The Basics of a Balanced Diet
You’ve heard the term before and know how important it is. But what exactly makes a diet balanced? For starters, a balanced diet means regularly eating a wide variety of nutritious foods, such as lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, low-fat dairy, and healthy, unsaturated fats. If you’re following the South Beach Diet, you’re already on the right track! Eating a balanced diet not only helps improve your overall health, but it can also help you lose weight faster and keep it off. Here’s a breakdown of foods and nutrients you should enjoy for a balanced diet.
1. Lean Protein: Lean protein is necessary for building strong muscles and regulating your metabolism. It also slows the speed of digestion, helping you to feel fuller longer. You can get lean protein from a variety of sources, including beans and legumes, eggs and soy products, low-fat dairy products, poultry, seafood, and lean cuts of meat.
2. Low-Fat Dairy: Low-fat dairy products contain calcium, vitamins A, D, B12, and riboflavin. The South Beach Diet recommends choosing reduced-fat and fat-free dairy, such as milk and yogurt, and avoiding the full-fat varieties.
3. Fats: Fats often get a bad rap when it comes to dieting, but not all fats are bad for you. “Good” fats, also known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, have been shown to help prevent heart disease and lower cholesterol levels when substituted for saturated fats in the diet. Excellent sources of “good” fats are extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, avocado, nuts, and omega-3-rich fish and shellfish.
4. Whole Grains: Whole grains contain important nutrients like fiber, which helps slow down digestion, stabilize blood-sugar levels, and ward off hunger and cravings. Studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains can help to lower total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and dangerously high triglyceride and insulin levels. Whole grains can be introduced starting on Phase 2. Be sure to check that the label says "100% whole wheat" or "whole grain" and choose products that contain 3 grams of sugar or less per serving and have no trans fats.
5. Vegetables: Packed with a wealth of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, vegetables have been shown to help prevent cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Enjoy vegetables of all colors, such as tomatoes, eggplant, squash, and kale.
6. Fruits: Fruits are just as healthy as they are delicious. Like vegetables, fruits are chock-full of health-boosting nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, and can be enjoyed starting on Phase 2. Blueberries, blackberries plums, oranges, and red grapes are some examples of antioxidant-rich fruits to include in your diet.
7. Fiber: There are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber helps slow the rate of digestion and may also help lower cholesterol. Insoluble fiber improves bowel function and may help protect against intestinal disease. Moreover, fiber can help you feel fuller and more satisfied for a longer period of time. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans and legumes.
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