Food types

Classification of Foods and How They Relate To Health

Foods are classified into three groups namely carbohydrates, proteins and fats. A healthy diet should contain all 3 types of food, carbohydrates, fats and proteins, which should be appropriately combined.


carbsCarbohydrates comprises of starches, fibers and sugars. Starches and sugars are vital for a balanced diet since they provide the body with the needed energy. During digestion, starch and sugar are broken down into glucose which is in turn absorbed into the bloodstream. In spite of fiber being a carbohydrate, it is used by the body for other purposes apart from being a source of energy.

Simple carbs, which are naturally occurring sugars, are found in fruit, honey, and milk and in small quantities in vegetables. Starch, basically a complex carbohydrate, is found in grains, beans and vegetables. Fiber is yet another complex carbohydrate present in vegetable as well as in fruits. Fiber can be soluble or non-soluble in water. The apple’s skin fibre is an example of non-soluble fibre while its pulp contains pectin, which a soluble fiber.

In order to enjoy good health, you should obtain large quantities of your carbohydrates from whole foods (which have not undergone a lot of processing) and they include whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables.


fatsFat is vital for the body’s energy, for the cushioning of the organs and the transportation of vitamins. But exces fat can trigger obesity, excessive cholesterol and heart ailments. However, not all fats are harmful if consumed in appropriate quantities. In fact, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can be helpful in lowering your bad cholesterol. Saturated fats and trans fats can raise the cholesterol and are linked to a higher risks for heart condition. All fats contain 9 calories per gram, meaning a higher number of calories than carbohydrates and protein.

Monounsaturated fats can be found mostly in nuts, canola oil and olive oil while polyunsaturated fats are mostly found in vegetable oils including canola oils, corn and soybean. Saturated fats are mostly found in cheese, butter, palm oil, poultry, red meat, cold cuts, butter, lard, whole or skimmed milk. Trans-fats are mainly made through a process involving hydrogenated vegetable oils although they are also naturally found in smaller quantities in some food, like lamb and dairy products. But it is mostly found in processed food like pizzas, cookies, French fries and frozen dinners.

Trans fats, like saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels. For purposes of good health, you should limit your intake of fatty food as well as processed foods and ensure that you consume dairy products with low fat content. Also, swap saturated fats like butter with the mono-unsaturated ones such as olive oil.


food with proteinProtein is a vital component of muscle, bone, skin and hair cells as well as of other parts of the body. Protein is made by the body from amino acids which are easily obtained from protein-rich foods. However, these amino acids cannot be stored by the body, making it necessary for you to eat protein daily.

Amino acids which constitute the proteins are often referred to as essential and non-essential amino acids. The body cannot make essential amino acids and so they have to be included in your diet every day but the body is able to make the non-essential amino acids. The proteins which contain all the necessary amino acids are referred to as complete proteins and are found in fish, eggs, poultry, red meat and milk. Complete protein sources include egg white, milk and meat. Meat has the same protein content although different kinds of meat may differ in fat content.

These proteins that lack all the essential amino acids are known as incomplete proteins and are found in plants. There are some plants which contain more protein than the others; however, no single plant has all essential amino acids. As such, if you eat different types of plant foods, your diet will comprise of all the essential amino acids. It is very easy for vegetarians to get sufficient amounts of essential amino acids from plant proteins provided they consume enough calories and an assortment of foods.

Different types of proteins from various food groups should be eaten for good health.

Recommended Quantity intake

Food and nutrition experts recommend that for a healthy diet:

• Carbohydrates should constitute between 45-65 per cent of the total calories daily.
• Fat should consist of 20-35 per cent of the entire daily calories.
• Protein should comprise of 10-35 per cent of total calories daily.

Among these foods that are regarded as unhealthy foods are those which:

• Offer ‘empty’ calories and include all sweetened and fried foods.
• Remove nutrients from your body leaving you more nutritionally wanting than you were before consuming them, such as carbonated or caffeinated drinks which draw calcium from the bones.

Junk food should be shunned as they tend to change brain activity in a way that is akin to addictive drugs. After consuming junk food diets for several weeks, the brain’s pleasure centers become insensitive and will need additional junk food for pleasure in the future.

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