06 May Understanding the basic food groups
Whether this is your first or fifth session of boot camp, one thing you will find out quickly is how much we believe in healthy eating habits to fuel your body for workouts. We believe health and fitness goals need solid nutrition and regular movement to come to fruition. For that reason, this month we will be diving deeper into the topic of nutrition.
While eating preferences may differ, omnivores and vegetarians both have nutritional needs to be met. Understanding what is in the food we are eating is a wonderful way to not only meet your calorie needs, but also ensure you’re fueling your body in a healthy way.
Today, let’s highlight the different food groups or categories of food. The Food Pyramid used to be the go to for identifying food groups. It has been updated and replaced by the Healthy Eating Plate, however, the Food Pyramid is still a great guide and reference as you plan meals and snacks. So, here are snippets about the food groups from the Harvard School of Public Health – Nutrition Source’s What Should I Eat? Section:
- Whole grains. Choose whole grains instead of refined grains. Whole grains offer a “complete package” of health benefits, unlike refined grains, which are stripped of valuable nutrients in the refining process.
- All whole grain kernels contain three parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Each section houses health-promoting nutrients.
- As researchers have begun to look more closely at carbohydrates and health, they are learning that the quality of the carbohydrates you eat is at least as important as the quantity.
- Eating whole instead of refined grains substantially lowers total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels.
- Replacing refined grains with whole grains and eating at least 2 servings of whole grains daily may help to reduce type 2 diabetes risk.
- By keeping the stool soft and bulky, the fiber in whole grains helps prevent constipation, a common, costly, and aggravating problem. It also helps prevent diverticular disease (diverticulosis) by decreasing pressure in the intestines.
- Protein. Protein is found throughout the body. It makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions and the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood. At least 10,000 different proteins make you what you are and keep you that way. Protein is made from twenty-plus basic building blocks called amino acids. Because we don’t store amino acids, our bodies make them in two different ways: either from scratch, or by modifying others. Nine amino acids, known as the essential amino acids, must come from food.
- Get your protein from plants when possible.
- The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day, or just over 7 grams for every 20 pounds of body weight.
- The National Academy of Medicine also sets a wide range for acceptable protein intake—anywhere from 10% to 35% of calories each day.
- When we eat foods for protein, we also eat everything that comes alongside it: the different fats, fiber, sodium, and more. It’s this protein “package” that’s likely to make a difference for health.
- Eat a little less red meat any way you can.
- Swap out red meat for healthier meats.
- Consume less meat, enjoy more variety.
- Vegetables and fruit. Vegetables and fruits are an important part of a healthy diet, and variety is as important as quantity. No single fruit or vegetable provides all of the nutrients you need to be healthy. Eat plenty every day.
- A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check. Eating non-starchy vegetables and fruits like apples, pears, and green leafy vegetables may even promote weight loss.
- At least nine different families of fruits and vegetables exist, each with potentially hundreds of different plant compounds that are beneficial to health. Eat a variety of types and colors of produce in order to give your body the mix of nutrients it needs. This not only ensures a greater diversity of beneficial plant chemicals but also creates eye-appealing meals.
- Keep fruit where you can see it.
- Explore the produce aisle and choose something new.
- Skip the potatoes.
- Make it a meal.
- Fats. When it comes to dietary fat, what matters most is the type of fat you eat. Contrary to past dietary advice promoting low-fat diets, newer research shows that healthy fats are necessary and beneficial for health.
- When food manufacturers reduce fat, they often replace it with carbohydrates from sugar, refined grains, or other starches. Our bodies digest these refined carbohydrates and starches very quickly, affecting blood sugar and insulin levels and possibly resulting in weight gain and disease.
- Rather than adopting a low-fat diet, it’s more important to focus on eating beneficial “good” fats and avoiding harmful “bad” fats. Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. Choose foods with “good” unsaturated fats, limit foods high in saturated fat, and avoid “bad” trans fat.
- “Good” unsaturated fats — Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — lower disease risk. Foods high in good fats include vegetable oils (such as olive, canola, sunflower, soy, and corn), nuts, seeds, and fish.
- “Bad” fats — trans fats — increase disease risk, even when eaten in small quantities. Foods containing trans fats are primarily in processed foods made with trans fat from partially hydrogenated oil. Fortunately, trans fats have been eliminated from many of these foods.
- Saturated fats, while not as harmful as trans fats, by comparison with unsaturated fats negatively impact health and are best consumed in moderation. Foods containing large amounts of saturated fat include red meat, butter, cheese, and ice cream. Some plant-based fats like coconut oil and palm oil are also rich in saturated fat.
- When you cut back on foods like red meat and butter, replace them with fish, beans, nuts, and healthy oils instead of refined carbohydrates.