Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is a nutritious way to maintain your health and stave off certain medical conditions. They're an essential part of your daily diet, but they shouldn't be the only foods you eat. If you only eat fruits and vegetables, you'll probably get plenty of fiber, vitamin C and potassium, but you'll be missing out on key nutrients that produce doesn't contain large amounts of, such as protein, iron and zinc. Instead, eat a well-balanced and varied diet and you'll be more likely to get each of the nutrients you need.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are one of the most nutritious foods to include in your diet. You should aim to eat between five and nine servings of produce each day. One serving is equal to one cup of fresh fruit or vegetables or a half cup of dried versions. When you eat enough fruits and vegetables, you'll get a good dose of fiber for proper digestion, potassium for a normal heart beat, vitamin C for a strong immune system and vitamin A for healthy eyes. Take the health benefits one step further and try to eat as many different colors of produce as you can each day, recommends the Harvard School of Public Health.
Meat and Protein Foods
Though fruits and vegetables are highly nutritious, they don't contain large amounts of protein, a nutrient that's necessary for the repair and regeneration of your cells. Lean meats, fish, beans, nuts and seeds are healthy sources of protein, and eating two or three servings a day is all you need to get plenty of this key nutrient. These foods also supply iron and zinc, two minerals that keep your immune system working properly. You'll get vitamin B12, as well, which isn't present in most fruits and vegetables. Vitamin B12 is crucial for the function of your brain and nervous system.
Dairy and Grain Foods
Include low-fat dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, in your daily diet, too. These foods contain bone-building calcium, as well as phosphorus, a mineral that supports calcium in keeping your bones and teeth healthy. You'll need to eat whole grains, such as bread, rice, barley, quinoa and cereal, also. In addition to fiber, grains also supply B vitamins, which are necessary for your body to be able to turn the food you eat into energy. One of the most notable B vitamins present in many grains is folate. Folate is necessary for growth and development and can help prevent certain birth defects.
Include foods from several food groups in each of your meals and snacks. Pair a piece of fruit with a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast or layer fresh vegetables onto a tuna fish sandwich on whole-wheat bread. Fruits and vegetables are smart snacks because they're low in calories and provide fiber to fill you up, but pair a serving with a protein food such as string cheese or a handful of almonds. The combination of fiber and protein will satisfy your hunger, as well as supply a good amount of many key vitamins and minerals.
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.