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Many people ask me why they put on weight even though they do not overeat and follow a fairly normal diet. They also want to know why they fall ill regularly.

I realised that most of us do not even know what a healthy diet is. Read this checklist to see whether you eat healthy or not.

Do you eat three fruits daily? Fruits are a rich source of active enzymes and vitamins. Enzymes are bio-molecules that are only available in uncooked foods like fruits and salads.

Enzymes help the liver digest foods that are difficult to digest. People whose diets are poor in enzymes are prone to liver disorders and digestive problems.

It's ideal to have one fruit from each category. This means having a citrus (orange / sweet lime) fruit, a filling (apple / pear / banana) fruit and a cleansing (papaya / pineapple) fruit a day.

Do you eat 30 gms of fibre daily? Most of our problems stem from eating too little fibre. The maximum fibre is found in the skin of cereals like wheat and rice and pulses.

Unfortunately, we eat all these cereals and pulses in highly processed form when the skin is removed. This results in weight gain, diabetes, high cholesterol, constipation and cancers.

Similarly, soluble fibre that dissolves in the bloodstream is found in oat bran and the skin or peel of fruits that we usually discard. A lack of soluble fibre in your diet can cause problems like high cholesterol and gall stones.

Do you eat a variety of foods? Most of us have never heard of cereals like bajra, jowar, ragi (an excellent source of calcium). We are content with eating atta, maida, sugar, fat, dairy products, salt and some deep fried vegetables.

Think for a moment about what is common in the so-called 'variety' of food you eat: bread, biscuits, roti, paratha, pasta, macaroni, noodles, sandwiches, momos, pastry, cake, samosa, bhatura, kachori and puri. They are all made of one cereal: wheat.

Include other cereals in your diet. Do you eat enough vegetables? We often cook and eat our vegetables with a lot of oil and think that's the only way to eat them.

But there are many different ways to eat vegetables. You can have them in soups or eat them steamed with a dressing of lemon, olive oil and light salt and pepper.

You can stir fry them Chinese style or also juice them. Make a mixed vegetable juice out of tomatoes, carrots, bottle gourd (lauki) and beetroot.

Do you eat nuts and oilseeds? Nuts and oilseeds provide us with vital minerals and micro minerals. They are rich in vitamin E, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. A handful of almonds, walnuts & pistachio gives you satiety & essential fatty acids.

Are you aware of the power of special foods? Health foods like sprouts, alfa-alfa sprouts, wheat grass juice, spirulina, amla and aloe vera have the power to change lives. But we are unaware of them and wonder why we fall ill.

Healthy Foods Vs Junk Foods
Apart from the supplying energy and loads of calories, junk food does not give you all the essential nutrients. On the other hand, healthy foods like fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains serve as rich sources of a variety of nutrients. When we talk about essential fats, healthy foods score again. Junk foods, like French fries and burgers, are laden with unhealthy fats, which is the reason why majority of people eating such foods suffer from obesity.

The consumption of junk food may give you the feeling of instant energy. However, many people who love to eat junk foods are unaware of the fact that their overdose or regular consumption results in a deficiency of energy. On the contrary, fruits, vegetables and lean meat will not only provide you with nutrients, but will also help you build stamina.

A healthy diet will help you sharpen your concentrating skills. On the other side, junk foods lead to poor concentration. The blood circulation drops due to the excessive deposition of fat in the inner wall of arteries, a result of junk food consumption. As a result, you feel drowsy. To improve concentration include a high fibre, high protein breakfast to give a controlled supply of energy to the brain.

Cholesterol level will always be on a high, if you are habitual of consuming junk food. It consists of a much higher level of cholesterol as compared to its healthy counterpart. This results in the deposition of cholesterol in the inner walls of the arteries, eventually causing an adverse effect on the liver. On the other hand, healthy foods, soluble fibre from fruits can help you maintain the blood cholesterol level.

Overall Health
People following a healthy diet fall ill less often. However, it is not the same for those who frequent the fast food outlets. One of the most prominent health problems pertaining to eating junk is obesity. This is followed by a series of diseases and deprivation of essential nutrients.

By Geetu Amarnani
Nutritionist & Lifestyle Management Consultant

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