Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food. - Hippocrates

A balanced diet must contain these items in the correct portions.

  • Carbohydrates:  Are the most important source of energy. We obtain most of our carbohydrate in the form of starch. This is found in potato, rice, spaghetti, yams, bread and cereals. Our digestive system turns all this starch into another carbohydrate called glucose. Glucose is carried around the body in the blood and is used by our tissues as a source of energy. Any glucose in our food is absorbed without the need for digestion. We also get some of our carbohydrate in the form of sucrose; this is the sugar which we put in our tea and coffee. Both sucrose and glucose are sugars, but sucrose molecules are too big to get into the blood, so the digestive system turns it into glucose.

  • Proteins:  These are required for growth and repair. Many people associate protein with meats, it is found in a variety of foods. There are both animal and plant sources of protein. Animal sources include all types of meats, fish, eggs and dairy products. Plant sources include peanut butter, almonds, tofu, and lentils. When it comes to protein, there is a significant difference between animal and plant proteins. Animal proteins are considered "complete" because they contain all the essential amino acid building blocks in a single protein food

  • Fats:  Also used as a source of energy: they are also stored beneath the skin helping to insulate us against the cold. You must have some fat in your diet because it contains fat soluble vitamins. If you eat too much carbohydrate and protein, you will convert some of it into fat, so you will put on weight. You must balance the amount of energy containing foods with the amount of energy that you use when you take exercise.

  • Vitamins:  these are required in very small quantities to keep you healthy.
    • Vitamin A: good for your eyes.
    • Vitamin B: about 12 different chemicals.
    • Vitamin C: needed for your body to repair itself.
    • Vitamin D: can be made in your skin, needed for absorption of Calcium.
    • Vitamin E: the nice one - reproduction?

  • Mineral Salts:  these are required for healthy teeth, bones, muscles etc.
    • Iron: required to make hemoglobin.
    • Calcium: required for healthy teeth, bones and muscles.
    • Sodium: all cells need this, especially nerve cells.
    • Iodine: used to make a hormone called thyroxin.

  • Fibre:  This is required to help your intestines function correctly; it is not digested. If you do not eat foods materials which contain fibre you might end up with problems of the colon and rectum. The muscles of you digestive system mix food with the digestive juices and push food along the intestines by peristalsis; if there is no fibre in your diet these movements cannot work properly.

How many servings of each group?

Basic guidelines show that you should be eating more grains than fruits and vegetables, and more fruits and vegetables than meat and dairy. Fat should play a very minor role in your diet. Here is a breakdown of the number of servings relating to calorie intake.

Based on a 2000 Calorie Diet:

  • Breads and Grain 6 ounce equivalents

  • (1 ounce equivalent is about 1 slice bread, 1 cup dry cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal)
  • Vegetables 2 1/2 cups

  • (Dark Green, Orange, Starchy, Dry Beans and Peas, Other Veggies)
  • Fruits 2 cups
  • Dairy 3 cups

  • (1 1/2 ounces cheese = 1 cup milk)
  • Meat & Beans 5 1/2 ounce equivalents

  • (1 ounce equivalent is 1 ounce meat, poultry, or fish, 1 egg, 1 T. peanut butter, 1/2 ounce nuts, or 1/2 cup dry beans)

The USDA provides a interactive tool that shows how you can improve your diet and health with Daily Food Plan.