A balanced diet needs to include the optimal proportions of different foods to provide the nutrients required and the appropriate amount of energy needed to keep the body healthy. Carbohydrates are the main energy source for most of the world’s population. In poor populations, 80-90% of the energy supply comes from carbohydrates, whereas in wealthier developed countries, this percentage drops to 50% or even less with many more calories coming from fats. Neither of these extremes are desirable from a health perspective.
Complex carbohydrates, such as those found in flour, grains, potatoes, wholemeal breads and some root vegetables are considered to be the best type of carbohydrates for energy as they provide a slower rise in blood glucose levels. This kind of food also contains other nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. Sugar is the least favourable form of carbohydrate to have in the diet and is often referred to as ”empty” calories.
Today, we tend to look at the composition of a meal, instead of looking at each sort of food individually. According to the so-called “Healthy Plate” model, half the plate should consist of vegetables, a quarter of the plate should consist of starchy foods such as potatoes, pasta or rice and a quarter of the plate should consist of fish, dairy, beans or meat to provide the protein required.