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Balanced diet is the one that nourishes your body and improves your overall health. It helps you fight diseases and makes you fit. Although you may know the basic components of a healthy diet, there could be a chance that you miss out on the correct proportions. This can hamper health in different ways, ranging from obesity, heart diseases, hypertension (high blood pressure) to malnutrition and deficiencies, which affect different mechanisms and systems of the body. Other than this, fatigue or tiredness is also very commonly experienced in response to a poor diet. To help you understand the importance of different components of the diet, and the proportions in which they must be taken, a balanced diet food pyramid has been laid out in this article. You can include your favorite foods in your daily routine and just consume them as per the rules of the pyramid, to achieve good health. This article also has a special section for those looking for weight loss.

(Read more: Heart attack)

  1. How to eat a balanced diet?
  2. Balanced diet chart
  3. What is a balanced diet?
  4. Components of a balanced diet
  5. Balanced diet pyramid
  6. Importance of a balanced diet

Adults require roughly around 2000-3000 calories depending on their age, weight, gender and levels of physical activity. Men are usually recommended to have 2500 daily calories, while women are recommended to have 2000.

While meeting your daily calorie requirements, it is essential to ensure that these calories are derived from healthy sources. It is recommended to consume more plant-based products like fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy weight and normal levels of antioxidants in the body. Sugar consumption must not comprise more than 10% of calorie intake, including those from natural sources. Consumption of saturated fats and sodium must also be kept minimum.

It is essential to avoid high-fat foods and fast foods, like burgers, pizza, doughnuts, etc. since they are higher in calories and provide no good nutrition. Sodium consumption must be kept below 2300 mg per day. Alcohol must be avoided or consumed in moderation/occasionally. We recommend you to calculate your daily caloric requirements based on your age, weight, gender and activity levels and form a balanced diet plan with the help of your nutritionist. All the components of diet must be included within the plan.

Here is a balanced diet chart for a single meal.

Food type

Serving

Carbohydrates

2 small chapatis

Or

2 slices of bread

Or

1 small bowl of rice

Or

1 small bowl of noodles

Vegetables and pulses

Cooked vegetables (any)- 1 mug

1 cup pulses or dal

Dairy products

1 glass of milk

Or

1 serving of curd/yogurt/dahi

Or

Cheese/paneer

Poultry/meat

1 to 2 eggs

Or

Chicken/meat/fish - palm-sized portion

Fruits

1 small apple/orange/banana or any fruit of choice

When it comes to eating healthy, a balanced diet is always a common yet important topic of discussion. 

Balanced diet is referred to a diet which has all the essential components of nutrition, including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in the correct proportion. As much as food is important for a balanced diet, having sufficient amount of water during the day is also considered to be an important aspect of a balanced nutrition. It is recommended to have at least 10 glasses of water each day.

Having a balanced diet nourishes and energizes the body. It helps you perform your daily activities with the utmost efficiency. It also helps in maintaining a healthy weight, preventing obesity or malnutrition. In children, ensuring a balanced diet is quite essential. It helps to avoid nutrition-related disorders, growth disorders and also prevents premature death of infants.

An unhealthy diet is a significant risk factor for a number of cardiovascular disorders, diabetes and other diseases related to obesity. You can avoid these by providing the correct nutrition to your body. Let’s discuss the components of a balanced diet and its importance.

As stated above a healthy diet has all the essential components in the correct proportions. This implies that natural foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, salads, etc. must be present in ample amounts. They must form a major component of your diet, meeting most of your daily energy requirements. It has been recommended by the WHO to have at least 400 grams of fresh fruits and vegetables in a day divided into multiple servings. These foods contain carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fats in the correct proportions.

You should include a variety of fruits and vegetables like broccoli, spinach, apples, bananas, papaya, oranges, cabbage, tomatoes, etc. to achieve the best results. Other than providing you with energy, these fruits and vegetables are also rich in antioxidants, which help you in fighting diseases.

While it is recommended to have vegetables, you should not overindulge in eating potatoes, sweet potatoes or other starchy ‘vegetables’, as they are very high in carbohydrate content. Carbohydrates must, however, constitute 45% to 65% of your diet, depending on your weight and lifestyle. Most of the fruits taste sweet and have natural sugars like fructose present in them. Fructose is considered to be safe and is associated with a lower risk of obesity. Refined or processed sugars or free sugars which are externally added to your diet must, however, be controlled.

WHO recommends a reduced intake of these sugars throughout the course of life, even in children. It recommends a daily dosage of lesser than 50 grams to meet 5 to 10% of your daily needs. While fats are considered unhealthy by many, WHO recommends that 30% of your caloric intake should be from fats, with less than 10% being from the saturated sources. It is best to opt for natural foods like avocados, nuts, fish and other meats as your sources of fat.

While opting for oils, sunflower oil or coconut oil are considered to be the best. Avocado, fishes, eggs and certain kinds of meats serve a dual purpose and provide you with both fats and proteins. As recommended by WHO, proteins must form 35% of your diet, which will be briefly discussed ahead.

Now, as we all know, a high salt content is linked to high blood pressure, which further increases the risk of cardiac disorders. So, it is the best to keep salt consumption at minimal. WHO has thus recommended reducing the intake of sodium/salt to lesser than 5 grams per day.

Read on to find out the importance of a balanced diet and its several components.

A balanced diet pyramid is a visual guide which models you on the types and proportions of various kinds of foods to be consumed daily for achieving the best health. It has three tiers or levels with the base of the pyramid consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes (plant-based nutrition).

Scientific evidence suggests that our diet must comprise 70% of this level with an inclusion of 2 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. Among veggies, it is the best to have a variety of colors, like red peppers, yellow peppers, green peas, green leafy vegetables, orange and red carrots, purple beets, etc.

Simple whole grains like quinoa, oats and brown rice are also recommended. The middle layer consists of dairy, milk and meat products like chicken, eggs, meat, fish, pork. It also has non-dairy and non-meat foods like rice, cereals, etc.

A mix of dairy, non-dairy and meat products in moderate amounts is recommended to meet all bodily requirements. The topmost layer consists of fats, including plant, animal and natural sources. These are required in minimal quantities and plant sources like olive oil, avocados, etc. must be preferred.

The benefits of a balanced diet and nutrition are countless. It not only helps you in maintaining a healthy weight but also reduces the risk of non-communicable diseases. Unhealthy diets are a major risk factor for these diseases, which include type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart attack and even some types of cancer. It is a leading cause of disability and death globally. But, you can manage, reduce and even diminish this risk by following a healthy diet.

Next, we will talk about the benefits of a healthy balanced diet.

  1. Vitamins in balanced diet
  2. Balanced diet for weight loss
  3. Carbohydrates in balanced diet
  4. Proteins in balanced diet
  5. Fats in balanced diet

Vitamins in balanced diet

Vitamins and minerals form micronutrients, which means that they are required in lesser amounts by your body. This does not mean you can ignore them from your diet. It is essential to include all vitamins and minerals in your diet in the correct proportion. Due to a multitude of dietary vitamins and their limited knowledge, a large number of people are deficient in either of these vitamins. To avoid this, it is highly recommended to have a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables like leafy greens, orange, lemon, carrot, broccoli, peppers and with dairy products, fish, cereals, and meat.

These foods have ample quantities of micronutrients and are likely to keep major deficiencies at bay. Here is what vitamins do for your body. They are good for your hair, skin and face, being rich in antioxidants (vitamin E and C). They improve your immunity and help you fight diseases (vitamin C and E). They are essential for stronger bones and help you lose weight (vitamin D). They improve your memory by preventing damage from free radicals, as you age (vitamin E). They are important for your vision (vitamin A). They help you fight pain (thiamine or vitamin B1). These are just a few benefits of some of these vitamins. Each type and subtype has its unique functions.

Minerals are also equally important for your health. Minerals like calcium are important for your bone and teeth formation and also regulate your muscle function. Iron is essential for the formation of blood (RBCs). Magnesium is essential for performing various body functions and for the functioning of enzymes. Fluoride has a major role in preventing tooth decay. Looking at these benefits, we think you understand why it is essential to include all these components in your diet.

(Read more: Vitamin B benefits)

Balanced diet for weight loss

A balanced diet is very essential for weight loss. Missing out on some of the components of diet, like carbohydrates or fats will make you lose the energy required for daily activities. On the other hand, not taking care of micronutrients in your diet (vitamins and minerals) will cause deficiencies, weaker immunity and poor body functions.

In fact, you must know some of the components of diet like vitamin C, vitamin D and proteins actually help you lose weight. We thus recommend you to follow a balanced and nutritious diet, regardless of your weight loss goals. However, you may cut down your calorie intake by 500 to 750 calories, for effective weight loss. For this, you should visit a dietician or nutritionist, who is an expert in this domain. He/she will help you enhance your weight loss regimen, while taking care of your health and diet.

You can also have a look at the following plan for some basic guidelines of a balanced diet (not a weight loss plan). However, you are highly recommended to consult with your physicians before starting any new diet.

Carbohydrates in balanced diet

Carbohydrates are a form of macronutrients, which along with fats and proteins, are required by your body in larger amounts daily. This is because they provide you with the energy required for everyday activities.

Some of the sources of carbohydrates are wheat, rice, whole grains, breads, potatoes and some fruits like apples, bananas and berries. While an excess of carbohydrates can cause weight gain, it is important to include them in optimal amounts for maintaining energy levels of the body. They are particularly required in larger amounts in individuals with a high rate of physical activity.

Other than this, carbohydrates, particularly fibers are important in the process of digestion, and help in relieving constipation and other digestive problems. We however recommend you to opt for whole grain or vegetable/fruit sources since they comprise fewer calories and are healthier than the refined forms.

Proteins in balanced diet

Proteins are the building blocks of your body and are essential for proper growth and development. For this reason, children require a higher percentage of proteins, which varies according to their age, weight and height.

Proteins are made of amino acids, which are required by every cell of the body. They help in growth, repair and regeneration of your body tissues. Proteins are also important for maintaining the health of your bones, muscle and skin. They help in keeping your skin healthy and toned, your muscles and bones stronger and your hair healthier. A diet rich in proteins is also known to aid in weight loss. It helps you in achieving optimal levels of energy, while consuming fewer calories.

A high protein diet is often recommended for athletes, sportspersons, trainers and other individuals with high energy needs. For maintaining your daily energy requirements, 10 to 35% of protein intake is recommended, which can be taken in the form of low-fat dairy products like cheese, milk, yogurt; poultry, eggs, fishes like salmon; lean meats, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, kidney beans.

Fats in balanced diet

Fats form an important component of your diet and perform many functions in your body. But, some kinds of fats are considered to be healthy, while others increase your risk of heart diseases. Choosing fats derived from plant-based sources like avocados and nuts is generally considered healthier than animal sources and saturated fats (like oil, butter and ghee). Here is why you need fats in your diet. Fats are essential for maintaining the energy reserves of your body.

This helps in performing various body functions and is essential for good health. Fats help to keep your hair and skin healthier, by having an influence on their texture. It is known to make them softer and healthier with the help of its natural oils. Fats are required in higher amounts in individuals performing physical activities regularly. During exercise, the energy requirements of the body must be adequately met, to avoid fatigue and other risks. These are maintained by carbohydrates initially; the reserves of which last no longer than 20 minutes. Then, comes the role of fats. They help you keep going for longer hours while you exercise, depleting them from body stores. Other than this, fats also help in the absorption of certain vitamins called fat-soluble vitamins, namely vitamin A, D, E and K. The absorption and utilization of these vitamins are not possible without body fats. Also, essential fatty acids, like linoleic acid are very important for normal bodily functions. They cannot be synthesized by the body, which makes it essential for you to consume them in your diet. They are required for growth and development of the brain and have an important role in the blood clotting mechanism. Benefits of fats are countless, but you must be wary while consuming them, since they are very high in calories. They contain 9 calories per gram, which is more than twice the calories present in other dietary components.

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