When we think of food, it’s often not something many of us spend time really thinking about on a deep level. We eat to survive, we eat because we have to and scoff down whatever is available on the run. Our lives are so busy and complicated that preparing a balanced meal seems like a far-fetched luxury. Sometimes our lives are so busy and consumed by work, deadlines, parenting and a myriad of duties that we skip meals and find ourselves inhaling a bag of chips, reaching for comfort food and treats late at night while watching our shows. It can be a challenge to remember that a balanced diet is essential for our health and wellbeing. Interestingly enough the evolution of our diets as humans has drastically shifted, we started eating more meat and aquatic animals as we evolved to sustain our brain development. 

In order for humans to evolve, we need particular nutrients to sustain us, too much of it is not ideal but neither is too little. For us to truly be mindful of nourishing our bodies, we have to look at our food groups and how these groups all play a vital role in our overall well being. We have 5 major food groups and each of these groups provide different benefits. For example consuming carbohydrates gives us the energy, calcium and B vitamins we need, it also helps keep our blood sugar levels steady. These include things like pap, ujeqe and rice. We need protein on the other hand for our daily dose of zinc, iron, and essential fatty acids. Protein could be anything from meat, umqusho to dhal. Dairy products like amasi, milk and yoghurt provide us with vitamin A, D and calcium. Fruits and vegetables play a major role in providing our bodies with fibre, vitamins, and antioxidants. 

When we combine these food groups, we provide our bodies with optimal tools to survive, fight off illness and even protect our mental health. Carbohydrates are able to protect our hearts, and gut health. Proteins help us create antibodies to fight off infections and keep our cells healthy. A diet that is rich in various fruits and vegetables can help with balancing hormones, which may cause issues with fertility, inflammation or pain if left unbalanced. It also aids in lowering blood pressure, preventing some types of cancers and even lowering our risks of heart attacks and strokes. Diary products on the other hand assists in keeping our bones strong and healthy. Fats and sugars can assist our bodies by providing us with energy. 

The need for balance is important to maintain our bodies. Evidence indicates that diets high in sugar and fats, without the balance of other food groups can affect our fertility and even inflammation levels in our body. 

Winter can be an especially tough time for most of us to maintain a well-balanced diet. Our bodies yearn for heat and comfort, and we often reach for bulky meals like pastas and stews. While these are delicious and comforting options, there’s no reason we can’t also make it a balanced option. We can do this by sprucing up our pasta with things like chicken, spinach, cream, bell peppers, onions and some fresh herbs. The same process can be done with any stew or comfort foods – adding a few additional ingredients to make sure we have a good balance could go a long way in keeping us healthy and balanced in winter. 

In winter it is important to indulge in foods that are rich in vitamin D because we get less sun which could affect our mood, foods like oranges, kiwis and broccoli to aid in providing vitamin C. Hearty soups filled with vegetables, legumes and beans, and meat could go a long way in providing us with the sustenance we need. We can also look at things like spinach, morogo and root vegetables to assist with our serotonin levels. Another excellent choice for winter meals is potatoes, both regular and sweet potato. In winter we may feel hungrier than usual and these keep us full and they help us poop, which is a bonus considering winter constipation due to lifestyle changes is real! 

Food is to be enjoyed and savoured. There are no bad foods – all food is good food in moderation and balance, food is fuel for our bodies to function as it should. That means that we have to balance our meals and food choices to reap the benefits of our foods without overindulging in just one food group. Balance is key to eating to live.