The term diet, from the Greek dìaita = regime, style, standard of living, has the same meaning as correct, healthy and balanced nutrition (Video), aimed at satisfying the physiological needs of the organism but also the psychological and relational aspects through the satisfaction of the senses, respect for the tradition of the territory and the rhythms of daily life.
There dietology or dietetics studies the body's needs for nutrients and the best ways to provide man, through diet, with suitable and adequate nutrition. It deals with defining the daily amount of calories that a person must introduce with food, keeping I also take into account the physical activity practiced, the distribution and combination of foods during meals and their number and rhythm throughout the day.
Dietetics also plays an important role in prescribing well-defined dietary rules, both from a qualitative and quantitative point of view, in people suffering from certain diseases in which appropriate diets can represent a real cure to recover health, or, an effective method to enhance the efficacy of drug therapy.
In some diseases, diets are used that involve a particularly high or limited daily amount of one or more components.Low sodium diets (low sodium) are an example; rich in potassium (hyperpotassium); with an increase or reduction in the number of calories (hyper- or hypo-caloric); free of certain substances normally present in food but harmful for some people: this is the case of gluten (read the Bufala), a protein that in celiac individuals can cause even serious disorders, or of the allergens present in some foods that can induce allergic reactions in people prepared.
Diets, including low-calorie diets widely used for slimming purposes, must be prescribed by the doctor, prepared by qualified professionals (dietician, biologist specialized in nutrition or dietician) and used only in case of actual need.
The diet must be as diversified as possible, in other words it must contain all foods with different nutritional characteristics (meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, milk, eggs, etc.) in order to provide all the substances necessary for the health of the organism. (read the Bufala) Macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) are present, in fact in different quantities in the foods that are part of the daily diet. Through the food, moreover, other substances are also supplied to the organism such as, for example, fibers and antioxidants, which optimize its functions by exercising beneficial effects on health.
Foods, based on their composition in nutrients, are divided into 5 groups to be combined with each other, alternating those of the same type, and to be distributed adequately in daily meals:
- fruit and vegetables, 5 servings a day, including cooked and / or raw vegetables (read the Bufala)
- cereals and derivatives, 5 servings a day, desserts in moderation
- milk and derivatives, 2 servings a day
- meat, fish, eggs, legumes, 2 servings a day.These foods are the main sources of protein; it is important to alternate them and consume the proteins of vegetable origin contained in legumes in combination with cereals
- fats and seasonings, to be used in moderation, preferring extra virgin olive oil
The diet model most commonly promoted by European scientific societies is the one that provides for a balanced balance of nutrients between them:
- 45-60% of the total calories must be represented by carbohydrates (read the Bufala or watch the Video), better if complex and rich in fiber, then wholemeal, while simple sugars should be limited (read the Bufala)
- 20-35% of calories must be made up of fat, of which less than 10% saturated
- About 15% of the calories must come from protein (0.9 g / kg of body weight)
The Mediterranean diet is an excellent example of a balanced diet by providing a prevalent content of complex carbohydrates (read the Buffalo), plant-based foods rich in fiber, olive oil, an adequate intake of antioxidants and polyphenols and a limited intake of simple sugars and animal fats.
In good health, the number and frequency of meals are essential in a balanced diet.
It is appropriate to divide the food of the day into 5 meals:
- Breakfast, represents 20% of the total daily calorie requirement, it is essential to recharge the body with energy and face the day
- lunch and dinner, they are the most important meals of the day and represent a total of 60% of the total daily requirement. It is important that they provide a wide variety of foods in adequate quantities for the needs of each individual
- mid-morning and afternoon snack, represent a total of 20% of the total daily requirement, have the fundamental task of avoiding reaching the main meals hungry and recovering the energy lost to continue studying, working or physical activity. They must not be too abundant so as not to cause you to skip main meals and thus unbalance your entire daily diet
The key points for following a balanced and healthy diet are:
- eat 5 meals a day
- combine foods from different food groups
- for each group, respect the number of daily portions
In addition to food, which provides nutrients and energy, it is important to drink an adequate amount of water every day to compensate for losses due to perspiration, through the skin and mucous membranes, and to the production of urine and feces. A part of water is introduced with food (about 600-800 milliliters) the remainder must be taken with drinks (about 1,200 milliliters, i.e. 6-8 glasses a day) (read the Buffalo).
Maintaining an adequate energy balance is essential to ensure good health and avoid overweight and obesity. Our body is able to finely regulate the balance between the calories expended and those introduced with the diet, but to prevent this effective, and very important, physiological mechanism from failing, conscious choices must be made. Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle by increasing the amount of daily physical activity (walking briskly, climbing stairs, doing household chores, etc.) and choosing foods adequately represent the potentially winning strategy against the onset of overweight (read the Hoax).
In order to guide the population towards healthier eating habits, the Ministry of Health had entrusted a group of experts (Ministerial Decree of 1.09.2003) with the task of developing a reference diet model consistent with both the current lifestyle and with the food tradition of our country. From this model, the daily food pyramid was developed which indicates which portions of each group of foods must be consumed so that the diet is varied and balanced and, therefore, compatible with well-being. By respecting the recommended portions you will also be in harmony with the Mediterranean food tradition recognized as the healthiest.
Lately, following a careful evaluation of the most recent scientific knowledge, the new Guidelines for healthy eating (CREA 2018) have been formulated, accompanied by a very complete scientific dossier with valuable information for a healthy diet for the population.
In the new Guidelines there are three important innovations, a sign of the changing times: “More fruit and vegetables”, “Sustainability of diets”, relating to the environmental impact and socio-economic accessibility of a healthy diet; and finally, “Attention to diets and to the" use of supplements without scientific basis ", to guide the consumer in the jungle of trendy diets, highlighting, above all, the contraindications.
Excessive consumption of a single food, or a diet based on the use of few foods, almost always leads to nutritional imbalances that lead to malnutrition by defect or by excess (read the Bufala).
In conclusion, to have a healthy lifestyle you need to:
- follow a balanced diet
- consume adequate amounts of water
- carry out adequate daily physical activity
- respect the seasonality of products and consume local foods
- enhance the pleasant aspect of conviviality linked to the consumption of meals
Working group D.M. 01.09.2003. Elaboration of the type of diet towards which to direct the citizen, recommending the appropriate variations
Ministry of Health. Feeding the planet, feeding it healthily. Nutritional balance of a healthy diet. Notebooks of the Ministry of Health. 2015, n. 25
Italian Society of Human Nutrition (SINU). Reference levels of intake for the Italian population (LARN), 2014
Council for Agricultural Research and Analysis of the Agricultural Economy (CREA). Guidelines for healthy eating (Scientific dossier - 2017 Edition)
Council for Agricultural Research and Analysis of the Agricultural Economy (CREA). Guidelines for healthy eating 2018