Technically it is defined as including all the major food ingredients (carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, vitamins, and minerals) in a balanced way to fulfill our daily calorie requirements. According to the United States Department of Agriculture following table describes the calorie requirement according to the criteria of age and gender:
|1||Under 9 years||Children||1000-1400 Calories|
|2||9 years-13 years||Girls||1400-1600 Calories|
|3||9 years-13 years||Boys||1600-2000 Calories|
|4||14 years-30 years||Women (Active)||2400 Calories|
|5||14 years-30 years||Men (Active)||2800-3200 Calories|
|6||14 years-30 years||Women (Sedentary)||1800-2000 Calories|
|7||14 years-30 years||Men (Sedentary)||2000-2600 Calories|
|8||Above 30 years||Active Men/Women||2000-3000 Calories|
|9||Above 30 years||Sedentary Men/Women||1600-2400 Calories|
For the optimum performance a balanced diet is very important and without it we are more prone to fatigue and poor performance in our daily life. Also, the balanced diets make us stronger by strengthening our immune systems thereby keeping us away from many diseases.
Now, as we have refresh ourselves with the knowledge of balanced diets let go a little further and refresh our memory on the major macronutrients found in the food we consume every day. There are three primary macronutrients that our body uses as primary energy source and they are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Besides these three macronutrients, vitamins, minerals (Calcium and Iron) and water are major nutrients our body needs to function properly. Let’s go ahead and know more about these macronutrients in depth before going deep into the world of foods.
These are the first group of nutrients found in foods and are mostly includes sugars (glucose) and related compounds like lactose, fructose, and sucrose. They are the primary energy source for the body. Carbohydrates are important for us and to a certain limit, they are actually the primary fuel to drive our life. Primary sources for carbohydrate are mainly rice, potatoes, sugar, and other sugar-related products, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. Fibers are groups of carbohydrate which we can’t digest but those have high health values as they can act as therapy for problems related to our digestive tract (constipation, gas) and also help in lowering blood sugar and cholesterol.
One of the metabolic disorders associated with carbohydrate is diabetes. Our body produces an enzyme called insulin which helps us to utilize carbohydrates but in the absence of insulin it can’t be utilized and blood glucose level rises.
But as I said, carbohydrates are important source of energy and they are valuable in our life. So if we could manage our daily intake of carbohydrate in the limit, they will add a positive effect on our health.
Proteins are the second major macronutrients which we need in our daily life. You would be surprised to know that proteins are the building blocks for our bodies. They are major components of organs, muscle, skin, enzymes, and hormones and are the secondary source of energy after carbohydrates. Extra proteins are stores in our body as fat and at the time of need, our body can retrieve energy from those stored proteins. Proteins not only strengthen our immune system but also help in tissue repair and regeneration as well as in wound healing. So this macronutrient is so important that without it our survival is questionable.
The primary source for proteins are mainly dairy products like milk and eggs, meat, seafood, beans, nuts, and soy products which are rich with this macronutrient and daily consumption in required amount will not only boost our performance to optimum level but also will keep us strong by strengthening our immune system.
Fats and Oil:
This is the third important group of macronutrients that our body used as energy source when it is needed otherwise it is stored as body fats. The fats we consume in our daily life are called dietary fats and there are various kinds of dietary fats that can differentially affect our blood cholesterol level. So, it is always a good idea to replace foods that are high in saturated and trans fat with those which contain more polyunsaturated fats.
Meals with a small amount of fat can enhance the taste and also help to keep you satisfied for longer. Throughout the day you should consume a wide range of everyday, healthy foods. By doing this, you will get a small total amount of dietary fat, particularly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats to meet your daily requirements.
Most dairy products, vegetable oils, seafood and eggs are rich with fats. Fats are important as they help in digestion and absorption of vitamins and nutrients. So they should be also included in our diet chart but in a controlled manner as a higher amount of fats and related nutrients are harmful to our body and can lead to various heart-related diseases.
Vitamins and Minerals:
They are considered micronutrients but are very important part of our day to day life. Without these, the macronutrients are useless as they could neither be absorbed into our blood circulation nor could be assimilated into our metabolic process. So they are micronutrient (name-wise) but are big players of our body.
Some of the major vitamins are vitamin-A, vitamin-B-complex (12 members of vitamin come under this group), vitamin-C, vitamin-D, vitamin-E, and vitamin-K. We fulfill most of our vitamin requirements from the food we consume daily, but some of which we are not able to get from the food, only those we have to supplement.
Similarly, minerals are also very important micronutrients which we need for the optimum performance of our body. Minerals constitute the building blocks for many of the above-mentioned micro and macronutrients. In minerals, the major are calcium, potassium, sodium, and iron which help in building stronger bone and teeth and these minerals are essential for proper absorption of food nutrients as well.
Everyone knows the importance of water in our life. This is such a crucial factor in our health that without discussing the importance of it, our insight towards health will not be fulfilled. Water constitutes 60%-70% of our body. It helps us to maintain a fluid circulatory system and this system is the lifeline of transportation for food so that each organ in our body can get proper nourishments. Water cleans our body and removes the waste as urine, stool and maintains the homeostasis in our body. Our body requires 2-4 liters of water every day and one should drink the optimum amount of water to stay fit and healthy. To get more information on water read our article on “how much water should I drink“.
I want to mention here some of the key recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines (2015-2020) from the United States Department of Agriculture for better and healthy livings:
- Healthy eating pattern with appropriate calories level and it includes,
- Include a variety of vegetables in the diet plan
- Whole fruits and whole grains
- Oils and proteins from seafood, meat, eggs, soy products
So far, we have updated our understanding of macro and micronutrients along with balanced diets and the calorie requirements of different age groups. Soon we will be updating much more important information regarding balanced diet. Please, share your comments or thought to improve our website and visit again to check out our upcoming updates.