What is Healthy diet; Red Flags to avoid in your ‘Healthy’ diet

A healthy diet protects you against many chronic noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Eating a variety of foods and consuming less salt, sugars and saturated and industrially-produced trans-fats, are essential for healthy diet.

Here is some useful information, based on WHO recommendations, to follow a healthy diet, and the benefits of doing so.

  • Breastfeed babies and young children:
    • A healthy diet starts early in life – breastfeeding fosters healthy growth, and may have longer-term health benefits, like reducing the risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing noncommunicable diseases later in life.
    • Feeding babies exclusively with breast milk from birth to 6 months of life is important for a healthy diet. It is also important to introduce a variety of safe and nutritious complementary foods at 6 months of age, while continuing to breastfeed until your child is two years old and beyond.


  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit:
    • They are important sources of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, plant protein and antioxidants.
    • People with diets rich in vegetables and fruit have a significantly lower risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer.


  • Eat less fat:
    • Fats and oils and concentrated sources of energy. Eating too much, particularly the wrong kinds of fat, like saturated and industrially-produced trans-fat, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
    • Using unsaturated vegetable oils (olive, soy, sunflower or corn oil) rather than animal fats or oils high in saturated fats (butter, ghee, lard, coconut and palm oil) will help consume healthier fats.
    • To avoid unhealthy weight gain, consumption of total fat should not exceed 30% of a person’s overall energy intake.


  • Limit intake of sugars:
    • For a healthy diet, sugars should represent less than 10% of your total energy intake. Reducing even further to under 5% has additional health benefits.
    • Choosing fresh fruits instead of sweet snacks such as cookies, cakes and chocolate helps reduce consumption of sugars.
    • Limiting intake of soft drinks, soda and other drinks high in sugars (fruit juices, cordials and syrups, flavoured milks and yogurt drinks) also helps reduce intake of sugars.


  • Reduce salt intake:
    • Keeping your salt intake to less than 5h per day helps prevent hypertension and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke in the adult population.
    • Limiting the amount of salt and high-sodium condiments (soy sauce and fish sauce) when cooking and preparing foods helps reduce salt intake.

As summer approaches, diet cycles fire up. Health goals are set, motivations run high, commitment is strong, and new restrictive diets get rapidly gobbled up. However, these diets often don’t last and may even backfire. What starts as a seemingly healthy regimen can end in imbalanced nutrition, a damaged relationship with food, and far fewer dollars in your bank account.

If this sounds like you, or the soon-to-be you, there’s good news: This year you can protect your health (and wallet) from common diet pitfalls early on. One way to do this is by consulting a registered dietitian. Alternatively, you can be on the lookout for the major warning signs that a diet may do more harm than good. If you spot multiple red flags, it may be time to rethink your plan!

Here are some common red flags to watch for:

  1. Restricts entire food groups 

Diets that slash whole categories of nutrients from your plate can open the door for new nutrition problems. Restricting macronutrients, such as carbohydrates or fats, may result in serious nutritional deficiencies, let alone less enjoyable meals. Except in cases of allergies, it’s generally not advisable to strictly ban foods, as this often leads to intense cravings and mental fixations. A balanced diet usually includes a variety of foods in moderation.

  1. Promotes a “cleanse,” “detox,” “reset,” or similar buzzwords

The human body isn’t inherently toxic and doesn’t need a routine “cleanse.” Our liver and kidneys are built-in detoxifiers and cleaners, and they’re quite good at their jobs. If a diet advertises some transformation in this sense, it’s worth questioning the merits.

Consider your specific symptoms or goals and whether there’s scientific backing for the diet’s effectiveness. Often, these diets simply include a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, which can also be incorporated into your diet without the additional restrictions.

  1. Sells supplements alongside the diet 

Nutrition supplements are typically for those that can’t meet their needs through food alone. An appropriate eating plan shouldn’t require numerous bells and whistles. If a diet calls for specific products – especially their own products – to be effective, it’s a cause for concern. Most often, this indicates a profit-driven motive.

Additionally, supplements are poorly regulated, so it’s hard to be sure of their quality. If a pill or powder seems beneficial, talk to a doctor or dietitian first to learn what is safe for you.

  1. Makes a time-bound promise 

Nutrition is highly individualized. Factors such as age, genetics, lifestyle, and health circumstances result in unique dietary needs and responses to what we eat. Diets claiming to deliver the same outcome for everyone are often misleading, since individual responses will inevitably vary.

Be skeptical of diets that promise results within a set timeline (e.g., 30 days). Such timelines may not only be unrealistic, but they can also be drastic and unsafe. As eager as you may be to see quick results, sustainable and healthy habits are developed gradually rather than in a matter of days.

Source: who.int & webmd.com


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