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What makes a correct diet?

Importance of the correct diet

Everyone would agree that a balanced diet is important.

But what does “balanced” mean? The common view is that a diet is balanced if the food contains sufficient quantity of the various nutrients - proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and water to meet the needs of the body for maintenance, growth, reproduction and exercise. This definition fails to take account of several important factors:

  1. Is the amount consumed appropriate to the needs of the individual?
  2. What if the food has excessive nutrients e.g. too much protein or fat?
  3. Is the body able to utilise the nutrients in the food: i.e. is the food easily digested?
  4. Does the food contain substances which are not nutrients e.g. chemical additives, impurities?
  5. Does the food suit the animal’s system? Many pets develop intolerance to certain foods.
  6. Is the body able to eliminate the waste matter effectively?

Production and elimination of waste are normal functions of the body. Wastes are produced as an end result of breakdown and utilisation of nutrients. Protein and fat produce more harmful waste products than carbohydrate so a diet which is high in carbohydrate and low in protein and fat will reduce the toxic load which has to be eliminated.

Our definition of a balanced diet is that what goes in equals what comes out!

This means that over a period of time the body will maintain a good state of health and normal function and that all wastes will be efficiently eliminated. In practice, many domestic pets do not have a balanced diet. In most instances food INTAKE exceeds OUTPUT

Excess intake can result from

  1. Overfeeding
  2. Incorrect proportions of nutrients, for example too much protein or fat, or inclusion in the diet of non-nutrients e.g. colourings, chemicals.

Decreased output can result from

  1. insufficient exercise
  2. a warm environment reduces the amount of energy needed to maintain body temperature
  3. the organs of elimination (kidneys, intestines, skin, liver and gall bladder) may become less efficient as they become clogged.

See other advice pages