We are what we eat!! What we eat determines how well our body is fuelled and how seamlessly it runs. Eating a clean, balanced diet with components from every food group is essential to good health now and in the long term.
Here are 5 essential food groups from which you should be consuming daily.
Ideally, one should consume 1 – 1 ½ cups of fruit per day – either fresh, canned or dried. Even 1 cup of 100% fruit juice or ½ a cup of dried fruit may be considered to meet your daily requirement. Starting your day with a piece of fruit or blending it into juice to drink (preferably unstrained) throughout the day is a good way to ensure you meet your daily fruit requirement. Eating enough fruit means you have a constant supply of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and minerals that prevent chronic diseases.
Like fruits, it is recommended to have 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. This includes a varied mix of dark, leafy greens, beans, peas starchy vegetables like potatoes, and can either be raw, cooked, fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Eating a leafy salad for lunch or roasted/baked veggies for dinner is a good habit. Veggies give the body a wide range of valuable nutrients like fibre, folate, potassium and vitamins A and C, which is beneficial to the body. Sweet potatoes, greens, tomatoes and beans supply potassium which helps maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Between whole grains and refined grains, you should be getting around 145 grams per day with at least half the quantity being whole grains. Refined ones are processed and have less nutritional value. Consume grains such as whole wheat flour, quinoa, oatmeal, cornmeal and rice as it helps give your body fibre without many calories. Eating enough grain also reduces blood cholesterol, risk of chronic diseases as well as heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Aim for 145 grams of protein a day – be it meat, poultry, seafood, processed soy, nuts or seeds. Choose lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry as well as omega 3 rich fish (salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel). Great ways to incorporate protein in your diet is by having scrambled eggs with peanut butter on toast for breakfast, rice or pasta for lunch/dinner and baking/broiling/ grilling meats, poultry and fish.
Proteins supply nutrients to the body such as vitamin B, B6, E, Iron, Zinc and Magnesium. Apart from this, it is the building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. They release energy and play a vital role in the functioning of the nervous system.
All fluid milk products and milk based foods are a part of this food group – milk, yogurt, soymilk and natural cheese to name a few. Butter, cream cheese and cream do not count in achieving your dairy needs. You need to consume 3 cups of dairy a day, which could be in the form of smoothies, in cereal, cubes in your salad or a spread on your sandwich. Intake of dairy products is linked to good bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. More importantly, it supplies adequate calcium to the body for maintaining healthy bones.
Eating a balanced diet comprising of these five food groups have a wide range of health benefits. Eat the right amount to control your calorie intake and maintain a healthy weight.