Food is any nutrient-rich material eaten by animals and plants for energy and growth. It is a vital source for the development of all living things. Food is also an important source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. The food we eat has both nutritional and psychological effects on our lives. Food is a basic necessity for all humans and has played a major role in the formation of cultures and social groups throughout history.
Early humans were hunter-gatherers who relied on the natural resources of their environment for food. Later, agriculture and animal husbandry emerged, allowing humans to produce larger amounts of food in a controlled environment. In the 18th and 19th centuries, advances in refrigeration and canning allowed food to be stored for longer periods of time and shipped over long distances. These technological developments have revolutionized the food industry and continue to shape how foods are produced, distributed, and consumed around the world today.
A diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, nuts and seeds, and low-fat dairy products is recommended for a healthy lifestyle. Foods should be minimally processed and contain few added salt, sugar or fat. Cooking, canning, drying, and freezing are some common methods of processing food. Examples of minimally processed foods include raw vegetables, fruits and herbs, plain yogurt without added sugar or artificial sweeteners, eggs, fish, lean cuts of meat, and whole-grain breads.
Some foods are fortified with nutrients to prevent deficiencies in certain populations. For example, milk is fortified with iron to prevent anemia, infant cereals with vitamin D to prevent rickets, and flour treated with folic acid to prevent birth defects.
Many cultures have their own traditional foods, and these are often a source of pride for the country. Chinese, Italian, Venezuelan, and Mexican cuisines all have dishes that are unique to their regions. These foods can be both delicious and healthy when prepared properly.
The most important factor in eating a well-balanced diet is choosing the right foods. Ideally, most meals should include a mix of foods from each food group. Staple foods should provide plenty of starch for energy, protein to build muscle, some micronutrients, and dietary fibre to keep us feeling full and satisfied. Starchy foods like potatoes, rice, and pasta are good choices, as are legumes and oily fish.
For example, try roasting sweet potato wedges with a sprinkle of cinnamon and paprika for a tasty side dish that is also packed with vitamins A and C, potassium, and dietary fibre. Or, make a hearty breakfast of whole-grain toast with egg whites and sautéed spinach. Another nutritious option is to add a serving of beans or legumes to your main meal for a fibre-rich protein source that will help keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer. Remember that portion sizes have gotten much bigger recently, so choose smaller servings when dining out or preparing food at home. A serving of meat should be the size of a deck of cards, and a cup of mashed potatoes or other starchy vegetables should be no more than half the size of your head.