Food is any nutrient-rich substance consumed by humans and animals to sustain life and provide energy. The production, preparation, and consumption of food is a complex cultural activity involving many social, environmental, and economic factors. People have used food as a tool for survival since the dawn of humanity. Hunting and gathering, horticulture, farming, and industrialization are all means of producing and distributing food. People have also used food as a medium to express culture, as seen in the different types of cuisine around the world and the use of certain foods to mark social status.
The most important source of calories and nutrients in the human body is from plants and animals. Animals provide the proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and minerals that the human body requires for function. Plants provide the fiber and vitamins. The most common plant food sources are cereal grains (wheat, barley, rye, and millet), fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. People also eat fish, shellfish, and dairy products as protein sources. Food can be eaten raw or cooked, and may be preserved through canning, freezing, drying, salting, smoking, or pickling.
Processed food is any agricultural product that has been significantly altered from its natural state. Almost all foods sold in the supermarket are processed to some extent. Depending on the type of processing, it can affect food safety, taste, appearance, and nutritional value. Some examples of processing include cleaning and removing inedible parts, grinding, freezing, pasteurization, cooking, baking, canning, frying, drying, and vacuum-packaging. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods include fresh and dried fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, low-fat yogurt, tea, coffee, and milk.
People have a special bond with the foods they eat. They not only supply the body with the fuel it needs to run, but they can also reveal a lot about one’s personality and lifestyle. For example, spicy foods can show a person’s tolerance for heat, or a love of sweets can tell the world that someone is an extrovert. Food and the way it is prepared can be a form of art, as evidenced by the work of M.F.K. Fisher and other renowned food writers. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that writing about something you consume three times a day can be difficult. It is important to remain critical and avoid using words that denigrate or exoticize a cuisine, such as “bizarre,” “strange,” “odd,” or “unusual.”