Food is the main source of energy for our bodies. It also provides nutrients–substances essential for the growth, repair, and maintenance of our tissues and for the regulation of vital processes.
Diets vary around the world and among people within a single country, as well. Geographic factors such as differences in climate, soil, and water supply affect diets. For example, some people who live near the ocean eat more fish than those who are farther inland. Similarly, those living in warm, wet lowlands depend on crops that mature quickly, such as rice, whereas those in cooler, shorter-growing regions may rely more on potatoes and corn.
Despite the variation, people in most parts of the world get enough of the essential vitamins and minerals they need to survive. This is partly due to improved methods of farming and transport, and to the increase in trade and tourism that has facilitated the dissemination of foods throughout the world.
Local traditions, customs, and religion influence what people eat in their communities. For example, the custom of eating roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, a type of bread, is common in England.
Regional cuisine, which reflects local traditions and customs, can be very different from national cuisines such as Japanese, French, or Chinese. In addition, regional foods often include spices and other ingredients used to add flavour and character to meals.
A variety of foods, especially those that are locally grown and produced, is necessary for a healthy diet. These foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains (bread, pasta, cereal).
The main purpose of food is to provide a range of important substances to our bodies. Moreover, our diets should provide sufficient amounts of each of the 4 major nutrient groups – protein, fat, carbohydrates and dietary fibre.
Eating a wide range of foods helps our body to meet its needs for energy, protein and dietary fibre. This can help prevent malnutrition and other health problems.
Our diets should contain a mixture of foods from all the food groups, including meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, beans and lentils. Some food groups should be eaten more than others, depending on the time of day and other dietary requirements such as those for children or people with special needs.
Besides the 5 major food groups, there are other types of foods that we should avoid, such as processed foods and ultra-processed foods. These foods are altered from their original food sources and often lack the vital nutrients they were originally aimed to supply.
Consuming processed foods is associated with many health problems, including heart disease and obesity. They often contain high levels of sugar and salt, and are usually processed in ways that reduce the amount of nutrients they contain.
When you’re preparing your meals, focus on the whole foods that are available to you and try to make them as nutritious as possible. Use a mix of fresh and dried vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, fruit, milk, and meat to provide the bulk of your daily diet. You should also eat plenty of wholegrains, lean cuts of meat, and healthy fats such as olive oil or avocado.