Know your food!
Food Groups: Base of the food balance
You are what you eat. Everything that you eat and drink has an effect on your body. Nutrition is the basic prerequisite to sustain a healthy life. All the food that we eat provides us with a range of nutrients, each with its own role to play. Eating a balanced, varied diet everyday ensures that you have everything you need for a good health. Our diet must provide all the essential nutrients in the right amounts. To perform various functions normally you need a complete range of nutrients from various food groups. Broadly there are 7 food groups which have been grouped together as they share similar nutritional properties. These food groups are:
- Cereals:Cereals form the staple diet in India, e.g., rice, wheat, maize. Cereals are the main source of energy, contributing 60-70% of daily energy needs. Cereals are a source of protein, calcium, iron and B-complex vitamins. Whole-grains (grains with the intact outer layer like in brown rice, corn) are a good source of fibre and B-complex vitamins and should be included in daily diet.
- Pulses (legumes):Pulses are a rich source of proteins (up to 22%) and meet the protein requirement of the vegetarians. They are also rich in B complex vitamins. Germination (sprouting) of pulses increases the vitamin C and B group vitamins and also improves the digestibility.
- Milk and Milk Products:
This category includes liquid and powdered milk, paneer, curd, buttermilk etc. They are not only a good source of quality protein but also calcium and riboflavin. These should be a part of everyday’s diet and especially essential for children as they support healthy growth.
- Fruits and Vegetables: these include
- Roots and Tubers: these are rich in carbohydrates and are good sources of energy and calcium. Root vegetables like carrots are a good source of vitamin A.
- Vegetables and Green Leafy Vegetables (GLV’s): vegetables add both color and variety to the diet. They provide minerals, vitamins and fiber (which add bulk to the diet). GLV’s are a rich source of calcium iron, vitamin A (β-carotene), vitamin C, folic acid.
- Fruits: these provide vitamins and fiber. Green, Yellow and Orange fruits are a rich source of beta carotene. Citrus fruits, amla, and guava are rich in vitamin C. dried fruits like dates supply iron. Seasonal fruits should be encouraged. Fruits also contain pectins which provide bulk to the diet and helps bowel movement.
- Animal Foods:This category includes eggs, chicken, meat, fish etc. They are a good source of high quality protein and other important nutrients. Fish is rich in omega-3 PUFA which is protective against cardiovascular diseases and calcium as well. A special feature in flesh foods is the presence of vitamin B12, which is absent in plant foods.
- Fats, Nuts and Oils:
These are calorie-rich foods, and are useful for increasing the energy density of foods. Fats can be the visible fats (ghee, butter, oil) or the invisible fats (present inherently in each food). They are required in moderate quantities in the daily diet as they provide essential fatty acids and promote absorption of fat soluble vitamins along with improving the palatability of the food. However, the total calories from fat should not exceed 10-15%.
This group includes table sugar, jaggery, honey, syrups etc which are energy concentrates. They are the sweetening agents which should be consumed in moderation as they provide calories but not much in the way of nutrition. Also excessive sugar consumption has been linked to weight gain.