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  • Dr. Laura Wyness

What actually is a healthy diet?

Eating a healthy diet is important to keep yourself feeling good and your liver happy. Diets that claim to help ‘detox’ your liver are not required as there is no evidence that toxins build-up in the liver. Some of these ‘detox’ or ‘liver cleansing’ diets can be potentially dangerous for people with liver disease. Following a healthy, varied diet is the best solution. So what actually is a healthy diet?

1. Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day

Less than 3 in 10 adults and less than 1 in 10 teenagers currently achieve the 5-a-day fruit and vegetable target (NDNS, 2016). You can choose from fresh, frozen, tinned or dried. Fruit juice and smoothies also count towards your 5-a-day, but these should be limited to no more than 150ml. Whole fruit and vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and fibre.

2. Base your meals around starchy carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, bread and potatoes (choosing wholegrain where possible)

Eat plenty starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta. Choose wholegrain varieties where possible, such as wholewheat pasta, brown rice or wholemeal bread and leave the skins on potatoes. Starchy foods are an excellent source of energy and micronutrients. They also are a good source of fibre which has many benefits including helping us feel full, keeping our gut and bowels healthy and reducing cholesterol in the blood.

3. Include some dairy or dairy alternatives each day

Milk, cheese and yoghurt are good sources of protein and some vitamins and minerals. Dairy is an important source of calcium, which helps keep bones and teeth strong. Opt for lower-fat and lower-sugar dairy products such as reduced fat cheese or plain low-fat yoghurt. When consuming dairy alternatives such as soy, coconut or almond, opt for unsweetened and calcium-fortified products.

4. Eat some pulses, fish, eggs and lean meats.

These foods provide good sources of protein as well as a range of vitamin and minerals. Pulses include beans, peas and lentils and as well as being a cheap, low-fat protein source, they also count towards you 5-a-day fruit and vegetables. Aim to have at least 2 portions of fish a week, including an oily fish such as salmon or trout as these fish are particularly good sources of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

5. Choose unsaturated oils and spread and eat in small amounts

We need some fats in the diet to provide essential fatty acids which the body can’t make itself and to help our body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins. Advice is to cut down on foods high in saturated fats and replace them with unsaturated fats that are mainly found in plant-based foods and fish.

6. Foods high in added sugars or salt and fat should be limited and eaten in small amounts.

These food offer little nutritional benefit and so should be eaten less often and only in small amounts. These include chocolate, cakes, biscuits, sugary soft drinks, butter, ghee and ice-cream.

7. Keep hydrated

Keeping hydrated is an important part of a varied healthy diet. It’s important to keep hydrated throughout the day with 6-8 glasses of fluid. Water, lower-fat milk and sugar-free drinks including teas and coffee all help to keep you hydrated.

Dr. Laura Wyness

Registered Nutritionist

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