What is a Healthy Diet?

A healthy diet may differ for each person but should involve an eating plan that is well balanced and caters for any chronic disease.

In most cases, a healthy diet simply means plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, in addition to your regular eating habits. The modern diet is usually deficient in fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are mainly found in fruits and vegetables. Large amounts of processed food, meat and starch which makes up most of the modern diet has limited nutritional value.

The food pyramid is another guide to eating a well balanced meal. It outlines the portions of different types of foods that should be incorporated into your diet on a daily basis.

If you suffer with a chronic condition like diabetes, high cholesterol or obesity, then your healthy eating plan should be tailor made to suit your individual needs. A dietitian will assess your needs and take your health status into consideration before structuring your individual eating plan.

Low GI Diet

Glycaemic index (GI) is the measure of a food’s ability to raise your blood sugar levels. High GI foods raise your blood glucose levels quickly, while low GI foods will help maintain a balanced sugar level over a longer period of time. This is an essential component of any eating plan for a diabetic or if you are suffering with impaired glucose tolerance.

Switching to a low GI diet will help you manage your blood glucose levels within the recommended range, apart from only relying on your glucose lowering drugs.

Low Fat Diet

High blood cholesterol is on the increase in South Africa as more people move towards an urban lifestyle. The abundance of saturated fats in the modern diet puts us at risk of heart disease. A low cholesterol diet will not exclude all fats and oil from the diet but will allow you to enjoy a good meal without the ‘bad fats’.

In conjunction to your cholesterol lowering drugs and exercise, a low fat diet will ensure that you keep your blood cholesterol levels within a suitable range to minimise the risk of a heart attack or developing heart disease.

Low Sodium Diet

These diets are usually recommended for those with high blood pressure, heart and kidney diseases. The major contributor to sodium in the modern diet is table salt but many other foods contain high levels of sodium, like processed and preserved foods.

Sodium increases the blood pressure, strains the kidneys and causes the body to retain water. While it is advisable to remove salt from your diet, a dietitian will structure a low sodium diet that will meet your individual needs.

Low Allergy Diet

Certain foods are known to be allergens and can exacerbate any allergy-related disorder. From hay fever to asthma and eczema, allergies contribute to a large number of medical conditions that need to be managed with a combination of diet and medication.

Food sensitivity tests may be required to identify the allergens that are a problem in your condition and a suitable diet will be developed to ensure that you have minimal exposure to these allergic foods.

Low Calorie Diet

These diets are essential for any weight loss program and have also become a popular part anti-aging therapies. Excess calories are stored in the body as fat and your dietitian will structure a calorie-restricted diet to ensure that you lose weight in a healthy manner without starving the body. This is usually incorporated with a holistic plan involving exercise, weight loss drugs and surgery if necessary as well as lifestyle coaching.

High Protein Diet

The fad in weight loss is high protein and low carbohydrate diets. While this has proven to be very effective for weight management, high protein diets can be dangerous. It can affect your liver and kidneys, aggravate depression and cause changes in your menstrual cycle.

A high protein diet may be advisable for short periods for those who are malnourished, anorexics or even body builders. However a long term high protein diet can be a health risk to the average person if it is not structured and monitored by a medical professional.