Food is the substance that living organisms use for energy, growth, and other vital processes. It includes carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and other nutrients that are absorbed and utilized by the body. The body metabolizes food and converts it into energy and body tissue through digestion.
The United Nations defines food as “any material that an organism eats to meet its nutritional needs.” In other words, it’s the stuff we eat to fuel our bodies and support the essential processes of life. Throughout the world, people are dependent on food to survive and thrive.
Plants are the primary source of food, but animals also consume other foods. Among other things, animals eat meat, fish, and milk products, and they produce their own protein through growth and reproduction.
People’s diets vary widely by region and culture. Different cultures have different traditions and rituals about preparing, sharing, and consuming food. These traditions are not only biological, but they also help maintain social roles and reinforce values and beliefs that may be shared among members of a group.
There are many kinds of food, but all are made up of ingredients that provide a variety of nutrients and vitamins to the human body. There are five basic food groups, which include cereal grains; fruits and vegetables; legumes (beans and peas); meat, poultry, and eggs; and dairy products. A food pyramid outlines the recommended amounts of each of these food types that a person should eat each day to obtain sufficient nutrients and to avoid chronic diseases, such as obesity or heart disease.
Fruits and vegetables are a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are rich in antioxidants, which protect the body from the damage caused by free radicals. They are also a source of vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.
Meat, poultry, and eggs are a major source of protein, providing about 15 percent of the total animal protein in the human diet. They are also an important source of B vitamins, iron and other minerals. Meat and poultry can be eaten raw or cooked, and they can be preserved through canning, freezing, drying, salting, smoking, or pickling.
Grains are the edible seeds of certain grasses, including wheat, rice, corn (maize), oats, and barley. They are the most common grains, but other varieties are cultivated as well.
The MyPlate diet recommends that people eat at least half of their plate filled with fruits, vegetables, and grains. Vegetables, in particular, are a healthy alternative to starchy foods, and they contain essential vitamins and minerals. They are also low in calories and high in fiber.
Agricultural technology has changed the way people grow, harvest, process, and transport food. Improvements have made it possible to grow food more efficiently and to preserve it for longer periods of time. In addition, improved transportation, communications systems, and storage facilities make it easier to transport food to distant places.
Those who study food science develop ways to improve the safety, nutrition, and wholesomeness of food, and to improve methods of preparation, packaging and distribution. These scientists use a range of scientific disciplines, such as chemistry, engineering, microbiology, and physics, to study the physical, chemical and biological properties of food. They also apply this knowledge to create ways to improve the health and well-being of individuals and populations through better food selection, preparation and utilisation.