Food Groups

Foods are generally divided into five groups (1)Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Guideline 2 recommends we enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five groups every day. Available here. (13)United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Food groups. Available here. (These groups are split on this website into 10 for easy browsing, as shown on the bottom of this page).

  1. Vegetables
  2. Fruit
  3. Cereal grains
  4. Proteins
  5. Dairy

Each of these groups contains foods that provide similar amounts of the key nutrients. For example, nuts and meat belong to the Protein Food Group because protein is the key nutrient in both foods.

Within each food group, however, there are some important nutrients in varying amounts. Vitamin A, for instance, is abundant in orange and red vegetables but lacking in cauliflower.

To insure good health it is important to:

  • Eat a wide variety of foods from each food group, and
  • Include each food group in your diet on a daily basis.

5 food groups

Vegetable Group. (2)Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Vegetables and Legumes / Beans. Available here. (3)Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Recommended number of serves for adults. Available here.

Please note that this website places legumes in the legume section rather than in the vegetable section since they have different culinary usage. (4)Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Vegetables and Legumes / Beans. Available here.

  • One serving for an adult is on average 75g (24-84Cal)/(100-350kJ);
  • Government (U.S. and AU) recommendations are equivalent to 5-6 servings per day;
  • Include vegetables and legumes (beans, peas and lentils);
  • They are nutrient dense which means that they are loaded with nutrients but low in calories;
  • Great source of vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, vitamin C and folate;
  • Excellent source of fiber;
  • Good source of phytochemicals;
  • Key nutrients are vitamins.

Health benefits of vegetables:

  • Reduce the risk of specific cancers (especially cruciferous vegetables);
  • Reduce the risk of colorectal cancer (fiber);
  • Daily consumption reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke;
  • Helps in weight loss and weight maintenance.

Fruit Group (5)Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Recommended number of serves for adults. Available here. (6)Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Fruit. Available here.

  • One serving for an adult is on average 150g (84Cal/350kJ);
  • Government (U.S. and AU) recommendations are on average equivalent to 2 servings per day;
  • Includes all fruit in the culinary sense (soft, sweet or tart taste) and do not include fruit in a botanical sense (tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.) which are savory in taste and have different culinary usage.
  • Most fruit are low in calories;
  • Have high water content;
  • Contain high fiber content;
  • Rich in vitamins (vitamins C, E), minerals and phytochemicals.

Health benefits of fruit:

  • Reduce the risk of some cancers, including colorectal cancer more effectively than some specific vitamins and minerals supplements;
  • Eases risk of cardiovascular diseases;
  • Lowers blood pressure, through potassium and magnesium present in fruit;
  • Improves the immune health, especially those containing vitamin A which are fruit with red, orange or yellow color.

Cereal Grain Group (mostly whole foods) (7)Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Recommended number of serves for adults. Available here. (8)Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Grain ( cereal ) foods, mostly wholegrain and / or high cereal fibre varieties. Available here.

  • One serving for an adult is on average 100 grams (120Cal/500kJ);
  • Daily recommendation of the Australian and U.S. governments is on average 4-6 servings;
    It is important to note, however, that this falls into a high carbohydrate diet, which current science does not agree with. I encourage lowering cereal grain intake and increasing vegetable, nut, seed and protein foods intake.
  • Includes foods such as breads, breakfast cereals, grains, pastas, muffins, couscous, rice cakes and flour products;
  • The key nutrient in cereal grains are carbohydrates in the form of starch;
  • Other nutrients are protein, fiber (if unprocessed) and vitamin B group;
  • Wholegrain (unrefined) cereals are rich in fiber, vitamins (vitamin E and vitamin B group), minerals (iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus) and antioxidants;
  • Refined cereals grains such as white bread and white rice are stripped by removing bran and germ where of most of the nutrients are contained;
  • Cereals, whether whole or refined, are usually high in carbohydrates and therefore have a high Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load.

Health benefits of whole grain cereals:

  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes and diverticular disease. Please note, however, that the main constituents of grain cereals are carbohydrates. This website promotes the reduction of carbohydrates by substitution for more vegetables and protein products, as current science indicates that a low carbohydrate diet outweighs the health benefits of wholegrains.
    In other words, it is healthier to include more vegetables, nuts (e.g. walnuts), seeds (e.g. flaxseeds, chia seeds) and proteins (eggs, poultry, dairy or dairy substitutes) and reduce grains altogether, even if they are whole.
  • Prevents constipation and maintains the heath of the digestive system (fiber).

Protein Group (9)Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Recommended number of serves for adults. Available here. (10)Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Lean Meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans. Available here.

  • One serving for an adult is on average 3 ounces (85g), (120-143Cal) (500-600kJ).
  • Australian government recommendations differ from the U.S. government recommendations. The Australian government advises consuming an average of 9 ounces of foods from the Protein Group per day while the U.S. government suggests 5-6 ounces. Current science indicates that the U.S. recommendations falls on or below the actual minimum recommended daily intake of protein. (Read more…)
  • This food group includes some groups and subgroups that on this website have their own categories: meats, fish and seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds and legumes (beans, peas and lentils).
  • This group of food provides a great selection of nutrients, including iron, zinc, vitamin B12 (meats), essential fatty acids (nuts, fish) and iodine (fish and seafood).

Health benefits of proteins:

  • Protein is the most obvious beneficial nutrient in this group. Every cell in the body, including bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, hair, nails and blood uses protein. It helps build and repair tissues and is used to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals.
  • Each subgroup has its own benefits and restrictions. It is recommended that you restrict red meat, for instance, to a little over 3 ounces (100 g) since higher portions are associated with the risk of colorectal cancer. Red meat, however, is a great source of iron, protein and zinc.
  • Nuts and seeds are loaded with minerals and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Eating fish (especially small and cold water oily fish) reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke and age related macular degeneration in the eyes.

Dairy Group (11)Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Recommended number of serves for adults. Available here. (12)Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives. Available here.

  • One serving for an adult is on average 2 oz. for hard cheese, 120 g for soft cheese and 1 cup of milk (120-143 Cal)( 500-600 kJ)
  • Daily recommendations (U.S. and Australia) depend on age, gender and life-stage. Adults on average require 2-3 servings per day.
  • The key nutrients of this food group are calcium and protein.
  • The Dairy group is also rich in the following nutrients: iodine, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, potassium and zinc.
  • The Dairy food group includes foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese and cream.
  • People who chose not to consume dairy products can opt for substitutes with high contents of calcium and protein such as almonds, almond milk, sardines, canned salmon with bones, nut milks (blended nuts with water) or tofu.

Health benefits of dairy:

  • Dairy products, due to their rich calcium and vitamin D contents, are beneficial in building bones and in bone mass maintenance;
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis;
  • Dairy contains potassium that helps in maintaining healthy blood pressure;
  • Intake of dairy products is associated with the reduction of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes and with lowering blood pressure in adults.
  • Food groups on this website

 

For easy browsing, I divided the foods in 10 groups, basing on key nutrients and culinary definitions, which are described on the main page of each food group. There is also an additional group called “Other” which includes oils, sugars and other foods which don’t belong to the 10 main groups.

  1. Vegetables
  2. Fruit
  3. Meat (protein food group)
  4. Nuts & Seeds (protein food group)
  5. Legumes (protein food group and Vegetable food group)
  6. Fish & Seafood (protein food group)
  7. Dairy & Eggs (protein food group)
  8. Grains (cereal grains)
  9. Beverages
  10. Herbs & Spices
  11. Other

References   [ + ]

1. Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Guideline 2 recommends we enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five groups every day. Available here.
2. Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Vegetables and Legumes / Beans. Available here.
3. Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Recommended number of serves for adults. Available here.
4. Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Vegetables and Legumes / Beans. Available here.
5. Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Recommended number of serves for adults. Available here.
6. Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Fruit. Available here.
7. Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Recommended number of serves for adults. Available here.
8. Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Grain ( cereal ) foods, mostly wholegrain and / or high cereal fibre varieties. Available here.
9. Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Recommended number of serves for adults. Available here.
10. Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Lean Meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans. Available here.
11. Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Recommended number of serves for adults. Available here.
12. Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives. Available here.
13. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Food groups. Available here.

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