Balanced diet guide

A balanced diet includes foods from the five groups and fulfills all of a person’s nutritional needs. Eating a balanced diet helps people maintain good health and reduce their risk of disease.

Dietary guidelines evolve with scientific advances, so it can be challenging to stay on top of current recommendations and know what to eat.

In this article, we look at current dietary recommendations and describe how to build a balanced diet.

What is a balanced diet?

vegetables are part of a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet will help a person stay healthy.

A balanced diet is one that fulfills all of a person’s nutritional needs. Humans need a certain amount of calories and nutrients to stay healthy.

A balanced diet provides all the nutrients a person requires, without going over the recommended daily calorie intake.

By eating a balanced diet, people can get the nutrients and calories they need and avoid eating junk food, or food without nutritional value.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) used to recommend following a food pyramid. However, as nutritional science has changed, they now recommend eating foods from the five groups and building a balanced plate.

According to the USDA’s recommendations, half of a person’s plate should consist of fruits and vegetables.

The other half should be made up of grains and protein. They recommend accompanying each meal with a serving of low-fat dairy or another source of the nutrients found in dairy.

The 5 food groups

A healthful, balanced diet includes foods from these five groups:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • grains
  • protein
  • dairy

Vegetables

The vegetable group includes five subgroups:

  • leafy greens
  • red or orange vegetables
  • starchy vegetables
  • beans and peas (legumes)
  • other vegetables, such as eggplant or zucchini

To get enough nutrients and keep dietary boredom at bay, people should choose a variety of vegetables.

Additionally, the USDA recommends that people eat vegetables from each of the five subgroups every week.

People may enjoy vegetables raw or cooked. However, it is important to remember that cooking vegetables remove some of their nutritional value. Also, some methods, such as deep-frying, can add unhealthful fats to a dish.

Fruits

A balanced diet also includes plenty of fruit. Instead of getting fruit from juice, nutrition experts recommend eating whole fruits.

Juice contains fewer nutrients. Also, the manufacturing process often adds empty calories due to added sugar. People should opt for fresh or frozen fruits, or fruits canned in water instead of syrup.

Grains

cooked quinoa on fork part of balance diet
Whole grains usually contain more protein than refined grains.

There are two subgroups: whole grains and refined grains.

Whole grains include all three parts of the grain, which are the bran, germ, and endosperm. The body breaks down whole grains slowly, so they have less effect on a person’s blood sugar.

Additionally, whole grains tend to contain more fiber and protein than refined grains.

Refined grains are processed and do not contain the three original components. Refined grains also tend to have less protein and fiber, and they can cause blood sugar spikes.

Grains used to form the base of the government-approved food pyramid, meaning that most of a person’s daily caloric intake came from grains. However, the updated guidelines suggest that grains should make up only a quarter of a person’s plate.

At least half of the grains that a person eats daily should be whole grains. Healthful whole grains include:

  • quinoa
  • oats
  • brown rice
  • barley
  • buckwheat

Protein

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that all people should include nutrient-dense protein as part of their regular diet.

The guidelines suggest that this protein should make up a quarter of a person’s plate.

Nutritious protein choices include:

  • lean beef and pork
  • chicken and turkey
  • fish
  • beans, peas, and legumes

Dairy

Dairy and fortified soy products are a vital source of calcium. The USDA recommends consuming low-fat versions whenever possible.

Low-fat dairy and soy products include:

  • ricotta or cottage cheese
  • low-fat milk
  • yogurt
  • soy milk

People who are lactose intolerant can opt for low-lactose or lactose-free products, or choose soy-based sources of calcium and other nutrients.

Losing weight

walking up stairs
A person can burn calories by taking the stairs.

A poor diet is a common reason why people struggle with weight loss.

When combined with a regular exercise routine, a balanced diet can help a person reduce their risk factors for obesity or gaining weight.

A balanced diet can help a person lose weight by:

  • increasing their protein intake
  • avoiding excessive carbohydrates or processed foods
  • getting essential nutrients, including minerals, vitamins, and fiber
  • preventing binge eating

People interested in losing weight should begin or enhance an exercise routine.

For some people, adding 30 minutes of walking each day and making minor changes, such as taking the stairs, can help them burn calories and lose weight.

For those that can, adding moderate exercise that includes cardio and resistance training will help speed weight loss.

Summary

Eating a balanced diet means eating foods from the five major groups.

Dietary guidelines change over time, as scientists discover new information about nutrition. Current recommendations suggest that a person’s plate should contain primarily vegetables and fruits, some lean protein, some dairy, and soluble fiber.

People interested in weight loss should also consider introducing moderate exercise into their routines.

Single workout metabolic benefits

A single workout offers lasting metabolic benefits.  New research in mice finds that a single workout activates a brain circuit associated with a lower appetite, lower blood sugar levels, and better metabolism. Moreover, this effect lasted for 2 days after the workout. The findings may help improve blood sugar metabolism in people with diabetes.

Single workout boxing routine
A single workout can offer long-lasting metabolic benefits.

According to the most recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100 million people in the United States are currently living with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

In excess of 30 million U.S. adults have diabetes, and more than 84 million have pre-diabetes. According to the CDC, pre-diabetes can evolve into diabetes within 5 years.

Controlling blood sugar levels with physical activity and diet is the key to managing or preventing diabetes. However, new research suggests that we may need less physical activity than we might think to achieve these health benefits. This means that the effects of a single workout appear to offer great benefits to the individual.

Dr. Kevin Williams, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, is the corresponding and last author of the new study. Dr. Williams and colleagues examined the effects of a single bout of exercise on two types of neurons in mice.

The neurons make up the so-called melanocortin brain circuit, which humans share with rodents.

Scientists have linked POMC neurons with a lower appetite, reduced blood sugar levels, and a more active metabolism. NPY/AgRP neurons, on the other hand, have an association with an increase in appetite and a slower metabolism.

Dr. Williams and colleagues published their findings in the journal Molecular Metabolism.

How exercise improves glucose metabolism

Scientists have previously studied the properties of the melanocortin brain circuit in relation to diet and fasting, but they have not investigated how physical exercise affects these neurons.

So, Dr. Williams and team examined the brain activity and neuronal firing rate in transgenic mice after a workout consisting of three, consecutive, 20-minute sessions of treadmill running.

They found that the single bout of exercise activated rodents’ POMC neurons, but deactivated the appetite-boosting NPY/AgRP neurons. The scientists noticed these neuronal changes lasted for up to 2 days.

“It doesn’t take much exercise to alter the activity of these neurons,” explains Dr. Williams. The researchers also trained the mice for periods ranging from zero to 10 days and found that the neuronal effects lasted longer if the training period was longer.

Finally, the metabolism-boosting POMC neurons stayed active for longer if they also expressed leptin receptors. Leptin is a metabolic hormone that previous research has shown is of benefit to the synapses of POMC neurons.

Based on our results, we would predict that getting out and exercising even once in a semi-intense manner can reap benefits that can last for days, in particular with respect to glucose metabolism.”

Dr. Kevin Williams

Single workout findings may benefit people with diabetes

The rodents also lost their appetite after the workout. This effect lasted for up to 6 hours after working out. Dr. Williams comments, “This result may explain at the neural circuit level why many people don’t feel hungry immediately after exercise.”

Dr. Williams continues to comment on the benefits of the findings for metabolic conditions. “This research is not just for improving fitness,” he says, adding, “A better understanding of neural links to exercise can potentially help a number of conditions affected by glucose regulation.”

It is possible that activating melanocortin neurons may hold therapeutic benefits for patients one day, especially for [people with diabetes] who need improved blood-glucose regulation.”

Dr. Kevin Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Applying this concept is essential in establishing an effective weekly workout routine.  No matter which time of the day you prefer to workout, this research clearly points out that the effects of a single workout lasts for two days.  Establishing proper rest time between workouts therefore goes a long way in taking advantage of the long-lasting effects of the single workout.

When properly spaced, the body reacts in a positive way and metabolic systems adjust accordingly.  It does not matter if you are trying to control diabetes, the point is that those who do not suffer from this malady can keep it at bay by being conscientious that the single workout concept does work and the research posted here proves it!

Nuts and your health

Two new studies suggest that a small daily serving of nuts may benefit overall metabolic health and keep off the weight we tend to gain as we enter adulthood.
serving of nuts
A daily serving may prevent weight gain and improve metabolic health in the long run, two new studies suggest.

From providing cardiovascular benefits to potentially improving fertility, and even boosting memory and intelligence, the health benefits of nuts are numerous — and no wonder.  They are packed with unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, protein, and other beneficial chemicals, which may all contribute to good health.

However, can these dried seeds aid weight loss? Are certain types better able to support good metabolism?

Two new studies delved deeper into these questions. The authors will present the findings at Scientific Sessions 2018, a conference to be held by the American Heart Association (AHA) in Chicago, IL.

The first study — led by Xiaoran Liu, Ph.D., a research associate in the nutrition department of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA — looked at the long-term effects of nuts and peanuts on body weight.

The second study examined the effects of Brazil nuts on satiety, blood sugar, and insulin response.

It was supervised by Mee Young Hong, Ph.D., a registered dietician and a professor in the School of Exercise & Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University in California.

Nuts prevent weight gain in adulthood

The first study explored consumption in:

  • 25,394 healthy men who had taken part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study
  • 53,541 women who had participated in the Nurses’ Health Study
  • 47,255 women who had taken part in the Nurses’ Health Study II

The three groups had filled in food frequency questionnaires once every 4 years.

The researchers discovered that replacing foods that had less nutritional value with a 1-ounce serving of nuts and peanuts lowered the risk of weight gain and obesity over the 4-year follow-up intervals.

More specifically, replacing a serving of red meat, processed meat, french fries, desserts, or potato chips with a serving of nuts correlated with significantly less weight gain in the long run.

The study’s first author comments on the findings, saying, “People often see nuts as food items high in fat and calories, so they hesitate to consider them as healthy snacks, but they are in fact associated with less weight gain and wellness.”

“Once people reach adulthood, they start to gradually gain about 1 pound a year of weight, which seems small. But if you consider gaining one pound over 20 years, it accumulates to a lot of weight gain,” Liu notes.

Adding 1 ounce of nuts to your diet in place of less healthy foods — such as red or processed meat, french fries or sugary snacks — may help prevent that slow, gradual weight gain after you enter adulthood and reduce the risk of obesity-related cardiovascular diseases.”

Xiaoran Liu, Ph.D.

Brazil nuts benefit insulin, glucose responses

In the second study, researchers examined the effects of consuming the Brazil variety in 22 healthy adult participants, 20 of whom were women.

The participants added either 36 grams of pretzels or 20 grams of Brazil nuts to their normal diet in two trials. At least 48 hours passed between trials.

The Brazil nuts and pretzels contained about the same number of calories and the same amount of sodium. Both triggered a sense of fullness, but the Brazil type contributed to an increased feeling of satiety.

Forty minutes after the participants had consumed their snacks, the researchers found that the pretzels had caused significant increases in blood sugar and insulin levels, whereas the Brazil nuts had not.

The study’s senior author explains, “While both Brazil nuts and pretzels increased a sense of fullness after they were eaten, eating Brazil nuts stabilized postprandial (after eating) blood glucose and insulin levels, which may be beneficial in preventing diabetes and weight gain.”

Although the study was observational, the researchers speculate that selenium may explain the benefits of Brazil nuts. Prior studies had linked the mineral with better insulin and blood sugar responses, and Brazil nuts are rich in selenium.

However, the researchers caution that because only 9 percent of participants were men, the study’s findings may not apply to all.

Our study allows researchers and clinicians to consider the possible beneficial role of Brazil nuts to help people feel full and maintain a healthy level of glucose, reducing the risk of obesity and diabetes.”

Mee Young Hong, Ph.D.