A healthy diet may help to prevent certain chronic (long-term) diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It may also help to reduce your risk of developing some cancers and help you to keep a healthy weight. This leaflet explains the principles of a healthy diet. It is general advice for most people. The advice may be different for certain groups of people, including pregnant women, people with certain health problems or those with special dietary requirements.
A note about the different food groups
Your body needs energy to work normally and keep you alive. You get this energy from nutrients in the food that you eat - mostly, carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Minerals and vitamins are other nutrients that are also important in your diet to help your body stay healthy.It is important to get the right balance between these different nutrients to get maximum health benefits (see below). Your diet should contain food from each of the following food groups:
Fatty and sugary foods are the fifth food group that you eat. However, only a small amount of what you eat should be made up from fatty and sugary foods. In addition to the above, plenty of fibre and water in your diet is also important for your health.
What are the benefits of a healthy diet?
A healthy diet may help to prevent certain serious diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It may also help to reduce your risk of developing some cancers. If you become sick, eating a healthy diet may help you to recover more quickly. Also, a main way of preventing obesity and overweight is to eat a healthy diet. If you are overweight or obese, eating a healthy diet can help you lose weight.
What makes up a healthy diet?
As a general rule, starchy foods and fruit and vegetables should provide the bulk of most of your meals. About one third of your diet should be made up from starchy foods and about one third from fruit and vegetables. The remaining one third of your diet should be made up from milk and dairy foods and protein foods. As mentioned above, you should limit the amount of foods and drinks that are high in fat or sugar.Below, the principles of a healthy diet are explained. It is general advice for most people. If you have a specific health problem, or specific dietary requirements, this advice may not apply to you. If in doubt, you should check with your doctor. There are also some changes that pregnant women need to make to their diet. See separate leaflet called 'Pregnancy - Planning to Become Pregnant' for more details.
Eat plenty of starchy foods (complex carbohydrates)
As mentioned above, starchy foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, potatoes, rice, and pasta, together with fruit and vegetables, should provide the bulk of most meals. Some people wrongly think that starchy foods are fattening. In fact, they contain about half the calories of the same weight of fat. (However, it is easy to add fat to some starchy foods. For example, by adding butter to jacket potatoes or bread, or by adding oil to potatoes to make chips, etc.)Carbohydrate is an important energy source for your body. Starchy foods often contain a lot of fibre (roughage). When you eat starchy foods, you get a feeling of fullness (satiety) which helps to control appetite. They also contain other vitamins and minerals important for health.Tips to increase starchy foods include the following:
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
It is recommended that we eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit or vegetables each day. If you eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, then your chances of developing heart disease, a stroke, or bowel cancer are reduced. In addition, fruit and vegetables:
One portion of fruit or vegetables is roughly equivalent to one of the following:
Some tips on how to increase fruit and vegetables in your diet include:
Eat plenty of fibre (roughage)
Fibre is the part of food that is not digested. It is filling, but has few calories. It helps your bowels to move regularly, which reduces constipation and other bowel problems. Fibre may also help to lower your cholesterol level. Starchy foods, and fruit and vegetables contain the most fibre. So the tips above on starchy foods and fruit and vegetables will also increase fibre. If you switch to wholemeal rice and pasta, and wholemeal bread, this can significantly increase your fibre intake. Pulses like lentils and beans are also full of fibre.Have plenty to drink when you eat a high-fibre diet (at least 6-8 cups of fluid a day).
Eat enough milk and dairy foods
Milk and other dairy foods such as cheese and yoghurt are important in your diet as they provide calcium which is needed for healthy teeth and bones. They are also a source of protein and can provide other vitamins and minerals important for your health. Calcium-enriched soya milk and fromage frais also come under 'milk and dairy foods'. However, other foods such as butter and cream are not considered as dairy foods here as they are also high in fat, so they come under the fatty foods group.To make sure that you get enough calcium in your diet, you need three servings a day from this food group. One serving is:
As the fat content of dairy foods can vary, make sure that you go for lower-fat options where possible, such as skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, low-fat cheese and low-fat yoghurt.
Eat other protein foods in moderation
Other protein-containing foods include meat, fish, eggs and non-dairy sources of protein. Non-dairy sources of protein include nuts, tofu, beans such as red kidney beans and canned beans, and pulses such as lentils and chickpeas.You need a certain amount of protein to keep healthy. Protein is important for energy and for growth and repair in your body. Some of these high-protein foods can also be a source of iron and vitamins, including B vitamins and vitamin D. However, most people eat more protein than is necessary. Beware, some meats are also high in fat. Choose poultry such as chicken, or lean meat. Also, be careful, as many meat-based recipes include creamy or fatty sauces which are high in calories. When eating eggs, boil or poach them instead of frying. One portion of beans or pulses such as chickpeas or lentils is three heaped tablespoons.There is some evidence that eating oily fish helps to protect against heart disease. Oily fish include: herring, sardines, mackerel, salmon, fresh tuna (not tinned), kippers, pilchards, trout, whitebait, anchovies and swordfish. It is thought that omega-3 fatty acids in the fish oil help to reduce the build-up of atheroma (furring of the arteries) which causes angina and heart attacks. Aim to eat at least two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily.
Don't eat too much fat
You do need some fat in your diet but you need to be careful about how much fat you eat and what type of fat you eat. A low-fat diet helps to reduce your chance of developing diseases such as heart disease and stroke. It will also help you to keep a healthy weight. You should not have much saturated fats such as butter, lard, dripping, and unspecified margarine. Unsaturated fats are better, such as sunflower oil, olive oil, and low-fat spreads. Tips to reduce fat in your diet include the following:
Don't have too many sugary foods and drinks
Sugary foods and drinks are high in calories, and too much may cause weight gain. It isn't just the amount of sugar that may be bad. Even eating small amounts of sugary foods (sweets, etc) too often is bad for teeth. Tips include:
Don't eat too much salt
Too much salt increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. Guidelines recommend that we should have no more than 6 grams of salt per day. (Most people in the UK currently have more than this.) If you are used to a lot of salt, try gradually to reduce the amount that you have. Your taste for salt will eventually change. Tips on how to reduce salt include:
Don't forget portion sizes
You may be eating very healthy foods but you still need to keep an eye on your portion sizes because if they are too large, you will still gain weight. Deliberately try to take smaller portions when you have a meal. Do not feel that you have to empty your plate. Perhaps change the plates that you have in your cupboard (which may be large) to more medium-sized plates. In this way you will naturally serve up smaller portions. Fill up on fruit and vegetables. Ask for a smaller portion when eating out or ordering a takeaway.
Think about what you are drinking
Many drinks contain calories, including alcoholic and many nonalcoholic drinks . Think about what you are drinking.
Further help and information
Web: www.nhs.ukOffers a range of tools and articles to support healthy eating and becoming more
Controlled Breathing (Pursed Lips Breathing)
Why controlled breathing?
When you are short of breath, your breathing can become too fast, too shallow, or jerky. Because of this you may not get as much air into your lungs as is possible. 'Controlled breathing' (sometimes called 'pursed lips breathing') will help you to get as much air as possible to your lungs. This may help to ease shortness of breath. It is one way to slow your breathing rate and to make each breath as effective as possible.
Controlled breathing has been shown to improve your ability to exercise and also improve the strength of your muscles that are responsible for moving your chest wall when you breathe. However, it is not always helpful (beneficial) to everyone with shortness of breath. Your doctor will be able to advise you as to whether this is likely to help you.
It can be helpful to learn the technique when you are relaxed. Perhaps practise the technique 4-5 times a day at first. You can then use it whenever you get short of breath, or when you have to do an activity that causes you to be short of breath, such as when climbing stairs.
Controlled breathing technique
Your doctor or nurse will explain how to do controlled breathing. The following is a reminder:
1. Sit upright, if possible
Sitting upright is usually better than lying down, or 'slouching', as it can increase the capacity of your lungs to fill with air.
2. Breathe gently in and out and purse your lips when breathing out
If possible, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth in a steady slow rhythm. Try to keep your mouth closed when you breathe in through your nose. As you breathe out, pucker or 'purse' you lips (as if you are about to whistle). This gives slight resistance to the outflow of air. Try to make your breath out twice as long as your breath in. This helps to empty your lungs of old air, and to make as much room in your lungs for fresh oxygen-rich air. To do this you may find it helpful to count 'one, two' as you breathe in, and 'one, two, three, four' as you breathe out. Do not hold your breath between breathing in and out.
3. If possible, mainly use your lower chest muscle (diaphragm) to breathe
Your diaphragm is the big muscle under the lungs. It pulls the lungs downwards, which expands the airways to allow air to flow in. When we become breathless we tend to forget to use this muscle, and often use the muscles at the top of the chest and our shoulders instead. Each breath is more shallow if you use these upper chest muscles. So, you tend to breathe faster and feel more breathless if you use your upper chest muscles rather than your diaphragm.
You can check if you are using your diaphragm by feeling just below your breastbone (sternum) at the top of your tummy (abdomen). If you give a little cough, you can feel the diaphragm push out here. If you hold your hand here you should feel it move in and out as you breathe.
4. Try to relax your neck, shoulders and upper chest muscles when you breathe
It is best to take the weight off your shoulders by supporting your arms on the side arms of a chair, or on your lap. A friend or relative standing behind you, gently massaging your shoulders, may encourage you to relax.
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