Healthy Food Composition

Stay healthy | 2018


Prof. Dr. Werner Seebauer is Dean of Studies – Association of German Preventologists, Head of Preventive Medicine Department of Institute of Transcultural Health Sciences (European University Viadrina) and Head of Preventive Medicine – NESA (The New European Surgical Academy).

Since 2000, prof. dr. Werner Seebauer worked only in preventive medicine, after ten years spent at the Frankfurt University Hospital. He is also involved in the medical professionals training for nutrition and prevention.

MediHelp International, together with LAMP Insurance, and in collaboration with NESA has created the NESAcard based on the wish to offer access to high standards medical services to patients all over Europe.

This way, MediHelp contributes to the medical science development and is actively involved in the international social responsibility advocacy. 

How is the menu - the diet composed healthily? How much of which food groups? 


To visualize how to combine food groups optimally, you either use a food pyramid or a nutritional circle, which is also referred to as an "Eating Plate". With the help of the circle one can estimate the quantity distribution better with percentages.

The exact percentages that are precisely distributed among the individual food groups cannot be determined. They should only be given an orientation. There are also differences in the assignment of foods to specific group fields. That's not important.

It is important that in addition to the images in the graph, there is given also some explanation and some more information, complementary information such as which foods should only consumed rarely or avoided.

What should be considered, how should the food circle be interpreted correctly?

The biggest part of the food composition should consist in vegetables (about 20%) and whole grains (about 25%). Almost equally large proportions should come from the groups of legumes and fruits (about 15% each). You can also vary the quantities between the groups here.

In any case, it is good that 75% of the food composition consists of food of plant origin and 25% of food of animal origin (best of high-quality).

If a mixed diet (whole foods) with approximately 25% of food of animal origin (fish, meat, egg, dairy products), the supply of all nutrients is easier, but it is also possible without meat and fish (vegetarian) or without any animal products (vegan). Vegans, however, need the supplementation of vitamin B12 and the proportion of legume in the diet should be significantly increased (to about 30%). Legumes are the best protein suppliers in the vegetable diet and very healthy.

In addition to quantity, quality is always important in the compilation. It is very important how the basic product was created and how it was processed; and what artificial additives were used. It should be as ecological and pollutant free as possible; when food is being processed, the products should not contain too much sugar nor too much salt. In addition, it is often better to eat fresh products.  

What you should limit or avoid and prefer on the other hand 

Pickled or smoked preserved products should be limited and eaten only seldom. Also, strongly roasted and strongly fried products should be consumed only rarely.

Products containing industrially modified fats (e.g. hydrogenated fats and other trans fats), or fried products, should also be consumed only rarely or better avoided. In principle, these are industrially changed oils for longer preservation of fats, or to become fats firm and spreadable for bread. So, they are often in fried products, in spread fats and also in some pastry.

In the case of vegetable oils, the oils of rapeseed, olives and nuts are good and should be used. Other oils contain too high levels of inflammatory fatty acids, which can increase various risks. For spreadable fats made from vegetable oils, don’t take the hydrogenated ones; also, not the hydrogenated nut puree (peanut butter, etc.) but only the not hydrogenated nut puree is recommended.

Saturated fat is a risk for the development of various chronic diseases. It is mainly found in foods from animal origin, but also high doses of it are in a few plant foods, such as coconut oil*, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. The Dietary Guidelines recommends getting less than 7% of calories from saturated fat.

*Coconut oil in a chemically modified formula can have some beneficial effects, but under the line, the high level of saturated fats (especially in commercial coconut oil) is not good. Other healthier oils have partly positive effects, however they have at the same time some disadvantages (risks). The topic of coconut oil will be addressed in an extra newsletter.

Limiting the saturated fat will likely have no benefit, however, if people replace saturated fat with the fast carbs (refined carbohydrates or lot of starchy plants like potatoes). Consuming the fast carbs instead of saturated fat can lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” one), but it also lowers the “good” HDL cholesterol and increases triglycerides, which is also a cardiovascular risk. Consuming too many of these fast carbs is just as bad for your heart as eating too much saturated fats.

Sweetened drinks and white flour products contain rapidly absorbable carbohydrates, which lead faster to overweight and obesity if physical activity is too low. Potato and white polished rice also contain readily available carbohydrates. Rice is one of the cereals and should be used in this group rather as whole grain rice.

Now more about the positive list (good healthy foods)

Whole grains and vegetables should make up the largest part of the diet.

For the whole-grain group, it is best to vary the sorts: consume whole-grain products of barley, oats, quinoa, spelled, brown rice and other types (e.g. in the form of whole grain bread or whole grain pasta, or whole grain muesli).

In terms of quantity first the vegetable group, secondly the fruits and legumes follow.

The distribution can vary between the groups. It is recommended to eat more vegetables than fruits and legumes. Regarding the vegetables you can consume a part as fresh vegetable juice.
Potato does not count as a vegetable group!

For vegetables, it should be noted that starchy root crops, (such as potato, cassava, yams, etc.), rice and corn cannot be counted in the vegetable group. So, eating a lot of potatoes, does not mean vegetable consumption!

The message is the “5 a day” recommendation - that means to consume at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits a day (3 servings of vegetables and 2 fruits) - one serving equals the amount that fills the hand of the consuming person.

The more varieties you choose, the better is your selection. Here you can orient yourself to different flavors and colors. As a tip: think of the traffic light colors - so compose at least red, yellow and green fruits and vegetables every day - even better a wider variety of colors ("rainbow diet").

In addition, various from the group of legumes and seeds should be consumed daily (e.g., lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas, soybean – and e.g. nuts, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, etc.). The largest proportion of this group should be from the legumes, which have the best protein content in vegan foods. The legumes, seeds and nuts can be used in a variety of forms: cooked as a soup or garnish, or as spread pastes for bread or for making sauces, or as a powder to produce drinking shakes or as supplement to flour for baking pastry or bread. The seeds and nuts are also ideal as an addition to the cereal and for salads (both fruit and vegetable, root and leaf lettuce).

In the case of fiber, it is good to consume the various forms (e.g. from flaxseed, chia seeds, salads, legumes, fruits and vegetables). It´s also recommended to have foods with good fermentable carbohydrates (long-chain carbohydrates, which are slow-absorbed – “slow carbs”), such as chicory, salsify, radicchio, endive, asparagus, broccoli (only lightly steamed), sugar peas, onion and garlic plants.
Salads and fresh herbs and spices should also be frequently on the menu.

It´s good if salads are mixed in a great variety of sorts: a mixture of ripe tomatoes, leafy plants, root vegetables, varieties of cabbage, herbs, sprouts and seeds, as well as legumes and some wholegrain bread should be combined. The add-on of fresh cheese (such as feta cheese) can also enhance the salad, as some nutrients are better absorbed. This also relates to the use of spices, e.g. pepper and curry, which are promoters for the absorption of some micronutrients.

Sources of good Proteins

The proteins can be easily covered by the groups of dairy products, egg, meat and fish, but the legumes also provide all the necessary protein components. Vegan diets should contain significantly more legumes.

With meat and dairy products, the low-fat products should be preferred; with meat, its more advantageous to eat white meat (that is poultry meat) and generally to limit or avoid sausage products altogether. In fish, the higher-fat fish can be good (for example, herrings, salmon), as they contain the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. You should not eat too often the big predatory fish (tuna, etc.), as these are contaminated more with heavy metals.

Choose the healthy plant oils and fish fats

For fats the healthy fat sources should be chosen. The fish have healthy fatty acids and the vegetable sources are the oils of olive, rape oilseed, nut oils and linseed oil.

It´s important to have the healthy fats in one’s diet; the organism absolutely needs them and a low-fat diet does not mean a healthy diet at the same time. And the healthy fats are not involved in overweight problems as people often believe. Responsible for overweight is the diet with too high doses of the fast carbohydrates and the unhealthy fats (usually in the not visible form in finished food products).

Good is also for example the form of the bound vegetable fat in avocado, or in nut puree (e.g., cashew butter, tahini sesame paste, peanut butter, etc.) but which is also not hydrogenated.

Drink plenty of water and teas

Depending on the physical activity and ambient temperature (sweat loss), you need lots of fluids; often about 2-3 liters in adults. With very hot temperatures and longer endurance sports, the required quantity can multiply.
Even coffee (up to 4-6 cups a day) can contribute well to the fluid balance.

Avoid sweetened drinks if you are overweight. If you are not overweight, occasional fruit juices are okay; sweet soft drinks also rarely - but then you should always have enough physical exercise.
Vegetable juices are better to evaluate than fruit juices. They can also be drunk often.

Alcohol in small amounts >> up to about 10-20g per day - about 1-2 glasses of wine (150ml) or about a bottle of beer (300ml) per day, may reduce some people’s cardiovascular risks. Doses beyond also increase these risks. Alcohol in each dose is always an addictive substance and has been shown to correlate with a higher risk of cancer. Children and pregnant women should avoid any alcohol consumption.

Keep physically active

In all dietary recommendations, it´s always assumed that the metabolism is promoted by sufficient physical activity. This also reduces the risk of being overweight.
So, move around frequently during the day and do extra exercise. Most people's sitting should be significantly reduced these days. You should walk at least one hour per day.

Avoiding overweight plays a very important role in the interaction with exercise and nutrition. Even with healthy foods you can become overweight if you eat more than energy is burned.

In the food circle, only the approximate percentage distribution between the food groups is shown - no calorie recommendation. The calorie requirement is individually very different - depending on the height, age, gender and especially the physical activity.

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