The Importance of Balanced Nutrition

Balanced nutrition is about eating a variety of foods from each food group to meet your daily requirements. This includes carbohydrates, proteins, fats and water.


You should also include whole fruits and vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats and dairy products, while limiting processed foods, sugary drinks and added salt.


Fruits are a good source of vitamins and minerals. They are low in fat and sodium and are high in fibre.

Fruit is sweet and contains natural sugar, unlike the refined sugar found in candies and many sweet desserts. It can help control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

Eating a balance of the five food groups (fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein) is important for a balanced diet. Limiting ‘empty calories’ and processed foods can also help manage weight.


Vegetables provide a variety of vitamins, minerals and plant-based nutrients like potassium, dietary fiber, folate and vitamin C. They are important for a balanced diet and help you maintain healthy cellular levels.

The definition of what is considered a vegetable can vary depending on where you are and the language you speak. For example, some consider beans to be a vegetable while others do not. Vegetables include any edible part of a plant including root crops, leafy greens and flowers.


Grains are the edible seeds of grass-like plants called cereals. They are a staple food in most cultures and provide carbohydrates, protein and some vitamins and minerals.

Whole grains are high in fiber and contain the bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains have had the bran and germ removed and are lower in nutrients than whole grains.

The top ten most cited articles and reviews on the health effects of whole grains (Figure 2A) come from the US, with Harvard University ranking first and Tufts university in second. The citation frequency and usage count of these publications reflect the strength of research in this area.


Dairy is a group of foods made from the milk of mammals, including cows, sheep, goats and camels. Common dairy products include milk, yogurt, cheese, kefir, ice cream and butter.

Nutritionists recommend dairy as part of a balanced diet, since it provides important nutrients like calcium. However, some people avoid dairy because of intolerance or ethical concerns. Luckily, there are other dairy alternatives that can help meet your calcium needs — such as almond, coconut, soy and hemp “milks” with added calcium.


The meat of animals, including poultry and fish, is a key source of protein in the diet and also provides iron, zinc and B vitamins. It is a good idea to eat a variety of meat, including lean options, and to supplement with plant-based proteins like beans and pulses for optimal nutritional benefit.

Excessive consumption of red and processed meats has been linked to heart disease and certain cancers. Therefore, public health advice recommends limiting intake to 70 g of cooked meat per day.


Fats are a source of energy and provide building blocks for cells and hormones. They also help absorb and dissolve vitamins. Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats from olives, avocados and nuts and polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and canola oil as well as fish like salmon and sardines.

“Bad” fats are saturated and trans fats which increase disease risk. Eat a variety of foods to meet your nutritional needs. Eating a varied diet helps keep your body strong, fights stress and boosts your mood.


Oils include liquid fats that are used for cooking, such as olive oil and canola oil. Animal fats, such as butter, lard and shortening, also are oils.

Vegetable oils like soybean, canola and flaxseed provide omega-3 fatty acids and are beneficial for a balanced diet. When heated above a certain temperature, however, these oils can produce compounds that promote disease.

When selecting vegetable oils, look for those that are low in saturated and trans fats. Check the Nutrition Facts label for the amount of saturated and trans fat per tablespoon.

Other Foods

A balanced diet can reduce the risk of many health conditions. It can also save money on costly medical bills, such as those related to heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

The exact make-up of a healthy diet will vary according to personal preferences, cultural traditions and availability. However, a healthy diet should include fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains and foods containing protein (either plant-based or lean meats).

Avoid foods and drinks that are high in saturated fat, added salt and sugar. Instead, have these ‘discretionary choices’ less often and in smaller amounts.