Healthy Living / Healthy Sleep
When it comes to a healthy diet, balance is the key to getting it right. This 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.
A diet based on starchy foods such as rice and pasta; with plenty of fruit and vegetables; some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish and lentils; some milk and dairy foods; and not too much fat, salt or sugar, will give you all the nutrients you need.
Statistics show that many adults in the U.K. are either overweight or obese. That means many of us are eating more than we need, and it’s not just food: some drinks can also be high in calories. Most adults need to eat and drink fewer calories in order to lose weight, even if they already eat a balanced diet.
There are 5 basic food groups and a healthy diet consists of eating a variety of foods mainly from the first 4 groups.
- Starchy foods, such as rice, pasta, bread and potatoes.
- Fruit and vegetables.
- Meat, fish, eggs and beans.
- Milk and dairy foods.
- Foods containing fat and sugar.
Bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, noodles and breakfast cereals.
These foods mostly contain starch and should be the main part of all your meals. If possible try to choose high fibre varieties. This group of foods are an excellent source of fibre and are rich in vitamins from the B complex.
Fibre can be found in breakfast cereals, wholemeal or granary bread, fruit and vegetables, wholegrain rice, pasta, potatoes (especially if you eat the skins), beans, pulses and lentils.
Fibre helps to keep our bowels working regularly and keeps the large intestines healthy. It also provides us with some nutrients too.
Fruit and vegetables.
This includes all frozen, fresh and canned fruit/vegetables as well as salad vegetables. These are all excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre and are naturally low in fat and calories. You should try to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
Vitamins and minerals are essential for good health. The majority of us who maintain a healthy diet will have all the vitamins and minerals we require. If you are eating a varied diet, vitamin and mineral supplements are probably not necessary. If you feel you may have a vitamin or mineral deficiency and you suffer from any illnesses you should always consult your doctor
Vitamins promote normal growth by providing metabolism and ensuring protection against viruses. Vitamins also help in the formation of hormones, bones, blood cells and formation of chemicals in our body.
Minerals have two main functions in the body. First of all, many minerals are responsible for building the structures in the body like bones, and teeth. Secondly, minerals help to regulate bodily processes such as:
- blood clotting
- maintenance of the internal pressure of body fluids
- nerve responses
- the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the tissues.
Milk and dairy foods.
Milk and dairy products include cheese, yoghurt, milk and fromage-frais. They are rich in protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals and also provide a source of energy. Eat or drink a moderate amount of these foods – about 2 to 3 servings per day. As these foods can also be high in saturated fats try to choose reduced fat versions when possible.
Meat, fish, poultry and pulses.
Eating fish 1-2 times a week is good for you, especially if you eat oily fish (sardines, mackerel and salmon). All types of meats are included in this category and red meat is an excellent source of iron and vitamin B12, but try to choose the leaner cuts and trim off all visible fat before cooking. Lentils, nuts, peas and beans are also in this food group. Try to use lower fat versions of all these foods whenever possible. You should eat approximately 2 servings from this category each day.
Protein is essential for growth, repair and the healing of the body. Protein may be found in meats and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and lentils.
Foods containing fats and sugars.
This last group contains butter, margarine, cream; ice-cream, low fat spreads, cooking oils, mayonnaise, salad dressings, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sugary drinks, sweets, pastry foods and crisps. All of these foods tend to be high in fat and calories.
Try not to eat these foods too often and when you do only have them in small amounts. If possible try to go for the healthier varieties for example sugar free sweets and low fat crisps.
Sugar is not essential in our diet. It just provides us with calories and contains no other nutrients. Too much sugar causes tooth decay and lead to excess weight. Cutting sugar out of your diet is one of the easiest ways to cut down calories without losing any nutrients. Try choosing low calorie drinks, cutting sugar out of tea and coffee and avoid eating cakes and sweets.
Why is Exercise so Important?
Being physically active offers many rewards. You can lose weight, become fitter, reduce stress levels, improve sleep patterns, increase your life quality and expectancy, and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Overall, it makes you feel refreshed and happy!
What are the benefits?
- Increase your life quality and expectancy, and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.
- Being physically active can bolster good mental health and help you to manage stress, anxiety and even depression
- Regular exercise as you age keeps you strong, mobile and less dependent on others
- Regular exercise can help you achieve and maintain an ideal weight, which can be important in managing many health conditions, or may just make you feel happier about your appearance
- All exercise helps strengthen bones and muscles to some degree, but weight-bearing exercise, such as running, is especially good in promoting bone density and protecting against osteoporosis, which affects men as well as women
- Different exercises help with all sorts of health niggles, such as digestion and poor posture and physical activity can be beneficial for a range of medical conditions such as lower back pain.
- Improve sleep patterns – your body and mind feel as though they’ve done something and are ready for rest at night
It’s suggested that everyone should participate in some form of exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week, whether it be walking to the shops, running up and down the stairs or going to a weekly aerobics class. Take the stairs rather than the lift, get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way, park further away from the shops, run up the stairs when you get to work. It can be difficult to fit exercise into your busy lifestyle, but every little bit helps.
Importance of Sleep
Sleep allows the body to restore tissues, energy levels and recover from illnesses. Equally it allows the mind to unwind, de-stress and restores mental harmony. Therefore, a lack of sleep will no doubt take its toll on the individual, both mentally and physically.
It is known that a lack of sleep leads to long-term health effects such as accidents due to fatigue and lack of concentration. However, recent studies show that it can lead to insulin resistance, higher levels of blood, stress, and increased appetite that lead to weight increase and obesity. These are factors that contribute to diabetes development
Studies reveal that for those who lack sleep, their body’s sensitivity to insulin decreases by 25 percent. People who sleep less than 6 hours per night may develop abnormal blood sugar readings in 6 years time than those who sleep longer.
Sleep debt also increases the appetite and food consumption. It’s believed that the hormone leptin gives us a good feeling when we’ve had sufficient food. But insomnia decreases the amount of leptin causing a craving for food, particularly carbohydrates.
The hormone leptin is intricately involved in the regulation of appetite, metabolism and calorie burning. Leptin is the chemical that tells your brain when you’re full or when it should start burning up calories. On the reverse it will signal when more energy needs to be created. It triggers a series of messages and responses that starts in the hypothalamus and ends in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland controls the way your body stores and uses energy.
During sleep, leptin levels increase, telling your brain you have plenty of energy for the time being and there’s no need to trigger the feeling of hunger or the burning of calories. When you don’t get enough sleep, you end up with too little leptin in your body, which, through a series of steps, makes your brain think you don’t have enough energy for your needs. So your brain tells you you’re hungry, even though you don’t actually need food at that time, and it takes steps to store the calories you eat as fat so you’ll have enough energy the next time you need it. The decrease in leptin brought on by sleep deprivation can result in a constant feeling of hunger and a general slow-down of your metabolism.
The National Sleep Foundation offers the following tips to help make sure you get enough sleep for your body to function optimally:
- Try to aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal prior to going to bed
- Increase your exercise level, but try not to exercise within three hours of your bed time
- Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol near your bed time – caffeine can keep you awake, and alcohol can disrupt the normal stages of your sleep