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Nutritionally balanced diet
Nutritionally balancing a diet is much more complicated than just to have it simply fit into familiar healthy caloric scheme for an average healthy adult: 10-15% of the calories from proteins, some 20% from fats and the remaining 65-70% from carbohydrates. In fact, you can not determine your optimum diet
without knowing your personal health and nutritional status.
And the only way you can find out what it is is by taking proper diagnostic tests. They will also reveal how your metabolism works, a must to know when determining your individual optimum diet. The alternative is an empirical process of establishing what foods, and a specific proportion of the three macronutrients, best support your overall sense of wellbeing.
Food cravings are invariably a symptom of nutritional deficiencies and imbalances, thus nearly impossible to overcome without correcting those first. Not seldom, food craving is an attempt of your body to compensate for these through other, more or less twisted mechanisms, and fighting the craving alone may actually make you feel worse, rather than better.
As with most anything else, your health can be effectively restored, or protected, only with a planned, complete approach. These are the main pointers:
1Your best bet are organic, whole foods, that nearly fit into the above caloric scheme. Organic foods are both, more nutritious and less contaminated than conventional foods.
2 Healthy diet is plant-based; foods of animal origin should make less than 1/4 of the caloric intake (this is not cast in stone, as it may vary individually, with body metabolism and health condition). Most of your protein calories should come from plant sources; otherwise, it is practically impossible to avoid excessive protein/fat consumption.
3 Make sure that your intake of essential fatty acids is sufficient; it should make about 1/3 of your total fat intake (which should be about 20% of total calories), with roughly 1/3 of your essential fatty acid intake being Omega-3 fatty acids. Most of the remaining fat intake should consist from natural unsaturated fats. Low to moderate saturated fat intake is O.K. but heated fats - especially polyunsaturated and super-unsaturated Omegas - should be eliminated from your diet.
4 Most of your carbohydrates should be complex carbs from whole grains and vegetables; the less of simple carbs - sugars and, for that matter, white flour - the better. Excessive sugar intake can devastate your pancreas, resulting in diabetes; also, it robs your brain of B-vitamins and feeds bad bacteria in your intestine. It also directly suppresses the immune system. On top of that, excess sugar attaches to protein molecules and nucleic acids, inhibiting enzymes and other vital (protein-dependant) body functions.
5 You should consume about 1.5 liter/quart of water a day, preferably contaminant-free, mineralized (alkaline) form. More when the temperature is above average and/or with above average physical activity.
6 Make sure your dietary intake of all essential nutrients is safely above the DRI level (this vary significantly from one nutrient to another; you can safely take 10-20 times the DRI of vitamin C, but not more than two or three times the DRI for, say, selenium); supplement nutrients that you can't obtain from food in needed quantities.
7 Your fruit intake should be regular, but not excessive. While fructose (fruit sugar), unlike most other sugars, has low glycemic index which spares you from all the bad effects of swinging blood glucose levels, studies have shown that excessive fructose intake can interfere with liver function10. Remember: variety and moderation.
8 Salt intake should be limited to 6g a day; even relatively small long-term excesses can significantly increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Keep in mind that what really matters is the sodium-to-potassium balance. Thus, even within the 6g a day level, you may still be exposed to a higher CVD risk if your diet is low in potassium (i.e. generally low in foods of plant origin).
9 Keep all known food toxins at a possible minimum, even if you do not notice any immediate adverse effects. No one can tell what their long-term effect on your health will be - no need to take unnecessary chances.
10 Make raw foods - fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts, sprouted grains, green superfoods - significant part of your diet, preferably half or more of the caloric total. Cook at low to medium temperatures, only as long as you have to, in order to avoid more extensive loss and denaturing of nutrients, or possible toxic transformations of food molecules (fats and/or proteins) at high temperatures.
One controversial aspect of a balanced diet is acid-alkaline food balance. As explained in more details following the link, diet balanced in this respect is healthful for more than one reason - the metabolic food acidity itself not necessarily being the most important factor.
Finally, nearly anyone will benefit from complementing the diet with a broad-spectrum, balanced intake of nutrients in supplemental form.
Keep in mind that your individual optimum diet may not be coinciding with the average optimum at the level of population, due to possible existing nutritional imbalances, specifics of your lifestyle and environment, health condition, or a genetic glitch.
As you can see, nutritionally balanced diet is not something you can expect to happen "naturally". You are to become a home dietician and piece it all together, before being rewarded by eating healthy diet, individually optimized for you or your family. But hardly anything is more worth your time and effort. It doesn't mean you should let it overwhelm you with unnecessary perfectionism. By itself, simply
eating variety of healthy foods goes long way in providing you with a healthful, nutritionally balanced diet.
The above pointers should merely help you put together the big picture, and macro-structure your diet accordingly.