Importance of healthy eating

Nutrients and health benefits

Why is it important to eat vegetables?

Eating vegetables provides health benefits – people who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Vegetables provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body.


  • Most vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. None have cholesterol. (Sauces or seasonings may add fat, calories, and/or cholesterol.)
  • Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), vitamin A, and vitamin C.
  • Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Vegetable sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans.
  • Dietary fiber from vegetables, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Fiber-containing foods such as vegetables help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
  • Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods, and in addition 400 mcg of synthetic folic acid from fortified foods or supplements. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly during fetal development.
  • Vitamin A keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps to protect against infections.
  • Vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy. Vitamin C aids in iron absorption.

Health benefits

  • As part of an overall healthy diet, eating foods such as vegetables that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake.
  • Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.
  • Eating a diet rich in some vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may protect against certain types of cancers.
  • Adding vegetables can help increase intake of fiber and potassium, which are important nutrients that many Americans do not get enough of in their diet.

Is ‘when we eat’ as important as ‘what we eat’?

Our current lifestyle has become demanding and more irregular. Food consumption patterns have changed markedly over the past decades: more meals are skipped, consumed outside the family home, on-the-go, later in the day, and more irregularly. Two papers published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society explore the implications for health from different eating habits, reviewing the evidence from a number of dietary studies as well as global differences in eating habits.

Eating inconsistently may affect our internal body clock or ‘circadian rhythms’ which typically follow a 24-hour cycle. Many nutritionally related metabolic processes in the body follow a circadian pattern such as appetite, digestion and the metabolism of fat, cholesterol and glucose. Food intake can influence our internal clocks, particularly in organs such as the liver and intestine, whilst our central clock is also regulated by the dark/light cycle which in turn can affect food intake. Chrono-nutrition involves studying the impact of nutrition on metabolic processes and how these may be influenced by and also alter circadian patterns through nutrient intake (ir)regularity, frequency and clock time.

A number of studies have shown that people working shifts have an increased risk of a number of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. For shift work, changes in dietary patterns are therefore an important aspect to consider when investigating its effects on health.

Social jetlag is estimated to affect more than 80% of the general population in central Europe, especially people living in urban areas. This discrepancy between our internal body clock and social clock has been linked to a greater risk of diseases like obesity and metabolic syndrome, whilst shorter periods of sleep have been linked to weight gain.

Consuming small but frequent meals to regulate appetite and weight is a concept that has been adopted in many fad diets, yet some studies have shown that a greater number of daily meals has been linked to a greater risk of obesity and thus one could argue that we should consume fewer meals per day, write the authors. However, without a reduced calorie intake, fewer meals are unlikely to bring major health benefits.


Moreover, when studying the impact of irregular meal patterns, it is also important to consider what people eat; some studies have found a link between how regularly people eat and what they choose to eat, for example with poorer food choices linked to breakfast skipping.

Along with studying the impact of what and when we eat, we should also consider ‘with whom we eat’, say the authors, pointing to evidence that regular family meals contribute to healthy eating habits in children and adolescents.

Globally, eating patterns vary widely according to the studies reviewed by the authors. The fact that lunch is the most important meal of the day is characteristic of France and the Mediterranean region, and reflects beliefs of the importance of pleasurable and social eating. Consequently, the French tend to eat together as a household more regularly and to follow a regular meal pattern of three meals a day. By contrast, in central England, drivers such as individual preferences and convenience dictate food choices, which translates to greater consumption of ready-prepared and take-away meals, more meal skipping and calorie-dense snack foods such as crisps.

In the UK and US, the proportion of energy intake increases gradually across the day, with breakfast providing the lowest proportion of energy and dinner the greatest. A shift towards greater energy intake at the evening meal has been reported in France in recent decades due to changing working patterns, although French eating patterns are not yet on par with those observed in England.

A recent clinical trial showed greater weight loss and improved blood sugar levels in overweight and obese women who ate more calories in the morning than in the evening. Further studies point to the importance of the ratio of evening-to-morning energy intake, and that evening intake may affect BMI differently based on whether people are regular or irregular consumers of breakfast.

Most national dietary guidelines focus on ‘what’ you should eat in terms of food and nutrients, with only a few also providing recommendations on ‘when’ you should eat over the course of a day. As such, further research is needed to shape future dietary guidelines, conclude the authors.

Dr Gerda Pot, Visiting Lecturer in the Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences Division at King’s College London says: “There seems to be some truth in the saying ‘Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper’, however, this warrants further investigation.”

“Whilst we have a much better understanding today of what we should be eating, we are still left with the question as to which meal should provide us with the most energy. Although the evidence suggests that eating more calories later in the evening is associated with obesity, we are still far from understanding whether our energy intake should be distributed equally across the day or whether breakfast should contribute the greatest proportion of energy, followed by lunch and dinner.”

The authors of the two papers in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society are from King’s College London, Newcastle University, University of Surrey and Nestlé Research Centre.


Fats and oils provide a concentrated source of energy and the essential fatty acids needed for growth and health. They aid the absorption of some vitamins such as vitamin A and improve the taste of meals. Some fatty/oily foods contain important vitamins.

Fats and oils contain different ‘fat-nutrients’. These include unsaturated fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids and cholesterol.

Unsaturated fatty acids

Two of the unsaturated fatty acids are called ‘essential fatty acids’ because the body cannot make them. They are needed for building cells, especially the cells of the brain and nervous system. Unsaturated fatty acids contain a group called ‘omega-3 fatty acids’, which help to protect the body from heart disease.

  • Examples of foods containing mainly unsaturated fatty acids are most vegetable oils, groundnuts, soybeans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and other oilseeds, oily fishes and avocados. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are oily sea fish and some seeds and pulses such as linseed and soybeans.

Saturated fatty acids

  • Examples of foods containing mainly saturated fatty acids are butter, ghee, lard/cooking fat, whole milk, cheese, fats from meats and meat products (e.g. sausages) and poultry, red palm oil and coconuts.

Trans fatty acids

When vegetable oils are processed to make them harder (e.g. for use in margarine and other solid fats), some of the unsaturated fatty acids are changed into trans fatty acids. These behave like saturated fatty acids. We should eat as little of the foods containing trans fatty acids as possible.

  • Examples of foods containing trans fatty acids are margarine and lard (shortening), fried foods, such as chips (French fries) and others, commercially fried foods, such as doughnuts, as well as baked goods, biscuits, cakes and ice creams.


Cholesterol is found only in animal foods but the body can make it from other fatnutrients. We need some cholesterol for our bodies to grow and function properly.

There are two kinds of cholesterol in the blood.

  • High levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) seem to reduce the risk of heart disease. Eating foods containing mainly unsaturated fatty acids tends to increase the level of good cholesterol.

  • High levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) seem to increase the risk of heart disease. Eating foods containing mainly saturated fats tends to increase the level of bad cholesterol.

Fat needs

Fat needs are expressed as ‘percent of total energy needs’ (see Appendix 2). The percent of total energy that should come from fat in a healthy balanced diet is:

  • 30-40 percent for children on complementary feeding and up to the age of two years;

  • 15-30 percent for older children and most adults; for active adults up to 35 percent is acceptable;

  • At least 20 percent up to 30 percent for women of reproductive age (15-45 years).

This means the diet of a woman of reproductive age who needs approximately 2 400 kcal/day should contain about 480-720 kcal from fat or oil. This is equivalent to 53-80 g of pure oil (or about 11-16 level teaspoons). Part of the fat in a diet is not added in the kitchen at home but is ‘hidden’ in foods such as meat, milk, groundnuts and oilseeds as well as fried foods.

Fat and health

It is recommended that less than one-third of the fat in the diet is in the form of saturated fatty acids. Red palm oil and coconuts/coconut oil are foods rich in saturated fatty acids but, unlike other such foods, they do not seem to increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Moderate intake of coconut, for instance, seems to be acceptable, providing other foods high in saturated fats are eaten as little as possible. This is particularly true where the overall lifestyle lessens the risk of heart disease. Such a lifestyle could, for example, be one with a high physical activity level, high intake of fish, vegetables and root crops, low intake of salt and little or no use of tobacco or alcohol. Red palm oil is also a good source of other important nutrients, such as vitamin A and vitamin E.

Ideally trans fatty acids should provide less than 1 percent of the total energy intake (or not more than 2 g for most adults).

For many families this means they should, when possible, eat more of the foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids (e.g. foods from plants and oily sea fish), less of the foods high in saturated fatty acids, and much less of the foods high in trans fatty acids.

What happens when you eat fast food?

Share on PinterestStudies suggest that long-term fast food consumption may increase the risk of developing asthma.

There is plenty of well-researched evidence showing that regularly eating fast food can harm a person’s health.

This is because most fast food is high in sugar, salt, saturated fat and trans fats, processed ingredients, and calories, and low in antioxidants, fiber, and many other nutrients.

Many fast food meals are very low in fiber. A low-fiber diet is associated with a higher risk of digestive conditions such as constipation and diverticular disease, as well as reductions in healthy gut bacteria.

A study in the journal Health Promotion Perspectives identifies the sometimes irreparable effects of eating fast food on a person’s health. Such risks include obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and various cardiovascular conditions.

A study in the Nutrition Journal focuses on the effects of a Western diet on a person’s immune system. This is a diet that consists of high amounts of sugar, salt, and saturated fat from only a few sources.

The study paper claims that a Western diet can lead to higher inflammation, lower control of infection, higher cancer rates, and higher risk of allergic and autoinflammatory disease.

A study in the journal Thorax establishes a link between fast food consumption in teenagers and children and an increase in asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema.

A study in the journal Appetite also suggests that there is a causal link between a diet high in saturated fat and simple carbohydrates, typical of much fast food, and a lower capacity for memory and learning. This sort of diet may also raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggest that a diet high in salt often increases a person’s blood pressure, which means that a person is more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, or heart disease.

The FDA also note that a diet high in trans fats raises the amount of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol and the lowers the amount of high-density lipoprotein, or “good,” cholesterol. This means that a person is more likely to develop heart disease.

The Obesity Action Coalition point out that typical fast food contains a very high number of calories. If a person eats more calories than they are burning during each day, they will put on weight, which may lead to obesity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity increases a person’s risk of developing a range of serious health conditions.

Another consequence of younger people regularly eating fast food is their uninentional lack of understanding of basic meal preparation, cooking, and healthful eating.

Over time, this perpetuates a dependence on fast food, and people may not learn how to prepare healthful, balanced food in the home. Consuming such meals can support a person’s long-term health throughout their lifespan.

Health is wealth! Eating healthy food and following a healthy lifestyle can keep us healthy and happy. Let us understand what healthy food is!

Meaning of Healthy Food – Paragraph 1.

Meaning of Healthy Food: Healthy food simply means nutritious food. These are the foods that are considered good for health.

Healthy foods assist a person in enhancing the physical and mental well-being. These foods are full of nourishment and enhance growth. Some of the significant examples of healthy food involve natural food, fiber-rich food, vitamin-rich food, protein-rich food, etc.

Healthy food keeps us away from diseases. We feel relaxed, light and stress-free when we eat nourishing food because we know we are feeding something healthy and good to our bodies.

By Sehba (2017)

Benefits of eating Healthy Food – Paragraph 2.

Benefits of eating healthy food: The benefits/advantages of eating healthy food are given below in points.

  • Promotes overall health – We get a strong and healthy body with a healthy mind as well by eating healthy food. Healthy food keeps fit and active.
  • Active brain – Healthy food is full of various nutrients. These nutrients provide us energy and alertness. Hence, we stay active.
  • It protects you from various diseases, including chronic diseases – We can safeguard us from various dangerous diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. by eating healthy food
  • Combat obesity – Healthy food also saves us from obesity as it helps in managing unnecessary weight gain.
  • Strengthens our immune system and digestion – Healthy food strengthens our immune system, and digestion. For example, fiber rich food keeps us digestion smooth and vitamin C improves our immunity.
  • It helps you build an attractive body– Healthy food also gives us a fit and fine body, glowing skin and overall, an attractive body.
  • It lifts your mood and makes you feel good – We never feel lethargic after eating light and healthy food. Rather, we feel active and energetic. Hence, we feel good after eating healthy food.

Conclusion – A healthy mind resides in a healthy body. Hence, to attain a healthy mind and a healthy body, we should eat healthy food.

By Sehba (2017)

Healthy food – Paragraph 3.

Eat healthy food and live life to its fullest.

So our parents and doctors force us to eat healthy food. To achieve good health one should eat healthy. Healthy eating include balanced diet and balanced proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, water and vitamins.

Eat healthy and on time so that it can affect you even more. Besides you eat healthy, exercise also plays a very good role in the formation of your health.

Have you ever wondered why your parents and doctors stop you to eat too much junk food?

Overweight is a very serious problem nowadays especially with children. Junk food is one of the reasons for obese and overweight.

So, I suggest everyone to eat healthy, do exercise and be healthy as health is wealth.

By Ananda (2019)

Last updated: June 22, 2019.

Healthy food essay

Healthy food essay; Healthy food essay in English with all the important and useful information where everyone seeks to know more about healthy food and how to follow a diet full of healthy food and important nutrients for the body. Everyone now prefers healthy food after research has proved the health problems that the body is exposed to because of unhealthy food. Here you will find a healthy food essay in English with all the information you want to know about healthy food.

Healthy food is one of the most important factors that play a clear and tangible role in human health. This plays an important role in preserving health in general. Some nutrients represent the major role in renewing the health of the body with its various organs.

Where we observe the tendency of some nutrients for the benefit of the body as a whole by giving him the ability to keep his internal organs intact, where eating healthy food is the largest factor in the safety of internal organs that result in an inevitable body safety as a whole and thus lead to better performance in various functions of life.

There are many guidelines to follow when eating, so that a person can have a healthy and integrated diet:

Take into account the diversity of foods eaten by humans, and avoid eating one type for long periods, as healthy food contains many species and which are included in the composition elements and vitamins important to the body, such as bread of all kinds, fish and meat, water and other balanced and healthy food.

Concentrate on eating large amounts of vegetables and fruits, because of its great importance, because it contains many elements necessary for the body, in addition to eating different types of grain.

Eat meals regularly and divide them into three main meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner. In cases where people are hungry for meals, they can eat certain types of vegetables and fruits.

Take into account the balance of foods eaten, so that it works on different types and contains more than one food element, so that the body to get all the elements of the same proportions.

Eat moderate amounts of foods and meet the body’s need for them, and avoid over-ingestion, because it works on exposure to human obesity, which in turn lead to exposure to various diseases.

Avoid depriving oneself of certain types of foods. Eating foods that contain high levels of fat, sugars and salts should be alleviated.

Drink large amounts of water, and work to make it within the healthy diet, because of its great importance to the human body.

Healthy food has many benefits to humans:

providing the body with the necessary energy, which enables him to exercise all his activities to the fullest.

Build and renew body cells by eating high-protein foods.

Strengthen and build human bones by eating foods that contain calcium.

Protect your body from the risk of getting cancer, by eating foods containing antioxidants.

The growth of the body and building it correctly and sound.

Enjoy healthy weight and ideal weight, and avoid exposure to excessive aging caused by eating unhealthy foods.

So we have provided information about Healthy food essay .To read more you can access the following link :

  • English essay

Health benefits of eating well

A well-balanced diet provides all of the:

  • energy you need to keep active throughout the day
  • nutrients you need for growth and repair, helping you to stay strong and healthy and help to prevent diet-related illness, such as some cancers

Keeping active and eating a healthy balanced diet can also help you to maintain a healthy weight.

Deficiencies in some key nutrients – such as vitamin A, B, C and E, and zinc, iron and selenium – can weaken parts of your immune system.

More about vitamins, minerals and nutrients

Type 2 diabetes

Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet that’s low in saturated fat and high in fibre found in whole grains can help to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

More about type 2 diabetes

Heart health

A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy can help to reduce your risk of heart disease by maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

High blood pressure and cholesterol can be a symptom of too much salt and saturated fats in your diet.

Eating a portion of oily fish – such as salmon and trout – each week can also help to lower your risk of developing heart disease. The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish are good for heart health.

Strong bones and teeth

A diet rich in calcium keeps your teeth and bones strong and can help to slow bone loss (osteoporosis) associated with getting older.

Calcium is usually associated with dairy products, but you can also get calcium by eating:

  • sardines, pilchards or tinned salmon (with bones)
  • dark green vegetables – such as kale and broccoli
  • calcium-fortified foods – such as soya products, fruit juices and cereals

As vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, make sure you get outside (your body gets vitamin D from the sun) and have plenty of foods containing vitamin D in your diet – such as oily fish and fortified cereals.

More about vitamin D

How to manage your weight

Eating a healthy diet that includes lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and a moderate amount of unsaturated fats, meat and dairy can help you maintain a steady weight. Having a good variety of these foods every day leaves less room for foods that are high in fat and sugar – a leading cause of weight gain.

Together with exercise, eating a healthy diet in the right proportions can also help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol levels and blood pressure and decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes.

More about how to lose weight safely

Go for the Greens (Red, Yellow, and Crunchy, Too)

Your genetics don’t have to be your destiny, especially if you watch your diet.

“I always tell , what they eat is just as important as the genes they inherited from their parents,” says Roy Buchinsky, MD, director of wellness for University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

Eating healthy means balance:

  • Go with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry, and add fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
  • Stay away from saturated and trans fats.
  • Ease up on the salt and sugar.
  • Watch how many calories you have each day.

That last one can vary depending on your age and how active you are. In general, adult women need about 1,600 to 2,400 calories a day. Adult men need between 2,000 and 3,000.

“When it comes to eating healthy, variety is the spice that will keep you on track,” Buchinsky says.

So try new things. Make your go-to-comfort foods in healthier ways. Here’s what you can get out of that:

  • Less salt and bad fats and more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may lower your chances of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • You’re less likely to have heart disease and stroke if you have more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy proteins.
  • More fruits and vegetables may help keep you from getting several types of cancer, including lung, mouth, stomach, throat, and colorectal.
  • A balanced diet can help keep your weight in check, too. And even if you’re more likely to pick up a doughnut than an apple, you can still lower your odds of diabetes by eating more whole grains, fruits, and veggies, and laying off the bad fats and high-sugar beverages.
  • Getting plenty of calcium can help prevent osteoporosis. It’s found in dark, leafy greens, yogurt, milk, and edamame. If dairy doesn’t agree with you, other options, like almond milk, can give you that boost of calcium, too. Some fortified brands may even have more calcium than a cup of traditional milk.

“Usually within a month or so of starting to eat better, will tell me they just feel better, even if they haven’t lost any weight,” Buchinsky says. “Diet is truly powerful.”

Healthy living

Everyone needs support sometimes

There are lots of ways to get the support you need to help stay healthy. An important step is finding a good GP (general practitioner) you are comfortable discussing your health with.

Having someone else as a ‘support person’ can be a big help, and don’t forget other services in your area that you can draw on too.

Finding a GP

It’s a good idea to have a regular doctor, a GP, who has an understanding of your general health and whom you are comfortable talking to. Seeing the same GP regularly means they can keep a better eye on your health and organise any check-ups needed.

If you don’t have one yet, ask people you know if they can recommend one. You can also just go down to your local GP’s surgery and ask to be registered.

Check it out

We all know the feeling of wondering if something is wrong – a bump, an ache, or something else – and doing nothing while we hope it goes away. Often, though, we end up worrying at the back of our minds anyway.

If there is something that needs treatment, then it’s best for it to be checked out as soon as possible. This goes for your mental as well as physical health. That’s why if you are feeling unwell at all it’s best to see your GP. If nothing else, it means you can be reassured and stop worrying about it.

Prevention is better than cure

Lots of health problems can be detected early or avoided if you get checked out regularly. This is especially important as we get a little older, or if at risk of the ‘metabolic syndrome’. Discuss with your GP having regular tests for things such as cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and breast or prostate cancer, for example.

Take some notes along

It’s difficult to remember everything you need to tell a doctor. Sometimes we just forget, or are embarrassed, or don’t want to bother them. That’s why it’s a really good idea to scribble down some notes before seeing the doctor – just some dot points are enough, to remind you of everything you wanted to ask about.

Be direct

Like anyone else, doctors understand something better when it’s explained in a simple, direct way. The more information you give, too, will help to make a diagnosis, so you get the right treatment.

Be as specific as you can about what’s bothering you. For example, if there’s a chest pain, is it sharp or aching? Is it on the right, left or centre? Is it only present when you exercise or after meals? All this will help the doctor to help you.

Be sure to tell the doctor, too, about any family history of medical conditions (such as diabetes or heart disease), and any medications you are taking, whether prescribed or not.

When you are on to a good thing

It’s a good idea to see the same GP regularly. This means the doctor gets to know your medical history, and helps you feel more comfortable in talking about personal things. That way, when you have concerns about your health you are more likely to feel relaxed about seeing your GP, and they are more likely to be able to help.

Setting up a ‘support person’

Having someone around to encourage you can make all the difference in learning new, healthy habits.

This support person could be your case manager or other support worker from a day program or Personal Helper And Mentor (PHAM) program, for example. It could be a neighbour, friend, someone in your family, or even your psychiatrist or GP. It can be anyone who knows you’re trying to lead a healthier life and agrees to help and keep a friendly eye on how you’re getting on.

The following things are important when thinking about who to ask to be your support person.


Remember your support person needs to be someone you trust, and who will take a real interest in how you are getting on.


No one can be available all the time, but think about how available a person is – in person, by phone or email.


Being a support person means being familiar with you and your life. This is likely to be someone you’ve known for some time and are comfortable talking to.

A positive attitude

A good support person sees the bright side of life. It can make all the difference to have someone with a positive approach to life helping you – it’s surprisingly infectious.

What to discuss with your support person

Here are some things to talk about with your support person, to help them help you to keep up your healthy new habits.

Explain what you’re trying to do

Be specific about what you want to do. For example, if you want to start getting fitter, don’t let them think you’re necessarily going to join a gym and do weights, when what you have in mind is walking around a park once a day.

Think about alternatives

There are bound to be days when you just don’t feel like doing things. Talk about this beforehand so that there’s an alternative. For example, you can agree that if you’re not motivated to get your usual exercise, the support person could come round and go on a shorter walk with you – to keep your healthy habit up.

Being prepared

If there are things you know are going to be a problem or a challenge, talk to your support person about getting ready to deal with these. For example, if you tend to snack a lot in the afternoon, your support person could suggest rearranging the kitchen cupboard so that healthier foods such as dried fruit, pretzels, or rice crackers are at the front and the unhealthier, fatty foods are stored somewhere more difficult to reach.

Learning by example

If your support person leads a healthy life, then you can learn from their example or even do things together. For example, if they are a keen gardener, you could help them out or even learn how to grow your own vegetables – getting exercise, fresh air, and free, good food too.

Having a back-up plan

There are bound to be times when your support person is not around. Discuss a back-up plan with them for when this happens.

For example, if you usually have a walk together, the support person might help you to arrange to walk someone’s dog while they’re away. People are often grateful to have a dog-walker, and it means you have a daily routine that gives you exercise too.

Using local services

As well as your GP and support person, don’t forget to check out other services that will help you get healthier.

Council recreation centres

These often offer cheap or free facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts and skating ramps.

Local gymnasiums

Gyms can have a range of facilities such as swimming pools and exercise machines as well as groups such as aerobics and Tai Chi. Some offer lower fees for people with Pension or Health Care Cards.

Local Community Health Centres

These often have general health services such as dentists, podiatrists, psychologists and access to immunisation.

Neighbourhood houses

Neighbourhood houses often run groups that can help you with healthy living including Tai Chi, meditation, Yoga, dance or walking groups. Some also have groups such as weight loss programs, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous.

Local markets

Get to know your local market – not only because the food is fresh, varied and cheap (especially just before closing), but also because it’s an enjoyable and friendly way to shop and meet people. If near enough, walk there with a shopping trolley, so you get some exercise and fresh air too.

Lyndall’s story

Lyndall is in her forties and was diagnosed with Schizophrenia 13 years ago. She’s been getting stomach pains over the past month, but her GP has told her to ‘keep taking her antipsychotic medication and she’ll be fine’.

She feels the doctor sees her as a ‘psych patient’ only and doesn’t take her physical health seriously.

Lyndall also wants to get fitter so she’s not out-of-breath all the time, but can’t get motivated to start exercising.

Asking for more support

Don’t be afraid to ask for more support when you need it. It’s important for Lyndall to have a GP she is comfortable with, and who looks after her physical as well as mental health. She also needs someone to support her in getting motivated to exercise. Steps she can take include:

  • asking people she knows to recommend a good GP she can see and get a proper diagnosis for her stomach pains
  • asking a worker at the day program she attends to be a support person and discuss a ‘get fit’ program for her.

Write down some ways in which you could get support for your healthy new habits.

In a crisis

If you or someone you know experiences a mental health crisis and becomes highly distressed, it can be difficult for others to know what to do. See In a crisis for advice on how you or others can help.

How is it that the United States spends the most money on healthcare, and yet still has the one of the lowest life expectancies of all developed nations? (To be specific: $9,400 per capita, 79 years, and 31st.)

Maybe those of us in healthcare have been looking at it all wrong, for too long.

Healthy lifestyle and longevity

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a massive study of the impact of health habits on life expectancy, using data from the well-known Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS). This means that they had data on a huge number of people over a very long period of time. The NHS included over 78,000 women and followed them from 1980 to 2014. The HPFS included over 40,000 men and followed them from 1986 to 2014. This is over 120,000 participants, 34 years of data for women, and 28 years of data for men.

The researchers looked at NHS and HPFS data on diet, physical activity, body weight, smoking, and alcohol consumption that had been collected from regularly administered, validated questionnaires.

What is a healthy lifestyle, exactly?

These five areas were chosen because prior studies have shown them to have a large impact on risk of premature death. Here is how these healthy habits were defined and measured:

1. Healthy diet, which was calculated and rated based on the reported intake of healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, healthy fats, and omega-3 fatty acids, and unhealthy foods like red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fat, and sodium.

2. Healthy physical activity level, which was measured as at least 30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity daily.

3. Healthy body weight, defined as a normal body mass index (BMI), which is between 18.5 and 24.9.

4. Smoking, well, there is no healthy amount of smoking. “Healthy” here meant never having smoked.

5. Moderate alcohol intake, which was measured as between 5 and 15 grams per day for women, and 5 to 30 grams per day for men. Generally, one drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol. That’s 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

Researchers also looked at data on age, ethnicity, and medication use, as well as comparison data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research.

Does a healthy lifestyle make a difference?

As it turns out, healthy habits make a big difference. According to this analysis, people who met criteria for all five habits enjoyed significantly, impressively longer lives than those who had none: 14 years for women and 12 years for men (if they had these habits at age 50). People who had none of these habits were far more likely to die prematurely from cancer or cardiovascular disease.

Study investigators also calculated life expectancy by how many of these five healthy habits people had. Just one healthy habit (and it didn’t matter which one) … just one… extended life expectancy by two years in men and women. Not surprisingly, the more healthy habits people had, the longer their lifespan. This is one of those situations where I wish I could reprint their graphs for you, because they’re so cool. (But if you’re very curious, the article is available online, and the graphs are on page 7. Check out Graph B, “Estimated life expectancy at age 50 according to the number of low-risk factors.”)

This is huge. And, it confirms prior similar research — a lot of prior similar research. A 2017 study using data from the Health and Retirement Study found that people 50 and older who were normal weight, had never smoked, and drank alcohol in moderation lived on average seven years longer. A 2012 mega-analysis of 15 international studies that included over 500,000 participants found that over half of premature deaths were due to unhealthy lifestyle factors such as poor diet, inactivity, obesity, excessive alcohol intake, and smoking. And the list of supporting research goes on.

So what’s our (big) problem?

As the authors of this study point out, in the US we tend to spend outlandishly on developing fancy drugs and other treatments for diseases, rather than on trying to prevent them. This is a big problem.

Experts have suggested that the best way to help people make healthy diet and lifestyle change is at the large-scale, population level, through public health efforts and policy changes. (Kind of like motorcycle helmets and seat belt legislation…) We have made a little progress with tobacco and trans-fat legislation.

There’s a lot of pushback from big industry on that, of course. If we have guidelines and laws helping us to live healthier, big companies aren’t going to sell as much fast food, chips, and soda. And for companies hell-bent on making money at the cost of human life, well, that makes them very angry.

Follow me on Twitter @drmoniquetello


Impact of healthy lifestyle factors on life expectancies in the US population. Circulation, April 2018.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, What is a standard drink?

The population health benefits of a healthy lifestyle: Life expectancy increased and onset of disability delayed. Health Affairs, August 2017.

The combined effects of healthy lifestyle behaviors on all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Preventive Medicine, September 2012.

Changing minds about changing behavior. Lancet, January 2018.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Final Determination regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils (trans fat)

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act- An Overview

Balanced Diet

At the core of a balanced diet are foods that are low in unnecessary fats and sugars and high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The following food groups are essential parts of a balanced diet.


Besides being a great source of nutrition, fruits make tasty snacks. Choose fruits that are in season in your area. They’re fresher and provide the most nutrients.

Fruits are high in sugar. This sugar is natural, though, so fruit can still be a better choice for you than other foods with added sugar. If you’re watching your sugar intake or have a condition such as diabetes, you may want to opt for low-sugar fruits. Read on to learn about the 11 best low-sugar fruits, from citrus to peaches. People who are watching their carbohydrate intake may reach for fruits such as melons and avocadoes.


Vegetables are primary sources of essential vitamins and minerals. Dark, leafy greens generally contain the most nutrition and can be eaten at every meal. Eating a variety of vegetables will help you obtain the bountiful nutrients that all vegetables provide.

Examples of dark leafy greens include:

  • spinach
  • kale
  • green beans
  • broccoli
  • collard greens
  • Swiss chard


According to the USDA, Americans consume refined white flour more than any other grain. Refined white flour has poor nutritional value because the hull of the grain, or outer shell, is removed during the refining process. The hull is where the majority of the grain’s nutrition lies.

Whole grains, however, are prepared using the entire grain, including the hull. They provide much more nutrition. Try switching from white breads and pastas to whole-grain products.


Meats and beans are primary sources of protein, a nutrient that is essential for proper muscle and brain development. Lean, low-fat meats such as chicken, fish, and certain cuts of pork and beef are the best options. Removing the skin and trimming off any visible fat are easy ways to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in meats. The health and diet of the animal are important and influence the fatty acid profile of the meat, so grass-fed choices are ideal.

Nuts and beans are good sources of protein and contain many other health benefits, as well as fiber and other nutrients. Try to eat:

  • lentils
  • beans
  • peas
  • almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • walnuts

Tofu, tempeh, and other soy-based products are excellent sources of protein and are healthy alternatives to meat.

Shop for tofu and tempeh.


Dairy products provide calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients. However, they’re also major sources of fat, so it may be best to choose small portions of full-fat cheeses, and reduced-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt. Plant-based milks, such as those made from flaxseed, almonds, or soy are typically fortified with calcium and other nutrients, making them excellent alternatives to dairy from cows.

Shop for almond and soy milk.


Oils should be used sparingly. Opt for low-fat and low-sugar versions of products that contain oil, such as salad dressing and mayonnaise. Good oils, such as olive oil, can replace fattier vegetable oil in your diet. Avoid deep-fried foods because they contain many empty calories.

Shop for olive oil.

The USDA has an online checklist that can help you determine how much of each food group you should consume daily.

Besides adding certain foods to your diet, you should also reduce your consumption of certain substances to maintain a balanced diet and healthy weight. These include:

  • alcohol
  • refined grains
  • solid fats
  • saturated fats
  • trans fats
  • salt
  • sugars

If you have questions about your diet or feel that you need to lose weight or change your eating habits, schedule an appointment with your doctor or a dietitian. They can suggest dietary changes that will help you get the nutrition you need while promoting your overall health.

Why it is Important to Have a Healthy Diet?

63% of people in the world (and an even higher proportion in western countries) die of chronic diseases such as cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, which are in large part preventable through healthier lifestyle choices.

Most adults in England are either overweight or obese. That means many of us are eating more than we need, and should eat less. And it’s not just food: some drinks can also be high in calories. Most adults need to eat and drink fewer calories in order to lose weight, even if they already eat a balanced diet.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet, together with giving up smoking, increasing physical activity and reducing alcohol consumption, have dramatic potential to improve our health and the quality of our lives.

When it comes to a healthy diet, balance is the key to getting it right. This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

A diet based on starchy foods such as potatoes, rice and pasta; with plenty of fruit and vegetables; some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish and lentils; some milk and dairy foods; and not too much fat, salt or sugar, will give you all the nutrients you need and help to maintain a healthy weight.

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