5 Food Groups: Variety is the key

It is a simple fact – the food you eat affects your health. Your diet affects everything; from the way you feel, the way you carry out your daily activities, your weight, your immunity, and so on. And with the coronavirus crisis continuing to affect our daily lives, eating a healthy diet has never been more important.

Healthy eating means a diet with a variety of food that provides all the nutrients that you need to maintain good health. Furthermore, healthy eating can be delicious too, with so many options to choose from the 5 major food groups. Keep reading to discover more about the Five Food Groups and their benefits.

Vegetables and Legumes

Vegetables of all colours, for a healthy diet from the five food group

Vegetables and legumes are both nutrient-dense in dietary fibre, vitamin C, magnesium, and folate, and often considered both are placed in the same food group. While some vegetables like carrots and zucchini are a good source of vitamins and minerals, legumes are a good source of plant-based protein, iron, and zinc.

Did you also know that eating vegetables is associated with reduced risks of heart diseases and weight management? And eating a diet rich in legumes can help reduce your cholesterol? Many research studies conclude that eating a diet rich in vegetables and legumes contributes to weight management, lowers blood pressure and strokes, helping to bring an overall positivity in your health.

Australia has a huge market for vegetables and legumes. We produce a variety of seasonal produce and have a strong record on food safety. Including vegetables from all colours of the rainbow in your meals and snacks is the key. Each of the colours has different protective qualities. For example, eating yellow and orange vegetables like carrots, pumpkin and sweet corn gives you high antioxidants, whereas eating greens like celery, asparagus, and the Asian greens are beneficial due to their high content of Vitamin C, B, and minerals.

The main 5 colour groups and their nutrients are:

  • Red vegetables – They are rich in phytonutrients and loaded with Vitamin C, which is good for the skin.  Radishes, carrots, red cabbage, and red bell peppers are some of the highly recommended red veggies.
  • Green vegetables – Eating your greens is still one of the golden health advice. A diet with leeks, beans, broccoli, and green salad leaves are rich sources of fiber minerals and folate.
  • White/brown vegetables– They are abundant with Vitamin C and sulfur that helps strengthen metabolism and helps indigestion. Ginger, garlic, parsnips, and onions come under this colour.
  • Yellow/orange vegetables – Eating carrots, butternut pumpkins, and swedes will provide Vitamin C, flavonoids, and other varying amounts of nutrients like folate, potassium, and calcium.
  • Blue/purple vegetables – Eating vegetables such as eggplant, beetroot, red cabbage, and so on will help in providing potassium, iron, and manganese.

Legumes, on the other hand, are rich in iron, potassium and have almost no cholesterol content. They are perfect for vegans, as legumes are an excellent choice for plant-based protein. The list of types of legumes is long. You can follow this guide to explore more health benefits of eating legumes and how to prepare them for your meals.

Fruits

Two bowls of cut fruits with berries from five food groups for healthy diet, Cranbourne Doctors

Fruits are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. They are widely available and easy to eat without any need for cooking, making it a great option to include in our breakfast, snacks, and desserts. Eating fruits can also help us stay away from processed food.

Since they are directly sourced from nature, they are great in quality, always fresh, and better for your health. A fruit-rich diet is essential to reduce the risk against cardiovascular diseases, weight management due to their high water content and provides us with the necessary daily energy requirement.

Although fruits are high in nutrients, eating one or a few types would not suffice the balanced nutrient intake, so eating a variety of fruits, keeping in mind what each type of fruit can help us with, is recommended.

While citrus fruits like oranges, mandarins are rich in Vitamin C, which helps boost your immune system, eating bananas is good for your heart health and blood pressure. They have enough potassium to meet your daily potassium needs.

Berries are amongst the healthiest food you can eat and they are loaded with impressive health benefits. They are rich in antioxidants, which help us in weight management and fight inflammation, and are also an easy “on the go” snack.

Lean meat, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs, and tofu

Beef for steak, a type of lean meat from the five food groups for healthy eating

Australia’s meat and livestock industry is huge and we are one of the largest consumers of red meat in the world. Traditionally, meat has been integral to Australian culture and cuisine.

Apart from being the most protein-rich group, they also provide nutrients like iodine, iron, zinc and essential fatty acids. Lean meat is recommended for the growth of infants, for women during their pregnancy and for athletes to enhance their endurance and strength. Lean meat like beef, pork and lamb are high in iron too.

The second type is poultry, that includes chicken, turkey, etc. They are also a good source of protein and also lesser in calories and fats when compared to lean meat. When eating poultry, it is recommended to remove the excess fats and the skin.

Eggs are inexpensive, easy to cook, and can be included in any meal. They are a good source of protein, minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins like D and E. They are also rich in fatty acids and are one of the most versatile ingredients for cooking. Tofu on the other hand is made for soybean and really good for plant-based protein.

Grains and cereals

Cereals in milk for breakfast from the five food groups for a healthy diet

Eating cereals and grains in the form of bread, oats, pasta, noodles are a great source of energy in the morning. Eating a whole grain toast provides a healthy start to your day.

Grains are an important source of many nutrients including fibre, minerals like iron, selenium, and vitamin B. Their rich fibre content helps reduce blood cholesterol and important for healthy bowel function and reduces constipation.

Whole-grain food also provides a feeling of fullness with fewer calorie intake. There is a wide variety of grains to choose from, and selecting to eat whole grains for at least half of your daily servings may help in maintaining weight.

Milk, yoghurts, cheese and/or their alternatives

A glass of milk with cheese on green grass, a type of five food group

Milk and milk products are essentials for your bone health. Milk, cheese and yoghurts are great sources of calcium in a readily absorbable form. They are also good sources of protein, vitamins A and D, and zinc. Daily consumption of any of this type would help reduce the risks against heart diseases and help maintain blood pressure.

For people with lactose intolerance, you can still consume milk, but knowing your limit is a must. Our supermarkets have a wide variety of lactose-free products including lactose-free milk, lactose-free cheese, and other dairy products. However, these lactose-free alternatives have the same amount of calcium as regular products.

The key is to stay active 

Eating healthy alone may not be so effective in leading a healthy lifestyle. Keeping active and eating healthy go together to maintain your overall health. Choosing to eat something every day from the five food groups is vital as no single food type would provide all the necessary nutrients.

Staying active not only promotes good health, but also helps in relieving stress, managing body weight, and good sleep.

If you or your family members are struggling with diet, speak to our GP. We are here to help and guide you to your healthy being. To book an appointment, visit our online platform or alternatively call us at 07 3207 7744