A substance that is ingested or absorbed by an organism to provide energy, support growth, and other vital functions. Plants, algae and some bacteria make their own food by photosynthesis; animals and most other organisms obtain it by consuming other organisms or organic matter.
Food plays a crucial role in all cultures around the world, serving as both nourishment and a social glue. It is the basis for most human activities and interactions, and it often provides a window into a country’s history and culture.
Prehistoric humans were hunter-gatherers who relied on the natural resources available in their environment for food. Over time, humans began to domesticate plants and animals to cultivate crops and raise livestock. This allowed people to eat more variety of foods year round and develop a more diverse diet.
A well-balanced diet includes foods from all of the major food groups, in the recommended amounts. Each food group provides different types and amounts of nutrients. For example, fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and water. Lean meats, fish, poultry, and dairy provide protein, iron, vitamin B12, and riboflavin. Nuts and seeds provide healthy fats and some dietary fiber.
Eating a wide variety of foods can help reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity. It is important to limit added sugars, which are found in sweetened drinks and processed foods, and to choose whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates. It is also a good idea to avoid too much salt, as this can lead to high blood pressure.
Some foods are rich in probiotics, which can help balance the gut microbiome and improve digestive health. Sauerkraut, fermented cabbage, is a good choice, as is kefir, which is a drinkable yogurt that contains live active cultures. Kombucha is another option that can add beneficial bacteria to the gut.
When choosing beverages, look for ones that are low in calories and sodium. Avoid sugary sodas and fruit juices, and opt for water or low-fat milk. When eating out, opt for grilled, baked, or broiled chicken instead of fried; salads with light dressing; and whole grains over high-sodium pasta, rice and breads.
Some foods have a higher glycemic index than others, meaning that they cause a spike in blood glucose levels. Examples of high-glycemic foods include white bread, biscuits, cakes and cookies. Conversely, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats have a lower glycemic index. Choosing these foods can help manage diabetes and prevent heart disease. It is also a good idea to choose foods that are rich in fibre, which can help prevent constipation and promote regularity. Foods that are high in soluble fibre include nuts, beans, peas and lentils, fruits, and oat bran. These foods can also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.