March is National Nutrition Month, the perfect time to think about how a variety of foods come into play in a healthy diet. Nutrition affects our lives by giving us the energy needed to do our jobs and take care of our families as well as improve our overall health. It’s important to understand which nutrients are supplied by each of the five food groups and which foods provide a lasting source of energy.
The key to healthy eating is choosing foods and calories wisely. Start by choosing nutrient-rich foods from each of the five food groups and build a balanced menu from there. It’s extremely important that no food group is neglected, in order to avoid lacking a myriad of essential nutrients.
The amount of fiber and antioxidants absorbed from grain foods are different than those found in fruits and vegetables, and fiber and antioxidants may work synergistically to optimize health. Grains are also an important source of other nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium and iron. In fact, consuming whole grains as part of a healthy diet may reduce one’s risk of developing heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Few foods can offer such diverse benefits.
Lean meats and other proteins provide the building blocks for most of the body’s tissues, nerves and internal organs (including the brain and heart). Dairy foods contain an ideal blend of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamins A and D that can’t be found in supplements, while good fats offered from sunflower, canola and olive oils, for example, regulate key aspects of the immune system, blood circulation, inflammation, memory and mood.
We all know that fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals that help protect us from chronic diseases, but they are also low in fat and calories, are a good source of dietary fiber and provide us with extra energy. Because they are low in calories, we can eat large quantities of vegetables without expending excess energy; the high fiber content also helps fill the stomach faster, limiting the total amount of food consumed. All these features help control weight effectively. It’s important to eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables every day to reap the health benefits each one holds. Not to mention they are easy to eat while on the go! Here’s a simple and delicious recipe that includes several food groups and numerous nutrients, making it healthful and nutritious..