With all the new fad diets out there today, it is hard to determine how to get proper nutrition without compromising yourself. Believe it or not, living by the food pyramid is a sound way to develop a nutritional diet. The important part is keeping the portions within reasonable limits and the calories at a satisfactory number to sustain you working as a human being.
The most important food group, because it is where most of our energy (aka calories) comes from, is the bread and grains group. It is recommended that six to eight servings from this group is eaten daily. More servings are for those who expend a large amount of energy, such as athletes, those who work out, growing children, and people with laborious occupations. Breads and grains contain many carbohydrates, which are made of good sugars that can be stored as energy. They also contain a large amount of fiber, important for digestion and metabolism. Some good sugars in this group include potatoes, rice, bread, muffins, crackers, oatmeal, cereal, pasta, etc. For food richer in vitamins and minerals, chose fortified grains and cereals, especially those containing natural whole wheat (not processed wheat). While good for energy storage, overloading on breads and grains, especially those containing non-nutritious sugars (such as doughnuts), can lead to an increase in feeling bloated and an increase in weight-gain. Newer "no-carb" diet fads eliminate this critical part of the food pyramid, which can lead to an overwhelming increase in fatigue, irritability, and muscle weakness. It is important to consume the recommended dose to breads and grains to maintain daily energy. To counteract possible weight gain, one should engage in more exercise to expend calories and increase total body fitness.
The fruit and vegetable category is most important with providing daily vitamins and minerals needed for growth and bodily function. Many of these substances need to be replaced daily or the body will experience deficiency symptoms, which can range anywhere from nausea and vomiting to fatigue and muscle weakness. Therefore it is recommended that four to six servings of fruits and vegetables should be consumed daily. Carrots are important for vision, fruits are important for regularity, and leafy greens contain many anti-oxidants, playing an important role in immune function. Very rarely do fruits and vegetables cause weight gain, so going a little overboard in this group is not really a bad thing!
The dairy group demands two to four servings a day, with more servings for children and women. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are vital for bone growth and maintenance. However, the dairy group also adds fat and cholesterol, which, if over served, can lead to weight gain and the potential for plaque formation in the arteries. Therefore it is important to pick low-fat items in the dairy group, such as reduced-fat cheese and two percent or skim milk. It should be noted that anyone who eliminates dairy from their diet can be at risk for developing osteoporosis later in life, increasing the chance for fractures.