By John Caldecott.
An overwhelming variety of both natural and highly processed foods is available at the market. To guide people in picking healthy food items, the US Department of Agriculture has designed the food pyramid. It is a labeled illustration, shaped like a pyramid, which demonstrates groups of essential food types and the quantity in which a normal individual requires each of these foods.
At the base of the food pyramid are such food items that serve as ready sources of energy. These are rich in starch, low in fat, and include cereals, pasta, bread, and different types of grains. By the specifications of the food pyramid, a normal adult individual needs 6 to 11 servings of these items daily. Whole grains are the best and healthiest food of this group. In a single serving of these foods you can include a slice of bread, a cup of cereal flakes, one flat tortilla, and one ounce of rice or pasta.
As the geometry of the food pyramid shows, vegetables and fruits are required in less quantity than carbohydrates. Normally, a grown person would need 3 to 5 servings of vegetables and 2 to 4 servings of fruits daily. The high fiber content of vegetables and fruits make them ideal food items as fiber keeps the bowel movements in order. In addition, they are both rich in vitamins (required for immunity and general health) and minerals, which ensure the proper functioning of various body organs. Among vegetables, go for more dark green vegetables and try to pick fresh fruits instead of fruit juices.
Next upper chamber in the food pyramid is occupied by proteins and dairy products. You need 2 to 3 servings daily of each of these foods. Protein comes from lean meat, eggs, fish, beans, and nuts. It is advisable to remove the visible fat on the meat so as to make it a low fat item. Be moderate in using nuts, since they also hold fats. Among the dairy products, milk is the complete diet with most of the required vitamins and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Cheese and yogurt are also recommended dairy foods. Try to abstain from high intake of ice cream and cheese that is high in fat.
Lastly, at the top of the food pyramid lie fats, including oils, and sweets. The recommended quantity of these items is limited to sparing use. Butter, cream, oils, candies, margarines etc., are all foods that are not easy to digest and hence should be used in minimal amounts. However, it is an important part of our diet, just as all the other parts of the food pyramid are important as well.
Wednesday, 31 October 2007