A nutritious diet is essential to good health and the key to eating well is enjoying a wide variety of healthy foods from each of the five general food groups. The food groups are based on foods that have similar amounts of key nutrients. These include carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. The recommendations based on the food groups provide a basic framework to help guide people take an active role in eating better.
It is very important to meet the nutrient requirements the body needs on a daily basis. The body needs a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals in order to support various cellular functions, which are vital to supporting the immune system. The right amount of nutrients in a diet also helps the body prevent infections, maintain blood supply and encourage growth.
There are basic recommended allowances that should be taken into account so that the body will receive the right amount of macro and micronutrients. Different food groups vary in the amount of key nutrients they provide. For example fruit may provide less protein than meat and dairy products.
The Five Food Groups:
- Vegetables including legumes and beans
- Grain (cereal) foods including mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds and legumes/beans
- Milk, yogurt, cheese
Educating people on how best to look after their health is very important. Parents should be well aware of the impact a bad diet can have on themselves and their children. Due to lack of information, education and often resources children are neglected and their diet poor. This adversely affects their health and growth rate.
Similarly this also applies to adults with particular relevance to those people who have diabetes or cholesterol conditions. Many medical conditions can be resolved by the right diet. This is of particular concern in South Africa, where there are many underprivileged communities that don’t have access to a variety of foods and there is a high prevalence of life-style illnesses.
The benefits of different types of foods
Eating a variety of fresh vegetables provides fibre and is a good source of vitamins and minerals. Refined grains and sugar should be consumed minimally. Whole grain products offer far more nutrients and are healthier than their refined counterparts.
Meat products like lamb, pork, beef, chicken and fish are high in protein, while dairy products are high in calcium. It is advisable to limit the intake of saturated fats in one’s diet. Meat cuts should be trimmed of all visible fat and lean cuts are preferable. Unsaturated vegetable fats are a healthier alternative to saturated fats.
A well-balanced diet is vital to ensure wellbeing and good health. Processed food should be considered occasional foods and should be kept to a minimum. Alcohol should also be consumed sparingly as it has very little nutritional value. It’s not hard to include foods from the five food groups into snacks and meals. All it takes is a little mindfulness and a little information on serving sizes and recommended daily allowances to eat well.