are trying to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle. What used to work before doesn’t seem to be effective today because we are living in a fast-paced society where everyone seems to be in such a hurry. Keeping a food journal may work for a couple of days but after that we’re back to square one.

      The good news is there are now downloadable apps which we can use to track and monitor our daily calorie intake. But instead of enumerating them one by one, why don’t I just give you a link to the Top 5 Best Calorie Counting App.

      http://heavy.com/tech/2015/04/top-best-calorie-counter-counting-diet-dieting-fitness-apps-for-iphone-android/

  2. I believe that more people need to take their health far more seriously. I was just reading an article and heart disease is still the number 1 killer in America. Most of these cases could be eliminated by overhauling these peoples’ diets and showing them how to eat properly.

    Luckily, you’ve done us all this favor and have put together this excellent article. You’ve done an excellent job of breaking down the proper components and providing there sources.

    Personally, I can tell feel the difference in my overall performance when I choose to eat out vs. when I cook for myself at the house. I feel more energetic, more happy, I sleep better, I have healthier and more comfortable bowel movements, and the food I eat is prepared exactly the way I want it to be. Loads of benefits for eating a proper diet.

    Also, thank you for clarifying the word ‘healthy’ because too often have I encountered people who are over-eating the foods that are good for you but they negate the benefit by eating them out of proportion.

    I find that your ration breakdown is well on point as I am following a diet guideline that allows me to track the macro-nutrients that I am consuming on a daily basis.

    I use the 40-30-30 (carbs, fats, proteins) ration and I’ve been able to lose at least 10 lbs a month for the past 3 months with a combination and addition of exercise.

    1. Hey Justin,

      Thanks for stopping by. You are an amazing proof that eating a healthy diet in the right proportions really does help lose weight. Although most health and fitness “gurus” advocate staying away from carbs and fats when you’re trying to lose weight or simply want to maintain a healthy weight, I still believe that the best approach is “balance.”

      Some people who prefer a certain food, which is a healthy and nutritious one, might go to the extreme of over-eating it and neglect the other components of a healthy diet. Let us always keep in mind that anything consumed in excess and not utilized by the body is converted into energy and stored as fats which results to weight gain.

      Preparing your own meal and eating at home is key to a healthy diet because you have full control of the kinds of foods you will consume. Although I myself eat out or go for “take-outs” once in a while I think commercially prepared foods are not the best option when you’re trying to be healthy because aside from not knowing what sort of additives have been incorporated, there’s always this question whether they are nutritious.

      Great job following a diet guideline Justin. I wish you nothing but good health; remember that health is wealth.

  3. Hey Alice,

    I have been lifting weights for a year now and dieting is one of my hardest problems. This really helps break down the percentages I need to intake daily to reach my goals to staying fit. Nutrition is so important and so difficult to maintain. This post will help me in the future, thank you.

    1. Hey there Patrick, thanks for stopping by.

      There are some people who find dieting to be extremely hard compared to weight lifting. But I personally think that dieting is a lot easier especially if you love to play around in the kitchen and experiment on the best healthy foods combination. I don’t believe we have to become strict vegetarians to be healthy; we just need to know the right kinds of foods to eat and eat them in the right proportions.

  4. I have been doing intermittent fasting for over a year and after I read your writing I was wondering that what would be the best time for taking fats?
    I go to gym 3 times per week. Do you have any suggestions for me?

    1. Hey Furkan,

      Intermittent diet is becoming popular these days especially among those who want to stay fit and healthy without necessarily doing the hard work of exercising or working out. But incorporating a well-balanced diet has proven to be an effective way to stay healthy.

      What’s the best time to take in fats? Salmon which is a good source of fats can be eaten for lunch along with a vegetable sandwich or at dinner with some salads. Avocado being one of the healthiest sources of unsaturated fats can be taken for snack or breakfast. I highly recommend eating it on an empty stomach to get the most out of its health benefits. Nuts for people who are always on the go is a good source of fats too.

      I do not think there is a specific time when taking healthy fats. Just make sure you eat them at the right proportion.

  5. Knowing the essential components of a healthy diet is so important to our well being. My problem though is the portions. I tend to go over board with fruits and nuts because I know of the health benefits. They are my very favorite. Whenever I gain weight, it’s because I over eat these foods I think. Could you give me a guide on nut portions? I don’t just eat a handful, but twice that, even though I know that I should not eat too much.

    1. Anything in excess is bad. In fact even the healthy stuff can have negative effects if taken in excess because the body is programmed to utilize only certain amounts of every kind of food. Anything ingested that the body doesn’t need is either eliminated as wastes or stored and over time, are converted into fat tissues leading to weight gain, thereby increasing your risk of health problems.

      I love nuts too and they are great sources of proteins and healthy fats but consuming them in excess will definitely result to weight gain. I also noticed that eating too much of nuts causes my face to become oily resulting in pimples. The recommended daily intake of nuts is about 28 grams per day which is about as much as it fits in the palm of your hand. They can be a mixture of different nuts or a handful of just one kind.

      I hope this helps Carol.

    1. Hi Maurice,
      Knowing what kinds of foods we need to eat to stay healthy is important but I believe knowing why we should eat them is more important as it will be the driving force and motivation for us to start eating healthy and to keep us stay on track.
      Thanks for coming by!

  6. I have recently suffered a heart attack so I have had to watch what I’m eating which I’m finding pretty hard to do, have you got any tips for me so I can stop eating the junk food that I enjoy?

    1. Hi Matthew, junk foods really taste good, don’t they? I used to fill my body with lots of junks too, like chips, fries, chocolates, cakes, ice cream, soda and all other kinds you can think of. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy junk foods? But at what expense? Becoming aware of the bad effects junk foods give to our body and health made me realize that there is actually something I can do about it. Each individual is solely responsible for taking care of their health if they want to enjoy long life.

      How did I do it? First off, I do not recommend totally abstaining from junk foods because I believe that depriving yourself will certainly make you want to eat more of them. Instead, I highly recommend eating them in moderation and just once in a while. I actually tried a 100% healthy diet for almost a year and I felt really good about myself. But I also came to realize that I can indulge myself once in a while without feeling guilty about it.

      If you’re really keen on eliminating junk foods, you should have an alternative. For instance, you may want to always keep a stock of several varieties of fruits that you can nibble on every time you crave for any unhealthy snacks. Baby carrots, apples, bananas and cucumber are great for snacking. I specifically like bananas because they are sweet and filling. Also don’t forget to drink lots of water because aside from being the healthiest drink, it can also suppress your hunger and cravings.

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