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Food Groups: Definition, Benefits And Types Of Food

Find out more about the five main food groups and their health benefits.
Each one of the different food groups provides particular health benefits.

 

 

The secret to healthy eating is to keep a balanced and varied diet that includes foods rich in the nutrients needed by your body to function properly; that is, among others, fruits and vegetables, meat, cereals and dairy.

Different health associations around the world have developed several classifications of the different food groups to help you in the difficult task of following a healthy diet. The article below will describe the five basic food groups as well as their functions.

What are food groups?

There are several nutrition guides which divide foods in different groups and recommend the amount of daily servings for each one of them so that you keep a healthy and varied diet.

Although there are different types of classification, depending on whether they include only staple foods or also processed foods or drinks, in most of them, the food from the same group provide similar amounts of essential nutrients.

For example, the dairy group is characterized by providing calcium and protein while the fruit group usually provides a greater amount of vitamins.

In order to follow a diet rich in essential nutrients that provide good health, you should eat a certain amount and variety of each of the foods found in the staple food classification. This does not mean that you have to include a piece or portion of each group in every meal, but you should distribute them throughout the week according to nutritional guidelines.

Moreover, it is important to vary the intake of foods from the same group, since each one of them provides different amounts of essential nutrients. For example, within the vegetables group, carrots provide a greater amount of vitamin A than potatoes. Hence, the importance of variety within each group.

Staple foods also include dairy.

 

Types of food

As it has already been mentioned, there are different classifications of food groups, developed according to the functions of food (body building, energy giving or regulatory foods) or their nutrients.

Besides, the classifications may also vary when it comes to the number of groups, depending on whether they only include staple foods or also processed foods, oils or butter. 

The following article will focus on the five main food groups, classified according to their nutrients, which should be added to your diet to make it as healthy and effective as possible. Therefore, you will discover the great range of options each group provides.

1. Vegetables and legumes

There are countless vegetables and legumes available in each season. The various foods within this group come from different parts of the plants: leaves, roots, tubers, flowers, seeds and sprouts.

Within this group, vegetables can be subdivided into several groups, which provide different and special nutrients. The main vegetable subgroups are:

  • Cruciferous: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, spinach, etc.

  • Tubers: potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, turnip, etc.

  • Legumes: beans, soya beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.

  • Other vegetables: tomatoes, celery, pumpkin, pepper, aubergine, cucumber, etc.

It is important to eat every day a variety of vegetables, since it guarantees the intake of a great part of the daily nutrients necessary for your health.

Benefits of vegetables and legumes

The health benefits provided by eating vegetables and legumes are widely known. The various types of vegetables can help protect your organism in different ways, so it is important to choose always a variety of them.

Although some vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers or broccoli, are particularly rich in vitamin C, all the foods within the vegetable group contain this vitamin.

Most of the vegetables are related to the improvement and prevention of cardiovascular diseases, as well as to a reduced risk of developing different types of cancer.

2. Fruits

Like vegetables, fruits have also been known for their health benefits. Moreover, seasonal fruits provide a higher value and quality to their nutrients. The benefits of eating seasonal fruits involve a great variety of options for your diet throughout the year.

Among the different types of fruits, there are:

  • Pome fruits, such as apples or pears;

  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges or grapefruits;

  • Drupes such as apricots, peaches, plums or cherries;

  • Tropical fruits such as pineapples, melons or bananas;

  • Berries;

  • Other fruits, such as grapes.

The daily fruit serving is approximately 150 grams. However, this portion refers to pieces of fruit, not to juice or products such as dried fruit, which provide a higher amount of sugar.

Benefits of fruits

Most of the fruits are known to be low in calories and rich in fibre and water, which helps your digestion, as well as maintains the feeling of fullness, reduces the feeling of hunger, and keeps you hydrated.

Fruits are a great source of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which are related to a better general health, as well as to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and, according to studies, help prevent certain types of cancer.

Any supermarket will provide foods from all of the five main groups.

 

3. Cereals

Also known as grains, cereals mainly include: wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, corn, millet and quinoa, as well as the products made from these, such as bread, pasta or breakfast cereals.

This group can be divided into cereals and whole or refined grains products. Whole grains contain the three layers of the grain and retain almost all the fibre, nutrients and minerals. Moreover, whole grain foods are made from whole grains that have not been crushed or processed as the refined grains.

By contrast, the refined grains, such as white flour or white rice, have their layers of bran and germ removed, which reduces most of their fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Benefits of cereals

Among the nutrients provided by cereals, there are carbohydrates (energy), protein, fibre and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, magnesium and phosphorus.

As it has been mentioned, whole grains are much more useful for your general health, your gastrointestinal health and the decrease of developing some diseases, such as heart diseases, colon cancer or diabetes.

Besides, the foods high in fibre can help you lose weight, as they take longer to digest and create the feeling of fullness. Whole grains are also low in saturated fats and contain beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids.

4. Protein foods

This group comprises all kinds of meat, fish, eggs and nuts, which have commonly been considered as high-protein foods. Besides, they also provide a wide range of other nutrients, such as iodine, iron, zinc, vitamins and essential fatty acids.

This food group can be divided into the following categories:

  • Red meat: beef, lamb or pork, and products such as sausages or burgers;

  • White meat: chicken, turkey or rabbit;

  • Fish and seafood;

  • Eggs;

  • Nuts.

The recommended amount of each of these foods will depend on the food itself as well as on the person’s age or health. For example, it is recommended to eat a greater amount of fish or white meat than red meat, but this does not mean that the latter should not be included in your diet. Moreover, it is not recommended to eat processed meat, such as sausages, ham, boiled ham or similar products, since they increase the amount of fat in your organism.

Those people who do not eat foods of animal origin, can turn to nuts, seeds and legumes for the amounts of minerals and proteins necessary to keep a healthy diet.

Benefits of protein foods

Red meat provides a great number of the necessary nutrients. However, its excess consumption is associated with an increased risk of cancer, so it is important to eat a variety of foods from this group.

The other options also provide many of the same nutrients as well as help prevent some physical conditions, such as heart diseases.

5. Dairy

Finally, within the dairy group, there is a wide range of products, both of animal and vegetable origins. They contain different amounts of salt and fat. As with the other food groups, there are different classifications of dairy foods:

  • Milk: animal milk, dairy products, such as soy drinks, oats, etc., powdered milk, evaporated milk, etc.

  • Yogurts 

  • Cheeses

Benefits of dairy

Any type of dairy products provides calcium and other nutrients, such as iodine, vitamin A and B12, protein, riboflavin and zinc, among many others.

Many people decide not to consume any kind of dairy, either because they are intolerant or believe them to be harmful. However, if you do not consume these products nor substitute them for other appropriate alternatives, in the long term, it can affect your general health and bones.

 

  • For more information on food groups of the food pyramid and healthy eating plans, check out the following link

Check out the original article: Grupos de alimentos: cuáles son, funciones y beneficios at viviendolasalud.com

 

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