Very little disagreement exists among scientists and researchers about the need to limit fat intake! Everyone agrees that you should eat no more than 30 per cent of your diet as fats. As with protein, the type of fat that you eat needs to be considered as well as the quantity.
Dietary fat comes in several forms:
- Saturated fat is the kind of fat that mainly comes from animal sources. For example, butter is made up of saturated fat. Bacon, cream, cheese, pastries, cakes, biscuits and chocolate are other examples that contain saturated fat. Two non-animal sources of saturated fat exist: Palm oil and coconut milk. Eating a lot of saturated fat increases the blood cholesterol level.
- Unsaturated fat comes from vegetable sources such as nuts and seeds. It comes in several forms:
- Monounsaturated fat doesn’t raise cholesterol. Avocado, olive oil, canola oil, olive and canola spreads are examples. The oil in nuts like almonds and peanuts is monounsaturated.
- Polyunsaturated fat also doesn’t raise cholesterol but does cause a reduction in the good or HDL cholesterol. Examples of polyunsaturated fats are soft fats and oils such as sunflower, soybean, sesame oil, oily fish (trout) and sunflower spread.
Protection against heart disease comes from including essential fatty acids, found in fish oils, in your diet. If you dislike fish or just can’t eat the required two to three serves of it each week, fish oil capsules are a good substitute. Just make sure when buying the capsules that they contain sufficient quantities of the two active ingredients (EPA) and (DHA). Diabetologists recommended you take between 1,200 milligrams and 3,000 milligrams of a combination of these active ingredients each day. To make it easier, many formulations of fish oil are now concentrated, meaning you only need to take one or two capsules per day to reach the 1,200 milligrams per day target.
Getting Enough Vitamins, Minerals and Water
Your diet must contain sufficient vitamins and minerals for good health, but the amount you need may be less than you think. If you eat a balanced diet that comes from different foods, you generally get enough vitamins for your daily needs.
- Vitamin A: Needed for growth and development, immune function, bones and healthy skin; helps with night vision. Found in eggs, oily fish, dairy products, orange and green vegetables and orange fruits.
- Vitamin B1: Converts carbohydrate into energy. Found in wholegrain cereals, meat, fish, nuts and yeast extract.
- Vitamin B2: Needed to release energy from food. Found in milk, cheese, fish, almonds, eggs, green vegetables and fortified cereals.
- Vitamin B12: Keeps the red blood cells and the nervous system healthy. Found in Animal foods only; for example, meat, seafood, eggs.
- Vitamin C: Helps maintain supportive tissues. Found in Fruit and some vegetables; for example, tomatoes and capsicum.
- Vitamin D: Helps with absorption of calcium. Found in oily fish, egg yolk and fortified milk. Also made in the skin when exposed to sunlight, although this process declines as you age.
Minerals are also key ingredients of a healthy diet. Most are needed in tiny amounts, which, with a few exceptions, are easily consumed from a balanced diet. These essential minerals are as follows:
- Calcium, phosphorous and magnesium build bones and teeth. Milk and other dairy products provide plenty of these minerals, but evidence suggests that people aren’t getting enough calcium. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should have 1,000 milligrams, particularly in the final three months of the pregnancy and throughout the breastfeeding period.
- Iodine is essential for production of thyroid hormones. Iodine is often added to salt in order to ensure that people get enough of it. In many areas of the world where iodine is not found in the soil, people suffer from very large thyroid glands known as goiters.
- Iron is essential for red blood cells. Iron is obtained from red meat and iron-fortified breakfast cereals. Green leafy vegetables provide small amounts of iron; however, it’s not in a form that’s easily absorbed by the body.
Water is the last important nutrient but it’s by no means the least important. Your body is made up of 60 per cent water and all the nutrients in your body are dissolved in it. You need to drink about six to eight glasses, or one and a half to two litres, of fluid per day — more if the weather is very hot or you’re exercising a lot. Your thirst will tell you how much you need.