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Today, more than half of all American adults have a chronic disease, often related to poor diet. It is necessary to emphasize the importance of creating a healthy eating pattern to maintain health and reduce the overall risk of disease. Everything that we consume, every food and beverage choice we make each day, matters.
Our bodies were created to naturally crave vitamins and nutrients that are only found in certain food groups. The right mixture of these foods can help you become healthier now and in the future. To live a more nutritious lifestyle, start with small changes to make healthier choices you can enjoy. For instance:
But, how do you know what foods are in the food groups? We'll break it down for you below:
As we can see from the food pyramid, we should consume approximately 30% of water each day to rehydrate ourselves. 30% of water is equivalent to 8 glasses. Our bodies are made up of water, but we are constantly draining ourselves of it through sweat, tears, urination, and even breathing. It's imperative, especially for good kidney function, that we replenish our bodies with the proper amount of water.
Next, on the food pyramid are fruits and vegetables. Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the Fruit Group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up or pureed. In general, people need approximately 25% of fruits and vegetables, however, the amount of fruit one needs to eat depends on age, gender, and level of physical activity. For example:
As with fruit, any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a member of the Vegetable Group. Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut, or mashed. Based on their nutrient content, vegetables are organized into 5 subgroups: dark green vegetables, starchy veggies, red and orange veggies, beans and peas, and other veggies.
The amount of vegetables you need to eat depends again on your age, gender, and level of physical activity. Recommended total daily amounts and recommended weekly amounts vary by the subgroups, as well. In general:
Up next on the food pyramid are grains. As the pyramid shows, our bodies should have 20% of whole grains daily. Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is considered a grain product. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are examples of grain products.
Grains are divided into 2 subgroups: whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel. Examples of whole grains include: whole-wheat flour, bulgur, oatmeal, cornmeal, and brown rice. Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins. Examples of refined grain products are: white flour, degermed cornmeal, white bread, and white rice.
Most refined grains are enriched. This means that certain B vitamins and iron are added back after processing. Fiber is not added back to enriched grains. Check the ingredient list on refined grain products to make sure that the word enriched is included in the grain name. Some food products are made from mixtures of whole grains and refined grains.
How many grain foods are needed daily?
Once again, the amount of grains that you need to eat is all dependent on your age, gender, and level of physical activity. Most Americans consume enough grains, but few are whole grains. At least half of all the grains eaten should be whole grains.
Moving up on the food pyramid, we come to protein foods. Meats, poultry, fish, and sausage foods should take up 15% of the pyramid. All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds are all considered part of the protein foods group.
Select a variety of protein foods to improve nutrient intake and health benefits, including at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week. Young children need less, depending on their age and calorie needs. Nutritionists say that the advice to consume seafood doesn't apply to vegans and vegetarians. Vegan and vegetarian options in the protein foods group include: beans and peas, processed soy products, and nuts and seats. For non vegans and vegetarians, meat and poultry choices should be lean or low fat.
Again, the amount of protein rich food you need to eat depends on your gender, age, and physical activity. Most Americans eat enough food from this food group as well, but need to make leaner and more varied selections of these foods.
Almost at the top of the food pyramid are dairy products. The food pyramid shows that dairy products should take up 15% of the pyramid. All fluid milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Foods that are made from milk and retain their calcium content are also a part of this group. However, foods made from milk, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, have little to no calcium - therefore, they are not part of the dairy food group. Calcium fortified soy milk is also considered part of the dairy group.
The amount of food from the dairy group that you need to eat depends solely on age. Majority of people require 3 cups of dairy per day. Children from ages 2-8 years old, however, only require 2 to 2.5 cups of dairy per day.
Lastly, at the top of the pyramid are the foods that we should consume the least of. Junk foods, fats, sugar, etc., all take up 10% of the pyramid. These foods, such as cookies, cakes, sugar, fast food, or sugary drinks, don't contain the nutrients that we need. They add no nutritional value, and shouldn't be eaten in large quantity or in frequency.
If you cannot eat certain foods, or have trouble digesting some of these food groups, be sure to check out our all natural dietary and nutritional supplements page here!
Before taking any medication, supplement, or beginning a health regimen, be sure to speak with your doctor or a qualified health care professional.