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.

Almond Milk Benefits

Almond milk is a creamy, nutty-flavored beverage made by soaking, grinding and straining raw almonds. It is often used as a substitute for dairy milk, which today almost every supermarket sells in several flavors and of numerous brands. Even though its consumption can be dated back to several hundred years ago, it is most popular with individuals who wish to avoid dairy. Overall, it is not a commonly used product and so not everyone is familiar with its nutritional facts.

Almond Milk Nutrition Facts

Glass of Almond milk

 

 

Vitamins

Almond milk and its various products are all supplemented with vitamins A, D and B complex thereby providing adequate amounts of the recommended daily intake of these nutrients. One cup contains 500 and 200 international units of vitamin A and D respectively, fulfilling approximately 20% of an individual’s recommended daily intake. It also contains three micrograms of vitamin B-12 which fulfills 100% of an average person’s B-12 requirements.

Vitamin E plays a major role in improving skin health on account of its antioxidant properties. Vitamin A is vital for healthy eyesight; it helps the eyes better adjust to differences in light.

Almond milk contributes significantly in maintaining healthy bones and teeth as it is rich in both calcium and vitamin D. Additional benefits of vitamin D are that it decreases the incidence of osteoporosis in women, increases cell function and immunity and may even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Almond milk also contributes to better muscle health. It is rich in Vitamin B-12 especially riboflavin and iron which are muscle regulating nutrients. Iron, in particular, helps muscles to absorb and use proteins for energy, growth, and repair.

Minerals

One of the product’s nutrition facts is that it also contains several vital minerals such as phosphorous, zinc and potassium. Packaged almond milk is often fortified by calcium, which is essential for optimal bone health, allowing an individual to meet one-third of the recommended daily intake. By substituting three servings of dairy products with three servings of almond milk, a person can easily meet his daily requirements for calcium; 1000 milligrams/day for men and 1200 milligrams/day for women.

Fats

Although it does contain fat, it is important to note, that the fat content of this particular milk is not unhealthy. An 8-ounce serving of sweetened almond milk contains 60 calories but 25 of those calories are on account of healthy fat. Meanwhile, in an 8-ounce cup of unsweetened almond milk, 30 out of 40 calories are owing to good fats. This fat is neither saturated nor trans-fat, and it does not contain any cholesterol either.

Since this type of milk contains good fats and has low sodium content, it is known for keeping the heart healthy. This is because foods that contain limited sodium and low amount of cholesterol help maintain normal blood pressure and keep the heart healthy. Almond milk is also rich in potassium which further helps in maintaining blood pressure.

Proteins

Almond milk is also a rich source of protein. Vegetarians and vegans often substitute dairy milk with almond milk which contains about 2 grams protein in an 8-ounce serving. Although cow’s milk provides 8 grams per every 8-ounce serving, almond milk contains much greater protein than rice milk. Also, by adding protein powder to almond milk, the amount of protein can always be increased.

Sugar

One of almond milk nutrition facts pertains to its sugar content. Homemade almond milk contains no sugar while store-bought ones contain sugar and other flavorings as well. For diabetics, homemade almond milk is advised.

Diabetics can benefit substantially from almond milk since it only contains 8 grams of carbohydrates per serving, unlike other dairy products. This meager amount of carbohydrates does not elevate blood sugar level and is, in fact, stored as fat in the body. Further, sugars present in almond milk are glycemic in nature meaning that they are fully digested in the body and used for energy.

Flavonoid and Antioxidant Content

Almond milk is prepared by crushing almonds along with their skins. The skin is rich in flavonoids thereby making almond milk a good source of flavonoids as well. Flavonoids are important in safeguarding the body against cardiovascular diseases. Almond milk is also rich in antioxidants which also help prevent heart diseases and cancers.

Making Your Own

With all these nutrition facts, many prefer to make it at home themselves.

Ingredients

  • Raw organic sprouted almonds: 1 cup
  • Pure filtered water: 4 cup
  • Honey, stevia, dates, vanilla (optional)

Instructions

  • For this, you need to soak overnight one cup of raw organic sprouted almonds for minimum 12 hours in water with half a teaspoon of sea salt. The soaking process helps to break down phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors and also allows beneficial enzymes that are present in the almonds to be cultured.
  • After the almonds have been soaked, they need to be rinsed and then mixed with four cups of water in a blender. The mixture needs to blend for a few minutes. Care should be taken to not overfill the blender as the mixture tends to expand and may overflow.
  • Once the mixture is smooth and creamy, it should be strained using cheesecloth, sprout bag or a kitchen towel.
  • Once strained, the mixture should be put back in the blender along with honey, soaked dates or other sweeteners.
  • The mixture should be put into a glass jar or pitcher and can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

Peanut butter benefits

Benefits of peanut butter are enormous. Peanut butter is a firm favorite among adults and children alike. Although tasty, many people still wonder about the health benefits of peanut butter.

Peanuts and peanut butter contain nutrients that may boost a person’s heart health and improve blood sugar levels.

Depending on how people use peanut butter in their diet, it can help them lose weight, or put on pounds during weight training or bodybuilding.

However, the benefits of peanut butter should be carefully evaluated because peanut butter is high in calories and fat, so people should enjoy it in moderation.

In this article, we look at the benefits of eating peanut butter and explain the risks associated with consuming it.

Nutritional benefits of peanut butter

Peanut butter in a jar from above
Peanut butter is a good source of protein and vitamin B-6.

Peanut butter provides a good amount of protein, along with essential vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

Most notably, each 2-tablespoon (tbsp) serving of smooth peanut butter provides the following nutrients, minerals, and vitamins:

  • Protein. Peanut butter contains 7.02 grams (g) of protein per 2-tbsp serving. This counts toward the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for women of 46 g and 56 g for men, which varies by age and activity level.
  • Magnesium. With 57 milligrams (mg) of magnesium, each serving helps towards the RDA of 400–420 mg in men and 310–320 in women. Magnesium is essential for health, playing a role in over 300 chemical processes in the body.
  • Phosphorous. Each serving contains 107 mg of phosphorus, which is about 15.3 percent of the RDA of 700 mg for adults. Phosphorus helps the body to build healthy cells and bones and helps cells to produce energy.
  • Zinc. A serving of peanut butter provides 0.85 mg of zinc. This is 7.7 percent of the recommended daily intake of 11 mg for men, and 10.6 percent of the RDA of 8 mg for women. Zinc is necessary for immunity, protein synthesis, and DNA formation.
  • Niacin. Peanut butter contains 4.21 mg of niacin per serving, which makes a useful contribution towards a person’s recommended intake of 14 to 16 mg. Niacin benefits digestion and nerve function and helps produce energy.
  • Vitamin B-6. With 0.17 g of vitamin B-6 per serving, peanut butter provides almost 14 percent of an adult’s RDA of 1.3 mg. Vitamin B-6 plays a role in over 100 enzyme reactions in the body and may be necessary for heart and immune system health.

However, there are also nutritional disadvantages if a person eats more than the recommended amount of peanut butter.

Peanut butter is high in calories, saturated fats, and sodium.

Each serving contains 3.05 g of saturated fats, which is 23.5 percent of the American Heart Association’s maximum recommended daily intake of saturated fat for those consuming 2,000 calories a day. People should aim for less than 13 g of saturated fat per day.

It also contains 152 mg of sodium, which is 10.1 percent of an adult’s ideal daily upper intake of sodium of 1,500 mg.

Health benefits of peanut butter

Eating peanut butter in moderation and as part of an overall healthful diet may provide the following benefits:

1. Weight loss

Several studies suggest that eating peanuts and other nuts can help people maintain their weight, or even help with weight loss.

This may be because peanuts improve satiety, which is the feeling of fullness, thanks to their protein, fat, and fiber content.

A 2018 study suggests that eating nuts, including peanuts, reduces a person’s risk of being overweight or obese. This study compared the dietary and lifestyle data for over 373,000 people from 10 European countries over 5 years.

Earlier research based on data gathered from over 51,000 women suggested that those who ate nuts twice weekly or more experienced slightly less weight gain over an 8-year period than women who rarely ate nuts.

2. Boosting heart health

Peanut butter contains many nutrients that can improve heart health, including:

  • monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)
  • niacin
  • magnesium
  • vitamin E

The proportion of unsaturated fats (PUFAs and MUFAs) to saturated fats in the diet plays a particularly important role in heart health. Peanut butter has a similar ratio to olive oil — which is also known as a heart-healthy option.

A high intake of nuts may have links to a reduced risk of mortality from heart disease or other causes. The researchers recommend peanuts in particular as a cost-effective way to improve heart health for some people.

Research also suggests that including 46 g per day of peanuts or peanut butter into an American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet plan for 6 months could benefit the heart, improve blood lipid profiles, and control weight for people with diabetes.

However, as peanut butter is high in calories, it is crucial that a person limits their intake if they do not want to put on weight. Eating more than the recommended amount will also increase fat and sodium intake, which does not benefit the heart.

3. Bodybuilding

Senior lady working out at the gym
Peanut butter is an easy way to increase calorie intake.

Many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts include peanut butter in their diets for various reasons.

Although calorie amounts will vary based on stature, activity level, and metabolic rate, the typical daily recommended calorie intake ranges from around 1,600–2,400 calories per day for women and up to 3,000 calories per day for men. However, active adult men should consume up to 3,000 calories daily, while active women need up 2,400 calories per day.

Thanks to its high-calorie content, peanut butter is an easy way to increase calorie and unsaturated fat intake.

Nut butter is also a source of protein, which is essential for building and repairing muscles. Although peanut butter is not a complete protein — meaning it does not contain all of the essential amino acids the body needs — it does count toward a person’s daily protein intake.

Spreading peanut butter on whole-grain bread makes a more complete protein meal, as the bread contains the amino acid methionine, which peanut butter lacks.

4. Managing blood sugar levels

Peanut butter is a relatively low-carbohydrate food that contains good amounts of fats and protein, as well as some fiber.

These characteristics mean that peanut butter, with no added sugar, does not have a significant impact on blood glucose levels. This means it can be a good option for those with diabetes and confirm the benefits of peanut butter.

The ADA recommend that people replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats in their diets. They suggest peanut butter, peanuts, and peanut oil as good sources of monounsaturated fat.

A small 2013 study suggests that eating peanut butter or peanuts for breakfast could help women with obesity and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes to manage their blood glucose levels. According to the survey, the women who added nuts to their breakfast had lower blood sugar levels and reported less hunger compared to women who ate a breakfast that contained the same amount of carbohydrates but no nuts.

Peanut butter is a good source of magnesium, which is an essential nutrient for people with diabetes. Continuous periods of high blood sugar may reduce magnesium levels in the body. Low magnesium levels are linked to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

5. Reducing the risk of breast disease

Eating peanut butter, especially from a young age, may reduce the risk of benign breast disease (BBD), which increases the risk of breast cancer.

A study in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, reports that eating peanut butter and nuts at any age may result in a lower risk of developing BDD by age 30.

The researchers examined the data for over 9,000 schoolgirls in America. Other types of pulses, such as beans and soy, along with vegetable fats and other nuts, may also offer protection from BBD.

Even those with a family history of breast cancer had a significantly lower risk if they ate peanut butter and these other foods.

Peanut butter benefits and nutritional profile

The table below provides a detailed nutritional profile of 2 tbsp of smooth peanut butter:

Calories 188
Protein 7.02 g
Saturated fats 3.05 g
Monounsaturated fats 6.63 g
Polyunsaturated fats 3.63 g
Carbohydrates 7.67 g
Fiber 1.80 g
Sugars 2.08 g
Calcium 17 mg
Iron 0.69 mg
Magnesium 57 mg
Phosphorus 107 mg
Potassium 189 mg
Sodium 152 mg
Zinc 0.85 mg
Niacin 4.21 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.18 mg
Vitamin E 1.90 mg

Peanut allergies

Peanuts and other nuts are common allergens, with a peanut or tree nut allergy affecting over 3 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Those with a known peanut allergy should avoid peanut butter and foods containing the nuts.

The NIH also note that just 20 percent of those with an allergy will eventually outgrow the allergy and stop having reactions to nuts.

Which peanut butter is best?

When selecting a peanut butter product, look for one that contains just peanuts and few or no other ingredients.

Some peanut butter brands will contain other ingredients, such as sugar, salt, and added oils. Avoid these where possible. Try adding a little honey to peanut butter dishes as a sweetener instead.

It is normal for pure peanut butter to separate into solid and liquid form. Stir the contents thoroughly, and the consistency will return to normal.

People can buy natural peanut butter in health food stores and online.

To stop the peanut butter going off, store it in the refrigerator.

How to add peanut butter to your diet

Peanut butter, rice cakes and banana
Peanut butter is a healthful option when enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.

Eating more peanut butter is easy. Sometimes, it can be too easy — so be sure to be mindful of your intake to avoid eating more calories than you may need in a day. Remember 2 tbsp of peanut butter is close to 200 calories.

People can include peanut butter in their diets by:

  • Making a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, using whole fruit, low sugar jelly, and whole-grain bread.
  • Spreading peanut butter on rice cakes and top with banana slices.
  • Whipping up a Thai peanut dressing for salads, using lime juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and honey.
  • Adding a spoonful of the nut butter to smoothies to make them more filling.
  • Dipping apple and pear slices into peanut butter for an easy snack.
  • Stirring peanut butter into yogurts or warm oatmeal.

Summary

The benefits of peanut butter indicate at that peanut butter can be a healthful option when people enjoy it as part of a balanced diet. It is rich in several nutrients, including protein and magnesium, which may help protect the heart and manage blood sugar and body weight.

However, eating too much peanut butter can increase a person’s daily intake of saturated fat, sodium, and calories.

Those who have a peanut allergy should avoid peanut butter as it could trigger a potentially deadly reaction.