Balanced Diet: Know Everything About It- Embibe
  • Written By Taufiya Tazeen
  • Last Modified 26-08-2022
  • Written By Taufiya Tazeen
  • Last Modified 26-08-2022

Balanced Diet: Deficiency and Diseases

Balanced Diet: A balanced diet contributes toward maintaining a healthy life. A diet is the inclusion of different necessary nutrients that impact a body’s growth and development. A balanced nutrition diet contributes to maintaining good health by balancing nutrients. This type is extremely crucial to getting the right nutrients and determines good health and growth.

Your balanced diet plate must have food that helps the normal functioning of the human body and those foods which help you maintain a body balance. A balanced diet contains a balanced amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. This article will discuss details about a diet and highlight the impact of deficiency of a balanced diet within the human body.

What is a Balanced Diet?

A balanced diet containing all the essential nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, fats, minerals, and water in the correct proportion. Following are some of the important points.

  • A balanced diet is important for our body’s normal growth and development.
  • A balanced diet can be achieved by eating a variety of food items since there is no single food item with the correct amount of all the essential nutrients.
  • The quantity of nutrients in a balanced diet always differs with age, sex, and physical activities taken by an individual.
  • Eating a balanced diet requires a certain amount of knowledge and planning.
  • The basic composition of a balanced diet is highly variable as it changes from country to country depending upon the availability of food items.
  • The nutrition group of ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) has recommended the composition of a balanced diet for Indians.
  • The major components of balanced diet includes cereals (like rice, wheat, and jowar), pulses, roots and tubers, fruits, milk, and dairy products, fats and oils, sugar, and groundnuts. They also recommended an intake of meat, fish, and eggs for non-vegetarians.
Food Pyramid

Fig: Food Pyramid

Importance of a Balanced Diet

Let us understand the importance of a balanced diet:

  • Our body requires a proper supply of nutrition to work efficiently and be fit and healthy.
  • Without balanced nutrition, the human body is more prone to diseases, infections, fatigue, and poor performance.
  • Children with a poor diet may cause the risk of frequent infections and underdeveloped body growth. They can develop bad eating habits, which can continue for the rest of their lives.
  • They are also at higher risk of obesity and other diseases that make up metabolic syndromes, like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Hence, every individual must consume a balanced diet in order to protect themselves from all the risks mentioned above.
  • Consuming a hormonal imbalance diet can affect the body in more ways than you can imagine. Therefore, a balanced diet can help to combat all the negative effects.

Below is a balanced diet food list or chart for school-going children from the source “Dietary Guidelines for Indians” (a manual, National Institute of Nutrition, ICMR, Hyderabad, India).

Balanced Diet Chart for School going Children

Fig: Balanced Diet Chart for school-going Children

Balanced Diet: Factors To Be Considered

The food that we consume breaks down into simpler forms before it is absorbed and utilised in our bodies. These simpler substances are called Nutrients. Most of the foods that we consume have more than one nutrient. The nutrient content of a food item is called Nutritive value.

A balanced diet contains various kinds of major or macronutrients and minor or micronutrients, also called nutritive components of a Balanced Diet. It also contains non-nutritive components. Let’s discuss these components in further detail:

1. Nutritive Components: The balanced nutritional diet has components that have some nutritive value. In other words, we can say nutritive components are the components of diet which provide energy and calories to the human body. Nutritive components are further classified into two categories:
– Macronutrients or Major nutrients
– Micronutrients or Minor nutrients

A. Macro Nutrients or Major Nutrients: These are the nutrients needed in relatively large amounts, and they constitute the majority of an individual’s diet. Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats are called Macro Nutrients or Major Nutrients.

Macronutrients

Fig: Macronutrients

I. Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the human body. It is formed by the chemical composition of Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen. Carbohydrates are of two types- Simple Carbohydrates and Complex Carbohydrates.

  • Simple carbohydrates are quick-energy food and are easy to digest. Sources of simple carbohydrates are milk and milk products, natural fruits, and vegetables, including potatoes and carrots. They are also present in processed and refined food items like candy, sugar syrup, soft drinks, table sugar, etc.
  • Complex carbohydrates are better sources of energy than simple carbs since they are released slowly. They take time to digest. Sources of complex carbohydrates are bread, cereals (rice, wheat, bajra, corn, barley, ragi, etc.), legumes, pasta, starchy vegetables, whole grains, etc.

We should consume natural sugar and starch and also eat bread, whole grains, cereals, fruits, and vegetables to obtain an adequate amount of carbohydrates for our body. Fast foods like pizza, burgers, pasta, and noodles are also rich in carbohydrates, but they are not healthy for our bodies. They cannot replace a balanced meal.

II. Proteins

Proteins are called the building blocks of our body because they are essential for the growth and repair of muscle and other body tissues.

  • About 20% of the whole body weight comes from Proteins.
  • Proteins are made up of small units of amino acids that contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.
  • We obtain proteins from 2 main sources viz Animal sources and Vegetable sources.
  • Animal-based proteins are found in milk, meat, eggs, cheese, and fish. They are also called complete Proteins since they provide all the essential amino acids (EAA) our body needs in adequate amounts.
  • Plant-based proteins are found in pulses (legumes), cereals, beans, nuts, oilseeds, etc. All the proteins of plant origin are not complete proteins (except quinoa. Hence vegetarians should consume more and a variety of these foods in order to meet their protein needs.

III. Fats

Fats and oils are concentrated sources of energy.

  • Fat is a compound made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
  • Fats provide heat and energy to our bodies. It also helps to maintain body temperature.
  • These are classified into 3 major categories: simple lipids (e.g. triglycerides), compound lipids (e.g. phospholipids), and derived lipids (e.g. cholesterol).
  • We can obtain fats from two main sources, Animal sources and Vegetable sources.
  • The major sources of animal fats are butter, ghee, milk, cheese, eggs, fish, and meat. The sources of vegetable oils are groundnut, mustard, sesame, coconut, olives, sunflower, safflower, soybean, etc.
  • Excess carbohydrates that we consume are converted into fats in our bodies.
  • Fast food items like pizza, burgers, and samosa are rich sources of fats. Therefore, children who consume only fast foods tend to become obese.

B. Micronutrients or Minor nutrients: These are the nutrients that are required in very small amounts in our body. Minerals and Vitamins are included in Micronutrients or Minor nutrients. They are extremely important for the normal functioning of our bodies. The main function of micronutrients is to enable various chemical reactions to occur in the body.

Micronutrients

Fig: Micronutrients

I. Vitamins
a. Vitamins are organic substances that are vital and essential for life and health.
b. They regulate metabolism, help in the growth and maintenance of our body and protect against disease by increasing immunity of our body.
c. Our body cannot synthesize vitamins itself. Therefore, we need to consume natural sources such as fruits and vegetables.
d. Vitamins are divided into two groups:
Water-soluble vitamins (Vitamin B group and Vitamin C)
Fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, D, E, and K)
e. Each vitamin has a specific function, and its deficiency may lead to particular deficiency diseases. For example, Vitamin A is necessary for normal growth and to keep eyes and skin healthy; deficiency of Vitamin A may cause night blindness or irregular growth of teeth.

II. Minerals
a. Minerals are the nutrients that are essential for the proper growth and functioning of the human body and are required in very small amounts.
b. Calcium, Copper,  Chlorine, Fluoride, Iron, Iodine,  Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, and Zinc are essential mineral nutrients.
c. Each mineral has different sources of food, and also each of them is necessary to perform different functions in the human body.
d. For example, Iron as a mineral can be found in different food sources like meat, fish, liver, eggs, green vegetables, etc. Iron plays a very prominent role in the formation of haemoglobin in our bodies.

III. Non-nutritive components
The non-nutritive components of a balanced diet are the components that do not have any nutritive value. We consume many non-nutritive substances in our daily diet like beverages (coffee, tea), direct and indirect food additives (artificial sweeteners), etc. Non-nutritive components are found in different forms like fibre or roughage, water, colour compound, flavour compound, plant compound, etc.

What are Food Groups?

Each of the food items that we eat contains a variety of nutrients. We have divided foods into different groups so that each food group contains food having similar nutritional properties or biological classification.

In other words, we can say food groups are collections of foods having similar nutritional properties or biological classification. The ‘Basic Five Food Groups’ provided by ICMR that are required to be on your balanced diet plate are as follows:

  • Cereals, grains, and products
  • Pulses and legumes
  • Milk and meat products
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Sugars and fats
A Healthy Food for a Day

Fig: A Healthy Food for a Day

Different groups of balanced diet food lists and their nutrients are given in more detail in the following table:

Food GroupsFood ItemsNutrients
Cereals, Grains, and ProductsRice, Wheat, Ragi, Bajra, Jowar, Maize, Rice flakes, Rice flour, Sprouted cereals, etc.Carbohydrates, protein, Invisible fat Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Folic acids, Iron, Fibre.
Pulses and LegumesSoya, Peas (dry), Bengal gram, Black gram, Green gram, Red gram, Lentil (whole as well as dals), Cowpea, Rajmah, Beans, etc.Energy, Protein, Invisible fat, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Fibre.
Milk and Meat productsMilk, curd, skimmed milk, cheese. Chicken, liver, fish, egg, meat.Fats, proteins, minerals, water, carbohydrates, vitamins B12 and B2.
Fruits and VegetablesOrange, Banana, Apple, etc., for fruits.
Spinach, drumstick, green leafy vegetables, coriander leaves, mustard leaves, fenugreek leaves, etc.
Invisible Fats, Carotenoids, Vitamin B2, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Fibre, Vitamin C, etc.  
Fats and SugarsButter, ghee, hydrogenated oils, and cooking oils like groundnut, mustard, and coconut, Sugar, JaggeryEnergy, Fat, Essential Fatty Acids, etc.

We should eat a variety of food from each of the five food groups daily in recommended amounts to meet the nutrient requirements essential for good health. One should enjoy a variety of foods on the balanced diet food list within each of the five food groups because different foods differ in the key nutrients it provides.

Balanced Meal

Balanced meals include one food from each food group- cereals, pulses, and legumes, milk and meat products, fruits and vegetables, fats, and sugar. While planning a meal, try to include “five of five.” Here are a few examples of how to do it:

  • Chapati /rice is a regular menu item for many families and is consumed with dal and vegetables. Add curd and fruit for a balanced, nutrient-rich family meal.
  • If you’re serving porridge made with milk for breakfast, consider adding nuts and fruit to add flavour to the porridge, and maybe a piece of paneer / boiled egg/ sprouts to boost the protein.
    Balancing meals ensures getting adequate nutrition.
  • As children get older, the balanced meal approach adds more interest and variety to healthy family meals. For example, they are adding more vegetables into Upma/Dalia/Poha or adding fruit into a green salad.
A Nutritious Indian Meal
Fig: A Nutritious Indian Meal

Summary of Balanced Diet

A diet that includes all the essential nutrients in the correct proportion is called a balanced diet. A balanced diet is very important for our body’s normal growth and development. Every individual needs to intake a balanced meal as it provides essential nutrients that help our body protect from diseases. There are two different components of a balanced diet, nutritional components (Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Vitamin and Minerals) and non-nutritive components (Fibre or roughage).

Based on their nutrients, the ICMR has identified the primary five food groups as

  • cereals, millets and pulses,
  • vegetables and fruits,
  • milk and milk products,
  • eggs, meat and fish, oils and fats
  • nuts and oilseeds.

One should enjoy a variety of foods within each of the five food groups. A balanced meal means a complete meal containing one food item from each food group mentioned above.

FAQs on Balanced Diet

Q.1. What do you mean by a balanced diet?
Ans: A diet that contains all the essential nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, fats, minerals, and water in correct proportion is called a Balanced Diet.

Q.2. What are the 5 components of a balanced diet?      
Ans: Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals are the 5 components of a balanced diet.

Q.3. What are the 7 things you need for a balanced diet?          
Ans: The 7 important factors or things we need for a balanced diet: Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, water, and fibres.

Q.4. Why is a balanced diet important?     
Ans: A balanced diet supplies the nutrients your body needs to function effectively. Without balanced nutrition, your body is more prone to infection, disease, fatigue, and low performance.

Q.5. What are macronutrients?
Ans: Macronutrients are the nutrients that are needed in relatively large amounts, and they constitute the majority of an individual’s diet. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are called macronutrients or major nutrients.

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