Food variety entails consumption of a wide range of foods across and within each of the food groups, in the right amounts. Eating a variety of foods helps in maintaining an interesting and healthy diet that provides sufficient nutrition. Additionally, consuming different foods can help in preventing diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Each food group is rich in at least one nutrient, which is contributed to the total diet. For instance, the milk group is rich in protein, riboflavin, and calcium. Different foods in each food group provide more of specific nutrients than other foods. Therefore, eating different foods from each food group provides the body with all the nutrients contained in the foods that fall in that food group. For instance, some vegetables such as peppers are rich in vitamin C, while others such as spinach and asparagus are rich in folic acid.
Choosing different foods within each food group also helps in making daily meals more interesting. The five major food groups are:
- Bread, rice, cereals, noodles, pasta
- Milk, cheese, yogurt
- Lean meat, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs, legumes
- Vegetables, legumes
Foods that do not contain significant levels of nutrients and are not considered to be central to the diet are the ‘extra foods.’ They often comprise of high amounts of sugar, fat, and/or salt. Examples of such foods are butter, soft drinks and margarine.
Eating a broad range of foods increases the probability of getting enough of all essential body nutrients. These nutrients differ in terms of combination and amounts among various food groups. Consuming a variety of foods also helps in improving general health and preventing chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.