A Healthy Diet: A Number of Starting Tips to Achieve a Healthy Diet

1st Dan paper by Evan Sullivan

The USDA's original food pyramid from 1992.

The USDA’s original food pyramid from 1992. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Your body and mind cooperate to allow you to do everything. Working together, the two make you who you are. Knowing this, it would seem fitting that you would want to keep both working well. A healthy mind and fit body is essential in Tae Kwon Do. In order to perform certain techniques well, you will need a healthy body. By eating a healthy diet, a healthy body, and therefore a greater Tae Kwon Do skill set, is certainly achievable. Though there is dispute on ways to allow for a well working brain, this advisory piece will place but a toe, little as it is, into the deep blue ocean of the diet.

We begin with the food pyramid. The food pyramid is a visual aid to show the recommended diet for the “average American” (whatever that may be). The pyramid is composed of 6 sections. Sections at the bottom are foods that should be consumed, on average, more, and sections at the top are foods that should be consumed less. The bottom most section is, in most eyes, the grain section. This sections houses foods such as cereals, pastas, breads (healthier food pyramids do recommend whole grains as opposed to just grains). The next section is vegetables, and after that is fruits. Dairy, and protein are at a tie for consumption amount on the food pyramid. The last foods, and therefore the ones that should be eaten the least, are fats, oils, and sweets.

This pyramid, though worshipped by some health fanatics, is rather vague. Many dietitians feel that a true healthy diet is not achieved through such standards. For example, red meats, refined grains, and over processed food resides in the top of the pyramid for some. Though not a completely solid method, the food pyramid is an excellent reference to begin creating a healthier diet.

Who reads nutrition labels? People generally only read the nutrition labels for one or two pieces of information. Calories, fat, and sugar are three pieces of nutritional information that are, according to nearly every study, the most looked at on the nutrition label. These three key pieces of information are important, but what about the rest of the label?

At the top of the mountain that is a nutritional label, there is the serving size. Everything else on the label is determined by the serving size. The serving size, though many think it is a recommendation, is a measurement determined by the FDA. The percentage of daily value section is just that. It is a percentage to show how much of of something is in what you are eating. Once 100% is met, you have reached the recommendation for the “average American.” If 100% isn’t reached, you are missing out on important aspects of the diet. If 100% is reached and then some, you are putting yourself at risk to some health issue that comes with overconsumption. Total fat is often an issue, but inside the total fat, there are 4 types of fats: saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans fats. In general, to get healthier, avoid saturated and trans fat. Having a larger percentage of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat in your total fat intake is better.

Cholesterol is on the label next, and it is actually something the body could not do without. Too much of it though and you have high cholesterol. High cholesterol puts you at risk for a number of lethal problems. Sodium is an oddball. It is helpful in small doses, but too much can lead to problems such as high blood pressure. It is important to intake small amounts of sodium to stay healthy. Potassium is a nice thing to have a lot of. It is useful in the body and can stop a number of issues, the most prominent being high blood pressure. Not reaching enough potassium is bad and can lead to irregular heartbeat. Unfortunately in this case, there is too much of a good thing. Though high potassium diets are popular, and excellent to stay healthy, extreme potassium intake can lead to kidney related issues.

Carbohydrates follow, and it is a vague category. There are good carbohydrates, and there are bad carbohydrates. Just be weary of this category. Dietary fiber is similar to potassium. It is good, and high fiber diets are popular. It helps with stopping high cholesterol, and can prevent bowel disorders, but consuming too much can cause the body to not absorb certain nutrients. Unlike potassium however there are two types of fiber, neither of which is necessarily bad for you, so there isn’t much to worry about there. Sugars follow next. They provide little nutritional value, and are usually added to food in order to give a boost in flavor. Usually ending the main chunk of the nutrition label, there is protein. Most Americans, unless they are vegetarians, intake a nice amount of protein. It is rare for someone on a normal diet to get too much. There are vitamins and minerals that follow the big aspects of the food label, and its good to get a wide variety of these. They all have different purposes and different effects on the body.

Superfoods, though somewhat of a fad, are nice to eat. Each month, there is a new superfood. Whether it be açaí palm or coconut water, there is always a superfood to go after. No superfood is alike. Each one provides its own aspect to achieving health. There are a number of lists that give their own take on the “most important” superfood, but in reality, there is really no going wrong with eating superfoods.

There is really no perfect way to obtaining a healthy body. Eating healthy is one of the aspects that you have to take notice of in order to obtain a healthy body. Though this informative piece is coming to an end, there are a number of things left to say.

First of all, this is only a leaf in the tree. There are so many pieces of information that can assist in this broad topic. What is written here is only a beginning. There are still questions yet to be answered. Why buy organic? What does a healthy body do for me? How do certain foods impact my body? Is vegetarian/vegan an option? Those questions, among others, shall be answered in follow up/sequel writings.

Second, if you don’t care about details like the reasons why a lack of potassium is bad for you, then there are five things you should think about after reading this piece. First, use resources like the food pyramid to find create your own healthy food habit. Second, read the nutrition labels. Sometimes, balancing out your intake of the information on the nutrition label is all you need to become a healthier person. Third, think about swapping regular foods for super foods. Try  swapping out your normal lettuce salad, for a spinach salad. Fourth, do your own research! Find out what foods are healthy, and eat those. Use the infinite number of resources to learn more about eating healthy. Finally, make sure you are happy. If you hate eating açaí, but you heard it will make you the pinnacle of health, don’t eat it. Find something different. What is the point of living healthy, if you dread eating because you think that if you don’t eat those superfoods you won’t be healthy. You can be healthy, and still enjoy what you eat.

The last thing thing to say, this time around, is that you have to make the change happen yourself. You won’t get healthy by sitting around thinking about getting healthy. You have to do it. Find out what foods are healthy. Try something new. Food can taste good and be healthy. If you want a healthy body and the benefits that come with it, go out and start eating healthy. You have control over your diet. Eating healthy will change you, and that change could start right now.

Without your body there would be little you could do. Without a healthy body, there would also be little you could do. It is important to keep a healthy mind and fit body in order to continue doing taekwondo at the highest levels. One of the ways to obtain a greater Tae Kwon Do skill set is through a healthier body, and achieving that is simple when eating healthy.

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