Food Groups And Nutrition
We all remember learning about the food pyramid when we were growing up, but very few of us apply those principles in planning out our daily diet.
While the old model has been debunked, the USDA still divides foods into five main groups.1 By eating a healthy, well-rounded diet full of nutritious foods, you can ensure that you get your recommended dose of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that you need to be fit, active, and healthy.Probiotics and prebiotics like those on our prebiotic foods list play a big part in your health.
Foods are grouped in types thanks to the kind of critical nutrients they provide. For instance, fruits are a great source of vitamin C, while vegetables offer several essential minerals.2,3
Let’s take a look at each.
Fruits are a remarkably diverse group of foods, ranging from stone fruits to berries and pears. They all provide a lot of micronutrients, as well as fiber, antioxidants, and more.4
While you may think that you can substitute fruits for fruit juices and get the same benefits, this is unfortunately not true. Fruit juices have as much sugar as a can of soda without any of the other nutrients found in fruit. Fruit juices have even been linked to an increase in type 2 diabetes.5 Instead of drinking fruit juices, make sure to stick to fresh, in-season fruits, and eat them only in moderation.
Vegetables come from many parts of plants, including roots, leaves, flowers, and stems. They are low in calories and sugar, and yet high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.6 Vegetables are an essential part of any healthy diet.
However, some vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, and peas, contain large amounts of lectins, which are toxic to humans.7
They can cause symptoms like weight gain and brain fog and should be avoided as much as possible. There are many vegetables that don’t produce as many lectins and are safe to consume in any diet.8
In the past, grains used to form the primary basis of human diets and meals due to their ease of cultivation and high energy values.9 Examples of grains include wheat, barley, and rice. Unfortunately, in the modern age, many products made with grains have been so processed that they lose much of their nutritional value.10
Most milk products are very high in calcium, vitamins, and minerals. However, dairy is also quite high in fat and sugar. Many dairy products are also made from Casein A1 protein, which is unfortunately a type of lectin.11
Goat’s milk is a great milk option as it’s packed with vitamins and minerals and free of lectins. There are also many healthy non-dairy alternatives such as almond and coconut milk.
Meat is any product that comes from the musculature of an animal. Meats are high in proteins and fats. Many types of meat also contain surprisingly large quantities of vitamins and minerals.12 Meat, particularly steak, forms a considerable part of American culture and diet. Unfortunately, beef is also packed with saturated fats, which have been linked to heart disease.13 Many Americans consume too much of it. There are many alternatives to beef that contain similar amounts of protein, iron, zinc, and B12 without adding to your risk of heart disease. Choices include venison, ostrich, and other game meats. Fish also forms part of the meat group and is usually a more attractive option if you’re looking for lots of protein along with good fats and plenty of minerals.14 Opt for wild-caught fish and grass-fed and finished meats.
What Should You Eat And What Should You Avoid?
Even within these groups, there are healthy and unhealthy foods. As we mentioned before, many plants contain lectins that can be toxic and harmful to your health. And grains and certain vegetables may do more harm than good.
The same is true for meat and dairy. Apart from ethical concerns, many people are starting to worry about the level of hormones and antibiotics found in milk, which may negatively affect your health.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t eat anything from these food groups? No, that would eliminate a lot of foods, such as avocados and nuts, that are beneficial to your health. Instead, you should take the time to educate yourself about which foods from these food types are healthy and should be included in your diet. If you want a handy guide of healthy foods and foods you should avoid, check out this “yes” and “no” list from Dr. Gundry. The list explains why you should avoid the “no” foods for better health.
2. “Choose MyPlate.” Choose MyPlate, https://www.choosemyplate.gov/. Accessed 5 June 2019.
4. Liu, RH. Health-promoting components of fruits and vegetables in the diet. Adv Nutr. 2013;4(3):384s-392s.
5. Li, Yanping, et al. “Saturated Fats Compared With Unsaturated Fats and Sources of Carbohydrates in Relation to Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Prospective Cohort Study.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, vol. 66, no. 14, Oct. 2015, pp. 1538–48. www.onlinejacc.org, doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2015.07.055.
11. Pal, Sebely, et al. “Milk Intolerance, Beta-Casein and Lactose;” Nutrients 2015, 7(9), 7285-7297
13. Xi, Bo, et al. “Intake of Fruit Juice and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” PLoS ONE, edited by Olga Y. Gorlova, vol. 9, no. 3, Mar. 2014, p. e93471. Crossref, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093471.