How to Balance Your Diet for Optimum Health

Updated on May 3, 2018
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Catherine enjoys preparing and presenting food. Fresh ingredients prepared from scratch are wholesome, delicious, and fun to make.

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Do you think you eat well for optimum health? Are you being careful to limit the harmful fats and getting enough fiber? I have always been careful about what I eat, taken care to avoid sodas, quit smoking, exercised, taken my vitamins, and made efforts get ample sleep. It wasn't until I hit 60 that I stopped to really examine my eating habits.

Most of us base our diets on the standard food pyramid and try to balance fats, carbohydrates, and proteins from a wide range of sources. Humans are designed to be omnivores although we benefit greatly from vegan diets as long as good protein sources are included. Some of us do better at eating whole foods with less sodium and sugars while many of us give into the convenience of processed foods. Our doctors recommend we eat 2,000 calories per day on average, so foods need to be chosen carefully. The high fat and sugar content of convenience foods quickly add up without giving our bodies the nutrients needed for optimum metabolic function.

If confused over serving portions and balanced diet, the USDA has a very helpful website called Choose My Plate.

Fats: Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat soluble, so our bodies need fat to process these nutrients. Fats also provide the fuel to keep us energized. Among the healthiest types are omega 3-polyunsaturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids which help increase good cholesterol and aid heart function. Also beneficial are the mono-saturated fats which improve insulin function and blood sugar levels. Good sources are nuts, seeds, avocado, and olives. These oils are liquid at room temperature. Our doctors encourage us to keep fat calories at 30% of our total caloric intake per day. Based on the 2000 calorie recommendation, those derived from fats should be kept at 600.

Proteins: Proteins are the building blocks of our cells and provide the 9 essential amino acids that our bodies can't make. Although soybeans and animal sources are the only foods that provide all 9 essentials, vegans can get ample nutrition from beans and quinoa. Here is a formula to determine the number of grams required per day: divide your body weight by 2.2 then multiply by 0.8. A person weighing 160 lbs. would require 58 grams of protein daily.

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates, in addition to providing dietary fiber, are primarily used for energy. They also regulate insulin and blood sugar levels and aid the brain and nervous system. Carbs are broken down by the amylase enzyme and stored as glucose by the liver and muscles. Excess amounts are stored in fat cells. Complex, rather than simple carbs, break down more slowly and go further in regulating even amounts of blood sugar over a longer period of time. Candy bars and other simple sugars lead to a short-lived energy surge followed by a crash and burn. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which regulates fat metabolism. Your calories derived from carbs should be 50% of your total or 1000 based on the average recommendations.

Most base diets on the standard food pyramid.
Most base diets on the standard food pyramid.

Putting It All Together

When we exercise, our muscles release lactic acid. When we are stressed or exposed to things that set off our immune responses, our bodies produce acids. As our bodies digest these foods and process the nutrients in them through cellular respiration, glucose is oxidized into the energy that supports all metabolic functions. The by-product is acidic waste that enters the bloodstream, is filtered, and then removed through respiration, perspiration, and urination. Our bodies work extremely hard yet so efficiently that we don't think of the potentially harmful effects of these acids. Healthy cells are alkaline, so excessive acidity is thought to facilitate cell mutation, weaken immunity, and encourage the growth of viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Think of gout, ulcers, candida, and cancers. It is therefore imperative that we counteract the effects by trying to maintain a neutral pH of 7. Eating a good diet is the best way to buffer these acids so they don't deplete our natural stores of minerals and weaken bones.

The Importance of pH Balance

When confronted with excessive amounts of acid from too much sugar, caffeine, red meat, alcohol, and fatty processed foods, our bodies will find ways to neutralize the offenders. If we do not consume enough alkaline foods or take mineral supplements, the body may seek to use the natural stores of calcium and magnesium in our bones. This is especially dangerous for post-menopausal women who typically lose density in the spine and hip areas. Acid waste often accumulates in fat cells which serve to encapsulate it as a protective measure against its harmful effects on the body. This may be the reason for stubborn weight gain or ineffective weight loss.

Many of us subsist on a typical high protein diet of meat, eggs, and dairy, and those of us who consume high volumes of processed foods live in a state of chronic acidosis. Although not dangerously high, it can still lead to gradual cell damage, fatigue, bone and muscle weakness, kidney stones, acid reflux, arthritis, and auto-immune disease.

Re-establishing a healthy and balanced pH is not difficult. First, take a pH reading with simple strips that test either urine or saliva. They are available in dispenser packs from the pharmacy or online. Second, examine your diet and make adjustments by adding delicious fruits and vegetables while reducing saturated fats, red meat, and sugary processed snack foods. The goal is to eat 60% alkaline foods and 40% acidic ones. Consider adding a daily vitamin supplement of calcium, magnesium, and D.( Get 30 min. of sunshine each day to process the vitamin D). Limit sodas, caffeine, and alcoholic beverages. Better choices are green tea, freshly juiced fruits, and vegetables, or ginger tea. Drink plenty of water to aid your body in the elimination of acid wastes. Water is especially important after workouts, chiropractic adjustments, and physical therapy.

The key is to balance favorite proteins with ample vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts. Totally eliminating favorite foods only serves to make a diet fail. Instead, go to a farmer's market and load up on fresh leafy greens, vine-ripened fruits, honey, blackstrap molasses, agave syrup, and olive oil. Better yet, grow your own garden and get the added benefit of fresh air and exercise. When you make a habit of healthful eating, there is no guilt after an occasional treat. Live well!

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Catherine Tally

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      • k@ri profile image

        Kari Poulsen 9 months ago from Ohio

        I used to eat a raw diet, but it became too expensive, lol. Who would think vegetables and fruit cost so much. I like how you explain this. :)

      • cat on a soapbox profile image
        Author

        Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        Hello ElleBee,

        I'm so glad that my hub provided new info for you! I recommend Ume plum paste- just a small bit in hot water as a tea- as a very effective alkalizer. It is especially good for digestive disorders. Thank you for stopping by to read. I appreciate your thoughtful comments. :)

      • profile image

        ElleBee 5 years ago

        Very interesting. I've heard a bout pH based dites before but not in a lot of depth. This is definitely something I am interested in learning more about and possibly incorporating into my diet.

      • cat on a soapbox profile image
        Author

        Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        Hi Felipe,

        Thank you for the helpful link to the USDA site. There is much good information there. I feel that it is fine to have caffeine in tea , coffee, and chocolate-esp. dark in moderation, but avoid sodas. ( I drink 2 cups of coffee w/ soy milk in the morning and sometimes an iced cup in the afternoon. )

        I appreciate your thoughtful comments and your following me.

        My best,

        Cat:)

      • Felipe717 profile image

        Felipe717 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

        Great Hub! Limiting caffeine would be difficult at this point but it will be something I will work toward. The USDA modified the food pyramid and changed it into a food plate. One criticism of the pyramid was too many servings of grains so they updated it and here is a link to it, http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/

      • cat on a soapbox profile image
        Author

        Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        Hi Doc,

        Thank you for the kind comments! It is nice to be able to keep tabs on healthy pH in such a convenient way. My best to you.

      • Doc Sonic profile image

        Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

        Thanks for this information. I've heard about the importance of pH in the body, and trying to neutralize acidity, but I thought it was more complicated than this. I didn't know that you could just get strips at the pharmacy to measure your pH, for example. I will definitely be doing that. Nice hub, voted up and useful.

      • vespawoolf profile image

        vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

        I'm so agree with everything in moderation, but taking control of our lives. I know I need more calcium and magnesium in my diet and have taken your advice to heart. We rarely ate beef before, but my husband has been on a low carb diet so we've been eating more of it this week. I'm going to look for other non-meat protein sources, as you mentioned in this hub. Please let us know about your report! I'm sure it will be better. Positive thinking is very important, as you know. : ) I also try to exercise regularly. Besides, it help so much with stress. It's nice to meet you on HP!

      • cat on a soapbox profile image
        Author

        Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        Oh, I agree with you! I'm not about to give up the evening glass of wine, refreshing beer w/ my Mexican food, or that delicious grilled steak on occasion. I believe in favorite things in moderation! I exercise 4 times a week now w/ Pilates and pool aerobics. I also take 3 hydroxy-apatite calcium supp. w/magnesium and vitamin D per day to help w/ bone matrix. I'm hoping for a better report in Nov.

      • vespawoolf profile image

        vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

        Yeah, the lack of bone regrowth is a worry. I admit to drinking alcohol and eating beef, which is acidifying. We also drink lots of fresh green juices, but this still make me rethink my strategy. Thank you!

      • cat on a soapbox profile image
        Author

        Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        Hi, vespawoolf. It's so true that we are often misguided in our quests to be better to ourselves through diet. I became aware of the importance of raising pH when my bone was failing to grow into my second hip prosthesis. Little did I know that acidic diets bring a whole host of other potential problems! Thank you for stopping by to read and comment- I really appreciate your thoughts. Glad you didn't invest in the water ionizer:)

      • vespawoolf profile image

        vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

        Sometimes we think we're eating well when, in actuality, it's not balanced. These are very helpful reminders. As always, fresh fruits and veggies are key. I'm glad to know the alkaline water machines have been debunked. We didn't get one because many new trends end up the same way! Thanks so much for these great tips.

      • cat on a soapbox profile image
        Author

        Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        Hi Genna,

        Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. It's always good to see you here!

        I appreciate it. :)

      • Genna East profile image

        Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

        Excellent hub, Scrib. Good nutrition and exercise is vital to us all. We each have a genetic lottery as well that impacts our overall health. I have long been a proponent of supplements, but they cannot work alone. This hub is a must read for everyone. :-)

      • cat on a soapbox profile image
        Author

        Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        Thank you, Sueswan! It sounds like you eat sensibly and are supporting good health w/o depriving yourself of the enjoyment of eating. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

      • profile image

        Sueswan 5 years ago

        Hi Cat

        Very informative and useful information. I am not good when it comes to percentages so I believe in eating anything in moderation. I am not a big meat eater. My weakness is chocolate. I do eat dark chocolate though. I cut out canned and frozen foods a couple of years ago due to their high sodium content.

        Voted up and awesome

        Take Care :)

      • Tonipet profile image

        Tonette Fornillos 5 years ago from The City of Generals

        I'm with you. I think a little of me says I'm among those who are not bothered by imbalance. I may have tried living healthy but I haven't really put attention to this "balance" thing. Thanks for completing my list!

      • cat on a soapbox profile image
        Author

        Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        Hi, Tonipet. I'm glad that I made you aware of the pH balance in our bodies. Most of us may never be bothered by imbalance . Others won't even take notice until a problem shows up. ( as in my case.) I really appreciate your stopping by, commenting, and voting up. Be well.

      • cat on a soapbox profile image
        Author

        Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        Tirelesstraveller, I'm glad that I wrote about a subject of long-standing interest to you. Thank you for stopping by. Also, as a new follower, welcome! I really appreciate your tips and comments :)

      • Tonipet profile image

        Tonette Fornillos 5 years ago from The City of Generals

        I didn't mind about this PH thing until now, you just taught me about it and how to balance it. I didn't know how easy we could check pH with simple strips that test either urine or saliva. Thanks for this. Voting up useful!

      • cat on a soapbox profile image
        Author

        Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        Hello arb. It is always my delight to see you here! I thank you for the tip. My research so far has brought much technical chemistry. Perhaps you will write a hub about it! All of the best to you:)

      • cat on a soapbox profile image
        Author

        Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        Good to see you here, kashmir!

        I appreciate your kind review and am glad that you found the information useful. Thanks for dropping by:)

      • tirelesstraveler profile image

        Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

        I am going looking for ph strips. This has been a topic of interest for some time.

      • arb profile image

        arb 5 years ago from oregon

        Great hub cat! I did a lot of research on a often neglected vitamin (k2 mx 4) specifically about 2 years ago. I highly recommend you check it out. I probably have 100 hours invested in investigating this.

        Anyway, enjoyed your hub, as always.

      • cat on a soapbox profile image
        Author

        Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        Hi Ronna,

        Thank you for your question! I actually edited my hub and put in that information because it is important to know how to check your body's pH. Most pharmacies should carry the test kits. If not, a dispenser pack of strips for testing either saliva or urine can be purchased from Amazon or elsewhere on line.

      • kashmir56 profile image

        Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

        This is all great information within this well written hub, it is so important to try to always eat healthy . Well done !

        Vote up and more !!!

      • cabmgmnt profile image

        Corey 5 years ago from Northfield, MA

        Good thoughts here. I have eliminated sodas, sugar, wheat and processed foods from my diet. I juice organic vegetables daily and I feel great. Glad to see you are taking charge of your health! Thanks.

      • Ronna Pennington profile image

        Ronna Pennington 5 years ago from Arkansas

        Is there a way for me to know what my PH balance should be? THanks

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