Food is any substance consumed to sustain life and contains nutrients necessary for growth, repair, and maintenance of tissues and regulation of bodily processes. It also provides energy for metabolism. People use food in a variety of ways and prepare it in many forms. Food is an integral part of culture, a way to express artistic and cultural values, and an important source of income for people around the world.
A person can live without food for only a short time, but it is difficult for a person to thrive in the long term without adequate nourishment. The most basic need for humans is the requirement of protein, fats, carbohydrates, water, and vitamins and minerals. A healthy diet consists of foods from all the major groups, such as grains, fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends a variety of daily amounts of each of these foods.
When writing about food, a writer may focus on the experience of taste and flavor, but should also consider the senses of sight, touch, smell, and hearing. When a writer can transport the reader to a different place and time through the descriptions of food, it can be especially powerful.
People rely on a variety of plants and animals for their survival, but plant-based foods are the primary staples in most people’s diets. Cereal grains such as wheat, rice, and maize (corn) are the most commonly grown crops. Other grains include barley, sorghum, millet, oats, and rye. Vegetables provide an abundant source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Popular vegetables include beans, potatoes, and carrots. Fruits are a rich source of antioxidants, and some of the most popular fruits include apples, bananas, oranges, mangoes, and grapes.
The proteins in meat, fish, and poultry are essential for the growth and maintenance of body tissue. Animal-based foods also contain fats, which supply energy and help regulate body temperature. Milk and dairy products are high in calcium, and fats found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil provide vitamin E and other antioxidants.
Improved methods of food processing, preservation, storage, and shipping have allowed people to enjoy foods produced far from their home. Spanish olive oils, French cheeses, and Norwegian smoked salmon are all examples of foods that were once available only in limited areas but now can be enjoyed worldwide.
The global distribution of foods is influenced by a number of factors, including climate, economics, politics, and culture. Conflicts, wars, natural disasters, and disease can disrupt or restrict the production and transportation of foods, resulting in shortages for some populations. These shortages can be overcome through the provision of emergency rations or food relief. People can also improve their access to nutritious foods by reducing waste, enhancing food safety, and growing more of their own vegetables, fruits, and grains. The United Nations World Food Programme has established a goal of halving hunger by 2030. A person can volunteer to feed the hungry, donate money for food, or work to support local initiatives that promote sustainable and equitable food production and distribution.