Research has shown that the key to a healthier and longer life lies on our diet. The essence of a healthful diet is simply making good choices from the foods that are available. For help in making healthy choices, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the use of a four-tier food guide pyramid.
At the base of the pyramid are complex carbohydrates, which include grain foods, such as bread, cereal, rice, and pasta. These foods are the foundation of a healthful diet. On the second tier are two equal sections; one is vegetables, and the other is fruits. These foods are also complex carbohydrates. Most of our daily diets should be selected from these three food groups.
The third tier has two smaller sections. One section has such foods as milk, yogurt, and cheese; and the other includes meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts. Only moderate amounts of foods should be eaten from these groups. Why? Because most of these foods are rich in cholesterol and saturated fat, which can increase the rich of coronary diseases, such as heart attack, and cancer. And could also cause obesity.
Finally, at the very top of the pyramid is a small area that includes fats, oils, and sweets. These foods provide very few nutrients and should be eaten sparingly. More foods should be chosen from the bottom part of the pyramid, and fewer from the top.
Rather than sticking to the same food items from each section toward the bottom of the pyramid, it is wise to experiment with a variety of foods within those sections. This is because each food has a different combination of nutrients and fiber. Some vegetables and fruits, for example, are good sources of vitamins A and C, while others are high in folic acid, calcium, and iron.
Not surprisingly, vegetarian diets are becoming increasingly popular. Data are strong that vegetarians are at lesser risk for obesity, constipation, lung cancer, and alcoholism . And, contrary to what some may believe, with careful, proper planning, even meatless diets can meet Recommended Dietary Allowances for nutrients.
An important factor for everyone is keeping dietary-fat intake below 30 percent of total calories and saturated fat below 10 percent. You can do this without becoming a vegetarian and without unduly sacrificing your enjoyment of eating.