A balanced diet includes foods from all the major food groups (fruits and vegetables, meats or proteins, dairy or calcium, grains, and a little bit of healthy fat). You also want to consume the right amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight.
Here's why I think you should eat a healthy diet:
1. Makes it easier to lose weight.A healthy, balanced diet, including lots of fresh and cooked fruits and vegetables, can help you lose weight when you fill up on fiber while keeping your calorie count down.
2. Also makes it easier to gain weight.While there's much more interest in losing weight, there are a number of people who need to gain weight. Choosing healthful energy-dense foods like nuts, seeds and dried fruit can help you gain weight without resorting to junk foods.
3. Reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes.Having a history of poor eating habits and being obese are two major risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Increasing your intake of healthful foods and losing weight if you're obese will help you cut that risk.
4. Reduces your risk of some types of cancer.Eating a poor diet, drinking too much alcohol, and gaining too much weight are all potential risk factors for various types of cancers. Eating a diet high in fat is a risk factor for colon, uterine and prostate cancer; and being overweight increases your risk for breast, colon, esophageal, uterine and kidney cancer.
5. Sets a good example for your kids.If you're a parent or grandparent struggling with a picky eater, you might find the situation easier to handle if you set a good example for your child. How can you expect your kids to eat broccoli while you're eating potato chips?
6. Don't need to rely on dietary supplements.Eating a healthful, balanced diet will provide you will all the essential vitamins and minerals you need every day. There's nothing wrong with taking a multi-vitamin to ensure an adequate intake, but research indicates there are more health benefits associated with eating a variety of healthful foods than loading up on dietary supplements.
7. Helps you feel energetic.Eating a healthful diet provides you with the carbohydrates you need for energy, along with enough B-complex vitamins to help the process along. Don't forget to start your day with a healthful breakfast -- it helps keep you alert all morning.
8. Provides enough fiber.You need dietary fiber for a healthy digestive system and to help maintain normal cholesterol and blood sugar levels. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, most Americans eat far less fiber than they should. A healthful diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, which are all great sources of fiber.
9. Lets you eat good fats while cutting back on the bad fats.A balanced diet will give you omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats that are good for your brain and your heart. It also makes it easier to avoid most trans-fats and helps you cut back on saturated fats, which are associated with inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
10. Cuts out the excess sodium.Eating too much sodium is associated with high blood pressure in certain individuals, which can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. A healthy diet helps you reduce your sodium intake when you cut back on the processed foods that are often extremely high in sodium.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Health Implications of Dietary Fiber." Accessed January 22, 2013. http://www.eatright.org/About/Content.aspx?id=8355.
American Diabetes Association. "Diabetes Basics." Accessed January 22, 2013. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/prevention/risk-factors/.
American Heart Association. "Know Your Fats." Accessed January 22, 2013. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Know-Your-Fats_UCM_305628_Article.jsp.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Most Americans Should Consume Less Sodium." Accessed January 22, 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/salt/.
National Cancer Institute of the National Health Institutes. "Risk Factors." Accessed January 22, 2013. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/cancer/page3.