8 tips for a healthy diet
We have become accustomed to hearing that the factors that harm a healthy heart are those of Western societies; however, if we eliminate risk behaviours, we would avoid 80% of cardiovascular diseases.
Although keeping to a healthy diet will not prevent you from being infected by a virus like Covid-19, it will help you maintain a good general state of health.
With a healthy diet, we have a strong immune system, so your defenses can respond to attacks as effectively as possible. That is why here you can find 8 tips for healthy eating.
How should we eat to achieve a healthy diet?
Your diet must ensure the provision of appropriate amounts of the different nutritional elements and antioxidants (substances that act as a defense system for your cells). In fact, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recognises that some vitamins and minerals support the immune system.
There’s no better defense than a balanced diet, but the practice of moderate exercise can also make a impact on immunity.
They include folates, copper, iron, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D. But before jumping to the conclusion that taking a larger quantity will provide a greater benefit, you must bear in mind that an extra intake in the form of supplements will have no effect if there is no deficiency. You don’t have to focus on specific nutrients; instead, make sure you have a well-planned diet that includes the different food groups at the correct frequency of consumption to meet your needs and promote your overall health.
8 tips for healthy eating
1. Adjust the calorie intake
It must be adapted to the needs of every individual, taking into account their daily physical activity. An excess of calories leads to weight gain, and increases the risk of obesity. In fact, there have been studies on the relationship between obesity and the immune system, proving that it negatively affects its ability to fight infections. However, some low-calorie diets can involve shortages of certain nutrients and cause deficiencies that also lead to a reduced immune response.
2. Eat fruits and vegetables
These are two major groups of essential foods in the daily diet, not only because they are your main sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre, but because they contain antioxidants, which form a real defense for your body. You are recommended to take five servings a day, three of them of fruit and two of vegetables (lunch and dinner). At least one of the fruits should be citrus, because they are rich in vitamin C, which is important for its multiple functions and for building up resistance to infections. They also contain folates, flavonoids, B vitamins, and selenium, which are also linked to the immune system.
3. Don’t forget the consumption of legumes
Although it is recommended to consume legumes at least twice a week, few people do so. You must make room for them in your ordinary diet, as they are of great nutritional importance. They not only provide proteins, carbohydrates and fibre, but also minerals and vitamins. And although the amounts vary according to the type of pulse, in general they are rich in folic acid, vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and iron. There’s no doubt that they play an important role in a healthy diet.
4. Have olive oil, dried fruit and nuts, seeds
Olive oil, almonds, hazelnuts, wheat germ and sunflower or pumpkin seeds are some of the foods that, in addition to heart-healthy fats, contain vitamin E. This vitamin is not only an antioxidant which prevents the development of degenerative diseases; it reinforces our defenses because it improves the function of T-cells, which play an essential role in your immune response. Moreover, nuts and seeds are a source of folates and zinc, which are nutrients related to the immune system.
5. Limit meat consumption
Currently, the consensus is that you can eat meat three or four times a week (red meat once a week) within the framework of a healthy diet, and processed meats only occasionally. The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends reducing consumption of red meat and in particular processed meat, because it has been observed that excessive intake increases the risk of certain types of cancer. It is therefore worth taking this recommendation into account when following a healthy diet.
6. Monitor the quantity and quality of fat in your diet
You should not overuse fats in general; prioritise those considered healthier, such as monounsaturated fats from olive oil or avocado, and polyunsaturated fats from fish (particularly blue fish) and nuts. Limit your intake of the saturated fats present in fatty meat, sausages, dairy products with high fat content (butter, cream, etc.). Avoid foods that contain trans fats, which can be identified under the name of hydrogenated fat on the labels of many products and pre-cooked food, such as industrial pastries, biscuits, microwave popcorn, salty snacks, ice cream, sauces, etc.
7. Limit your sugar intake
According to the WHO, for extra health benefits, ideal sugar consumption would be less than 5% of the total daily caloric intake. In fact, the sugar consumption of many households is well above what is desirable, not only in the form of table sugar, but also through sweetened foods and drinks such as pastries, dairy desserts, sweetened soft drinks, juices, snacks, and a long list of supermarket products. What is clear is that an excessive consumption of sugar is associated with an increased risk of developing obesity and vascular and metabolic diseases.
8. Choose fresh foods and limit processed ones
To follow a healthy diet, you must prioritise fresh seasonal foods and limit as much as possible the consumption of processed foods and, above all, highly processed foods. Processed foods imply a higher consumption of salt, sugar, fats that are usually unhealthy, and a great variety of additives that are added to preserve them, enhance their flavour or modify the appearance or texture of the product, but which, in general, are not recommended.
Breakfast is usually the meal that we pay the least attention to, even though it may be the most important one. Smoothies can be a great option for those who don't have much time in the morning, as they assure us a healthy, quick and easy breakfast.