1. Material, especially carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, eaten for nourishment, energy, growth, or to sustain life. Plants and algae make their own food by photosynthesis, while animals obtain it by consuming other organisms or organic matter. Food is often considered to be a basic need for all living things. 2. A specified kind of nourishment, as distinguished from liquids: breakfast food; dog food. 3. Something that nourishes or stimulates in a way suggestive of physical nourishment: food for thought.
The term “food” can also refer to the process by which it is prepared and cooked, or to a meal served at home or in a public place. The preparation of food and the choice of ingredients have a significant effect on nutritional value and taste. For example, the use of low-fat ingredients and cooking methods reduces the total number of calories in a dish.
In developed countries, healthy foods are widely available and affordable for most people. However, malnutrition remains a problem in some parts of the world. People who do not have enough money to buy nutritious foods may eat unhealthy, so-called junk foods. These foods are usually high in salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats, and they lack many vitamins and minerals.
Most people rely on a few main types of food. These include cereal grains, such as wheat, oats, and rice; fruits; vegetables; legumes, such as beans and lentils; meats; fish and other seafood; and dairy products. Each of these groups provides important nutrients to the body, and a balanced diet contains servings from each group.
A person’s eating habits and culture play a role in what kinds of foods they enjoy. For example, a person raised in an Italian family is likely to cook and eat dishes with pasta, sauces, and other flavors that are typical of that region. The traditions and customs of a culture also influence the ways in which a dish is served and eaten, such as whether it is eaten with a fork or a spoon.
Immigrants to a new country sometimes introduce foods that are not native to the area. This can lead to the development of a unique regional cuisine. For example, the popular dish chicken tikka masala was invented by an immigrant from Pakistan to Glasgow, Scotland.
The way that food is grown, harvested, processed, stored, and transported affects the environment. It uses land, water, and energy resources, produces greenhouse gases, and creates waste. Sustainable agriculture aims to minimize these impacts. It uses less-polluting methods of cultivation and processing, and it helps to preserve natural resources. It also supports the local economy and benefits communities.