Food is the substance that people and animals eat to gain energy and nutrients to sustain life. It comes from plants and animals and contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. It is usually enjoyable and sometimes also soothing or stimulating. Food is essential for all living things to survive.
Eating habits vary greatly from one culture to another and even within a single country. Many factors influence these eating patterns, from economics to climate to personal taste. People who live in cool regions, for example, may rely more on fish and other seafood than those who live closer to the equator. Diets are also influenced by traditions and customs, such as an English tradition of serving roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, or an Asian habit of eating rice at every meal. Improvements in food processing, preservation and transport have enabled people to enjoy foods from all over the world.
The preparation of food is an important aspect of nutrition and dietetics. Cooking changes the form of foods, alters some of their physical properties, and can help to kill or inactivate harmful microorganisms. The cooking process also can affect the nutritional value of foods. For example, heating reduces the amount of some vitamins and minerals.
Most of the food we eat is processed to some extent. Processed foods are those that have been altered significantly from their natural state. Some examples of processed food are bread, flour, pasta, dried fruits, cereals, canned vegetables, coffee, tea and milk. Most processed foods are prepared for storage, convenience and safety.
Processed food is indispensable, since it enables us to maintain a stable and predictable food supply, and preserves the nutritional quality of foods. But a great deal of care must be taken in processing food because it is easy to destroy or remove important nutrients in the process. For example, peeling removes important dietary fiber, and heating or drying can destroy vitamins and minerals.
It is important to balance the amount of processed and unprocessed food that we eat. Too much processed food can lead to weight gain, indigestion and nutritional deficiencies. A well-balanced diet includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats and dairy products. It is also important to avoid foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.
Finally, it is important to eat food slowly and consciously. This will help us to appreciate the flavor and texture of our meals, as well as to eat less. Eating too quickly leads to overeating and mindless eating. It takes a while for the brain to signal that we are full, so we should eat slowly and stop when we feel satisfied. We should also eat with other people, because this can make eating more enjoyable and promote healthy eating habits. It is also important to drink enough water. This will prevent dehydration and promote healthy skin, hair, eyesight and kidneys. It is also good for the heart and joints.