Humans have long been omnivorous and have adapted to the many ecosystems they have inhabited. Historically, humans have secured their food supplies through hunting and gathering and agriculture. As human settlements increased, so did agricultural technologies, and diets changed. Geographic and cultural differences shaped human diets, resulting in numerous cuisines and culinary arts. Food production, trade, and globalization have increased access to ingredients and contributed to cosmopolitan exchange of different food traditions.
In simple terms, nutrition refers to the quality of the food we eat and how our body uses those nutrients. The importance of nutrition in our health has increased over the past two decades. In addition to the importance of food to human health, the nutritional quality of animal feed is equally important, as a properly-balanced diet can promote good health. Researchers use ideas from genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology to understand how food affects our body. The purpose of nutrition is to promote health and prevent diseases and allergies in humans.
Among the most common food labels on the grocery store shelves is processed food. This category of food includes foods that have undergone a variety of processing, such as freezing fruit and vegetables, or pasteurizing milk to kill harmful bacteria. However, there are some processing methods that are unhealthful, as they may make food less nutritious. For example, baby carrots that are pre-cut are considered processed. Besides making food less nutritious, these methods can also make food more convenient for consumers.
Since the 1950s, color additives in food have caused illness in children across the US. Representative James Delaney, who brought attention to the problem, called on the FDA to investigate the possible connection between certified color additives and cancer. The FDA revised its list of approved food additives and found several that were linked to serious side effects. Ultimately, the FDA removed these chemicals from food. But this decision is not the end of the story.
Anticarcinogens in foods
A review of the current literature suggests that many natural foods contain potential carcinogens or mutagens. These compounds are thought to act through the generation of oxygen radicals, which may play a key role in the degenerative process of DNA damage, mutation, and aging. However, natural antioxidants, which can also be classified as anticarcinogens, are a significant component of the body’s defense system. Characterizing these compounds and their effects on human health may be a major step towards minimizing age-related diseases.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, or DGAs, are a set of recommendations for eating well and staying healthy. They form the basis of all federal food programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women (SSNP). The guidelines are reviewed every five years by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a panel of scientists nominated by the USDA to review current nutrition research and draft the final guidelines.