It has been said that we are what we eat. Nutrition plays an important role in optimal health, and a healthy, balanced diet is essential to good nutrition. How do you know if your diet is well balanced? You need to be eating a variety of foods from the five main food groups.
What Are the Five Food Groups?
If you take care to consume foods from each of the five groups every day, you are eating a balanced diet. The five food groups are:
Fruits are nutritious and a healthy alternative to candy, cookies, and sweet desserts. They are high in natural sugar, but they also provide fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, and are less likely to spike your blood sugar. Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juice. Fresh or frozen whole fruits contain more nutrients than juice, and they don’t have added sugar, as juice often does. Avoid fruit canned in syrup.
Vegetables supply our bodies with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. For optimal nutrition, eat a variety of veggies in different colors. The vegetable food group has five subgroups:
- Leafy greens
- Orange or red vegetables
- Starchy vegetables
- Legumes (beans and peas)
- Other vegetables (such as zucchini and eggplant)
The USDA recommends choosing some vegetables from each of the subgroups every week.
This food group includes whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains are the best choice for a healthy diet. They retain all parts of the grain, contain more fiber and protein, break down more slowly, and have less effect on blood sugar than refined grains. Healthy whole-grain selections include oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, and buckwheat.
Protein is essential for muscle development and maintenance, wound healing, and other functions of the body. Our main sources of protein are meats and beans. Healthy animal protein comes from red meats, poultry, and fish. Plant-based proteins are good sources of fiber and nutrients. Examples of healthy plant-based protein foods include beans, almonds, peas, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and lentils.
Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt, are a great source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Low-fat varieties are available for those who want to reduce their fat intake. Lactose-free products are also available for lactose-intolerant individuals.
What About Fats and Oils?
Fat is essential for our bodies to function properly. However, too much fat in your diet can lead to weight gain. There has been conflicting data over the years about which are the good fats and which are bad. The latest recommendations are to use fish and vegetable oils, limit butterfat, and avoid trans fats completely.
What Does Your Doctor Say?
Your physician can order lab work to test for nutritional deficiencies. With regular checkups, your doctor can help ensure you are getting the nutrients you need in sufficient quantities. You should have a thorough physical exam at least once a year. Our agent can help you obtain a health insurance plan that allows you to get the medical care you need.