The most widely shared classification of foods brings together the same foods in the five groups listed below, with an indication of the main nutritional characteristics.
– The cereals, their derivatives and tubers group includes bread, pasta, rice, other minor cereals (such as corn, oats, barley, spelled, etc.) as well as potatoes. Cereals and derivatives, in particular, bring good quantities of B complex vitamins as well as proteins which, although of poor quality, can, if combined with those of legumes, give rise to a protein blend of biological value comparable to that of proteins animals. Among the foods in this group it is advisable to often use wholemeal ones too, as they are naturally richer in fiber.
– The group consisting of fruit and vegetables – also including fresh legumes – represents a very important source of fiber, ß-carotene (present mainly in carrots, peppers, tomatoes, apricots, melons, etc.), vitamin C (present mainly in citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis, tomatoes, peppers, etc.), other vitamins and various minerals (potassium of particular importance). Also noteworthy is the significant presence, in this group, of those minor components mentioned above (antioxidants and others), which play a valuable protective action. The foods of this group, thanks to their great variety, allow the widest choice in every season, and it is advisable that they are always present in abundance on the table, starting also with breakfast and possibly as a meal or snack.
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–The milk and dairy products group includes milk, yogurt, dairy products and cheeses. The main function of the group is to provide calcium, in a highly bioavailable form, that is, easily absorbable and usable. The foods of this group also contain proteins of excellent biological quality and some vitamins (especially B2 and A). Within the group, semi-skimmed milk, dairy products and less fatty cheeses are preferred.
– The meat, fish and eggs group has the main function of providing high quality proteins and trace elements (in particular zinc, copper and iron highly bioavailable, i.e. easily absorbable and usable) and also B complex vitamins (in particular vitamin B12) . Within the group, lean meats (be they beef, poultry, pork, etc.) and fish are preferred. On the other hand, as regards quantity, the consumption of products with a higher fat content, such as certain types of meat and sausages, should be moderate. Finally, for eggs, an acceptable consumption for healthy subjects is that of an egg 2-4 times a week. In this group it is convenient – from a nutritional point of view – to include dried legumes (beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils, etc.), thus expanding the possibility of choices and alternatives. This is because legumes – in addition to significant quantities of starch and fiber – also provide those essential nutrients that are characteristic of meat, fish and eggs, such as iron, other trace elements and considerable quantities of good quality biological proteins.
–The group of seasoning fats includes both vegetable and animal fats. Their consumption must be contained, both because fats are a concentrated source of energy and for the other reasons already mentioned in the specific guideline. However, their role in enhancing the flavor of foods and in providing essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K), of which they also favor absorption, should be kept in mind. Those of vegetable origin (in particular extra virgin olive oil) are preferable to those of animal origin (such as butter, cream, lard, lard, etc.).
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