A well-balanced diet delights the senses and is satisfying to the appetite. Nutritious food also offers a wealth of health benefits throughout all ages and stages of your life. Consult a nutritionist or qualified health professional for nutritional advice and to customize a diet that provides optimal nutrition for your health needs.
Good nutrition and weight management go hand in hand. A balanced diet helps keep your energy levels high, making it more likely that you will satisfy the other key ingredient of weight management: getting sufficient exercise. Good nutrition also helps you avoid the pitfalls of yo-yo dieting, such as food cravings that lead to binge eating. To make the most of your healthy diet, consume a variety of foods from all of the major food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy. Aim for a balance between nutrients, calories and portion size by choosing the most nutrient-dense foods available to you.
Growth and Development
Optimal childhood growth and development rely upon proper nutrition. Some nutrient deficiencies in young children are relatively common. Up to 33 percent of children under 4 years old suffer from iron deficiency anemia, according to Dr. Maureen Black of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Sufficient iron helps ensure ideal learning, attention and memory, proper development of motor skills, appropriate emotional expression and resilience to stress. Children who receive proper nutrition tend to be more energetic and playful and score higher on intelligence tests, according to Wisconsin’s Early Childhood Excellence Initiative.
Good nutrition may increase your lifespan and keep you healthier as you age, according to Judith E. Brown, co-author of the book “Nutrition Through the Life Cycle.” Lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise account for about half of the contributing factors to longevity, while your genetics contribute 19 percent. Access to healthcare and exposure to environmental pollutants account for the remaining 30 percent. A study published in the December 2010 issue of the journal “Acta Clinica Croatia” reported that some substances derived from food have particular benefit for aging digestive and immune systems. Known as nutraceuticals, these substances, many of which are antioxidants, may stem inflammation and inhibit some of the degenerative changes associated with aging.
Your immune system relies on both macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and fats, and micronutrients: vitamins and minerals, supplied by your daily diet to remain healthy, notes P.C. Calder, co-editor of the book “Nutrition and Immune Function.” By improving individual cell function as well as interactions between cells, adequate nutrition makes you more resilient to infection. A study of female soccer players published in the July 2012 issue of the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” found those who ate a healthy diet experienced less oxidative stress, lower levels of inflammation and better immune status after the stress of a soccer match compared to a group with lower nutritional status.
Good nutrition translates to better moods, notes Georgia Tech’s Division of Student Affairs. If your diet is high in sugary and starchy foods you might experience blood sugar swings that cause irritable or sad moods. The same foods eaten late at night can keep you awake, depriving your body of needed rest and resulting in brain fog, forgetfulness and low energy. By contrast, complex carbohydrates, such as those in beans, legumes and whole grains are digested and released more slowly, ensuring more even blood sugar levels.