A Healthy Diet Can Protect Against Heart Disease, Cancer, Obesity and Diabetes

A healthy diet is important because it can protect you against heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. A healthy diet means eating a range of foods from the five food groups every day, in the right amounts. It also means limiting salt, sugar and saturated and industrially-produced trans fats.

Staples (wheat, barley, rye, maize or rice) and starchy vegetables and roots (potato, yam, taro or cassava) are an important part of any diet. They provide energy and fibre, which can help with weight control. They should make up about a third of the meals you eat.

Choose wholegrain varieties if possible. They contain more nutrients than refined grains and are usually lower in salt and added sugars.

Protein-rich foods come from meat, fish, eggs and nuts. They are essential for muscle growth and repair, and contain many vitamins and minerals. Choose lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry, and try to eat oily fish like salmon, trout or mackerel, at least twice a week (not tinned).

Vegetables are one of the main sources of dietary fibre. Aim to eat a variety of fresh, frozen and canned vegetables each week, including those with different colours. Try adding beans and lentils to some meals – they are a good source of protein, as well as fibre.

Milk and dairy products are a key source of calcium, which is important for bone health. Try to choose low-fat versions of your favourites, and be sure to have at least two servings a week, especially ones that are fortified with vitamin D.

Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout or fresh tuna (not tinned) is an excellent source of protein, and omega-3 fatty acids that are good for the heart. Try to eat at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily.

Fibre-rich fruits and vegetables include berries, dark green veggies, and oranges and yellows. They are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

It’s important to drink enough fluids, especially water. It helps with digestion, prevents constipation, reduces high blood pressure and can help you lose weight.

Unhealthy foods contain a lot of calories and often contain added sugars, salt and unhealthy fats. A healthy diet allows for occasional treats, but you should aim to eat them less often than you do now.

The best way to get a healthy diet is to cook more at home. This gives you more control over ingredients, so you can replace unhealthy choices with nutritious meals. It’s also better for the environment than buying ready-made meals and takeaway foods. Try to eat together as a family, and avoid eating in front of the TV – this can lead to mindless overeating. It takes a while for the brain to register that you’re full, so it’s important to eat slowly and stop eating when you feel satisfied. If you’re feeling hungry, eat something else, such as a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts or seeds.