Food is any substance consumed by animals and plants as a source of energy and nourishment. It is usually of plant or animal origin, but can also be mineral or synthetic. Food is a vital source of nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. It is essential for growth and good health, but over-eating can lead to obesity and disease.
Hunting and gathering, horticulture, agriculture, and food processing are the major methods of obtaining foods. Humans are omnivorous, which means they eat both plant and animal products. Agriculture has allowed humans to control their food supply and provide a steady source of nutrition.
Many healthy eating plans are based on whole foods. Some involve cutting down on processed, refined sugars and fats. Others, such as the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats. These plans may include regular physical activity and weight loss or maintenance.
Processed foods are those that have been made from raw ingredients or unprocessed foods and then altered by adding preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and salt. These foods are usually high in sodium, added sugars, and unhealthy fats. Examples of processed foods are packaged snacks, frozen dinners, and commercially prepared baked goods.
A small amount of processing can help preserve food and make it more convenient to eat. For example, heating and drying can destroy bacteria that cause spoilage. It can also improve the texture of some foods, such as making peanut butter more emulsified. Some types of food are fortified with specific nutrients to prevent deficiencies in certain populations. These include iron and iodine in infant cereals, vitamin D in milk, and folic acid in flour.
When consuming processed foods, it is important to read labels and look for those that are lowest in sodium, added sugars, and unhealthy trans-fats. Choose those that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, which are important for bone strength. It is also a good idea to rinse canned foods before consuming them.
When preparing meals, it is a good idea to take your time and enjoy the experience of eating. This can help you eat less and lose weight. It takes a while for your brain to tell you that you are full, so try to eat slowly and savor each bite. It is also a good idea to eat with other people whenever possible. Eating alone can lead to overeating and poor food choices.