Fitness starts from the inside out

As we get older, muscle tone can reduce if we take less exercise. We can also find we've gained weight that makes some types of exercise more difficult. That's why taking a look at your diet makes a lot of sense.

Variety is the key

Foods are made up of elements that help our bodies function properly. Fish and chips, for example, contains energy, protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals. But if you ate fish and chips at every meal, common sense says you wouldn't be enjoying a sensible diet. You can have a bad diet, simply through lack of variety. With too few foods, you could be lacking in energy or essential vitamins or minerals.

Which foods?

Many foods work naturally to help us maintain healthy bodies. Cereals, fruit and vegetables for example, can help prevent constipation and bowel problems. Oily fish, nuts and dairy products in moderation can help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The key to a healthy diet starts with variety, making sure you consider how much of these food groups are making up your overall diet:

  • Carbohydrates. There are two kinds, sugars and complex carbohydrates that include dietary fibre. These are found in breads, cereals, beans, lentils, peas, fruit, potatoes and sugars – they're our body's main energy source. Many of these can also supply B vitamins that are important for growth and repair of body tissues, and help make sure that the body can use them for energy rather than proteins.
  • Protein. Protein is important for growth, body maintenance and energy. It's found in meats, fish, poultry, eggs, peas, nuts, beans and dairy products.
  • Fat. Fat is a concentrated source of calories for the body. It helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins and provides energy. Fat is found in margarine, butter, oils, nuts, milk, cheese, salad dressings, snack foods, poultry, fish, meat and desserts. Eating a diet higher in fat than recommended, especially saturated fat, is associated with increased blood cholesterol levels and increased risk for heart disease. A high fat diet may also increase your chances for obesity and some types of cancer.

Eat right, live well

You can eat healthily without setting out on an extreme diet. If you aim for a good variety of balanced, healthy foods then you may not need to take any additional vitamin supplements. But if you're considering a change in diet, it's a good idea to discuss it with your GP or practice nurse first. Don't forget, half the battle is changing the way you eat for the long term rather than making short term changes that you'll find hard to keep up.

Our top tips:

  • Eat at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables daily.
  • Drink plenty of water and reduce the salt in your diet
  • Cut back on stimulants such as tea, coffee and alcohol.
  • Find a healthy, balanced diet of foods you enjoy eating – it will help make this a change for the better.

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