Why Eating All Five Food Groups Is Essential to Your Health

Whitney Hatcher

| 3 min read

healthy fruits
There’s a lot of truth to the phrase “you are what you eat.”
What you eat every day determines how well your body is fueled and how efficiently it functions. Our bodies run – or drag – thanks to the food we consume.
Eating a clean, balanced diet with healthy choices from every group is essential to good health. Find out why you should consider eating a wide variety of grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, and dairy each and every day.
Grains: Eating grains, especially whole grains, provides numerous vital health benefits. The fiber in whole grains helps provide a feeling of fullness without as many calories. Eating whole grains as part of a healthy diet may help:
  • reduce the risk of some chronic diseases.
  • reduce blood cholesterol levels.
  • lower the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
  • with weight loss and weight management.
  • prevent constipation.
Protein: Meat, poultry, fish, beans and peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds supply many nutrients. These include protein, B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium.
  • Proteins function as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. They are also building blocks for enzymes, hormones, and vitamins.
  • B vitamins found in this food group serve a variety of functions in the body. They help release energy, play a vital role in the function of the nervous system, aid in the formation of red blood cells, and help build tissues.
  • Iron is used to carry oxygen in the blood. Many teenage girls and women in their child-bearing years have iron-deficiency anemia. They should eat foods high in heme-iron (meats) or eat other non-heme iron containing foods along with a food rich in vitamin C, which can improve absorption of non-heme iron.
  • Magnesium is used in building bones and in releasing energy from muscles.
  • Zinc is necessary for biochemical reactions and helps the immune system function properly.
  • EPA and DHA are omega-3 fatty acids found in varying amounts in seafood. Eating eight ounces per week of seafood may help reduce the risk for heart disease.
Fruits: Fruits are great sources of many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that may help protect you from chronic diseases.
Vegetables: According to the CDC, “vegetables of different colors give your body a wide range of valuable nutrients, like fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C.”
  • Diets rich in dietary fiber have been shown to have a number of beneficial effects including decreased risk of coronary artery disease, Some examples include most beans, lentils, and artichokes.
  • Healthful diets with adequate folate may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord defect. Some examples include black eyed peas, cooked spinach, great northern beans, and asparagus.
  • Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Some examples include sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beet greens, white potatoes, white beans, lima beans, and cooked greens.
Dairy: Dairy items have impressive levels of two things many of us need more of: calcium and protein. According to the CDC:
  • Intake of dairy products is linked to improved bone health, and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Intake of dairy products is also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and with lower blood pressure in adults.
  • Vitamin D functions in the body to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorous, thereby helping to build and maintain bones. Milk and soy milk fortified with vitamin D are good sources of this nutrient. Other sources include vitamin D-fortified yogurt and vitamin D-fortified ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.
Do you make it a point to eat foods from each food group? Share your favorite recipes in the comments below.
For more information about foods that are essential, check out these posts:
Photo Credit: Wicker Paradise

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