What are the various constituents of a balanced diet ?

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Human body is like an engine. To keep it going we must provide it with the right kind of fuel. This is in the form of balanced food. The food taken by human beings is also called diet.

Thus, a balanced diet is the one which consists of the correct proportion of all the nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins along with sufficient of water and roughage material.

Most foods are composed of more than one class of nutrients. Bread, for example, is rich in carbohydrates, proteins and some minerals. But no single food contains all the nutrients in sufficient amounts.

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So a balanced diet consists of a number of food items which taken together to provide the body with right amount of nutrients. Also eating of verity of foods is very important because each food differs a little in the nutrients it provides. Each nutrient has its own special work to do. An understanding of the work done by the different nutrients and the foods which provide them can help us to choose our foods wisely for the normal growth and development of the body.

The various functions provided by the constituents of a balanced diet are:

1. Most of the energy used by the body is provided by the carbohydrate and the fats.

2. Proteins build the body and perform the function of repair of damage tissues.

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3. Minerals and vitamins regulate the functions of the body; they are needed for important chemical reactions taking place in the body.

4. Water is present in all tissues of the body and plays an important role in various life processes. For example, digestion, excretion and transport of important materials within the body. It also helps in cellular reactions.

5. Roughage helps in movement of food in the alimentary canal, retains water and prevents constipation.

Most of the foods are rich in only one of the nutrients.

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Foods are grouped together in five basic food groups based on the similarities of the nutrients they contain. By carefully including the various food items from this basic food groups in our meal we design a menu, which is both palatable and balanced. The five basic groups are: Cereals, protein foods, protective vegetables and fruits, other vegetables and fats, oils and sugars.

1. Cereals:

It includes wheat, rice, maize, jowar, bajra, tapioca, potato, sweet potato, etc. Enough cereals should be included in diet to meet the protein need,. They are also main source of carbohydrates which give energy to the body.

2. Protein Foods:

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This group includes milk and milk products (cheese, curd, khoa, etc.), nuts, pulses (dal, beans), eggs and meat. Food from this group provides proteins and sufficient amount of food from this group should be chosen.

3. Protective vegetables and Fruits:

This includes leafy green vegetables (sag, cabbage, etc.), yellow or orange fruits and vegetables (carrot, papaya, mango, etc.) and vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables (Amla, orange, tomato, cabbage, ber, guava, drumstick, and cauliflower and cashew fruit). Fruits and vegetables from this group must be included in the diet daily to provide minerals and vitamins to the body.

4. Other Vegetables:

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This includes flowers, fruits and stems of plants, brinjal, lady finger, beans, peas, cucumber, gourds, onions, etc. Liberal amounts of vegetables from this group ensures sufficient intake of minerals and vitamins into the body.

5. Fats, oils and sugars:

It includes butter, groundnut, ghee, vanaspati oil, nuts, and animal fat from meat, sugar, honey and jaggery. Food from this group gives energy and adds flavour and taste to the food.

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