Choosing the Best Food For You

Food is any substance eaten by living things to get the energy and nutrients they need to survive and thrive. It is usually plant or animal in origin and contains essential substances such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins. It also provides flavor and pleasure.

Humans evolved as hunter-gatherers and initially ate whatever was available in their immediate environment. Over time, people began to domesticate plants and animals leading to the development of agriculture and food production. Food has since become an important part of culture, providing a source of identity and a way to communicate social status.

A healthy diet consists of mostly whole, minimally processed foods that are low in sodium and added sugars. It should include lean protein (from poultry, fish, beans or soy products), fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts/seeds. A good balance of these foods can help prevent heart disease, obesity and some cancers.

Eating a variety of foods is important because different foods contain varying amounts of the nutrients your body needs. For example, eating a variety of foods helps ensure you get enough iron and fiber. In addition, consuming foods that are high in fatty acids can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The type of food you eat plays an important role in your mental health as well. Studies show that the bacteria in your digestive tract affect the production of chemicals in your brain that influence your mood. When you eat nutritionally dense foods, these beneficial bacteria flourish and send positive messages to your brain. When you eat less nutritious foods, these beneficial bacteria decline, and your mood may become depressed or anxious.

When it comes to choosing the best food for you, the most important considerations are:

1. The amount of energy the food will provide. You need to be able to get the fuel you need to function and stay active throughout the day. A balanced diet will provide you with the energy you need to meet your daily physical and mental demands.

2. The number of servings per day. A diet that includes the recommended number of servings of each food group is considered healthy.

3. The amount of sodium in the food. Eating a lot of foods that are high in sodium can raise your blood pressure and lead to other health problems. Salt is found in many processed and packaged foods so it is important to check labels for sodium content.

4. The type of processing the food undergoes. Generally, processed foods have more additives and preservatives than unprocessed foods. Frozen and canned foods, sauces, fast food, some cheeses, and ready-to-eat meals are examples of processed foods. A diet rich in processed foods can lead to weight gain and unhealthy shifts in your blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

In the past, most of the food we ate was fresh or minimally processed. However, as technology improved and transportation became faster and cheaper, more foods were able to be produced and shipped long distances. Now, many of the foods that make up our diets come from all over the world. This makes our choices more diverse and exciting, but it also requires that we pay attention to labeling and sourcing.