The food we eat provides the body with the energy it needs to function. It also provides nutrients that support growth and maintain health. Food can be raw or cooked, and people store and preserve it by freezing, canning, drying, salting and smoking. Food is a major source of pleasure and satisfaction, as well as a vehicle for social interaction. People can also use food to express emotions and create memories.
In the past, most people prepared their own meals from raw foods grown or raised in their home area. Today, technology and transportation allow food to be produced in large quantities and preserved for longer periods of time. This increased reliance on ready-to-eat foods has challenged the industry to provide nutritious options.
When choosing healthy foods, read labels carefully to avoid unhealthy additives. Many so-called “fat-free,” “low-fat” and “non-fat” products contain other harmful ingredients to make up for the loss of flavor and texture that occurs when fat is removed from a product.
Fruits and vegetables should be the foundation of your diet. Choose a variety of fruits and eat them in season when they are at their peak taste and availability. When selecting vegetables, look for dark green, leafy varieties and those that are rich in vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Consider frozen or canned vegetables to add convenience to your diet.
Protein-rich foods include poultry, eggs and dairy, which are important sources of both energy and a variety of essential nutrients. Fish and shellfish are also a good source of protein. If you are concerned about the environmental impact of raising animals for meat, choose seafood and other animal products that are farmed humanely.
People’s diets vary greatly from one country to another and even within a country, depending on geographic factors such as the climate and available crops. Diets may also be influenced by religious beliefs, culture and social traditions.
A diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins and vegetables can help prevent heart disease. Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, and limiting added sugars and saturated fats, can help manage weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. A healthy eating plan should also include moderate amounts of fats, such as ghee, butter and oils used sparingly.