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The NHS advises that eating five portions a day will help reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease, strokes and obesity. The general consensus is that eating more essential fatty acids with lots of fish, whole grains, olive oil and fruit and vegetables will help you stay healthier.
You also need to lower your consumption of red meat and processed foods. By doing this you will be following the Mediterranean diet. While people from this region eat a diet high in fat there is a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer than people from other parts of the world. Researchers believe this is because they eat larger amounts of fibre and fruit and vegetables - much higher on average that in the typical Western diet.
The government is determined to tackle problems like obesity and are emphasising the importance of eating a balanced diet - this means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions. Achieving this isn't as tricky as it sounds. Try eating just one apple, banana, or pear, this will supply you with one of your five a day portions. A slice of pineapple or melon is also one portion. Snacking on dried fruits, slicing a banana on your cereal and having a salad for lunch will all add to your essential five a day. Eating fruit and vegetables helps your intake of essential vitamins and minerals and will help boost the amount of fibre in your diet.
We all need starch to give us energy and it is recommended that carbohydrates make up a third of the foods we consume. We are all familiar with rice, pasta and bread but we should be eating whole-wheat versions of these food types as they contain more fibre, which lowers cholesterol and keeps your gut healthy.
When it comes to protein make sure you eat enough fish. Aim for at least two portions a week, especially oily fish like mackerel and salmon. Try to eat less red meat as part of your protein intake. You can substitute red meat for more pulses like beans, nuts and seeds. Eggs are also an excellent source of protein although its best not to eat too many because of their high cholesterol count. Other sources of protein that you should include in your diet are low-at yogurts, low-fat hard cheese and cottage cheese.
All our foods can be divided up into five main groups: fruit and vegetables, starchy foods, protein, milk and dairy and fats and sugars. Choosing the best of these and mixing them up will help you maintain a balanced diet.
Try to avoid anything processed, as these foods are generally higher in salt, sugar and fat. Remember, a balanced diet needs to be accompanied by a certain amount of exercise and making changes in these areas of your life will help you stay healthier for longer.