BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health: Balanced Diet



A balanced diet is a healthy diet that contains all the necessary food nutrients in their right proportions or recommended quantities. Eating a healthy diet daily and throughout one’s life helps prevent different forms of malnutrition as well as a wide range of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and conditions. The exact composition of a balanced and healthy diet varies based on specific individual characteristics such as age, gender, lifestyle, level of physical activity, cultural context, locally available foods and dietary customs; however, the basic principles of what constitutes a healthy diet remain the same. Basically, a balanced diet includes the six classes of food: carbohydrates, protein, fats and oil, fruits and vegetables, minerals, vitamins and water.

The benefits of a balanced diet are broad and far reaching. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most important things that protect health. In fact, up to 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through healthy diet and physically activity. A healthy diet helps lower the risk of heart disease and stroke by:

  • Improving cholesterol levels
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Maintaining body weight
  • Controlling blood sugar
  • Helping the body function properly

For infants and young children, a balanced diet provides optimal nutrition which fosters healthy growth and improves cognitive development especially in the first two years of life. It also reduces the risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing NCDs later in life. For adults, eating a balanced diet which contains most or all of the classes of food is essential to remaining healthy. Specifically, eating at least 400g or five portions of fruits and vegetables daily reduces the risk of NCDs and helps to ensure an adequate daily intake of dietary fiber. Additionally, reducing the amount of total fat intake helps to prevent unhealthy weight gain in the adult population while limiting salt intake to the recommended level of less than 5g per day could prevent up to 1.7 million deaths annually. More so, minimizing the intake of free sugars in both adults and children also provide additional health benefits by preventing dental caries (tooth decay), cardiovascular diseases and obesity.

Despite the benefits and established guidelines of healthy eating as well as the negative health effects associated with not eating balanced diets, many people still consume foods high in energy, fats, free sugars and sodium. This is as a result of increased production and availability of processed foods, rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles which have resulted in a shift in dietary patterns. People no longer eat enough foods beneficial to health including fruits, vegetables and other dietary fiber such as whole grains.

Diet is influenced by personal, social and economic factors that interact in a complex fashion. These factors include income, cost, availability, palatability, individual preferences, personal beliefs, culture and geographical aspects including climate change. As a consequence, promoting a healthy and balanced diet or food environment requires multiple sectors and stakeholders, including government, private sectors and the public in general.

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