Research has shown that eating a balanced diet can save billions in health care costs and prevent hundreds of thousands of heart disease deaths and diabetes cases. Your diet plays an important role in your health. An unhealthy diet is one of the leading risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Eating a healthy diet can lower your risk for some of these conditions. A healthy eating plan includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. It also limits how much sugar, salt, and fat you eat.
Consequently, this reduces your health costs and helps you make the most out of your health insurance. Even though a reputable health insurance can help you keep your healthcare costs manageable. You may not be maximizing the benefits your insurance provides—and could be paying significantly more than you need to for healthcare as a result.
Eating a balanced diet means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Here’s how you can do that.
A healthy, balanced diet will usually include the following nutrients:
- vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- carbohydrates, including starches and fiber
- healthy fats
- A balanced diet will include a variety of foods from the following groups:
- protein foods
Examples of protein foods include meat, eggs, fish, beans, nuts, and legumes.
People who follow a vegan diet will focus entirely on plant-based foods. They won’t eat meat, fish, or dairy, but their diet will include other items that provide similar nutrients.
Tofu and beans, for example, are plant-based sources of protein. Some people are intolerant of dairy but can still build a balanced diet by choosing a variety of nutrient-rich replacements.
Fruits are nutritious, they make a tasty snack or dessert, and they can satisfy a sweet tooth.
Local fruits that are in season are fresher and provide more nutrients than imported fruits.
Fruits are high in sugar, but this sugar is natural. Unlike candies and many sweet desserts, fruits also provide fiber and other nutrients. This means they’re less likely to cause a sugar spike and they’ll boost the body’s supply of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Vegetables are a key source of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Eat a variety of vegetables with different colors for a full range of nutrients.
Dark, leafy greens are an excellent source of many nutrients. They include:
- green beans
- collard greens
- Swiss chard
Refined white flour is featured in many breads and baked goods, but it has limited nutritional value. This is because much of the goodness is in the hull of the grain, or outer shell, which manufacturers remove during processing.
Whole grain products include the entire grain, including the hull. They provide additional vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Many people also find that whole grains add flavor and texture to a dish.
Meats and beans are primary sources of protein, which is essential for wound healing and muscle maintenance and development, among other functions.
Healthy animal-based options include:
- red meats, such as beef and mutton
- poultry, such as chicken and turkey
- fish, including salmon, sardines, and other oily fish
Processed meats and red meats may increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. Some processed meats also contain a lot of added preservatives and salt. Fresh, unprocessed meat is the best option.
Fat is essential for energy and cell health, but too much fat can increase calories above what the body needs and may lead to weight gain.
More recent research suggests that partially replacing with unsaturated fats lowers cardiovascular disease risk and that some saturated fat should remain in the diet — about 10 percent or less of calories. Trans fats, however, should still be avoided.