Most people can list off the food groups from the old Food Guide Pyramid and quickly say they are important, but not many people realize what type of nutrition each food group can provide to help live a longer, healthier life. To list off the food groups quick there are grains, meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables with each group generally providing specific vitamins and minerals required by our body every day.
Grains are a staple for most people as they provide carbohydrates, which we use for energy every day. Trying to stay away from refined grains, such as white flour, has been the topic to much debate over the years, but to put it simply, moderation is key. Looking for products that are whole grain or whole wheat will help determine if a product is generally a healthy option from the grains group. Fiber is found in several food groups, including grains, and is of the utmost importance in helping keep people on a regular bowel regimen as well as helps to reduce the risk of certain cancers. Important vitamins and minerals found in the grains group include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, iron, magnesium, and selenium, which play key roles in metabolism, forming red blood cells, and building strong bones and a healthy immune system.
The meat group, or proteins group, includes all types of meat as well as nuts, beans, seeds, lentils, and eggs. Protein is the building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Vitamins and minerals supplied by this food group include niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, B6, Vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. These help to release energy within the body, aid in the formation of red blood cells, help build tissues, and carry oxygen in the blood.
The dairy group has been given particular attention over the past few decades for its importance in helping to maintain a healthy blood pressure and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other products that make up the dairy group contain a good dose of calcium, which can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis as it helps build strong, healthy bones. Vitamin D helps in the process of creating healthy bones by maintaining proper levels of calcium and phosphorous.
We all know what fruits are and that they are a huge part of building a healthy, nutritious diet, but few people understand what they provide beyond Vitamin C. Fiber, folate, potassium, and fiber are also found in fruits and can help improve our immune system, heal cuts and wounds, keep teeth and gums healthy, and help to control blood pressure. Eating a diet rich in fruits can also help reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
Vegetables, the last major food group to discuss here, are well known as a healthy part of everyone’s diet with their low calorie and cholesterol content along with high fiber, potassium, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A. This food group acts well as a filler to curb hunger between meals along with the nutrients helping with eye, skin, and gastrointestinal health.
Check out ChooseMyPlate.Gov for more information on the food groups and how to best choose foods for a healthy body. There is a wealth of information on each food group and more. Anyone interested in learning more about diet and how to best move forward with starting on a healthy eating plan should discuss this with their doctor and request to see a registered dietitian. In the next article we will discuss a part of our diet the was skipped over, intentionally, in this article. Oils and fats have been listed with the Food Guide Pyramid as well as on ChooseMyPlate.Gov, but they deserve special attention due to their bad rap over the years for making people gain weight.