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Health benefits of a balanced diet

NHS ChoicesMedical Reference

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Eating a nutritious, balanced diet will help you improve your overall health. In particular, a balanced diet can help you:

  • maintain a healthy weight
  • cut your risk of developing certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes (a long-term condition caused by too much glucose in the blood) 

Being underweight

Being underweight can cause  osteoporosis (brittle bones) and amenorrhoea ( absent periods) in women. Not eating enough can mean that you do not get vital vitamins and minerals, which you need to maintain good health.

For example, not eating enough iron can cause  anaemia (a reduced number of red blood cells), which can cause tiredness and breathlessness.

Being overweight

There are approximately 25 million overweight or obese adults (over 16 years of age) in England. The 2008 Health Survey for England (HSE) found that 61% of adults are overweight or obese and that 27% of children (between the ages of 2 and 10) are overweight or obese.

Being overweight or obese puts you at greater risk of developing a number of serious health conditions, such as:

  • type 2 diabetes, a chronic (long-term) condition caused by too much glucose in the blood
  • most types of  cancer, when the body's cells begin to grow and reproduce in an uncontrollable way
  • heart disease, when your heart's blood supply is blocked
  • stroke, when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted

To find out if you are a healthy weight, check your BMI (see box, left) using the healthy weight calculator.

Avoiding health problems

Even if you are a healthy weight, it is important that your diet is balanced, otherwise you may be at risk of:

Both of these conditions increase your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases (conditions that can affect your blood circulation), such as heart attacks and strokes.

Making changes

You can maintain a healthy weight and avoid health problems by eating a balanced diet. To do this:

  • eat plenty of carbohydrates
  • eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day
  • cut down on the amount of fat, sugar and salt in your diet
  • eat enough vitamins and minerals
  • drink enough fluids 



Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.


The heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood around the body.
Medical Review: January 28, 2010

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