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May 11, 2014

Benefits of eating a diversity of foods

by Helene van den Berg

Eating a diversity of foods equals healthy eating. Healthy eating includes learning about balance, variety and moderation.

  • Balance – eat from each food group every day – protein, carbohydrates (vegetables and fruit) and fats. Listen to your body. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you feel satisfied.
  • Variety – Choose different foods in each food group. Be adventurous!.
  • Moderation – 3-5 small, regular meals is better than one huge overloaded plate of food for dinner.

Eating a diversity of foods will help you to get the right balance of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. You will have plenty of energy, feel better and handle stress better. Healthy eating will help you to prevent and control many health problems (heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure etc.

Healthy eating is not a diet. It means making changes you can live with and enjoy for the rest of your life !!. Diets are temporary and not sustainable. You feel hungry all the time and think about food all the time. And after you stop dieting, you overeat to make up for what you missed. Eating a healthy, balanced variety of foods is far more satisfying (don’t feel hungry all the time) – and combining that with physical activity, will enable you to get to a healthy weight- and maintain it- than if you diet.

Making healthier eating a HABIT:

  • Think about the reasons for healthier eating (improvement of health?; feel more energetic?).
  • Think about small changes you can make.
  • Pick ones you can keep doing.
  • Don’t try to change everything at once
  • Set an easy reachable goal (e.g. having a salad and a piece of fruit every day)
  • Make a long-term goal (e.g. having a vegetarian dinner once a week)

Diversity means to get to know the different foods in each food category and rotate different foods into your diet. A fun way is too choose foods by color:

  • RED – tomatoes , beets, red peppers, watermelons, cherries…-

Red foods contain phytochemicals (lycopene, anthocyanins) that lowers the risk of some cancers, promote heart health, memory function, urinary-tract health.

  • BLUE-PURPLE – blackberries, blueberries, plums, red grapes, eggplant, red cabbage…

These foods contain phenolics, anthocyanins that lowers the risk of some cancers, promote memory function, urinary-tract health

  • YELLOW ORANGE – apricots, mangoes, papayas, oranges, pineapple, persimmons, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots….

These foods contain carotenoids, flavenoids that lowers the risk of some cancers, promote heart health, vision health, healthy immune system.

  • YELLOW GREEN – avocados, green grapes, kiwifruit, lime, grapes, artichokes, broccoli, peas, spinach, celery….

These foods contain lutein, indoles that lowers the risk of some cancers, promote vision health, strong bones and teeth.

  • WHITE GREEN- garlic, shallots, chives, ginger, mushrooms, leeks….

Contain allyl sulfides, allicin that lowers the risk of some cancers, promote heart health.

Read product labels – to avoid trans fats and high-sugar-content foods. Choose fresh, unprocessed whole foods over packaged foods, which is highly processed, low in nutrients and full of chemicals.

Seasons are considered a source of natural diversity. In a research study done in England, there were significant differences found in the nutrient content of pasteurized milk in summer versus winter: iodine was higher in winter and in summer beta-carotene was higher – due to the differences in the diets of the cows. In Japan there were three-

fold differences in the vitamin C content of spinach harvested in summer versus winter. Here follows a guide to eat seasonally:

  • SPRING – tender, leafy vegetables , which represents the fresh new growth of this season : spinach lettuce, parsley, basil.
  • SUMMER – light , cooling foods in the tradition of Chinese medicine: strawberries, apple, pear, plum; broccoli, cauliflower , summer squash and peppermint spice.
  • AUTUMN – more warming foods: carrot, sweet potato, onions, garlic; ginger and peppercorn spices.
  • WINTER – exclusively warming (animal) foods. Foods taking longer to grow are more warming than foods that grow quickly: fish, chicken, beef, lamb and eggs; root vegetables like carrot, potato, onion, garlic and corn and nuts.

Consumers that value fresh food and a working landscape should support local farmers by buying their products.

REASONS to buy local, seasonal food:

  • Taste and look better – in-season and recently harvested; crops are picked at their peak and cheese are hand-crafted for best flavor. Farmers directly oversee the quality of livestock products.
  • Nutrient quality of fresh food is better than imported food- shorter time between the farm and your table!.
  • Preserves genetic diversity – large-scale production limit genetic diversity, by choosing plant varieties for their ability to ripen uniformly, withstand harvesting, survive packing and have a long shelf life; smaller, local farms in contrast, grow many different varieties of crops to provide a long harvest season, array of colors and the best flavors. Livestock diversity is also higher.
  • Promotes biodiversity – our demand for local food creates greater variety.
  • Boosts our well-being- local foods are grown sustainably, using humane animal practices and without pesticides and chemical fertilizers; our food is healthier and environmentally friendly.
  • Benefits the environment and wildlife – well-managed farms conserve fertile soil, protect water sources and provide a habitat for wildlife in our communities.
  • Supports local families – they sell direct to consumers, cut out middleman and they get full retail price for their food. Supports the future of farming.
  • Builds community – promotes a greater sense of family ; connection between eater and grower; empowers the consumer by engaging with the growers directly.
  • Preserves open space – By marketing locally, farmers will be less likely to sell farmland for development.



Read more from Balanced diet

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