A healthy diet
It sounds simple, but it’s not easy to navigate your way through the jungle of diets, eating plans and prohibitions. So what’s really important? And which recommendations may only apply to a certain section of the population?
First of all, a healthy diet means a balanced diet. But what does that mean? Basically, it means eating a varied diet! An overview created by the Harvard Medical School displays the components of a healthy diet.
Because proteins are a major component of all our cells – and thus of our muscles and organs – they’re the building blocks of life. Their roles in the body are as varied as they are innumerable: for example, as enzymes in digestion, as hormones in body development or as antibodies in combating pathogens.
Vegetables and fruit
Vegetables and fruit contain nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and dietary fibres. These are all essential – and vital – components of a healthy diet. Ensure as wide a variety of colours and textures on your plate as possible. Fruit are best eaten in their natural form rather than as smoothies or fruit juices, as these contain a lot of fructose and less healthy fibre. On a healthy plate, potatoes aren't counted as vegetables because of their adverse effect on our blood sugar.
Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet and are valuable for our bodies. They provide energy to our muscles, brain and other organs. When choosing carbohydrates, it’s advisable to choose the wholegrain option: wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta, brown rice. Wholegrain products contain more fibre and vitamins.
Key nutritional tips
Whether vegetarian, meat eater or vegan, the same applies to everyone: it’s important to eat a colourful variety of healthy oils, vegetables, fruit, proteins and carbohydrates. However, there’s a tendency among the general population to eat too much of certain foods and too little of others. For many, therefore, the following applies:
Include more of this in your menus: we eat too little of the following
- healthy oils: in the form of nuts, olive oil, fish, flaxseed, etc.
- healthy spices: such as caraway, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme. They contain valuable vitamins and trace elements and support healthy digestion.
Reduce consumption: we tend to eat too much of the following
Meat in general; dairy products (it depends on the amount. Choose more fermented dairy products like yoghurt and less milk and cheese. The fat content is not important); sweet drinks and alcohol; sweets and sugar in general; carbohydrates in white bread and pasta; processed foods (convenience foods) because they often contain sugar and saturated fats.
The three most important principles
- Eat fibre-rich foods as much as possible (wholegrain, vegetables)
- Consume as little sugar and alcohol as possible
- Eat as few processed foods as possible (e.g. sausage, pizza, fish fingers)
Of course, there are always exceptions and special cases where it’s important to look at creating a personalised diet. In certain circumstances, people have to adapt their diet or pay attention to certain vitamins or nutrients. This applies primarily to:
Losing weight: which diet really pays off?
We’ve taken a closer look at a number of different diets. But almost all of them have a catch. They all favour certain dietary principles that spark controversy in the scientific community. Intermittent fasting is not a diet per se, but many use intermittent fasting as a diet. This has proven successful for some, but it also carries risks.
Important principles to lose weight successfully
- Adjust your diet slowly and steadily: try to eat a balanced and varied diet and don’t set the calorie deficit too high. New habits and healthy weight loss take time!
- Don’t ban certain foods. A ban often leads to cravings. Besides, these foods are less harmful in small quantities.
- Incorporate physical activity into your everyday life.
- Take breaks from eating.
What are the benefits of a healthy diet?
A healthy diet has a great influence on our health: research results clearly show how important the topic of nutrition is for our body. Not only does a healthy diet and sufficient exercise prevent common diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, it also leads to a healthy gut flora, or microbiome. This in turn – as is now known – has a great beneficial effect on numerous areas of the body, because the gut is in constant connection with the brain via the gut-brain axis.
How do I see which food is healthy?
Basically, the less processed, the healthier. There are aids to help us choose healthy foods – like calorie information. However, this isn't very meaningful. Nuts, for example, are high in calories but still healthy because they contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and protein.
Nutri-Score is a “traffic light” system for food. If a food is rated A (green), it’s considered healthy, whereas E (red) is considered unhealthy. Factors that lower the rating include energy content, sugar, saturated fatty acids and salt. Conversely, proteins, fibre and good proportions of fruit, vegetables and nuts heighten the rating. Although this classification is designed to help people select healthy foods, it has also been criticised:
- Classification of sugar content is too liberal
- Sweeteners and preservatives aren't included
- The content of vitamins, minerals and secondary plant substances isn't taken into account