Food is any substance consumed to provide energy for the body and to sustain life. It is generally derived from plants, though some foods may be sourced from animals. Food provides nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health. Humans are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant and animal products. Food is absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and intestines, then distributed throughout the body to sustain metabolic functions.
In early human societies, people obtained their food by hunting and gathering in their local environments. The development of agriculture and animal husbandry allowed people to settle in one place, changing their eating habits. Improved methods of processing, storage and shipping have enabled people to eat foods that are not grown locally. For example, Spanish olive oil, French cheeses and sardines from Norway can be enjoyed by many people worldwide.
The foods that we eat should provide the necessary nutrients in the right amounts. The healthiest diets include a variety of foods from the five basic food groups: cereal grains; fruits and vegetables; proteins (such as beans, nuts and seeds); and dairy products. It is important to eat the recommended number of servings from each group each day.
A person’s dietary needs vary according to age, gender and physical activity level. The amount of calories that a person needs to maintain a healthy weight also varies. When choosing foods, it is best to avoid those with added sugar, salt and fat, as these tend to be high in calories. Instead, people should opt for lean meats and fish, whole grains, low-fat or non-fat milk and yogurt, low-sodium soups and salad dressings, and fresh or frozen vegetables.
Those who are interested in food, cooking, and eating can become known as “foodies.” They may have a specific interest in a certain cuisine or region of the world, or they may be drawn to a particular type of food such as chocolate or seafood. Foodies often enjoy preparing their own meals, rather than eating out.
Getting the right balance of nutrients in a person’s diet can be challenging. Those who are concerned about their nutritional intake should consult with a healthcare professional. A physician or dietitian can help them develop an appropriate dietary plan. A balanced diet should include a wide variety of foods from each of the food groups, including some discretionary choices such as desserts and snacks. A person should also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.