You have likely heard of the different food groups and that they are important. When many people think of food groups, they consider protein, carbs, fiber, and the like. However, that is not quite right. There are five food groups and specific types of foods that you should add to your diet.
The food groups are:
- Meats, poultry, and fish (including nuts and tofu)
- Dairy and alternatives
Getting something from each of the food groups is important. One thing you will notice is that “alternatives” is mentioned. This means vegans and those on strict diets can still get something from the food groups. You do not have to avoid all dairy because there are vegan-friendly alternatives, such as almond and coconut milk. Likewise, meat can be replaced with tofu or soy.
Before you jump into adding them all into your meals, you will need to make sure you understand the health facts and myths. Not everything you hear is true, but the facts are important.
FACT: There are Different Fruit Categories to Consider
While fruit is one food group, there are subgroups to consider within it. You will need to get a mixture from the different types of fruits, as they all offer various health benefits.
Pome fruits are the most commonly eating and include pears and apples. They are very easy to combine with different fruits, tend to quench the thirst quickly, and can be used in baking and cooking extremely easily.
Citrus and stone fruits are next on the list. These include oranges, grapefruits, lemons, cherries, nectarines, plums, and the like. Many of them are soft and juicy and help you top up with the amount of vitamin C in your diet.
Then there are tropical fruits, which include pineapples, mangos, bananas, melons, etc. After that, you have berries, which includes all varieties including goji berries! Finally, there are “other fruits,” which includes everything that cannot be added into the other subgroups, such as passion fruits and grapes.
FACT: You Should Get At least Two Servings Per Day
While there are natural sugars in fruits, they are extremely beneficial for you. However, it is the natural sugars that make vegetables more popular. Fruits and vegetables tend to be lumped into the same food group, but that is not the case.
Make sure you get at least two servings of fruit per day. You will want to top the rest of your “5-8 servings per day” with vegetables. Eat more vegetables than fruit to avoid the natural sugars and high calories.
Fruit juice only occasionally counts as your servings. You do not want to drink a whole carton of orange juice in a day due to the natural sugars and lack of fiber. Raw and whole are the best ways to get your fruit.
MYTH: Fruit Will Cause Type II Diabetes and Weight Gain
When eating in moderation, fruit is perfect for you. It is possible to get a range of antioxidants and vitamins, including vitamins A and C and beta-carotene. However, there are certainly natural sugars to consider.
The natural sugars are one of the reasons people will tell you not to eat them when you are on a diet. You may hear that you should avoid bananas or pineapples because of their calories. Others will tell you that anything other than some fruits is bad for your sugar levels and will lead to Type II diabetes.
That is certainly not the case, but there is a slight truth to the myth. Getting everything in moderation is important. You cannot eat a whole bag of grapes in one sitting and then follow that up with a smoothie made up of berries and lemons. It is possible to consume more fruit than your body needs, and you will not benefit from the nutrients when you do this.
Stick to the daily serving suggested and you will find it much easier to lose weight and look after your health. Vegetables are go-to for snacking throughout the day if you need to.
MYTH: Dried Fruit Offers No Benefits at All
You will hear that you should avoid dried fruit with a passion. This is not quite true, although there are some reasons that you should keep your portion sizes to a minimum.
Dried fruit loses its water content. This is part of the reason the natural sugars do not have the chance to break down into the bloodstream quickly. If you take out the water all the time, you are going to make it harder for the body to gain all the nutrients from the fruit and process it properly.
At the same time, the loss of the water can also lead to loss of nutrients. You do not lose them all, but you do lose a lot. When compared with fresh fruit, dried fruit is not as good. However, it is still better than eating no fruit at all. Do not worry about having the odd handful of raisins a week.
It is all about portion size and some servings throughout the day. Everything in moderation.
FACT: Whole Grains Are Better than Refined Grains
It is time to look at the types of grains you eat. Grains are one of the most confused subjects, and they have gained a bad name over the years. However, whole grains can be extremely good sources of fiber. By getting some whole grains in your diet, you will help your digestive system work.
Whole grains also include B vitamins, folate, and many other nutrients commonly overlooked and difficult to get into the diet. You do not want to avoid all grains, but the ones that are bad for you.
If you have heard people say that refined grains are grains to cut out of your diet, you have heard the truth. Refined grains such as white bread, cakes, and pastries, are just full of empty calories and they are not as good for you as whole grains. You do not get the same fiber content in refined grains, but you get a lot of gluten and sugars. They can disrupt your hormonal balance, causing problems for your weight management, skin care, and more.
Does that mean all refined grains should be entirely avoided? Cutting out your favorite foods can be difficult. If you can cut them all out then great, but consider using them once every two weeks to avoid saying a complete “no” and affecting your mental state with the ban.
FACT: Vegetarians and Vegans Will Benefit from Whole Grains
Whole grains are not just packed with fiber. They have many nutrients like magnesium and iron that are usually only in abundance in meat and animal products. Vegans and vegetarians tend to suffer from a lack of some minerals, but they do not need to.
If you are not going to eat meat or you have a ban on all animal products, then consider adding a few more whole grains to your diets. You can also add legumes and some meat alternatives like soy. Look out for those that are packed with protein and nutrients that you are likely to have a deficiency in.
Around 4-6 servings is recommended for adults. If you are on a vegetarian or vegan diet, focus on the high end of the servings.
MYTH: All Red Meat Should Be Avoided to Protect Your Health
Have you heard that all red meat is bad? You have likely had someone tell you to stop eating as much beef and replace your steaks with chicken breasts. While there is a truth behind the statement, the blanket ban on all red meat is a myth.
Red meat tends to be fattier. Not just fat, but saturated fat. It is the type of fat that blocks your arteries and increases your chance of developing heart disease and cardiovascular problems. Chicken, poultry, and fish are not as fatty, so they do not cause as many health problems.
However, that does not mean you have to avoid all red meat. It is still an excellent source of iron and protein. In fact, it is one of the best sources of iron, which you need to improve the blood flow around your body and get oxygen to all the organs.
Instead of opting for all red meat, look for the lean options. Extra lean ground beef is an excellent alternative. While it may cost a little extra, you will save on your health in the future (and that saves money in the future). You should also look for meats that have less fat on them, especially when it comes to steaks and some cuts of beef and lamb.
MYTH: You Can Get The same Nutrients from All Legumes as In Meat
If you are switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet, you will have heard people tell you to eat
more legumes. They have the same nutrients as meat, right?
Well, while they have some of the same, legumes are not a direct replacement of meat. The best alternative would be soy, quinoa, or tofu. Sure, legumes are good, but they are not perfect. Most them contain some proteins, but they are not complete proteins. This means they do not have all the amino acids that your body needs to survive.
The only non-meat complete proteins are soy, tofu, and quinoa. If you want to replace your meat, stock up on all three with your legumes for a good diet.
Bear in mind that meat will also have some fats, both unsaturated and saturated. Legumes do not all include them. You will need to add seeds, nuts, and similar ingredients to your diet if you want to stock up on the healthy fats to protect your health.
MYTH: Only Fresh, Raw Vegetables Are Good for You
Have you heard people tell you that you should only eat vegetables raw? You may have heard that cooked vegetables lose all their nutrients. Then you will have heard that frozen and canned vegetables are the worst things you can eat.
The big issue is the lost nutrients. While there is some truth (cooked is not as good as raw), this does not mean you can only consume fresh, raw vegetables. It depends on the method of cooking and the amount of fresh and raw that you eat.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with consuming frozen vegetables (or even fruits if you want to get from that food group). They will still contain many of the nutrients, but just not in as abundance as fresh.
When cooking, you want to avoid adding unnecessary fats and oils. Rather than frying your dishes, why not steam or boil them? Boiling can disrupt and dilute some of the nutrients, especially the B vitamins, but steaming will keep most of the nutrients intact and beneficial for you. Grilling is also a good method for cooking your vegetables.
Roasting can be good, but you still include some oils. Make sure you use olive or almond oil for your cooking when doing this. Watch out for the removal of the water when roasting. Like with dried fruit, this can disrupt some of the nutrients.
Sure, raw and fresh are better in most of cases (some vegetables are healthier for you when cooked), but that does not mean you can only eat raw. You will still gain plenty of health benefits through cooking!
MYTH: Dairy Is the Only Good Source of Calcium
If you have told anyone that you are considering a vegan diet, you will hear many tell you that you will suffer from a calcium deficiency. This is partly because many vegans do suffer from it. However, the calcium deficiency is not due to taking out all dairy products. It is because they do not replace the dairy with ingredients that are packed with calcium.
You can use milk alternatives for good sources of calcium. Almond, soy, and coconut milk are all popular and healthy options. They will also give you some of the proteins you need that you will lose from milk. There are yogurts and cheeses made with them, giving you vegan-friendly options.
However, your vegetables can also get you plenty of calcium. Dark leafy greens are packed with a variety of minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium. Make sure you stock up on them if you choose an animal product free lifestyle.
FACT: You Do Not Need Equal Amounts of All Food Groups
Now that you have looked at the various myths and facts about the different food groups, it is time to get your portions right. You do not need to eat the same amount of fruit as you do vegetables, meat, and dairy.
Around a third of your day should be made up with vegetables and another third with whole grains. The rest of your third is split among the other three food groups. The third can be split equally, but you may want to make the meat and alternatives section ever so slightly larger than the other two.
Do not forget about your water intake. This should be at least eight glasses a day, which is about two liters of water. All the rest should be added to your diet moderately. If you do not gain nutrients from the food, do not let it become a regular part of your diet.
With the following tips, you will protect your body from most of diseases. Are you ready to enjoy a healthy and filling lifestyle?