What is the meaning of a healthy diet?



The key to a healthy or proper diet is balance. Balance means to have a variety of foods in the correct proportions and to consume adequate amounts of food and beverages in order to be healthy, to have reduced risk of chronic diseases and to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

Variety: No food by itself, with the exception of breast milk for about the first six months of life, can provide all the nutrients in the amounts needed for good health. It is important that our eating habits are characterized by a variety of foods. The existence of variety in the diet minimizes the possibility of a significant lack of a nutrient. Even foods that are not recommended to be consumed regularly should not be completely excluded from the diet, as they can provide one or more nutrients (eg meat as a source of vitamin B12). Avoiding certain foods is only recommended in cases of food allergy or intolerance (eg lactose) or genetic or other kind of sensitivity to certain foods (eg G6PD enzyme deficiency that causes susceptibility to the consumption of broad beans).

Moderation: The classification of foods as “good” and “bad” does not fit in the context of a balanced diet and can move many people away from improving their dietary habits. There are no “good” and “bad” foods, rather than foods that need to be consumed more or less often and some that exceed in providing nutrients. All foods have a place in our diet as long as they are eaten in moderation and in appropriate quantities per category. What matters is the overall dietary regimen followed and not individual foods or meals.

Where the classification of good or bad for food comes into play is if your food is pseudo chemical processed lab food that comes in a box or is picked up via a drive-thru window.  All real organic food should be included in the human diet.

Biological or organic foods:  What are they?

Biological or organic foods are products produced in accordance with the rules and principles of biological agriculture and cattle raising, which are based on:

Natural processes, without the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or enhancers. The use of appropriate production techniques that maintain the natural balance and soil fertility (eg recycling of plant and animal residues, crop rotation).

crop rotation: rotation of cultivation of different crops in the same field

The use of native plants and animal breeds which are adapted to local conditions and are more resistant to the development and transmission of diseases.
The good conditions of breeding and treatment of the animals.

The protection of the environment

How are they different organic than conventional food?

1. Organic foods are more environmentally friendly. They promote physical balance, recycling of plant and animal residues and soil fertility while at the same time they contribute in the reduction of the environmental pollution and of the veterinary waste.
2. Organic products do not have the impressive uniformity and size that have the conventional counterparts. The appearance, shape and color in conventional food are affected by the chemical plant protection and the way of their cultivation.

3. Organic fruits and vegetables have 20-30% lower proportion of water than conventional, thus have a greater concentration of vitamins, trace elements and minerals. This fact sometimes leads to longer cooking time.
4. Packaged organic products are not protected by chemical means (eg preservatives) opposed to some conventional packaged, so they are more susceptible to alterations. If they are found in the suitable conditions (humidity, heat), live microorganisms grow rapidly and lead to physical spoilage of the products.

5. Regarding taste, studies are ambiguous about whether organic products outclass conventional.
6. The price. Organic products are more expensive than their conventional counterparts because farming methods do not constitute to the increase of the volume of production, but of the quality. Also, labor costs are higher in organic cattle raising while the number of animals per unit area is reduced. Finally, they are burdened with the additional cost of certification and continuous controls.

According to a research by the Research Laboratory of Marketing, of the Economic University of Athens, even if organic products are more expensive than conventional, there is an increased demand by Greek consumers, despite the current difficult economic situation.

Are organic products safer than conventional?

Organic foods are high quality products and seem to be more secure than conventional as they do not contain synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). During their production, the use of limited natural fertilizers and herbicide safeners is allowed. Also, numerous studies have shown that they contain lower concentrations of toxic for health heavy metals, nitrates (because of the absence of use of nitrate fertilizers), as well as residues of insecticides and pesticides, which are used only in conventional agriculture.

 Are Organic products more nutritious than conventional?

Although there are some indications, we cannot clearly conclude that organic products are more nutritious than conventional ones. It is difficult to compare the results of studies conducted by different researchers because of differences in the way of the design and realization of each research. Results of studies show that organic fruits and vegetables are richer in vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants and contain lower amounts of protein but of higher biological value than conventional. Also, researches show that organic grains and legumes have a higher mineral content. Finally the situation is not clear as far as organic animal products are concerned since the available data are incomplete. Moreover, it does not seem to exist substantial differences in nutritional value of organic products compared to conventional ones.

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