The Food Groups

The Food Groups
The crucial part of healthy eating is a balanced diet. A balanced diet - or a good diet - means consuming from all the different groups in the right quantities. Many organizations have attempted to define the “food groups” and there is plenty of overlap. Nutritionists say there are five main food groups - whole grains, fruit and vegetables, protein, dairy, and fat & sugar. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) recommends 5 food groups that should be consumed daily because they are the components of a nutritious diet. These groups are fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. This article will discuss the recommended amounts of these groups needed to have a nutritious diet.

Fruits and vegetables are a source of micronutrients including antioxidants, essential vitamins & minerals, fiber, water and carbohydrates. Most of them are a good source of carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index. The general recommendation is to consume 5 or more from this group daily. Fresh produce are ideal however frozen is preferable to canned products since canned goods are high in sodium.

Grains can be categorized as whole or refined. Examples of whole grains include wheat, oats, rice, cornmeal and barley. Refined grains are milled to a finer texture which improves the shelf life and taste but removes the fiber and micronutrients. Examples of refined grains include white rice, white bread, and the sweetened refined cereals. Enriched grains have been refined but the iron and B vitamins have been added back.
Grains are the other primary source of carbohydrates and fiber. Some also provide essential vitamins and minerals. Adult women should have 5-6 ounces daily while men should have 6-8 ounces. The requirement for children is a bit less. Whole grains should make up more than 50% of the daily grain intake.

Dairy products are an excellent source of protein, calcium, potassium and Vitamin D. The recommended daily requirement is 24 ounces per 2000 calories. Milk based products that are ideal include low fat milk, cheese, yogurt and others.

A nutritious diet should include 5.5 ounces of protein rich foods. This is approximately 2-3 servings. Good sources of protein include meat, seafood, eggs, beans, peas, nuts and seeds. You should be carefully with red meat since they contain more unhealthy fats. The association with red meat and heart disease have recently been shown to be associated with the processed meats. Long term consumption of fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease the incidence of heart disease, so 1-2 servings per week of an oily fish such as salmon is recommend.

The food groups are a guide to help you select the proper food types and variety for a nutritious diet. It is also advised to avoid foods that have an excess of added sugar and high in saturated and trans fats. Fast foods and processed foods tend to contain large amounts of these. A diet that contains a majority of fresh fruits & vegetables, lean meats, fish, beans, low fat dairy and whole grains will provide your body with what it needs to live a healthy life. Of course we all want to enjoy life, so limit your intake of treats such as sweets, salty snacks and empty calorie beverages. Remember the goal of good nutrition is to maintain a healthy body so you can function at the highest level possible.

I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:

Live healthy, live well and live long!

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