Food is the primary source of nutrition for both humans and animals. It is essential for the growth of body tissues, as well as the maintenance of body functions. Various factors influence the quantity and quality of food that we consume. A diet based on a variety of foods is the best way to meet our nutrient needs.
Throughout history, different cultures have used food as a vehicle of culture. This cultural dimension has helped define the regional tastes and habits of human populations. In today’s world, we are increasingly reliant on ready-to-eat food and convenience products. Agricultural technology has improved the varieties of seeds and plant varieties, and better transportation has increased the availability of diverse types of food.
In the United States, the food processing industry is one of the largest industries. Products such as meat, dairy, poultry, and beverages are manufactured by food processors. There are about 44,000 food processors in the U.S., according to the FDA. These companies include food manufacturers, canners, and wineries.
Food can be of animal, plant, or fungal origin. The most common plants grown for food are cereal grains. Cereal grains contain edible seeds from certain grasses. Some other foods include milk, butter, and vegetable oils. Other popular food items are poultry and fish. Fish and seafood are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.
People also eat fresh fruits. Fresh fruits are high in carbohydrates and minerals. They can be preserved by freezing, drying, or canning. However, people in developing countries have limited access to these foods. Therefore, most of the food that is consumed in these countries is either highly refined or too high in fat.
Dietary diversity is important to maintaining healthy human and animal populations. Nutritional requirements vary by age, gender, sickness, and activity. As discussed in Topics 3 and 5, a variety of foods are needed to satisfy these varying nutrient needs.
Developing countries are often too poor to produce enough food to meet the nutritional needs of their populations. Consequently, malnutrition is more common. Poorly nourished children are at risk of a number of diseases, including diarrhoea and cancer. Malnutrition is a major contributor to famines and poverty.
Developed countries, on the other hand, have large agricultural economies. Although many people in these countries have access to nutritious foods, they can often eat poorly. Similarly, the diets of many in developed countries are too high in fats, salt, and sugar. Fortunately, there are ways to address these problems. By eating a balanced diet, using healthy cooking methods, and learning how to properly store and preserve food, the amount of nutrients that a person eats can be controlled.
Food safety is monitored by various international agencies. In the United States, for instance, the FDA is responsible for regulating and inspecting food and beverage companies. Likewise, the World Health Organization (WHO) has a food safety program. To improve food safety, it is vital to develop strong collaboration among stakeholders.