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Eating a healthy diet can benefit every area of our life. The food choices we make each day can greatly enhance our body functions, lower our cholesterol levels, improve our mood and energy levels, and even help us lose excess weight.

The USDA’s Food Pyramid is a basic guideline highlighting specific food groups and their daily-recommended allowances for the average adult diet. In the next few issues of Designing HOME Lifestyles Magazine, we’ll be focusing on each individual food category and bringing you the benefits of each, along with a guide to making healthier choices within each group. Today, we’ll look at an overview of the different groups and get familiar with the benefits of each.


Grains can be divided into two sub categories: whole grains and refined grains. Examples of some whole grains include whole wheat flour, oatmeal and brown rice. They contain the entire grain kernel, which is the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grains contain more dietary fiber, iron, and B Vitamins then refined grains, due to the fact that refined grains have been milled and their bran and germ removed. Examples of refined grains are white flour, white bread and white rice. Whole grains can reduce the risk of heart disease, help with weight management and are vital for the maintenance of our bodies.


People who regularly include more fruits and vegetables in their daily diet are more likely to have a reduced risk of chronic disease, such as type 2 diabetes. They are both naturally low in fat and add flavor and diversity into our meals. All fruits and vegetables are cholesterol-free unless sauces and seasonings are added. Foods in this group bring a healthy dose of potassium, dietary fiber, and Vitamins A, E, and C to our diets, if included regularly.


This category includes all meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, nuts and seeds. When choosing meat and poultry, select the most lean or low-fat cut. Many essential healthy oils are found in fish, nuts and seeds. Fatty fish such as salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower the risk of heart disease. Dried beans, peas and lentils can provide great health benefits, offering plenty of protein and fiber without the cholesterol and fat found in some meats. Many of the foods in this category provide an excellent source of B vitamins, which help the body release energy and help build tissues. The protein found in this group functions as building blocks for our body’s bones muscles, skin and blood.


Foods made from milk, including milk itself, are a part of this essential group. Common food products made from milk are yogurt, cottage cheese, and ice cream. For a healthy diet, dairy products labeled “fat free” or “low fat” should be chosen over their high fat counterparts. Diets rich in these milk and milk-derived products provide our bones with much needed calcium, which is used to maintain bone mass and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.


Basically, oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Common oils include canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, and soybean oil. Some foods themselves are naturally high in oil content like nuts, olives, and some fish. Oils from plant sources do not contain cholesterol. Solid fats include butter and shortening and also beef and chicken fat. Some plant oils such as coconut and palm oil are high in saturated fats and should be considered solid fats for dietary purposes. Eating too many high fat foods adds excess calories and increases risk for several diseases. These foods should be used sparingly and with caution in a healthy diet plan.

Choosing to eat healthy is the first step in living a healthy life. By following the guidelines of the USDA Food Pyramid, you can ensure you’re getting the right amount of nutrients and vitamins your body needs to function properly and keep you going strong.

Next issue we’ll focus on the benefits of whole grains and how you can incorporate more of them into your daily diet.