A healthy diet means eating foods from six food groups. These include protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals and water. If any of these groups are neglected, our body is not as balanced as it should be and as a consequence, our health suffers.

The main fuel that our bodies use is carbohydrates. When we consume carbohydrate-rich foods like brown rice, oatmeal, fresh vegetables and whole grain breads, our body stores them in the form of glycogen in our muscles and liver to fuel our everyday activities. Simple carbohydrates that can be sourced from highly-processed foods as pastries, cookies and biscuits provide what is commonly known as a "sugar rush." We usually reach for them when our bodies are in need of a dose of quick energy. However, they just as easily make one "crash" since they are easily absorbed by the body. Complex sugars are much healthier sources since they provide a sustained release of energy throughout the body, largely avoiding the "rush" and "crash" that simple carbs give. They can be found in natural sources like starchy fruits and vegetables and wholegrain cereals and breads.

Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. It is also important in aiding all bodily processes. It is necessary for the development of healthy skin, hair and nails. A healthy dose of protein can be taken from lean meat, fish, nuts and legumes. Dairy products like egg and cheese are also rich sources of this food group. The amount of protein you need is determined by how much physical activity you do. If you are largely sedentary, then about 0.75 grams per kilogram of bodyweight is enough. However, if you are into aerobic or resistance training, your body will need much more-- about 1.5 grams to 2.0 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.

Fats are important sources of protection for the body, especially in terms of providing insulation and protecting the brain and enhancing nerve functions. It also plays a key role in the transport of certain vitamins. However, you should stay away from the bad fats or those that are saturated since these have been proven to cause all sorts of heart ailments. A good guideline to follow is to avoid those fats that remain solid even when not placed in the refrigerator. Butter and margarine are the most common offenders. The good fat, on the other hand, are those that are unsaturated or remain solid at room temperature. These are usually vegetable or plant-based oils like sunflower, olive and virgin coconut.

Vitamins and minerals are considered micronutrients that help maintain our health in different ways. We can usually take in our recommended daily servings of these nutrients if we strive to eat about 20 fresh fruits, vegetables and whole foods everyday. Multivitamin supplements provide what we cannot get from our limited diet of unprocessed foods. At the very least, we need to take in at least four to six servings of fruits and vegetables in one day but for optimum health and disease prevention, fourteen servings is what you should strive for.

And don't forget to hydrate with at least two liters of water everyday!

Author's Bio: 

Cooking enthusiast, natural and alternative health advocate, and proud mother of 2 lovely children.