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Food Groups

Let Your Food Work For You

The concept of variety, balance, and moderation—known in its more pedestrian form, “Too much or too little of something is bad for you???—has stood the test of time in the changing face of fad diets, celebrity workouts, and gym machines. It has survived through the ages for the simple reason that it works.

Take the modern construct that is the car. It needs not just fuel but also oil. Coolant. Brake fluid. The occasional tune-up. A top-boss sound system never hurts. The human body is a much more complex machine that needs different nutrients to function. Protein builds and repairs muscles, but it doesn’t work alone. First of all you need certain vitamins to make protein from the food you eat. You need certain nutrients to make your eyes see well, to make your bones stronger, to heal from disease faster. You need fiber to eliminate waste efficiently. And for the record: carbs are not the enemy. Without carbs, you won’t last an hour of jumping jacks.

You need a little of everything in the right proportion. Bottom line: you can’t have a large bowl of paella, an apple slice, a lettuce leaf, four pieces of fried chicken and expect to come down two dress sizes. Below is a chart of the ideal ratio between the different food groups, each one named after its primary function.

Glow Food enhances the performance and well-being of individual organs. It improves eye sight, makes skin supple, and makes hair shine. In short, glow food makes us hot. After all, a healthy person is a good-looking person. Under this group are fruits and vegetables that are loaded with vitamins and minerals.

Next is Grow Food, which we need less of in portion than Glow Food to build, develop, and repair tissues, muscle, and organs. Under this group are milk, nuts, and meat, with calcium and protein being their major nutrients.

Go Food gives us energy. It is the fuel which the body burns when doing a variety of tasks, from walking to all-out cardio pumping. Under this group are pasta, grains, bread, and cereals.

Let Your Food Work For You

Following the Glow-Go-Grow ratio is more of a guide than a commandment. Variety and balance don’t just mean having all food groups on your plate but also mixing around items within each food group. Some fruits have more of a certain nutrient than others, so it’s important to mix them up to cover all your bases when it comes to fulfilling your body’s diverse needs. Variety and balance aren’t a strictly per-day dictum more than something to comply with per week. Don’t beat yourself up for having that extra serving of ice cream at a party, just make sure you bone up on the fiber, fruits, and veggies.

Perhaps the hardest concept to stick to here is moderation. Knowing when you’ve had enough. And perhaps this is an area where we can learn from our European brethren. Relish the experience of having a meal. Don’t simply make it a way to get full. By all means order that rich buttery dish, but make each bite count. And attend to nothing else but the meal in front of you. No TV, no distractions that desensitize you to the signals your body gives to tell you you’re full. Soon enough, you’ll discover the joy of eating without guilt and the satisfaction of stopping without feeling deprived.