Relearning Our Nutritional Basics

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Tripling fruit and vegetable portions as a result of their decrease in nutrients have revised the popular food pyramid. A reverse pyramid seems to be en vogue as obesity is rampant and is still on the rise.

Conventionally grown crops, though generally larger and grow faster, were recently found to have fewer nutrients as opposed to organically grown produce. Therefore, we must be aware of the portions our bodies require for proper nutrition in this day and age.

The latest update on nutrition shifts the image of proper nutrition from the long-established MyPyramid graph to the new and more relevant MyPlate.

The new graphic with five compartments for food types emphasizes cutting back on our intake of sugary, salty and high fat foods.

Proper proportions can be achieved by filling half of your plate with fruits and veggies; a little bit more than a quarter is recommended for whole grains, and the rest (less than a quarter of the plate) should be healthy (lean) sources of meat protein.

Milk and dairy products, if taken at all, should be low in fat.

Variety is key in the MyPlate guide. Eating variations of the same food groups are recommended to increase nutritional intake.

Following are descriptions of the five basic food groups, along with their nutritional benefits.

Grains

Grains are full of carbohydrates that serve as a source of energy. Whole grains in particular, such as wheat, corn and brown rice, offer optimum amounts of iron, magnesium, fiber, selenium and B-vitamins.

Chips and pasta are refined grains that have had their essential nutrients processed out. So skip the Doritos, will you?

Vegetables and Fruits

Packed with antioxidants and fiber, dark leafy greens like spinach and broccoli help keep the digestive system clean. Orange veggies, including carrots, sweet potatoes and squash, are great sources of beta-carotene.

Legumes also contain a substantial amount of protein and are an excellent alternative as a source of calcium. Tomatoes are a good source of Lycopene that helps prevent cancer.

Fresh fruits, especially the ones in season, are believed to be the most nutritious. Consumption of these will vary according to your activities, size and gender; eating more than the usual will cause no harm, but take it easy on the super-nutritious avocadoes and durian.

Mangoes, oranges and guavas are good sources of vitamin C. Potassium from bananas allows normal functions of the heart, kidneys and other organs. It will also decrease instances of cramps when engaging in sports.

The trick is to eat vegetables and fruits of different colors and from different subgroups.

Meat and Beans

Lean meat and legumes are chock-full of the protein that is essential in muscle building, tissue repair, synthesis of antibodies, muscle activity, and production of enzymes and hormones in the body.

Adequate consumption of beef, lamb, eggs, nuts and soy products will provide the necessary amounts of protien for normal bodily functions.

It’s possible to estimate how much is sufficient by eating portions of these that are about the same as the amount that would fit in your palm. Pair them with high-fiber vegetables for effective discharge of waste.

Dairy

A cup’s worth of non-fat dairy products can provide an additional source of protein, potassium and especially calcium, which is crucial in bone building. Dairy is also a good source of vitamin D.

Avoid creamy or buttery products that are high in fat content but deliver little or no calcium.

Oils, Fat and Sweets

Our tongues have receptors to cater to these, but they provide little or no nutritional benefit other than comfort.

Chocolates, candies, cakes and butter belong to this group. They could serve as rewards at the end of the month for following a healthy diet plan. After all, we all have to “live” too you know.

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