The food we eat is much more than just fuel for our bodies. It can be nostalgic, part of social and religious events or provide comfort and stress reduction. Understanding all the things that food is to you and determining your personal non-negotiables (what you won’t give up), can help you choose a healthy eating pattern.
Any nutrient-rich substance consumed to sustain life and promote growth and health is considered food. It is generally of plant or animal origin and contains essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. Although it is possible for people to survive on one type of food, it is usually a combination of foods that provides most of the nutrients needed.
People’s diets vary widely from one country to the next and even within a single region, depending on factors such as available resources, climate, culture, economics and politics. Diets also differ within groups, such as those of vegetarians and those of carnivores.
Many types of processed food are high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. These foods are often eaten as snacks and do not contribute to overall dietary balance. They can, however, be a useful source of energy when other healthy options are not available.
The modern world has seen huge changes in the way food is produced, transported and sold. The Industrial Revolution increased the demand for food, while advances in technology and refrigeration allowed it to be stored longer and transported further. This led to the development of new cooking methods and food products.
In order to understand how these changes happened, it is important to know something about the history of food.
Until recently, most of the world’s population lived on small farms and produced their own food. But as urban populations grew, farm sizes decreased and more food was bought and sold at markets. This led to more variety in the types of food available and a widening of consumer choices.
Nutrition experts now recommend a diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean meats and fish, low-fat dairy, and minimally processed grains. It is recommended to avoid sugary drinks and added salt, as well as saturated fats from meat and processed oils.
It is also important to drink enough water to stay hydrated. Food labels are a helpful tool when choosing the best foods for your health needs. The Food Guide Pyramid is a good place to start when selecting the best foods to include in your meals and snacks.
There is a lot of focus on what we shouldn’t eat, such as sugar or [insert scapegoat food of the month]. But it is more important to eat the foods that are known to promote health and to be mindful of how much of each food we eat. This will help us to avoid overeating and to maintain a healthy weight. The goal of the USDA’s MyPlate is to help us do just that.