Nutrition: The Bare Minimum
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture set new nutritional standards for Americans and created My Plate, which replaced the familiar Food Pyramid.
Any fruit or 100 percent fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Be careful of the sugar content in some fruit juices or canned fruits as they can be high in sugar. Eating a diet rich in fruit may protect against heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories and none of them have cholesterol.
Any vegetable or 100 percent vegetable juice counts as a member of the vegetable group. They can be raw, cooked, fresh, frozen or canned. A diet rich in vegetables may help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing several cancers. Some vegetables are naturally high in several nutrients such as fiber and potassium and naturally low in calories and sodium.
Grains are split into two categories: whole grains and refined grains. Simply put: whole grains contain the entire grain kernel – the bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains have been milled to remove the bran and the germ and just have the endosperm. This is done to give the grain a finer texture. Most white breads and white rice, for example, are made from refined grains.
All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds are part of the protein food group. Protein is vital to the human body because they serve as the building blocks of the body. Proteins help the body grow, repair itself and carry out basic functions. Many of these amino acids our body can produce itself, but the ones that we cannot we must get from our diet.
Beans and peas are a unique food and a special source of protein. They are mature forms of legumes and are an excellent source of plan protein as well as iron and zinc. They are also considered part of the vegetable food group because they are an excellent source of dietary fiber, folate and potassium.
All fluid milk and foods made from milk are part of the daily food group. Dairy is generally high in calcium, vitamin D and protein. Dairy products are very good for the body, but be sure to opt for the low-fat versions of dairy as they can be very high in cholesterol and fat. Daily recommendation change based on age, gender and activity level, but adult women and men should eat 3 cups of dairy each day.
Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature such as olive oil and canola oil. While oils are not a food group unto themselves and should be used with extreme moderation, they do provide some essential nutrients. The oils you consume should contain polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, which are essential fatty acids and do not raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.