What Is Food?


A food is a substance taken by living organisms to obtain nutrients for growth and energy. A person can eat food raw or prepare it by cooking, freezing, drying, smoking, salting, pickling, or canning. The word food has many cultural meanings and a wide range of emotional and psychological associations. Food is a significant part of a person’s diet and is usually a source of pleasure as well as a fuel for the body. People also use food to commemorate events, such as birthdays and holidays, or as a reward or punishment.

A person’s diet determines his or her health. People who are healthy eat a variety of foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals. A person who is unhealthy eats too much of one type of food or eats too few nutrients. In some parts of the world, a lack of available food causes malnutrition and even starvation.

The most important food groups are cereal grains (such as wheat, rice, and maize (corn)), fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, eggs and dairy products, and nuts and seeds. A food pyramid outlines the suggested amounts of these different types of foods that a person should consume each day.

Almost any kind of plant can be used for food, including legumes (beans and lentils), whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. The major food sources of animal protein are beef, pork, poultry, and fish. People can eat meat and fish raw or cooked, and they preserve these foods by canning, drying, curing, smoking, salting, and pickling.

People can grow their own food, buy it from a market, or get it as a gift or souvenir. A person’s eating habits are influenced by culture, family traditions, social norms, and personal beliefs about food.

Food writing may explore the history of a particular cuisine or region, explain how to cook certain dishes, or describe an exotic meal. It can be written in any genre, from journalism to memoirs and recipe books. A food writer’s job is to entertain and educate readers while providing information about nutrition, health, and cooking techniques.

Unethical food writing can be a form of microaggression, such as denigration or racism. For example, describing Mexican, Indian, or Chinese food as “exotic” or “strange” has negative connotations, and may be considered a form of colonialism. Instead, writers should try to highlight the food’s context, and avoid words like weird, odd, or strange.

When dining out, it’s important to be aware of the portion sizes served. Often, restaurants serve oversize portions, so it’s best to share an appetizer or order a side dish to avoid overeating. At home, use visual cues to help control your portion sizes—a deck of cards is a good size for a serving of meat, and half a cup of pasta, mashed potatoes, or rice is a reasonable amount of carbohydrates. Finally, it’s important to eat with others whenever possible, as this encourages mindful eating.