Food is the basic necessity of man. It is a mixture of different nutrients such as carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are essential for growth, development and maintenance of good health throughout life. They also play a vital role in meeting the special needs of pregnant and lactating women and patients recovering from illness.



Food may be classified according to their functions in the body.

Physiological functions of food

1.Energy yielding foods

Foods rich in carbohydrates and fats are called energy yielding foods. They provide energy to sustain the involuntary processes essential for continuance of life, to carry out various professional, household and recreational activities and to convert food ingested into usable nutrients in the body. The energy needed is supplied by the oxidation of foods consumed. Cereals, roots and tubers, dried fruits, oils, butter and ghee are all good sources of energy.

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2. Body building foods

Foods rich in protein are called body building foods. Milk, meat, eggs and fish are rich in proteins of high quality. Pulses and nuts are good sources of protein but the protein is not of high quality. These foods help to maintain life and promote growth. They also supply energy.

3. Protective and Regulatory foods

Foods rich in protein, minerals and vitamins are known as protective and regulatory foods. They are essential for health and regulate activities such as maintenance of body temperature, muscle contraction, control of water balance, clotting of blood, removal of waste products from the body and maintaining heartbeat. Milk, egg, liver, fruits and vegetables are protective foods.

Social functions of food

Food has always been the central part of our community, social, cultural and religious life. It has been an expression of love, friendship and happiness at religious, social and family get-together.

Psychological functions of food

In addition to satisfying physical and social needs, foods also satisfy certain emotional needs of human beings. These include a sense of security, love and acceptance. For example, preparation of delicious foods for family members is a token of love and affection.


Five Food Group Systems

Food Group Main Nutrients
I. Cereals, Grains and  Products :

Rice, Wheat, Ragi, Bajra, Maize, Jowar, Barley, Rice flakes, Wheat Flour.

Energy, protein, Invisible fat Vitamin B1, Vitamin – B2, Folic Acid, Iron, Fibre.
II. Pulses and Legumes :

Bengal gram, Black gram, Green gram, Red gram, Lentil (whole as well as dhal) Cowpea, Peas, Rajma, Soyabeans, Beans

Energy, Protein, Invisible fat, Vitamin –B1, Vitamin – B2, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Fibre.
III. Milk and Meat Products :

Milk :

Milk, Curd, Skimmed milk,Cheese

Meat :

Chicken, Liver, Fish, Egg, Meat.

Protein, Fat, Vitamin –B12, Calcium.

Protein, Fat, Vitamin –B2

IV. Fruits and Vegetables :

Fruits :

Mango, Guava, Tomato Ripe, Papaya, Orange. Sweet Lime, Watermelon.

Carotenoids, Vitamin –C, Fibre.
Vegetables (Green Leafy) :

Amaranth, Spinach, Drumstick

leaves, Coriander leaves, Mustard

leaves, fenugreek leaves

Invisible Fats, Carotenoids, Vitamin –

B2, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Fibre.

Other Vegetables :

Carrots, Brinjal, Ladies fingers, Capsicum, Beans, Onion, Drumstick, Cauliflower.

Carotenoids, Folic Acid, Calcium, Fibre
V. Fats and Sugars :

Fats :

Butter, Ghee, Hydrogenated oils,

Cooking oils like Groundnut,

Mustard, Coconut.

Energy, Fat, Essential Fatty Acids
Sugars :

Sugar, Jaggery


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Significance of the five-food group system

The five food group system can be used for the following purposes:

  1. Planning wholesome balanced menus to achieve nutritional adequacy.
  2. Assessing nutritional status – a brief diet history of an individual can disclose inadequacies of food and nutrients from any of the five groups.

Based on the assessment, nutrition education can be imparted to the individual.


The food guide pyramid was introduced in 1992 by USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) as a general plan of what to eat each day. The food guide pyramid is a valuable tool for planning a health promoting diet. By incorporating the principle of balance, variety and moderation, an individual can still eat their favorite foods while following the food guide pyramid.

Food guide pyramid


It means choosing food from different food groups.


This means including different foods within each food group. For eg. consuming a variety of fruits.


  • This means keeping serving sizes reasonable. This involves self control.
  • The food guide pyramid provides recommendation for the number of daily servings that should be consumed from each of the food groups.


Food item Adult Man Adult Woman
Sedentary work Moderate work Heavy work Sedentary


Moderate work Heavy


Cereals and millets 470 550 750 370 450 575
Pulses 40 60 60 40 45 50
Leafy vegetables 100 100 100 100 100 100
Other  vegetables 60 70 80 40 40 50
Roots and tubers 50 60 80 50 50 60
Fruits 30 30 30 30 30 30
Milk 150 200 250 100 150 200
Fats and oils 30 40 45 20 25 30
Sugar / Jaggery 30 40 50 25 30 30

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Food Groups


Age in years


Age in years

1-3 4-6 7-9 10-12 13-15 16-18
Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls
Cereals and millets 180 275 285 335 300 410 340 460 325
Pulses 25 35 60 60 60 60 60 60 50
Leafy vegetables 40 50 50 75 75 100 100 100 100
Other  vegetables 20 30 50 50 50 75 75 75 75
Roots and tubers 10 20 30 30 30 50 50 50 50
Fruits 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50
Milk 300 250 200 200 200 200 200 200 200
Fats and oils 15 25 30 30 30 50 40 50 40
Sugar / Jaggery 30 40 50 40 40 40 40 50 50

(For non-vegetarians substitute one pulse portion with one portion (50 g) of egg / meat / chicken / fish.

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