Taking the Confusion Out of the Food Pyramid

How many of you are aware that the familiar four basic food groups, that we have learned about since we were children, has now been updated to include five basic food groups? The number of servings in each group of the Food Pyramid has changed, as well. It is important that we understand this change so that we may implement new eating habits into our lifestyles.

Fruits and vegetable are no longer grouped together. They were in the old days of the Basic Four. The separation of these groups tells us that extra servings of fruit cannot make up for missed vegetables, or vice-versa. Fruits provide amounts of vitamins and minerals not necessarily found in vegetables. Vegetables give us other vitamins, minerals, and fiber not found in fruits.. Fruits and vegetables work hand in hand with the remaining 3 groups to help our body stay healthy.

It is easier to understand the five basic food groups if you picture the pyramid in your head. Let’s start from the top and work our way down.

The Fats, Oils, and Sweets Group are on top, taking up the least amount of space. Therefore, they should be the least consumed portion of your diet. This area is not truly considered a food group, but has been placed in the pyramid to emphasize the importance of not consuming too much of them. You have to keep in mind that you will be getting sugars, and fat, in some of the other food groups. So do not over indulge that sweet tooth, or give in to that desire for deep fried doughnuts!

The next level down is divided equally into two parts. The first being Milk, Yogurt, and Chesses Group Foods in this group are good sources of Calcium, Phosphorus, Vitamin D, and Riboflavin. You should have 2-3 Servings from this group daily. The second group on this level is the Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs and Nuts Groups. It may appear strange to group nuts and beans in with the meat category, yet they are more similar to a meat in their protein content, than to either vegetables of grains. This is particularly important for vegetarians to understand. Food in this group are a good source Iron, Zinc, Folic Acid, Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin E. You should have 2-3 Servings from this group daily.

The next level down is also divided equally into two parts. However, keep in mind that their place on the pyramid is toward the bottom, therefore they take up more space on the pyramid. This means servings in these groups should be consumed more than the previous ones. The Vegetable Group can provide unlimited resources of vitamins and minerals to your body. The most notable being Potassium, Magnesium, Folic Acid, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin A and Beta Carotene. Vegetable are also high in insoluble fiber which may protect the colon from cancer. You should have between 3-5 servings of vegetables a day. The neighbor to the vegetable is the Fruit Group. Most people have no problems finding a fruit they enjoy eating. It is important to consume between 2-4 servings of fruit daily. Fruits are rich in many vitamins and minerals. Fruits are most known for their high content of Vitamin C. Citrus fruits are also stocked full of water-soluble fiber that may lower blood cholesterol.

Finally, we are at the bottom of pyramid. This is the foundation. The Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta Group. You should have between 6-11 servings from this group, and it should make up the base of your diet. Grains are the primary sources of the B vitamins, and also provide you with minerals such as Iron, Potassium, Zinc, Copper and Selenium.

It is not hard to understand the basics to a healthy diet if you imagine the Food Pyramid in your mind, and seat the groups in their assigned spots. You should not give one grouping more emphasis or respect than another. Eating foods from each category is essential to a balanced diet.

This article was written by Wendy Jackson.

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