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Eating the same kind of food is not only boring but also nutritionally unwise.
The food pyramid divides all foods into five broad groups: cereals and pulses; fruits and vegetables; dairy; fish, poultry and meat; and nuts, seeds, fats, oils and sugar. It is important to consume all the food groups as well as maintain variety even within the food groups for you to get maximum benefits from your food. Women, especially, as having all the right nutrients helps to prevent menopausal disorders, osteoporosis and other stress-realted problems.
Recently I read a report describing the findings of a survey conducted in the 1970s. The survey involved over 10, 000 people, aged 25 to 74. Respondents were asked to track how many of the five food groups they included in their diet.
About 14 years later, researchers found that the fewer the number of different food groups in the diet, the higher was the rate of death. Those who ate the least variety—only one or two food groups—were 50 per cent more likely to have died. Clearly, if you want to live longer, eat as much variety as you can.
Besides, no single food group can supply all the nutrients. Take milk for instance, while it provides a variety of nutrients, it lacks vitamin C and iron. You can make up for it by having citrus fruits and dark green vegetables, though. Similarly, some vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamin C [citrus] and vitamin A [papaya], while others are high in calcium [figs] or iron [water melon]. This means that our search for the best fruits/vegetables/grains/oils/nuts is unwarranted.
Instead, attempt to choose as many different foods. A combination of multi-grain breads, brightly coloured vegetables and fruits, yogurt, cheese and milk/soy milk, variety of oils and nuts and seeds form the basics of a healthy diet. Choosing a variety of foods within each group ensures that you will get the variety of nutrients you need, besides making meals interesting.
You may be eating plenty of food, but your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Inadequate intake of nutrient-rich foods and excesses of low nutrient calorie-dense foods can lead to deficiencies and promote weight gain.
Eating a variety of nutrient-dense and low-calorie foods along with appropriate number of servings provides fibre, vitamins and minerals. It also prevents obesity.
The plate method helps you visualise what your meal should look like. For example, fill one half of the plate with vegetables and fruits, such as broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and cauliflower and the remainder with a combination of wholegrains or starchy vegetables, such as pasta or corn, pulses and low-fat protein such as lean meat, fish, poultry, tofu and low-fat dairy [curd, paneer, milk].
When selecting fruits and vegetables, include ones that are green, yellow, orange and red.
Vary the colour: Think about how your food looks together on the plate. Is everything beige?
Vary the flavours: Different ingredients and seasonings add layers of flavours. A balance of sweet, sour and salty tastes is far more appealing than a single taste. A sweet and sour soup is better appreciated than a cream tomato soup.
Vary the texture: Contrast crunchy foods with soft foods. For example, add crunchy raw vegetables to rice.
Varying colours, flavours, textures, shapes, temperatures of meals and cuisines helps to make eating more interesting and nutritious.
Follow these simple tips to always stay healthy:
The principle of variety makes healthy eating easy and fun. Unfortunately, the simplest things appear to be the hardest to follow.
Given below are the required amounts of foods you should eat on a daily basis: