Food is any substance that people or animals consume to obtain the energy and nutrients they need to live. It usually comes from plants or animals, but it can also be prepared and cooked by people. It contains the substances that give a person or animal life, such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. A lack of food can lead to malnutrition or starvation. Food is usually eaten or drunk, but it can also be chewed or swallowed as medicine.
A person’s diet may be influenced by culture and tradition. The preparation and sharing of meals is often a social activity. People may also eat for pleasure or to satisfy cravings. An unhealthy diet can lead to obesity, which is a major cause of many health problems. People who suffer from eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, may need treatment to help them recover.
People’s diets vary widely between countries and even within a country, depending on the availability of different foods. Some foods are seasonal, meaning they are available at certain times only. The availability of food may also be affected by geographic factors, such as climate and soil quality. For example, a region with cool, short growing seasons will rely on crops that mature quickly, such as potatoes or beans.
Most people today do not grow their own food, but buy it in shops or markets. They cook it at home or eat it in restaurants. People with less money may have limited choices. They may be unable to afford healthy food or have limited cooking skills. They may also have limited access to clean water and electricity.
A diet that is low in fat and sugar is best for a healthy heart. It also contains plenty of vegetables and fruits. Getting enough fibre can also be important for a good digestive system. A diet that is rich in fat, salt and refined carbohydrates is bad for a person’s health. Salt is used in the preparation of many dishes, and it can increase blood pressure. Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, are high in calories but have little nutritional value.
A nutritious meal does not have to be expensive. Keeping a stock of basic ingredients, such as canned tomatoes, ready-made (low salt) broth and tins of tuna, can make it easy to create a cheap but nutritious meal. Try mixing these with beans, lentils and vegetables or using them to make soups and stews. A person can eat well for less money by choosing wisely when shopping and avoiding fast food and junk foods.