Food is a substance that living organisms use to grow, survive and maintain their bodies. It contains nutrients, such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins and minerals.
People eat food to obtain energy and nutrients, as well as for social reasons, such as sharing, rituals around preparing and eating foods, and cultural norms concerning eating habits. The amount of food a person needs depends on age, gender, activity level and whether they are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating.
A variety of different foods can provide all of the nutrients that a person needs, and some foods have more than one nutrient in them. Some important nutrients are water, protein, carbohydrates and fats. These nutrients are essential for a healthy body and strong bones.
The types of foods that a person eats and how they are prepared can affect their nutrient status. For example, refined sugars, salt and fats in fatty foods can increase the risk of obesity and heart disease. Similarly, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent many diseases.
Some of the most important foods are vegetables, fruit, meat and fish. These foods are packed with nutrients and are often high in antioxidants, which help protect the body from damage by free radicals, chemicals that can cause disease.
These foods can be eaten raw or cooked. Some of them can be canned, dried or frozen to keep them fresh for a long time.
Another important food is milk, which supplies proteins, carbohydrates, fats and essential vitamins and minerals to the body. It is a staple food in many cultures and is a major source of protein for people in developing countries.
It is also used to make and store food, such as cheese, yogurt, butter and lard. In many parts of the world, cows and sheep are raised for their milk, which is a valuable source of protein, fats, and vitamins.
Agricultural technology has improved the production of grains and other foods, as well as allowing for more efficient storage and transportation of products. Better methods of crop cultivation and harvesting can reduce the impact of drought or flood on food supply.
Many developed countries have a large agricultural economy that can provide a steady supply of food for consumption and to export. However, hunger and malnutrition are more common in developing countries because of poverty.
A poor harvest or a disaster can cause famine and starvation. The poor may be unable to grow enough food to feed their families, and the prices of imported foods can be too expensive for them to afford.
In most cases, a lack of resources is the main problem, rather than a lack of land to cultivate crops or animals for livestock. This is the case in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where the population has risen to an unsustainable level.
It is possible to improve food security through improved agriculture and through better nutrition programs for people in poverty. However, this can take a long time to happen, and it requires sustained support from governments and organizations.