Does it seem there’s a new nutrition guideline every week in the media? Was it fat or carbohydrates we were meant to cut out in the end?! Turns out, it’s neither. Let’s explain why.
The Eat Well food groups
First things first, it’s helpful to have a refresher of what the different food groups are and what they do for us:
Fruit and vegetables: Provide vitamins and minerals to nourish us, fibre to keep our digestive system moving and water to keep us hydrated.
Carbohydrates: Our main source of energy and our brain’s preferred source. Carbohydrates also provide us with fibre and help keep us feeling full. Complex carbohydrates also contain some vitamins and minerals.
Protein: Important for the growth and repair of muscles and body tissues. Protein also helps keep us fuller for longer.
Dairy or dairy alternatives: These foods can be a great source of protein and also provide lots of minerals and vitamins. These include calcium to keep our bones healthy, B12 to help our red blood cells and iodine which supports nerve and brain function.
Fats: Fats often get a bad rap, but the ones to eat less of for good health are saturated and trans fats. Fats help us absorb Vitamins E, D, A and K. Unsaturated fats improve good (HDL) cholesterol levels too.
Eat less often in smaller amounts: These foods (e.g. cakes, biscuits and crisps) might not be completely necessary for nutrition purposes, but they do taste pretty good and are often at social or special occasions. They can still be included in a balanced diet.
Each food group has its own purpose and they’re all included in nutrition recommendations for a reason. If we demonise a whole group, it will throw the proportions off completely. This would mean we’re at greater risk of developing nutrient deficiencies. There are subsections of groups that we can consider drastically reducing for our health, like saturated fats and free sugars.
Take carbohydrates for example. If we cut out or drastically reduce these, we’re unlikely to be able to get enough fibre to keep our digestive system running comfortably. Though it’s worth reducing or eliminating refined, processed carbs.
Most meals are made up of multiple food groups. Eliminating a food group completely can make dietary choices complicated and tricky. It can lead to us becoming anxious around food or feeling deprived when we start craving the very thing we’ve blacklisted.
Ultimately, we want to lead a healthy lifestyle, and this includes having a varied and balanced diet whilst also feeling happy and relaxed around food.