Friday, March 16, 2012

What is the importance of a well balanced diet?

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What part of a well balanced diet do Proteins, Fats, Carbohydrates, Minerals and Vitamins play and where are they found?

The importance of a well balanced diet is to supply the body with all the necessary nutrients to keep it running smoothly and efficiently.

The food we eat is converted into energy and used by the body for all its different functions, not only physical activities but for growth and the constant repair and renewal of tissues and cells.

A well balanced diet should have the correct proportions of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and fibre, minerals vitamins and water. This can be achieved by eating wholewheat pasta, wholegrain rice, wholemeal bread, and jacket potatoes these give a good source of energy and fibre, vitamins and minerals.

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Fats can be found in oily fish , such as mackerel and salmon , dairy products which should be eaten in moderation and olive oil for cooking.

Grilled or steamed chicken, turkey or fish with the skin removed provides a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals..

Vegetables, fruits, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk provide fibre, vitamins, minerals and sugars.

It is also recommended to drink between one and two litres of water daily this provides fluid and vitamins.

Sugar and fats found in cakes, biscuits, and pastries should be kept to a minimum as they provide a lot of calories for little nutritional value..

The intake of caffeine and alcoholic drinks should also be kept to a minimum. Caffeine is found in coffee and cola drinks, taken in large quantities can effect the bodies healing process. Large quantities of alcohol will damage the liver and brain.

Over all it is important to enjoy the food we eat and not to give up the food we most enjoy, but to eat everything in moderation.

Proteins are required for growth, hair, nails and skin, the repair and renewal of tissues and cells, the production of enzymes and hormones and formation of the blood.

During digestion the proteins are broken down into amino-acids, absorbed and carried into the bloodstream before being rebuilt into new proteins to be used as required.

Complete proteins have all the essential amino-acids are mainly animal based foods, meat, chicken, white fish, eggs, cheese, milk and Soya beans.

Incomplete proteins with one or more essential amino-acids missing are mainly plant based foods, cereals, wheat, rice and oats, pulses peas, beans and lentils and some nuts. This means that the plant based foods (except Soya beans) have less protein value than animal foods.

To compensate for this a combination of plant based foods like beans on toast would make up for each others deficiencies and a vegetarian should be aware of this.

Surplus protein in the body can be converted to energy but only with the absence of carbohydrates and fats. To much protein can cause dehydration, diarrhoea and loss of calcium. Insufficient protein can lead to stunted growth and a weak body structure.

Fats provide the body with energy, twice as much as carbohydrates and proteins, therefore the amount of fat required is relatively small.

Fat is a good source of vitamins A, D, E and K and necessary to maintain healthy skin and hair. It forms a layer under the skin called adipose tissue, this helps the body to preserve heat and protects the skeleton and organs. Fat is also stored in this way around the kidneys and glands to be used as a reserve of energy.

Fats are either saturated or unsaturated fatty acid depending on their chemical structure. Highly saturated fats are usually from animal sources these include dairy products, fat in meats, and egg yolks, coconut and palm oils.

Unsaturated fats include fish, herrings, mackerel, salmon and tuna. Mono-unsaturated fats include olive and peanut oils, peanuts and avocado fruit. Poly-unsaturated fats include Soya beans, corn, sunflower and sesame seeds, these are often used in margarine and cooking oils.

A healthy way of eating fat is from fresh fish such as mackerel or salmon and olive oil for cooking.

Hidden fats are found in crisps, cakes biscuits and pastries. Too much fat in the diet can cause obesity and may damage the arteries leading to heart disease.

Carbohydrates Your diet should consist of a high proportion of carbohydrates as they are easy for the body to process into energy needed primarily to feed the muscles and brain.

The main types of carbohydrates are starches and sugars. The third type is called cellulose (fibre) which cannot be digested.

Starches can be found in bread, cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes, under ripe bananas, peas, beans and lentils. Starches take longer to breakdown than sugar and can be stored in the liver as glycogen, they give a good even supply of energy.

Unrefined sugar is found in fruit such as ripe bananas, apples, pears, grapes and honey. These provide cellulose which aids peristalsis.

Refined sugar is found in cakes, biscuits, chocolate and jams these should be eaten in moderation. To much sugar can cause obesity and tooth decay.

The sugar is easily absorbed as glucose into the bloodstream and provides the body with a quick boost of energy with little nutritional value.

Cellulose is found in high fibre foods (mainly starches and unrefined sugars) such as wholemeal bread, wholegrain rice bran, brown pasta, fruit including the skin and potatoes in their skins. Cellulose or roughage cannot be digested but adds bulk to the food as it passes down the alimentary canal, aids peristalsis helping to prevent constipation.

Insufficient carbohydrates in the diet can have a feeling of weakness and lethargy.

Vitamins Most vitamins cannot be produced by the body so they must be supplied via the food. Even though only small amounts are required without them you would suffer from illness known as deficiency diseases, such as Scurvy, Beri beri and Rickets.

Vitamins help the body to function properly, help form red blood cells, hormones and chemicals in the nervous system.

They can easily be destroyed by overcooking, sunlight and over storage, therefore food should always be used as fresh as possible.

Vitamins can be divided into two groups

Fat-soluble, Vitamins A, D, E and K. These can be stored in the body but to much can be toxic.

Water-soluble, Vitamins C and the vitamin B complex. Any excess is passed out in the urine.

Vitamin A is found in dairy products, egg yolk, oily fish, carrots, spinach, tomatoes and apricots. It is needed for growth and development, assists night vision, keeps the mucus membranes healthy to fight infection and keeps the skin healthy and smooth.

Vitamin D is obtained from ultra violet light and processed by the skin, fatty fish, herrings, egg yolk and dairy products. It helps the absorption of calcium and phosphorous to build strong teeth and bones.

Vitamin E is found in green vegetables, lettuce, dairy products, egg yolks and cereal products. It helps the formation and functions of red blood cells, helps protect cells from damage and oxidation which may lead to cancer.

Vitamin K is found in green vegetables, spinach, tomatoes, eggs and wheatgerm. This vitamin can be produced in the body from bacteria in the intestinal tract. It assists in the production of coagulation factors in the blood to aid blood clotting after injury.

Vitamin C is found in fruits, such as oranges, blackcurrants and kiwi fruits, vegetables, such as potatoes spinach and broccoli and milk. It helps maintain healthy body tissue, helps resist infections and heals wounds. It is important in the formation of teeth and bones and assists in the absorption of iron.

Vitamins B1, B, and B are found in offal, cereals, milk. fruit, vegetables and yeast products. They help the body’s cells obtain energy from the food eaten and keep the skin healthy particularly around the mouth.

Vitamin B6 is found in yeast products, liver, lean meat, wholemeal flour, peas and beans. It helps process amino-acids, helps form red blood cells and regulate the nervous system.

Vitamin B1 is found in offal, meat, eggs, products, fish and Soya beans. It is important in the formation of red blood cells and helps the nervous system.

Other vitamins include Folic Acid, Biotin and Pantothenic Acid.

Minerals cannot be produced by the body and must be supplied frequently in the diet They are necessary for keeping the body healthy, building bones, regulating the bodies water balance, nerve and muscle control and energy production.

The major minerals are

Calcium and Phosphorus they are found in dairy products, wholemeal cereals, dark green leaf vegetables, shell fish and poultry. These minerals work together with magnesium to build strong bones and teeth, help the muscles to contract and help the blood to clot.

Iron is found in offal, cereals, dark green leaf vegetables, nuts and shell fish. It is necessary for the formation of myoglobin which transports oxygen to the muscle tissues, haemoglobin which transports oxygen in the blood and the production of red blood cells. A deficiency in Iron causes anaemia and loss of energy.

Minor and trace minerals

Sodium, Chloride and Potassium they are found in yeast products, bacon and fish and help to maintain the correct concentration of body fluids. Sodium helps the nerves and muscles work smoothly. Chloride helps with the production of hydrochloric acid.

Iodine is found in fish, shellfish, milk and spinach. It is required to make the hormone thyroxine which is produced by the thyroid gland, this controls the rate of metabolism.

Chromium is found in yeast, meat and mushrooms. It helps to regulate the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.

Copper is found in shellfish, yeast and cocoa. It helps to manufacture red blood cells and bone growth.

Zinc is found in seafood, nuts, peas and beans. It helps with normal growth and healing.

Fluoride is naturally found in tea, sea water and fish, artificially found in some water supplies and toothpastes. It helps to strengthen teeth against tooth decay.

The remaining trace elements include Cobalt, Selenium, Molybdenum and Nickel..

Water The body is made up of about 65% water and needs a regular supply as it is unable to store water. The body is able to survive a few weeks without food but only a few days without water. Some of the daily fluid intake comes from food particularly fruit and vegetables but most comes in liquid forms.

It is recommended to drink between one and two litres of fluids per day preferably water. Water is essential for every process in the body, it keeps the blood at the right consistency, aids digestion and dilutes the urine

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