Balanced Diet

    Grain products, vegetables, and fruits are key parts of a good varied
diet. They are emphasized in this guideline because they provide vitamins,
minerals, complex carbohydrates (starch and dietary fiber), and other
substances that are important for good health. They are also generally low in
fat, depending on how they are prepared and what is added to them at the
     Most of the calories in your diet should come from grain products,
vegetables, and fruits  These include grain products high in complex
carbohydrates -- breads, cereals, pasta, rice ? found at the base of the Food
Guide Pyramid, as well as vegetables such as potatoes and corn. Dry beans
(like pinto, navy, kidney, and black beans and various lentils) are included
in ?the meat and beans group of the Pyramid,? and  they can count as vegetable
alternatives for meat.
     Plant foods provide fiber. Fiber is found only in plant foods like
whole-grain breads and cereals, beans and peas, and other vegetables and
fruits. Because there are different types of fiber in foods, choose a variety
of foods daily. Eating a variety of fiber-containing plant foods is important
for proper bowel function, can reduce symptoms of chronic constipation,
diverticular disease, and hemorrhoids, and may lower the risk for heart
disease and some cancers. However, some of the health benefits associated with
a high-fiber diet may come from other components present in these foods, not
just from fiber itself. For this reason, fiber is best obtained from foods
rather than supplements.
     Plant foods provide a variety of vitamins and minerals essential for
health. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and provide many
essential nutrients and other food components important for health. These
foods are excellent sources of vitamin C, vitamin B6, carotenoids, including
those which form vitamin A, and folate (box 8). The antioxidant nutrients
found in plant foods (e.g., vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin E, and certain
minerals) are presently of great interest to scientists and the public because
of their potentially beneficial role in reducing the risk for cancer and
certain other chronic diseases. Scientists are also trying to determine if
other substances in plant foods protect against cancer.  Folate, also called
folic acid, is a B vitamin that, among its many functions, reduces the risk of
a serious type of birth defect.  Minerals such as potassium, found in a wide
variety of vegetables and fruits, and calcium, found in certain vegetables,
may help reduce the risk for high blood pressure.
     Vegetarian diets are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
and can meet Recommended Dietary Allowances for nutrients. You can get enough
protein from a vegetarian diet as long as the variety and amounts of foods
consumed are adequate.  So, eat more grain products (breads, cereals, pasta,
and rice), vegetables, and fruits. Eat dry beans, lentils, and peas more
often. Increase your fiber intake by eating more of a variety of whole grains,
whole-grain products, dry beans, fiber-rich vegetables and fruits such as
carrots, corn, peas, pears, and berries.Source: Dietary Guidelines for
Americans, NIDDK, NIH.
Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, 04/04/98

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