Food pyramid guidance is important for healthy growth

12 Jan
2016
By Amelia Smith

We have a huge variety of foods to eat, but sometimes it gets difficult to decide the kind and amount of food we need for the healthy growth of our body and mind. In this regard, food pyramid offers a good solution to one and all.

There are a wide variety of food items for us to eat. We have a limit to eat or satiate our appetite for foods, so it becomes important to select those edibles that promote overall healthy growth. Food pyramid comes as a powerful solution to make your food choices wise, effective and reasonable as well. A general food pyramid for nutrition guidance was first published in Sweden in 1974. Since then there has been a lot of improvement in this pyramid-shaped diagram in order to include more and more nutritious value of food items available in different parts of the world. Basically, a food pyramid represents the optimal number of food products to be eaten a day.

Representation of food pyramid:

The Food Pyramid is specifically designed to make food intake easier by describing the types and proportion of nutrients like fat, vitamins, protein, minerals and carbohydrates that are needed for healthy growth. Also known as “Food Guide Pyramid,” food pyramid was introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1992. Later on, this pyramid was updated and replaced by MyPlate (or MyPyramid) in 2011.

The aim of the food pyramid is to make you eat a variety of foods that have essential nutritious value. This pyramid comprises six horizontal sections and each section depicts a particular food group. Its updated structure is divided into four sections including four slightly different sized quadrants to represent fruits and vegetables covering half of the space, while grains, protein, salt and sugar are given to other half space.

A brief look at food pyramid for nutrition guidance:

A food guide pyramid represents foods from five major food groups. Each of these food groups offers some, but not all, of the essential nutrients you need for good growth. The one food group cannot substitute those in other sections as each group has its own importance.

Group of cereals:

At the very base of the food pyramid is the group of breads, cereals, rice and pasta. It emphasizes more on foods from grains that you need to eat every day. These foods offer complex carbohydrates (starches) that are an important source of energy. Moreover, they provide fiber, minerals and vitamins. Some 6 to 11 servings of these food items a day is sufficient for healthy growth.

Vegetable group:

Another major chunk of the food pyramid is represented by the vegetable group. It’s different from fruit, spice, nut, grain and herb, but you can include even root, stem and flower under veg category. Vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals; for example, green vegetables have vitamin A, while broccoli and spinach typically contain iron and calcium. You can take dark green and dark orange vegetables for vitamin C. Most of the vegetables are low in calories and fats, but they compensate the loss of vitamins. 3-5 servings of vegetables a day for adults are sufficient.

Fruit section:

Some 2-4 servings of fruit a day is recommended for the  adults. Fruits like apple, grapes, orange, banana, berries, etc. provide crucial amounts of vitamin A & C and potassium. Their natural sugars, fiber and other nutritional elements help to keep body and mind fit. You should regularly take fresh fruits, fruit juices, canned or dried fruits that are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Sometimes, the fruit food group is combined with the vegetable food group because of their similar nutritional values.

Dairy products:

The section of dairy products is very important. Usually this group comprises milk, yogurt, cheese and other derivative products that are a powerful source of calcium, protein, vitamin A & D, phosphorous. However, several dairy products are high in saturated fat and cholesterol compared to fruits and vegetable, so their ideal amount is also defined under the food pyramid for nutrition guidance. At least 2-3 servings of dairy products a day are enough for adults.

Meat and beans:

Parallel to dairy products, the food pyramid has the group of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and nuts. Since many animals are a source of protein, vitamins and minerals, they are included under the meat section. Some major nutritious elements like zinc, phosphorous, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 and iron are supplied by meat, fish and poultry products.

Group of fats, oils, salt and sweets:

At the top of the food pyramid, the section on fats, oils, salt and sweets is placed with minimum space. A healthy food pyramid denotes the limited intake of salt and added sugar. A certain amount of fats and oils is always essential for holistic body growth. The excess intake of added sugar and salt can disturb the growth and cause some health problems, so you have to understand their ideal amount to take a day.

Conclusion:

A perfectly made food pyramid can make you understand what to eat and how much according to your age. Even dieticians take a cue from the food pyramid for nutrition guidance to explain the effects of each food group. Those parents who want to serve a balanced diet to their children can easily find such guidance online and offline both.

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Amelia Smith

Nutritionist, herbalist, health and medicine writer and yoga enthusiast, Amelia Smith, is a professional in the health, nutrition and diet industry.

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