In real life, balanced diet means different things for different group of people and this is because everyone is unique. For example, vegetarians and vegans, people with food allergies, sensitivities or intolerance, athletes they all have different nutritional needs. However, the broad meaning of a balanced diet is basically one that comprises a suitable amount of food from the various food groups, in the context of your specific health and lifestyle. Moderation and variety are essential too.
A balanced diet is a key component of sustaining a healthy weight and maintaining immunity, general health and well-being, but it’s not always clear what a balanced diet actually is or how it can be achieved.
Sadly, in this modern and hectic world, a great number of people rely on fast foods, junk foods, ready-meals and other highly processed convenience foods.
Despite the fact that they are obviously time-savers, these kinds of food products tend to be high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and chemical compounds (such as artificial additives, preservatives, colourings and flavours).
Not only do they fail to provide our bodies with the nourishment that they need and crave, they can actually promote a high toxic load and therefore, potentially, digestive problems, a strained immune system, an overtaxed liver, weight gain and a range of other health issues.
How skipping meals can cause weight GAIN
It should be noted that, exercise alone will not cause you to be healthy. As they say, “you are what you eat”. A well-balanced diet is imperative because it provides access to the broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, salts, amino acids and other essential nutrients needed by your body on a daily basis.
As such, a balanced diet is generally considered to be among the key elements in securing a healthier and longer life and, in particular, maintaining a healthy weight.
Unfortunately, another common phenomena in the modern world is skipping meals, sometimes due to lack of time, but more often in a misguided attempt to lose weight quickly.
However, not only is this strategy bad for your health, it could actually hinder weight loss and even promote weight gain. This may seem counter-intuitive (after all, shouldn’t you lose weight if you don’t eat?!), but when you think about it a little more deeply, it makes sense.
An efficient metabolism is an essential part of healthy weight loss and maintaining your ideal weight for the long-term. Missing meals (particularly breakfast) can lead to a sluggish metabolism and weight gain in several ways:
- If you don’t eat for a prolonged period of time, your body can go into “starvation mode” and your metabolism then slows down to preserve energy. In these circumstances, your body will compensate for the deficiency in calories by burning fewer than it otherwise would. When your body goes into starvation mode, it doesn’t call upon its fat supplies for energy, thereby creating an obstacle to weight loss.
- It is likely to lead to acute hunger later in the day, which can then commonly lead to cravings, binging and weight gain.
- It means you are depriving your system of the energy it needs to stay physically active and function effectively (including performing biological processes like calorie burning).
- It results in unstable blood sugar levels throughout the day, contributing to cravings, unpredictable appetite patterns and even (in the long-term) health conditions like diabetes.
- It is a short-term measure and will not resolve your long-term weight issues.
Skipping meals is therefore clearly not the answer to healthy, successful weight loss – and it can never amount to a balanced diet. The ideal way to eat well at the same time as shedding pounds is to adopt a sensible weight management plan, i.e. making improved eating choices based on the principles of a balanced diet, keeping active, staying hydrated and overhauling any unhealthy lifestyle habits (such as smoking, drinking to excess etc).
Metabolism plays a central role in how efficiently you absorb nutrients, how quickly you burn fat and how successfully you lose weight. As such, it really shouldn’t be overlooked as part of your plan of action for a balanced diet and smart weight management.
Supplementing your balanced diet
If you manage to shape a balanced diet and stick to it, you might be wondering why anyone would then need (or choose) to supplement that diet with additional vitamins, minerals or other nutrients. Below are just some of the most common reasons:
- As a result of depleted soil, long-distance transportation, prolonged shelf-life, pasteurisation, cooking methods (such as microwaving) and chemical substances in our food etc, it is often lacking in nutrients. For instance, the level of vitamin C in vegetables can reduce by half within 5 minutes of being cut, and by up to 70% after just 20 minutes. Similarly, heating food destroys many of the digestive enzymes, approximately half of the protein content, close to 60% of vitamins and renders about 60% of the minerals non-absorbable.
- Reduced food choice (for example, as a result of dieting, lifestyle choice or allergy) can make it tougher to ensure you receive the full spectrum of nutrients that your body needs on a daily basis from your meals alone. This is a particular issue for slimmers, vegetarians, vegans, coeliacs etc.
- Those troubled with long-standing digestive complaints will often find that it’s harder for them to slim down. Ironically, it’s a vicious circle, because digestive system problems are a common side-effect of being overweight in the first place (most likely due to poor diet over a number of years), and then just continue to exacerbate weight issues as time goes by. For instance, digestive problems can also contribute to weight gain by impacting negatively on everything from nutrient absorption, liver function, hormonal balance, blood fat levels and even your ability to stay active.
* Before changing your diet or taking health supplements, it is recommended to consult your doctor or qualified health practitioner (particularly if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on medications).