Food is any nutrient-rich material consumed by humans or animals to sustain life and growth. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains the essential components needed by the body: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. People obtain food from a variety of sources, including plants, animals and processed products such as bread, pasta and milk. The amount and type of food a person eats is determined by their culture, health status, preferences and environment.
Eating a healthy diet has many benefits, including reducing the risk of certain diseases and conditions. In addition, it can help to maintain a desirable body weight and improve an individual’s energy level. A balanced diet consists of various foods and drinks, which should include all the major food groups: grains (such as wheat, barley, rye, millet and rice), vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, poultry and meats, and dairy products.
Besides providing energy, a well-balanced diet supports proper growth and development in children and adults. It also helps to prevent chronic illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Food can also have a psychological impact, and eating unhealthy foods can negatively affect an individual’s mood and mental functioning.
Diets vary worldwide, and even within a country, depending on climate and culture. For example, people living in cold climates rely on hearty winter staples such as potatoes and meat, while those in tropical areas tend to favor dishes with coconut, bananas and mangoes. People also eat differently depending on where they are in the world, with local ingredients available for each season.
The food industry is one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the economy. Its products range from packaged foods to restaurant and fast-food chain establishments. The production of food involves a wide array of activities, including farming, harvesting, processing, preparation and storage. The main types of food processing are canning, freezing and drying.
A person’s diet has a direct impact on their health, as well as on the environment and society. Poor eating habits can contribute to obesity and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and certain cancers. In contrast, a balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, and low in red and processed meat and sugary beverages can lead to a longer lifespan and improved quality of life.
Unprocessed foods are those that have not been significantly altered from their natural state. Examples of these are fresh or dried fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plain yogurt without added sugar or artificial sweeteners, milk, tea and coffee.
Processed foods are those that have been prepared or otherwise altered from their natural state, such as by cleaning, grinding, cooking, baking, pasteurizing, canning, drying, frying or vacuum-packaging. Processed foods can be eaten as is or used in recipes, and often contain additives such as preservatives and flavorings.