A substance consumed by organisms to sustain life and vital processes and furnish energy. It is obtained from plants or other living organisms and may be raw or cooked. Its absorption and utilization by the organism are facilitated by digestion. The origin of food is often traced to plants, which serve as sources of protein and other nutrients. Other sources of food include animal products, especially meat, dairy, and eggs, and refined or processed foods such as sugars, fats, flours, grains, beans, legumes, and canned or frozen vegetables and fruits. The process of turning solar energy into food is referred to as photosynthesis.
When writing about food, it is important to use descriptive language that conveys how a dish tastes, smells, and looks. Visual images help readers imagine a dish and can also be used as a way to make an unfamiliar food seem familiar. Descriptive words such as savory, rich, and buttery are good choices to describe the flavor profiles of food. It is also important to avoid cliches and overused adjectives, such as scrumptious or delectable, which have become meaningless and can be perceived as condescending.
Although the primary function of food is to supply nutrients needed for health and well-being, its importance extends beyond this. Food plays a social, cultural, and ceremonial role in many societies. For example, a religious ceremony may include the consumption of a particular food to celebrate an event or to demonstrate devotion. Moreover, foods are important to the economy as they provide jobs and income.
The most commonly eaten foods are staples, which supply a high proportion of starch for energy. These foods include wheat, rice, and maize. Legumes and oilseeds supply protein, micronutrients, and dietary fiber. High-fat foods, such as butter and avocadoes, supply a source of saturated and unsaturated fat.
Most people consume a mixture of both staple and non-staple foods. The proportion of each type depends on the culture and lifestyle of the people. Food processing is the transformation of food into a form that is more desirable or easier to prepare and store, while maintaining its nutrient value. Staple foods are often fortified with nutrients to improve their nutritional value, such as iron and vitamin B in infant cereals, folic acid in flour, and iodine in salt.
The quality and safety of food is a significant global concern. Contaminated foods can cause illness in humans and animals, and some foods can even kill. Poor agricultural practices, overpopulation, and droughts can negatively affect food production. Food shortages, exacerbated by political instability or natural disasters, can lead to famine.