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The Mother Earth Living Food Group Guide

Diversify your diet and eat healthy by gaining a better understanding of basic food groups.

| May/June 2017

  • "Most Americans get overfed and undernourished, getting too many calories from poor-quality foods, and not getting enough important nutrients from high-quality foods."
    Photo by Adobe Stock/Bogdan Wankowicz

A major problem with many people’s diets is simply the lack of diversity of foods eaten. Variety is a critical “ingredient” for healthful eating, according to physician and herbalist Aviva Romm, who says that at least 80 percent of Americans do not get the nutrients they need for basic health. “Instead, most Americans are overfed and undernourished, getting too many calories from poor-quality foods, and not getting enough important nutrients from high-quality foods. The ‘phytonutrient gap’ is the term used to describe the difference between the nutrients you need for optimal health, and the nutrients you’re actually getting. The biggest deficit is of important vitamins, minerals and protective phytochemicals (phyto means “plant”) that are found in fruits and vegetables and that protect your cells from damage and support healthy natural detoxification.”

So when it comes to food groups, start with the plants.


Vegetables and fruits should be consumed daily in high quantities. Numerous studies suggest that diets rich in plants may help prevent all kinds of diseases, including many cancers. Aim for seven to nine servings of vegetables, herbs, fruits, beans and legumes each day. Lean heavily toward greens — several cups a day. Try them raw and cooked to mix things up. Enjoy a serving or two of fresh fruits (1/2 cup berries, 1 whole fruit) each day, plus a serving or two of vegetables (about 1/2 cup each) that taste sweet, such as beets and sweet potatoes. Make up the remaining servings with half-cup portions of a rainbow of colorful vegetables (orange peppers, pink radishes, yellow squash, etc.). And add fresh herbs and dried spices in abundance — herbs and spices provide important and beneficial nutrients in small packages.

Beans and legumes are excellent sources of protein and iron, and improve cholesterol and heart health. Their phyto-estrogen compounds block and reduce the effects of environmental toxins, and their amino acids assist in important detoxification work in our bodies. Some people are sensitive to members of this family, but most people tolerate garbanzo beans and lentils quite well. A serving is about half a cup.

Whole grains are a part of many of the healthiest diets on the planet. The majority of nutrients found in grains are contained in the bran and germ — the parts that are removed from refined white flours. Consuming refined white flours keeps our bodies on a blood sugar roller coaster with wide-ranging consequences. A half-cup serving of whole grains contains plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, plus healthy plant compounds that contribute to healthy weight, longer life and a reduced risk of many illnesses. If you suffer negative health effects such as gas or indigestion when eating whole grains, it may be an indication that you need to correct your body’s microflora. Romm has worked with many patients who do not tolerate grains well until they have successfully reset their microbiome. Eating fermented foods and plenty of vegetables and fruits is a good strategy for gaining back the microflora necessary to break down and process whole grains.

Nuts and seeds are among the most important plants we can eat. Aim for at least an ounce a day (about a handful) for their numerous disease-fighting benefits. They are an incredible source of energy, as well. Enjoy them raw or toasted; alone, in meals or smoothies; and as nut and seed butters.

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