By HENRY OWINO
Lifestyle diseases are currently the major cause of deaths in many households due to poor diets consumed. To counter these lifestyle diseases, it is essential to eat well and not necessarily three meals in a day but healthy diets.
Healthy diets include seven major classes of nutrients thus carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, fats, fiber, minerals and water. Healthy meals exclude junk foods or heavy, greasy foods or foods with high refined sugars in them.
It is always said that ‘You Are What You Eat’/feed on. Although it is a debatable slogan, a few firmly believe it and argue that there is not a one-size-fits-all diet.
However, genetics or family history, diagnoses, sustainability, and more other factors influence what is the best diet for someone. Nowadays, economy and time factor sways what people eat depending on the season.
The phrase ‘You Are What You Eat’ qualifies that it is important to eat good food in order to be healthy and stay fit. For example, one may feel more energetic after forming a habit of eating more salad.
Nevertheless, dietitians or nutritionists approves that the basis of any diet that is recommended to do for a specific person is that with rich in plant-heavy. This is by providing adequate fiber to feed gut bacteria, as well as antioxidants, phytochemicals, and nutrients for optimal health.
Dr Victor Owino, International Nutrition Specialist said rich in plant-based foods (fresh vegetables and fruits) is essential to good health and well-being. It limits added animal fats, processed foods and added sugar and salt is most likely to benefit a person’s health.
“The idea that fresh vegetables and fruits are essential to good health and well-being is not anything new but it is good to be reminded of it every so often. This is the only way one can develop the habit of eating healthy and nutritious foods,” Dr Owino emphasized.
“Again people should not confuse balance diet and nutrition. The difference is that dietetics focuses on food management, whereas nutrition focuses on the promotion of health through healthy food.” He clarified.
Dr Dorcus Mbithe, Senior Lecturer, Nutritionist and Researcher at Kenyatta University emphasized that nutrition and healthy eating plays a major role in delaying premature death by averting lifestyle diseases. For example fatty foods increase chances of high blood pressure while sugary ones causes diabetes and other chronic ailments.
According to Dr Mbithe, diet is all about classes of foods eaten while nutrition goes down to eating a variety of wholesome foods that support your health. For example, looking at the process of taking in the food in portions and how the body uses it for growth, metabolism and repair.
“There are seven major classes of nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, fats, water, fiber, and minerals. Most people go for the first three and leave out the last two categories yet very important while only taking water when thirsty,” Dr Mbithe cautioned.
For instance, dietary fiber or roughage is the portion of plant-derived food that cannot be completely broken down by human digestive enzymes thereby helps to regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check.
An article published in the Harvard School of Public Health states that: “A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar which can help keep appetite in check”.
Dr Mbithe therefore affirmed it is important to eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, in as many different colors as possible. The best way to do this is combining them in a salad that it is easy and delicious.
“Loaded with vitamins and minerals, eating a salad a day will also increase the level of powerful antioxidants in the blood. The basis of any salad, leafy greens, offers a huge nutritional benefit,” Dr Mbithe stated. Among the best of the super greens group include kale, spinach, beet greens, watercress and Romaine lettuce. For something a little different, one could add fresh dandelion greens and mizuna as well.”
She recalled that some studies have shown that individuals who maintain a strictly plant-heavy diet have been able to lose between 2kg and 4kg in just two weeks. The healthy components of plants provide your body with the nutrients it craves, helping to satiate the desire for protein-heavy meals loaded with sugar and fat.
Prof Christine Onyango, Food Scientist at Kenyatta University however, said some people choose to follow a specific diet, in which they focus on certain foods and avoid others. Such people may need to plan carefully to ensure they obtain all the necessary vitamins to maintain their health.
Prof Onyango argued that such people may also need to consume a varied diet to obtain a wide range of nutrients. Specifically micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are essential in small amounts. But it is always good to seek advice from a dietician or nutritionist.
Nevertheless, these days, manufacturers sometimes add these micronutrients to foods for examples, fortified cereals such as rice among others.
Good Reasons to Eat Salad
Salad is usually made up of variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Some healthy salad includes arugula, basil, thyme, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and sunflower seeds. It is good to eat a salad a day as it helps to naturally increase metabolism/digestion or absorption.
“You can give your salads an extra dose of antioxidants by making your own oil-based salad dressings and including power herbs such as basil, parsley, thyme, cilantro, dill, rosemary, oregano, garlic, and lemon. Though one is free to choose their favorite herb combos, mix with a healthy oil plus lemon juice or vinegar, and season to taste.” Prof Onyango explained.
According to Prof Onyango, people who eat salad have significantly and consistently higher blood levels of key nutrients that protect against heart disease, as well as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, immune system problems, eye and skin disorders and even wrinkles.
Therefore, a salad a day keeps disease and aging at bay as it is a natural source of fiber. So, salads help in weight control, aids at intake of healthy fats, build strong bones, protect peepers, improve muscle performance, protect your heart and improves skin tone.
A healthy diet throughout life promotes healthy pregnancy outcomes, supports normal growth, development and ageing. It also helps to maintain a healthy body weight and reduces the risk of chronic disease leading to overall health and well-being.