Understanding The 4 Food Groups

In a human body, food is any material consumed to supply nutrients to an organisms. Food is generally of animal, plant or fungi origin, and has various important nutrients, including vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, fat, or minerals. The three main categories of food are carbohydrates (the main source of energy in our bodies), proteins and fats. Carbohydrates can be found in the type of foods we eat – bread, pasta, rice, cereals, potatoes, etc. – as well as in the drinks we drink – beer, milk, etc. Fats are found in butter, fish, oils and biscuits.


Plants contain carbohydrates and some minerals, while animal products contain protein, minerals and fat. Whole grains are rich in several important nutrients. They include vitamins B and E, which are not available in the refined forms in the market. Some of the other nutrients in whole grains are folic acid, riboflavin, manganese, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and copper.

Protein is the major nutrient, as it provides most of the energy needed by the body. Therefore, foods that are high in protein are good for our health and help to build strong bones and muscles. Foods that are rich in protein include meat, milk, eggs and fish. Plant foods, which are low in protein content, include beans, pulses, lentils, peas, cereals and nuts. Fruits, vegetables and legumes, which are rich in fiber and contain many nutrients like protein, are also a great addition to the diet.

Every one of us must keep in mind that what is digested in one part of the body will have to go through the other digestive tract in the other parts of the body. So, if you want to get enough nutrients, you should always choose foods from the same food group. This means that proteins will have to pass through the stomach first, before going to the small intestines, where fats can be absorbed. Foods that are rich in fiber, like fruits, vegetables and legumes, must also pass through the intestines. This process is called ‘augmentation’. Therefore, to get the right combination of nutrients, you must always divide your food into different food groups.

Vitamins are important too. Although some people may think that foods contain only vitamins A, C and E, this is not so. In fact, some vitamins, like A, B, D and K, are not present in large amounts in vegetables, which is one of the reasons why these vitamins are not generally consumed in large amounts by people. But, they are very important for our health and may be consumed in high doses in vitamin supplements.

Lastly, carbohydrates and fats are both important for our well being, but just in different ways. Whereas fats are needed for energy production and to decrease body mass, carbohydrates provide a source of energy. However, excessive amounts of carbohydrates in the diet can lead to weight gain and can contribute to diabetes and coronary disease, so it is good to limit the consumption of carbohydrates in the diet.