The USDA Food Pyramid
The USDA Food Pyramid is presents a 3D model of the ideal diet of an ordinary American. The food pyramid shows that basic food groups in a person's diet, and what percentages of certain types of foods we should consume based on where the food is located in the food pyramid. The foods at the bottom of the pyramid include breads and grains. The next level of the food pyramid is fruits and vegetables. The foods in these two bottom levels are the types that should make up the majority of our diet. The next level of the food pyramid includes dairy, meats, eggs, poultry, fish, nuts, & dry beans.
These foods provide us with the majority of the protein required in our diet, and are also a source of other vital nutrients, such as Vitamin-B12. The top of the food pyramid includes fats, oils, and sweets, which should only be consumed in moderation. Keep in mind that the recommendation of the USDA Food Pyramid does not necessarily apply to everyone, due to restrictions in some people's diet due to food allergies, and other dietary restrictions. Also keep in mind that the food located at the bottom of the food pyramid - namely breads - make up a very small percentage of the diet in many Asian cultures, yet they are often attributed as having a longer life span, compared to Americans.
Organizations that have done significant research in diet and health, such as the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, recommend a diet which is composed mainly of grains, vegetables, and fruits. The suggested diet as presented in the USDA food pyramid emphasizes building your daily food intake on a base of low-fat, high-fiber breads, grains and complex carbohydrates; consuming several daily servings of vegetables and fruit; including moderate amounts of lean proteins, such as poultry, fish and meats; eating moderate servings of dairy products, which adds calcium; and eating small amounts of sweets, fats, sugars, and oils. Again, I must make a small note about non-American cultures that have a diet very low or no bread and dairy intake: there are many cultures have a daily intake of less than 1 serving of dairy and bread combined, on average, yet have a very low rate of health problems and a longer life span, compared to the average American.
One important thing to remember is that is you do restrict yourself from eating certain types of foods as labeled in the food pyramid, than you are going to have to make sure that you get certain essential nutrients in these foods elsewhere in your diet. For example, many people have cut out dairy from their diets, due to reports of excess levels of synthetic hormones found in some milks, or due to a food allergy to dairy (lactose intolerance). Since dairy is one of our main sources of calcium, a vital component of our bones, we will need to go out of our way to make sure that we are getting enough calcium in our diets if we slice dairy out of our diet. Other types of food that are high in calcium include salmon, broccoli, Brazil nuts, and baked beans.