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Articles > A Balanced Diet

Foods are made up of three components… Carbohydrates, fats and protein. Each has their importance in a healthy diet, however there is a lot of misleading information out there, which makes it confusing for consumers.

When trying to lose weight you need to think about reducing the calories you eat everyday but also about the quality of your diet. I often see women with a low calorie diet but their diet is missing the core-food groups and has way too many “extra” foods. Whilst they may lose weight, in the long-term they may be at risk of osteoporosis (low dairy intake), vitamin deficiencies (low fruit and veg intake), bowel cancer (low fibre intake) etc. Therefore we need to think about the bigger picture and sustainable changes. Because there is no point in having immediate weight loss but putting yourself at risk of serious disease later in life.

Carbohydrates
Many people perceive carbohydrates as being the “enemy” that makes them put on weight. This however is far from true as carbohydrates are vital for our existence. For example our brain and blood cells can only use carbohydrate for energy, therefore cutting them out of your diet is not the answer. There are however some choices that are better than others. Simple sugars like lollies, soft drinks and table sugar are broken down very quickly and are released into your blood very quickly, causing a “sugar high”, but then these sugars are cleared very quickly making us feel hungry again. Foods high in these simple sugars have a high GI and also include things like corn flakes and white bread, both foods that are very low in fibre. Slow release sugars from wholegrain bread, wholemeal pasta, fruit, vegetables and dairy products are released more slowly into the blood and make us feel full for longer. These are termed low GI foods and are usually high in fibre, vitamins and minerals and are good choices for weight loss.

Protein
Protein is essential for muscle growth and is found in foods such as meat, milk, cheese, legumes and many grain products. When choosing high protein foods however it is important that they are also low in fat as many meats and dairy products are very high in fat especially saturated fat, which is bad for our heart. Choices such as chicken, fish, shaved turkey, low fat milk and yoghurt are the best choices, however lean cuts of red meat are also good as they contain lots of iron. Vegetarians need to keep an eye on their protein sources and make sure they eat from a variety of legumes, wholegrain breads/pasta and cereals to ensure they get an array of different proteins

Fats
Fats are also often considered the enemy to people trying to lose weight. This is not strictly the case, however they are very energy dense and thus need to be eaten in moderation. For example 10g of fat has nearly 2½ times more calories than 10g of protein or 10g of carbs. There are two different types of fats: saturated (from animal products) and unsaturated (from plant products). Saturated fats such as those found in full fat dairy, butter, fatty red meats and takeaway foods can cause high cholesterol and heart disease. Unsaturated fats such as those in olive and canola oil, oily fish (salmon and sardines), nuts and polyunsaturated margarines can actually protect us against heart disease, however as mentioned they are very energy dense and should still be eaten in moderation.

Fibre
Fibre is actually a type of carbohydrate from plants. Our bodies however are unable to digest it therefore is offers no caloric value to us. Fibre has many benefits including helping us to feel full after a meal and helping to keep our bowel healthy, whilst some types can help lower our cholesterol. Foods that are high in fibre include: the skins of fruits and vegetables, wholegrain pasta, cereals such as All-Bran, Weet-Bix, wholegrain bread and legumes. It is recommended that adult women have ~30g fibre daily.

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For further details contact:

Ms Olivia Pilla
Accredited Practicing Dietitian
BNutrDiet & BHlthSc.
E: olivia@youneedhealth.com.au