What Foods Can Do For You

You've been told over and over to eat right.  To choose low-fat and fat-free dairy foods (milk, cheese and yogurt), fruits, vegetables and whole grains. But why?  What do these foods do for you?  Will they give you super powers?  Well, not exactly.  They will, however, help to provide your body the essential vitamins and nutrients it needs in order to grow stronger and healthier.  The chart below shows you why nutrient-rich low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are good for you. The number of servings you need in each group depends on your age, gender and level of physical activity. To find out what is right for you, go to ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Food Group Nutrient & What It Does Types of Food What are some typical serving ideas?
Dairy

Calcium helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth; plays an important role in nerve function, muscle activity and blood clotting.

Potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure and helps regulate your body's fluid balance.

Protein helps build and repair muscle and other body tissue.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium for its use in building strong bones.

Low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese (cheddar, American, mozzarella) or yogurt (plain, flavored, added fruit)
  • 1 cup (8 oz) of milk.
  • 1 1/2 oz of natural cheese or 2 oz of processed cheese.
  • 1 cup (8 oz) of yogurt
Fruit

Vitamin C helps your body heal cuts and bruises and fight infections.

Potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure and helps regulate your body's fluid balance.

Fiber helps your digestive system work properly.

Apples, oranges, bananas, pears, peaches, grapes, kiwi, berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) melon (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew) pineapple, papaya
  • 1/2 small apple - 1/2 cup
  • 4 large strawberries - 1/2 cup
Vegetables

Fiber helps your digestive system work properly.

Potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure and helps regulate your body's fluid balance.

Vitamin A helps your eyes adapt to the dark and keeps your skin healthy.

Vitamin E helps protect the body's cells and tissues.

Broccoli, cauliflower, corn, peas, green beans, spinach, mushrooms, celery, carrots, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash
  • 1 medium carrot (or 6 baby carrots) = 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 large ear of corn = 1/2 cup
  • 1 cup raw spinach = ½ cup serving
(Whole) Grains

Carbohydrates help give you energy.

Fiber helps your digestive system work properly.

Magnesium helps keep muscles healthy and bones strong.

Whole wheat breads, rolls and crackers, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, whole grain cereals, popcorn
  • 1 cup of whole grain cereal = 1 oz
  • 1 slice whole grain bread = 1 oz
Protein Foods

Protein helps build and repair muscle and other body tissue.

B Vitamins help your body release energy, play a vital role in the nervous system, and help both in the formation of red blood cells and building of tissues.

Vitamin E helps protect the body's cells and tissues.Iron is used to carry oxygen in the blood.

Magnesium helps keep muscles healthy and bones strong.

Zinc helps the immune system function properly.

Lean meat, poultry, fish, dry beans or peas, eggs, nuts and seeds
  • 2 to 3 ounces lean meat, fish or poultry
  • 1 cup cooked beans = 2 ounces lean meat
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 25 almonds or 1 egg  = 1 oz of lean meat