A food is a substance that people eat or drink to get energy and nutrients. It can be either plant or animal in origin. Humans are omnivorous, meaning that they consume both plants and animals. Food is also a source of pleasure, especially when eaten with friends or family members. It can be a way to socialize or to celebrate an event or achievement. Food is also used to relieve pain or to help an organism function properly. The nutrients found in foods include carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. A healthy diet includes foods that provide these nutrients in the right proportion. Unhealthy foods often contain high amounts of calories, sugar and bad fats.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. They are found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables, breads and pasta. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are also known as sugars and are found in foods like candy, soda and fruit. Complex carbohydrates, which are made from starches, are found in foods such as potatoes and breads. A person’s body uses these carbohydrates to fuel physical activity and mental tasks.
The protein in meats, fish and eggs is a key part of the human diet. In addition to providing energy, it is used to build tissues and make hormones. Some of the most common sources of protein are beef, pork, chicken, turkey and eggs. Fish and shellfish are an important source of protein as well. They are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. People preserve meats and fish through canning, freezing and drying. Fish, poultry and other meats are also preserved by smoking, salting or pickling.
Most people need to eat a wide variety of foods to get the nutrients they need for health. A diet should consist of a variety of foods from each of the main groups: grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy, and meat. People should avoid processed foods, which are usually high in salt, sugar and unhealthy fats.
People’s diets vary widely between countries and even within a country, depending on the availability of different foods and local traditions and customs. The climate and terrain influence what crops grow where and how, so that some areas have a greater abundance of certain foods than others. For example, seafood is more commonly available in coastal regions than land-based meats.
Improved methods of processing, preservation, storage and shipping allow people to enjoy foods that were not previously available in their area. Olive oil from Spain, French cheeses and Norwegian sardines are now enjoyed worldwide. The Renaissance saw the introduction of new cooking techniques and ingredients, such as tomatoes and potatoes, which were brought back from the Americas. Today, many restaurants specialize in preparing dishes that incorporate these new foods.