Variety: The Spice Of Healthy Nutrition

    By Hafsah Babatunde

“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need” says a common food quote. This quote expresses the fact that when you put the right food into your body system, it provides the proper nutrition for your body to grow, develop and function optimally. So what’s the use of medicine! Thus, the importance of good nutrition cannot be over-emphasized. Making healthy food choices and eating a variety of foods in the right proportion is what many people don’t do. How then can they achieve the proper nutrition?


Proper nutrition can be achieved by consuming varieties of foods in adequate proportion to supply needed nutrients to the proper body functioning. With the exception of breast milk as food for babies, no single food contains all the essential nutrients required for the body to be healthy. Eating a variety of foods means selecting various food items from within and across different food groups. A varied diet is satisfying and more likely to meet one’s nutritional needs than a diet that is not. This is because different foods provide different nutrients; no two food items provide the same nutrient in exact amount. Also, some foods are better sources for certain nutrients than other foods. Variety in food provides one with a healthy, well-balanced and interesting diet. It also helps to prevent diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and stroke. Allah; the All-Knowing, put in the picture the essence of variety in nutrition and He gave this knowledge to the Muslims through the Qur’an long before the discovery of modern science. Allah’s provisions for mankind are full of varieties and in these are signs for the people who give thought. About this, He says: “And whatsoever He has created for you on the earth of varying colours [and qualities from vegetation and fruits (botanical life) and from animals (Zological life)].


Verily! In this is a sign for people who remember.” Q16:13 FOOD VARIETIES MENTIONED IN THE QUR’AN Whole Grains “And a sign for them is the dead land. We give it life, and we bring forth from it grains, so that they eat thereof…”. Vegetables and Fruits ‘And It is He Who produces gardens, trellised or untrellised , and date palms, and crops of different shape and taste (its fruits and its seeds) and olives, and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in taste). Eat of their fruit when they ripen… ’ Q6:141. Meat “And the cattle, He has created them for you and in them there is warmth (warm clothing), and numerous benefits, and of them you eat.” Q16:5 Fish and other sea foods “And He it is Who subjected the sea (to you), that you eat thereof fresh tender meat (i.e. fish)…” Q16:14. Milk “And Verily! In the cattle, there is a lesson for you. We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies, from between their excretions and blood, pure milk; palatable to the drinkers.” Q16:66 TIP FOR EATING A HEALTHY VARIED DIET Eating a healthy varied diet does not mean you need to buy the most expensive foods.


On the contrary, there are plenty cheap and nutritious foods in the market. Foods should be selected from the major food groups; foods are grouped together because they provide similar nutrients. Interestingly, the various foods mentioned in the Qur’an are included in these groups. Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta. These provide complex carbohydrate and important source of energy. They contain B vitamins, minerals and fiber. Select whole grains and whole grain products to maximize the nutritional benefits of foods in this group. Examples include whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain cereals and starchy roots and tubers. Note: Refined grains have been processed and products made from them contain fewer nutrients. Such foods include white bread, pasta, white rice and noodles Fruits and Vegetables. These are low in calories and fats. They contain lots of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phyto-chemicals. Make your meals colorful by including fruits and vegetables of different colors. The deeper the color, the more nutrient it contains. Fruits and vegetables may be eaten fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Example of foods in this group include; leafy greens such as spinach, water leaves, scent leaves and cabbage, sweet potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, carrot, cucumber, garden eggs, okra, pineapples, apples, pawpaw, oranges, dates, pomegranates, pears. Lean Meat, Fish, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds. These are excellent sources of protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. Foods in this group should be consumed in moderate amounts. Other foods include poultry, seafood, beans and peas Milk and Other Dairy Products These are the best sources of calcium. Foods in this group also provide protein, vitamin B-12 and fat.


However, make low fat varieties your choice to keep calories, cholesterol and saturated fat at minimum. Examples are milk, cheese, yoghurt. Note: There are some milk products that contain little or no calcium such as butter and cream. Fats, Oils and Sweet Foods in this group should be used sparingly. They provide calories with little or no nutritional benefits, however some vegetable oils provide vitamin E. They can be eaten in small amounts as a part of a healthy varied diet. Examples include sugar, ice cream, soft drinks, chocolates, desserts, sweets. Make healthy food choices; consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your body needs. Your health is a function of your diet, therefore let your diet be correct!



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