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The importance of a healthy diet

Men's Health, Women's Health, Diets | March 3, 2021 | Author: Naturopath

heart disease, diet, men, women's health

The importance of a healthy diet

A nutritious diet is important for all people of all ages for growth and development and to maintain healthy body functions. Nutrition is influenced by such things as disease, disorders and medication. Focusing on obtaining the best nutrition can help make a positive health impact.

When you are young (under 35 for instance) you can be living a life with not a care about what you eat or a concern about your health and mortality, but all of a sudden you can have a health scare, such as a suspicious lump, heart pain or fibrillations, or maybe you're not recovering so easily after illnesses or intense exercise. Lifestyle choices such as smoking, drink excess alcohol, reduced physical exercise and sedentary activity, and poor eating habits can eventually catch up and reduce the body's ability to fight disease and dysfunction. Avoiding taking better care of yourself or listening to the body’s prompts may lead to serious health concerns such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Choosing to making some lifestyle and dietary changes early can make all the difference to health and healthy outcomes. 

The importance of a healthy diet

The components of the diet should provide adequate macronutrient (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) for energy and cellular process, and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) for growth, development and meet the metabolic needs of the body.

What can interfere with nutrition

Whist supporting the continued optimal running of the body, growth and development, by eating foods full of nutrition, in some instances this can have an opposite and sometimes detrimental effect if the right foods are not chosen. Conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, coeliac or those with food intolerances and allergies need to be cautious with what they eat. Some medication depleting resources and some foods themselves can prevent nutrients from being absorbed. 

Restrictive diets

This might include people with allergies or food intolerances, diabetics, vegans and vegetarians. Eating well, or supplementing, can support individual diets even with certain disorders or diseases so-long as people are aware of what they may be lacking. Common example includes vegetarian’s or vegan’s being deficient in iron and B12, or dairy- free diets may be calcium deficient. Those on gluten-free diets can be depleted in many nutrients and choosing not to eat gluten-containing foods if you are not gluten intolerant or coeliac, should not be taken lightly. 


Some medications can deplete the body of important nutrients. This is especally a concern for those on medications used long-term. Vtamin B, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc can be depleted by  antibiotics use - just when you need these nutrient to resolve health concerns. Corticosteroids use can result in low levels of vitamin D, vitamin A, copper, magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium and chromium. Diuretics might mean a depletion of magnesium, potassium and zinc.

Medication can effect some important nutrients which results in a detrimental effect on the body. For example, some medication used for cholesterol, blood pressure and depression/anxiety can result in muscle pain by reducing levels of coenzyme Q10.

Medications are the most important consideration and should never be reduced or stopped without the advice and direction of your doctor. Your doctor may be able to change a medication, reduce the amount, or change the time a medication is taken and advise which supplements to take to reduce symptoms and address any interactions or depletions.

Always discuss any concerns, signs or symptoms you are experiencing whilst on medication with your doctor or pharmacist.


Whist depletion is a consideration when taking medication, interactions with vitamins and minerals supplements is serious. A review of your medications and vitamin needs with your pharmacist or doctor is very important before taking any new nutrients/medication or making any changes. 
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Some nutritious foods can contain components which act against us absorbing and benefiting from their nutrients. These are known as anti-nutrients. Examples of anti-nutrients are lectins, oxalates, phytates, goitrogens, phytoestrogens and tannins. They are found in commonly eaten foods such as grains, nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables. But don’t let them put you off your nutritious diet. Most can be avoided or eliminated by making some changes before or during preparation.
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How to eat a nutritious diet

A healthy diet contains high amounts of plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts and smaller smaller of animal-based foods - fish, poultry, and lean meat (but limited fatty and processed meats). A healthy diet avoids refined and highly processed foods and foods which are nutritionally emply - soft drinks, lollies and chips etc.

Eating a nutritious diet can be easy as there are so many foods to choose from. Create a balanced diet by selecting foods from the 5 food groups.

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Cereals and grains
  • Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes
  • Milk, cheese, yoghurt (dairy based or alternatives)


There is such a variety of vegetables to choose from and numerous ways of preparing them it should not be hard to find 5-6 serves in a day to make all those over 9yrs happy. The little folk from 1-3yrs can choose 2-3 serves, 4 – 8yr olds can pick 4 and lucky breastfeeding women get to choose 7 serves a day. A serve is = to 1 cup raw, ½ cup cooked.

Vegetables (including (peas and beans) will provide vitamins and minerals and dietary fibre. Take a family visit to the grocers or get active in the garden with a vegetable patch for the best fresh foods.


Adults and over 9year olds should eat 2 pieces of fruit every day. 4–8-year-old need 1 ½ (share the other half with 1–2-year-olds and if you are 3-year-old can have piece all to yourselve. Fruit will provide fibre and vitamins and should be consumed fresh, although frozen can be an alternative. Dried fruit contains a high concentrate of sugar and often preservative so is best avoided. Juices can be high in sugar and lacking in fibre unless you are juicing your own and including vegetables and the pulp.

Obviously the guidelines allow for more fruit and vegetables to be eaten and enjoyed. 

Cereals and Grains

Whole grains are the best choice when choosing breads, cereals, grains and pastas. Why choose whole grain? Simple! Whole grains can provide lots more nutrition than grains which have been refined. Vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre are found in higher amounts in whole grains whilst processing can remove many of these valuable nutrients. Avoid white varieties of breads and highly processed cereals and crackers. What a variety to choose from! Rice, oats, wheat, barley, rye. Choose breads, crackers and cereals made from wholemeal or whole grain.
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Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds

This is the protein component of the diet. Protein is needed for growth and development and for the replacement processes continuously occurring in the body. Protein makes neurotransmitters, hormones, and components for the immune system amongst many other things. Legumes, seeds and nuts also provide minerals and vitamins and give an added bonus of fibre. 

Milk, cheese, yoghurt (dairy based or alternatives)

Dairy-based products provide protein and calcium as do some nut milks. Calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth. Incorporating these products in the diet in the form of shakes, added to foods, or as an in-between meal snacks to reach daily calcium quota.
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It does not have to be hard. Start making some changes and some wiser choices when choosing what to eat and benefit from the result.

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Henry, Osiecki; The Nutrient Bible 9th Edition, Bio Concepts, AG Publishing; QLD, Australia

Whitney, Eleanor Noss; Cataldo, Corinne Balog; Rolfes, Sharon Rady; 2002, Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition 6th Edition, Wadsworth/Thompsons Learning, Australia

Sarris, Jerome and Wardle, Jon; 2014, Clinical Naturopathy 2e, Elsevier, NSW Australia



Stronger evidence, better decisions, improved health and welfare https://www.aihw.gov.au/

Whole-Grain Intake and Mortality from All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies1,2,3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5105035/

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