Everything You Should Know About Food Groups
You always hear the saying “eat a healthy and balanced diet” but what does that really mean? There are so many foods out there that are good for you, then there are foods that are bad for you and the in-between foods that are okay in moderation. Experts have put together a list of food groups with portions and a break-down of how much we can eat each day while maintaining a healthy diet. It’s also important to know what it is that each of these food groups contributes to your overall health and wellness.
The average adolescent or adult needs about 3 “cups” of dairy each day as a healthy dose. What constitutes one cup is going to vary based on what it is that you are looking to add to your plate. A cup of milk is going to count as exactly that, but about one or two ounces of processed cheese would count as the same.
Dairy is rich in calcium so it is important to some vital bodily functions like developing bones and teeth. Calcium also supports the retention of bone mass, so as we get older and lose bone density it becomes increasingly important. High amounts of potassium are also found in dairy which can do great things for your blood pressure.
Vitamin D also supports your body’s ability to maintain good calcium levels and since it is also found in dairy (vitamin D fortified milk), it only increases the previously mentioned benefits! Don’t overdo it with your dairy portions and try to consume low-fat or fat-free dairy to limit any negative impact on your health.
Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans meet the minimum daily requirement for fruit servings per day, which means that most people can benefit from eating more fruits in their diet! Fruit tends to be high in sugar quantities, so people try to limit how much of it they eat but studies have shown that you can eat way more than the minimum daily requirement (5 servings per day) without any negative impact. To make a long story short, unless you are on a low carb diet and have to watch your carb intake, you really should not worry that much about how many servings of fruits you should eat every day. After all, eating a lot of fruit is unlikely to make you fat.
You don’t have to eat 50 servings per day to benefit from fruit, thankfully. 400 grams are recommended and that amounts to about 5 servings of 80 grams per day. Fewer than this and you can be healthy, but 400 grams per day is a daily average linked to longevity and disease prevention.
Fruit contains many vitamins and minerals that contribute to overall health and they also have a lot of fiber which supports digestion. Fiber is also part of why the impact of fruit’s sugar is low since fiber slows the body’s absorption of the sugar. Replacing sweet snacks with fruits early on can help keep diabetes at an arm’s length.
When it comes to fruits, there are so many healthy choices out there. Grapefruit, pineapple, avocado, apples, oranges, strawberries, olives, guava, papaya, cherries, and cranberries are some of the healthiest fruits you can find.
3. Veggies And Legumes:
Vegetables are also supposed to be consumed in about five servings of 80 grams per day, similar to fruits. The great thing is that if you like both fruits and vegetables, you can combine the two and mix them up to get those servings each day. As long as you get about five servings of fruits and vegetables, you should be fine.
This food group combines a lot of the benefits of the other food groups in the types of vitamins and minerals that it provides. It is rich in potassium similar to dairy and it has high amounts of fiber like fruit does. Veggies are also naturally low in calories and fats and they won’t impact your health negatively no matter how many servings you eat.
Folic acid is also prevalent in vegetables, which is great for your bloodstream. Folic acid helps your body produce red blood cells, so if you need extra energy pumping through your veins or some extra strength, be sure to load up on this food group!
Vegetables are not created equal. Some veggies are healthier than others, but no matter what you choose, you can’t go wrong here. There are so many healthy choices out there. Spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, onions, beets, brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrot, garlic, and green peas are some of the healthiest vegetables you can find.
4. Meat And Meat Substitute:
This food group can include vegetarian protein options for those who do not eat meat like beans, chickpeas, nuts, and seeds. The average adult needs to consume anywhere from 5 to 6 ounces of these proteins per day (2 servings of 3 ounces each). It is important to avoid overeating in this section because it can carry more fat and calories than any food group other than dairy.
Proteins are an important building block of life in that they support the creation of muscles, skin, bones and everything else that we walk around with every day! They also play a big role in helping us lose weight. Keep in mind that unlike fat and carbs, protein does not get stored in the body. Being a macronutrient the body needs a lot of, protein must be consumed regularly in order for your body to replenish its reservoir.
This food group is high in vitamins and minerals as well, particularly with iron. Since iron is used to carry oxygen through the blood, it supports our health throughout the body. The magnesium in meat is what builds bones and it also helps release energy from your muscles so that they can help you continue to build mass. Meat gives us zinc, too, which is essential to supporting the health and strength of our immune systems.
We can eat grains in a variety of forms like bread, pasta, cereals, and others, and generally speaking, we should be eating 6 or more servings of this food group each day.What constitutes one serving is going to vary based on what it is that you are looking to add to your plate. One slice of bread would count as one serving, but about one cup of ready-to-eat cereal flakes would count as the same.
Grains are generally high in vitamins and minerals as well but if you eat grains that are too processed, they lose their nutrients. For example, whole grains tend to be high in fiber, iron and vitamin B so when you buy whole wheat flour you will get a good serving of each. If you use white flour, it is more processed so these nutrients may exist but they are in far smaller quantities. With that in mind, it is advisable to go for whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat, whole oats and quinoa as these are the healthiest options and avoid processed grains such as white bread and white pasta which are basically empty calories.
Knowing what you should eat and how much is a great start, but it is only one part of living a healthy and balanced life. Like anything else, a holistic approach is the only way to be truly healthy. Make sure to give your body diversity and eat a wide range of foods from each of these categories to get a great diet and improve the quality of your life.