Understanding Food Groups

Posted by Sarah Cox on Monday, April 28, 2014 Under: nutrition
All the food we eat can be divided into five groups:
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Starchy foods
  • Meat, fish, eggs and beans
  • Milk and dairy foods
  • Foods containing fat and sugar

So, let's look at each of these food groups in a bit more detail: 


1. Fruit and vegetables

Everyone has heard that we should be eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.  Fruit and vegetables are a vital source of vitamins and minerals and can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancers. 


It's really not that hard to eat five portions a day. An apple, banana or pear is one portion. A slice of pineapple or melon is another portion. Three heaped tablespoons of vegetables is another portion. So, if you had a banana with your breakfast, an apple for a mid-morning snack, a bowl of salad with your lunch, another piece of fruit in the afternoon and some vegetables with your dinner, you've achieved your 5 portions. 


2. Starchy foods

Starchy foods such as bread, cereals, potatoes and pasta are an important part of a healthy diet. They are a good source of energy and provide the fuel your body needs as well as being the main source of nutrients for the body. Starchy foods should make up about one third of what we eat. Choose wholegrain varieties, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and wholemeal bread, wherever possible as they contain more fibre and usually contain more vitamins and minerals and are therefore better for you than the white varieties.  


3. Meat, fish, eggs and beans

These foods are all good sources of protein and vitamins and minerals. Protein is essential for growth and repair of the body. 


Meat contains iron, zinc and B vitamins. In particular it is one of the main sources of vitamin B12. 

Fish is another important source of protein, and contains many vitamins and minerals. Aim for at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish, as it is rich in omega-3. 


Eggs, beans, nuts and seeds are also great sources of protein. Nuts are high in fibre and a healthy snack, but eat them in moderation as they contain high levels of fat.


4. Milk and dairy foods

Milk and dairy foods such as cheese and yoghurt are also good sources of protein. They also contain calcium, which helps to keep your bones healthy. You can reduce the fat intake by choosing 

semi-skimmed milk, skimmed milk, lower-fat hard cheeses or cottage cheese, and lower-fat natural yoghurt.


5. Fat and sugar

Fat and sugar are both sources of energy for the body, but when we eat too much of them we consume more energy than we burn, and this can mean that we put on weight. This can lead to obesity, which increases our risk of type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke.


But there are different types of fat and and whilst some are bad for our health, others are actually good for us. More on fats to come in a future newsletter.... 


Sugar which occurs naturally in foods such as fruit and milk is fine.  It's the sugar that is added to lots of foods and drinks that is the problem, i.e. fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, pastries, ice cream, jam, ready made foods. 


If you're one of the thousands of people who eat too much fat, sugar and salt and not enough fruit, vegetables and fibre, your main aim should be to swap this around so you increase your intake of fruit, vegetables and fibre and reduce your intake of fat, sugar and salt.  You'll be doing your body and long-term health a big favour!

In : nutrition 

Tags: 'food groups'  'fruit and vegetables'  'starchy foods'  meat  fish  eggs  beans  milk  'dairy foods'  fat  sugar 

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Sarah Cox
Balham, London
Sarah Cox

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