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The Importance of Variety in a Diet

By Erin Beck

The more variety in your diet, the more likely you are to get adequate nutrients and fiber, according to a 2001 study published in the "Journal of Nutrition." Getting the recommended dietary allowance for each nutrient reduces your risk of some chronic diseases and helps you function at your best. Follow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food Guide Pyramid to get adequate nutrients from the five major food groups.

Identification

To determine if you're getting the right variety of foods in your diet, take a look at your consumption of each of the five major food groups -- grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat, fish and poultry and fats. Intake from various food groups is a sufficient measure of dietary variety, according to a 1987 study in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association."

Nutritional Adequacy

Consuming a variety of foods indicates adequate nutrition, according to a 1998 study in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition." The study looked at intake of different food groups, as well as intake of individual foods. People who consumed more kinds of food had higher ratings for nutritional adequacy.

Nutrients

A balanced, healthful diet increases the likelihood that you'll get enough carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. For instance, people who eat a variety of foods are more likely to get enough vitamin C in their diets, according to a 1997 study published in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association." Fruit and vegetable consumption is especially important for frail, elderly people, according to a 2002 study published in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association." Fruits and vegetables are especially rich in fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Disease Prevention

Eating more kinds of foods is linked to decreased consumption of salt, sugar and saturated fat, the 1987 study in the Dietetic Association journal found. Excess salt, sugar and saturated fat are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A history of cancer, especially gastrointenstinal cancer, is associated with limited diets, according to the 2002 study in the Dietetic Association journal.

Body Weight

Variety may not be beneficial if you're trying to lose weight. Those who maintain a weight loss tend to follow a diet with limited variety in all food groups, found a 2005 study published in "Obesity Research." Limited variety may help people who've lost weight restrict calories.

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