Everyone talks about a balanced and healthy diet so they do not get sick or fat. But what exactly should be on the plate? As complicated as a healthy diet seems today, a few simple rules are enough to give the body everything it needs.
There are food scandals again and again, but in general there is a high food safety in Germany. Everyone can enjoy high quality and healthy food, even with cheap products, without having to fear for their health.
What is a healthy diet?
However, the need of many consumers goes beyond safe food: aspects such as animal welfare, environmental protection or the abandonment of pesticides, additives and artificial fertilizers are taken up in various diets. Primarily, this has something to do with one’s attitude and is less a matter of health. Because with every nutritional form – whether vegetarian , vegan , organic, seasonal or “omnivore” – you have the opportunity to eat a healthy diet . Although experts have developed rough rules for a healthy diet, but to what extent you implement them, everyone should choose according to individual preferences.
The most important nutritional rules
Based on current scientific research, the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) has drawn up ten rules for a full-fledged and varied diet . They should maintain and promote health, performance and well-being.
- Eating varied : A varied nutrition program guarantees a supply of all necessary nutrients and vital substances.
- Grains and potatoes : bread, pasta, rice, cereals and potatoes contain vitamins, minerals and fiber, which are good for the immune system. To cover the fiber requirement of 30 grams per day, it is best to use whole grains. These consist of complex carbohydrates and make you full for a long time. In addition, they have many important vitamins that are missing white flour and Co.
- Vegetables and fruits: At least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day provide you with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals . They promote digestion, increase fluid intake and strengthen the immune system due to their high water content. Tips on how to integrate more fruits and vegetables into your daily life can be found below in the text.
- Dairy products, fish, sausages and eggs : According to DGE, dairy products should be a daily diet. They provide important nutrients such as calcium and iodine . Sea fish contains valuable omega-3 fatty acids and should therefore be on the menu once or twice a week. Eggs and meat are suppliers of minerals and vitamins. It should not be more than 300 to 600 grams of meat and sausage per week. Pay attention to low-fat products. The renunciation of food of animal origin is not unhealthy.
- Proper fats: Dietary fats provide essential fatty acids and help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Since fat is very high in calories, you should not consume more than 60 to 80 grams per day. Prefer vegetable oils and fats, such as rapeseed, olive, linseed, walnut, sunflower or safflower oil.
- Sugar and salt in moderation: Sweet foods and drinks should only be consumed occasionally. Sugar contains no vitamins or fiber and therefore provides “empty calories”. Salt in excess can promote high blood pressure and thus cardiovascular diseases. It should therefore not be more than six grams a day. Spice up with healthy herbs instead!
- Lots of fluids: Drink 1.5 liters of fluid a day. Prefer water and other low calorie drinks. In the cold season, teas are great for keeping the body warm and strengthening the immune system. Alcohol should be drunk only occasionally and in small quantities.
- Gentle preparation: Cook the food only briefly, for example by steaming at the lowest possible temperature and with little water and fat. This maintains the nutrients and prevents harmful compounds. Tips for vitamin-saving cooking can be found here. Tips for vitamin-saving cooking can be found here.
- Enjoyment: Take time for meals instead of doing them on the side. This helps to not over-saturation and thus more than necessary to eat.
- Exercise: A balanced diet in combination with physical exercise increases well-being and promotes good health.
Nutritional rule for fruits and vegetables: 5 a day
Plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables and legumes should not be missing from a healthy diet. It provides fiber that feeds our important intestinal bacteria and has a low energy density: that means they provide good nutrients, but low in calories. 5 per day is a familiar rule: three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit. The amount of vegetables recommended by the DGE is 400 grams (g) a day. This is equivalent to about two large unpeeled carrots and two to three medium sized tomatoes . In addition, 250 grams of fruit per day should be on the menu – this is about a medium-sized apple and a medium-sized banana .
If you eat more portions, you can extend your life, as a study at University College in London has shown. “7 a day” is therefore much better than “5 a day”. A health effect was detectable, especially with respect to vegetables, while it was lower for fruit.
The daily servings of vegetables and fruits can easily be spread over the day with some practice.
Tips: How to integrate more fruits and vegetables in everyday life
- Already in the morning fresh fruit, for example in the muesli, or a fresh smoothie should belong to your breakfast .
- As a snack in the morning and afternoon are suitable fruit, but also small cut vegetables such as cucumber, carrot or kohlrabi, for example, with a homemade herb dip from lean quark.
- At lunchtime, eat a salad or a main course with plenty of vegetables.
- Sliced tomatoes, radishes or cucumbers are a low-fat sandwich or complement the dinner as a side dish.
- Fruit salad, rice pudding, semolina or natural yoghurt with fruits are fresh-fruity desserts or sweet dishes with an extra serving of fruit.
Why are vitamins and minerals so important for a healthy diet?
Vitamins are divided into water and fat soluble compounds. The water-soluble include the vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and C as well as niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin and folic acid . Along with vitamin C, the large group of B vitamins are all-rounders of the immune system . They fight off free radicals, utilize iron and ensure a tight connective tissue. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K in this order are responsible for healthy skin, mucosal function and vision, calcium metabolism and bone formation and blood clotting.
Minerals are inorganic micronutrients , which are present in different amounts in the body and must be supplied with the food in different amounts. Therefore, one speaks of quantity and trace elements. Two of the most important minerals are magnesium and iron. They provide an optimal interaction of nerves and muscles, serve as building elements for the blood pigment and thus for the transport of oxygen in the body. In most cases, tiny amounts are enough to cover the demand. Those who do a lot physically, however, have more needs.
Not just a deficiency, even an excess of vitamins and minerals can hurt. High doses of vitamin A or D can cause hypervitaminosis. The consequences are headache , skin changes, hair loss , vomiting , liver enlargement and painful skeletal changes. A balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is the best thing you can do for your body – then it gets enough vitamins and minerals.
Diet on vacation
Holidays are an ideal way to spend time away from the stress of everyday life with new dishes and methods of preparation. And what you have learned and can taste on holiday without stress can find its way into domestic habits. But instead of organizing oranges at the buffet, you should also get involved in the healthy aspects of the local cuisine on holiday:
- Olive oil, walnut oil, fish and seafood are scientifically proven health care products that help to keep blood pressure and blood lipid levels in balance .
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
- For buffets, choose more fruits, vegetables and salad – but pay attention to the hygienic conditions.
- Drink a lot of mineral water.
- Do not eat if you are already full.
- Even with smaller portions to get to his pleasure experience.
Healthy nutrition is different for everyone
A good diet does not just depend on stubborn compliance with rules. It also depends on the individual needs of the body, in certain life situations, such as the development of children or during pregnancy, the body needs more of certain vitamins and minerals . The metabolism varies from person to person, the need for calories, nutrients and minerals depending on many and sometimes unknown factors.
Likewise, not all nutritional experts believe that there are or should be common guidelines for a healthy diet. Nutritionist Uwe Knop, for example, criticizes his own profession and its recommendations because they “lack the scientific basis”. So far there is no evidence that a supposedly healthy diet promotes good health. The observational studies commonly used in nutritional science did not allow conclusions to be drawn on the cause-and-effect relationship.
For Knop, who has written some books on the subject , the distinction between healthy and unhealthy diets or good and bad foods is nonsense. Knop, as well as the American nutrition expert and author Linda Bacon , believe that one’s body pretends to be healthy – through a feeling of hunger and satiety, as well as craving for certain foods . Knop advises therefore: “Eat only if you have real, the physical hunger and only that, what you feel like what you taste really delicious and what you tolerate well.”