Do you know if your diet is balanced? For your diet to be varied as well as healthy, first of all, you need to know the main food groups.
Each of them has its own function and affords different nutrients and benefits. Combine them correctly and you will have the basis of a varied diet.
They are a special group that must be included in your daily diet, as a dessert or snack, mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon. They provide sugar and a large quantity of water – perfect to keep you hydrated-. Fruit are a major source of vitamins (folic acid, vitamin C, carotenes), minerals (potassium, magnesium, selenium, etc.) and antioxidant substances, which are regulating functions in the body. Do not forget fibre, which is essential to regulate intestinal transit.
We recommend: eat fruit at frequent intervals to reach at least 3 pieces a day. It is better if you eat the whole fruit as this ensures greater fibre content. When taken as a juice or peeled, there is obviously less. Table 1 shows which fruit is in season for the month of February.
2. Greens and vegetables
Just like fruit, this food group acts as a regulating function. They are important sources of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidant substances.
We recommend: you have at least 300 grams daily, which is equivalent to 2 portions. Remember that if they are eaten as a side dish, it is considered half a portion. If it is excellence you are looking for, then have 400 g. daily.
You now know what the daily total is. Now take note of the following. It is preferable if at least one of these portions is raw, for example, a salad. That way you make the most of their vitamins and minerals. Table 1 shows seasonal greens and vegetables.
3. Milk and dairy products
Milk and dairy products (milk, yoghourt, cheese, curds, custard, etc.) provide high quality protein and lactose (the sugar in milk). They are an important source of vitamins (A, B2, B12 and D) and calcium, an essential mineral for bone and teeth formation and as you know, they help prevent osteoporosis.
We recommend: 2-4 portions daily, but adults are advised to have skimmed or low fat. Why? For their lower energy content, saturated fatty acids and cholesterol.
4. Protein foods
Which foods stand out in this group? Meat and its by-products, fish, eggs and nuts.
The function of this macronutrient is structural as it is in charge of forming new compounds or structures, as well as repairing them.
– Meats and its by-products: as we have already mentioned, they are a source of proteins of high biological value, they provide vitamin B12 and minerals like iron, potassium, phosphorous and zinc. However, be careful with the high saturated fatty acid content. It is important for you to choose the leaner cuts, remove any visible fat and, in the case of fowl, the skin.
We recommend: 3-4 portions a week, based on the premise that a portion is 100-125 g. Give priority to lean meats (chicken, turkey and rabbit) over red meats. Now here comes the good news, you can eat cold meats, but only occasionally, as they are high in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, which can be harmful for your cardiovascular health.
– Fish and shellfish: they provide high quality proteins, vitamin D and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly oily fish. This type of fat is essential. The key is in the fact that your body is unable to synthesise them but they are beneficial, as they reduce LDL and triglycerides levels. We recommend: you have them 3-4 times a week, and one of these portions be oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, etc.). Table 1 shows you which fish are seasonal.
– Eggs: they are a very complete food, which provide vitamins and minerals as well as high biological value proteins. We recommend: you have between 3-4 eggs a week.
– Nuts: a source of proteins, fats of plant origin and fibre. The type of fat they contain is healthy, as it helps control blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They also provide vitamin E, which has antioxidant effects. We recommend: you have between 3-7 portions a week, where a portion is equivalent to 20-30 g unpeeled. This is equal to a handful.
The base of your diet should revolve around this group. They are the main source of energy, as well as the main source of complex carbohydrates. Typical foods are as follows:
– Cereals and their by-products: bread, pasta, rice and cereals. Wholemeal foods are richer in fibre, vitamins and minerals.
– Pulses: peas, chick peas, white haricot beans, etc. They provide carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals and are also a source of proteins. We recommend: you have 2-4 portions a week (a portion is equivalent to 60-80 g when raw).
– Root vegetables: yucca, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.
6. Fats, oils and butters
This group is essential for your health. But do not forget that you should eat them in moderation, particularly those of animal origin, which are highest in saturated fat. Of the ones of plant origin, we recommend olive oil, rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. Olive oil should be the main source of fat for seasoning and cooking. In addition, it has heart-healthy properties.
Table 1. SEASONAL FOODS
As you can see, there are lots to choose from. Remember that it is not a question of giving up any food group but rather of combining all the groups to guarantee a varied and balanced diet, and one that is consequently healthy.