Unraveling the Mystery of the Pyramid. Part 2

Milk, Cheese and Yogurt (two to four servings per day)

Foods in this group typically contain some form of milk, and are often high in calcium, protein, riboflavin and vitamin B12. Most of the calcium in our bodies is found in bone — 99% to be exact. The other 1% is in the blood, but it is very important for muscle contraction, nerve transmission, blood pressure regulation and blood clotting. Levels of calcium in the blood aren’t affected by diet because our bones release calcium when blood levels are low. But over time, inadequate intake of calcium can lead to brittle bones.

Meat (two to three servings per day)

Foods included in this group include poultry, fish, red meat, dried beans and peas, nuts, eggs and tofu. Typically, foods in this group are higher in fat than the other groups, but there are low-fat options. Meat can be baked, broiled, grilled or stewed instead of fried. These foods tend to be high in protein, iron and B vitamins. Meats contain heme iron, which is a type of iron that is easily absorbed by the body. What happens when we don’t get enough iron in our diets? We may develop an iron deficiency or even anemia, with symptoms ranging from fatigue, weakness, headache, apathy, to cold intolerance.

Fats, Oils and Sweets (limited)

This group includes foods with few nutrients, such as coffee, tea, and diet soft drinks. Foods that are high in fat and/or sugar containing few vitamins and minerals can also be found here. Other members of this group include condiments, butter, margarine, salad dressings, sugar, jelly and candy. Although the number of servings for this group is not given, it’s recommended that we limit our intake of these nutrient-poor, sometimes calorie-dense foods.

Serving Sizes

Listed on the table above are some typical serving sizes for each food group except for the fats, sweets, and oils group. Moderation is the key when choosing foods high in fat and sugar.

Typical Serving Sizes

The Food Guide Pyramid also represents the ideas of balance and variety in our diets. Pyramids must have a large base in order to support the rest of the massive structure. When too much weight is added to the top, the pyramid could easily topple over. Similarly, our diets should be rich in grains, fruits, and vegetables, rather than too many sweet treats and fatty foods. A balanced diet will assure a strong foundation and provide the basis for good health. Choosing a wide variety of foods is also important because no single item can provide all of the nutrients we need.

Mystery Solved

As you can see, the Food Guide Pyramid really is a total diet plan. Following the nutritional recommendations of the guide is a good way to make sure you and your family get all of the nutrients you need. Now that you understand the principles of the pyramid, use the Food Guide Pyramid to help plan a healthy meals and snacks.

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