Food is any substance consumed by an organism to obtain the energy and nutrients it needs to maintain life and grow. It consists of a mixture of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Different organisms require different foods to survive. The composition of foods depends on an organism’s habitat, culture, climate and evolutionary history. Food can also serve a number of other functions, including social and ceremonial roles. For example, some people eat to provide comfort or pleasure. Others eat to socialize or for religious reasons.
Food can be eaten either cooked or raw and consists of plant, animal, or synthetic substances. Plant foods include vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts. Animal foods include meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. Synthetic foods are man-made or industrially processed and can contain additives such as flavorings, colorings and preservatives.
Most healthy diets contain a wide variety of foods from each group. A balanced diet includes foods that are low in salt, sugar and unhealthy fats. It contains foods that are rich in dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. It provides the body with a good source of protein, which plays an important role in cell growth and repair, and a good supply of complex carbohydrates. It also supplies the brain with tryptophan, which helps to produce serotonin, a mood-enhancing chemical.
The types of food available to humans have changed dramatically over time. During the early stages of human evolution, diets were limited by seasonal changes and the availability of wild plants and animals. With the advent of agriculture, food was increasingly produced in large quantities and stored for long periods of time. This enabled a more varied diet for humans, as well as the development of cooking and eating habits.
Many healthy eating habits focus on eliminating foods that are high in added sugar or unhealthy fats. However, the best approach is to add healthier choices that can replace less healthy ones. For example, instead of avoiding all meat, try choosing lean options and adding it to dishes like stir-fries or casseroles. Or, choose wholegrain breads and spreads made from olive, canola or nut oils to lower the sodium in your meals.
To make the most of your diet, try to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Choose a mix of colors to get all the vitamins and minerals you need. Add fresh herbs and spices to your cooking to make it more flavourful. Avoid high-fat foods, such as fried, fatty or processed meats, and opt for lean chicken, eggs, fish or legumes to add protein to your meals. Choose non-fried vegetables, as frying them in oil can produce carcinogens like heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that may increase your risk of heart disease and some cancers. Avoid packaged foods as they are often higher in salt, sugar and unhealthy fats than unprocessed options.