The Importance of Food

Food is a substance consumed by living beings for the correct nutrition of their bodies. It also has a social and psychological impact on humans.

Eating a healthy diet can decrease risk of disease and contribute to a longer life. It can also help reduce the impacts on the environment and climate. Choosing fresh, local, organic foods is a good way to go. A balanced diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and protein from lean meats, poultry and fish. It should avoid foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Foods that don’t fit into the 5 food groups are referred to as discretionary choices and should be eaten sparingly.

Early human food habits were highly dependent on the availability of local foods. Hunters and gatherers relied on the harvest of wild plants and animals for their food supplies. Once farming and animal husbandry were developed, people began to eat foods that were not grown locally. The modern food industry has been influenced by advances in technology, processing, preservation and transportation.

Today’s food industry produces a wide variety of foods that are marketed worldwide. Some of these foods are highly processed and contain many calories, saturated fats, sugar and sodium. They are also low in nutrients. These foods are often referred to as junk foods.

The healthiest food is a plant-based diet that is low in sodium, fat and sugar. It should include fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes (such as beans or lentils), nuts and seeds. It should exclude foods containing trans fats and processed fats such as shortening, margarine and fried foods.

A plant-based diet can provide the vitamins and minerals needed to maintain optimal health. It can also help control weight, lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease.

Vegetables and fruit are important sources of vitamin C and other vitamins. Green leafy vegetables are rich in iron and potassium. Fruits are a good source of fiber and vitamins A, B6 and C. Fruits and vegetables are also high in antioxidants, which may protect against certain cancers and other diseases.

Cereals, bread, pasta and their derivatives supply starch for energy. They also provide dietary fiber, some protein and B-group vitamins. Legumes (such as lentils or chickpeas) and oilseeds are good sources of protein.

Poultry is a major source of meat and eggs for most people in the world. Fish and shellfish are also important sources of protein for most people. These foods are often preserved by smoking, curing, drying, canning or freezing.

Discretionary choices, including fast foods and some beverages, should be limited. It is best to eat a variety of foods from the 5 food groups daily, in recommended amounts. This can be accomplished by planning meals ahead of time and preparing food at home. It is also helpful to have a list of healthy recipes on hand for quick and easy meals. It is also important to drink plenty of water and limit sugary sodas, alcohol and junk foods.