What Is Nutrition? How Important Is It in Our Daily Life?
What is food? Food is any material eaten to provide nutrition to the organisms. The word ‘food’ is derived from the Greek word ‘logos’ which means plants or growing things. In modern times food is generally of animal, plant or fungi origin, and has essential nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, or any combination thereof. In a nutritionally balanced diet, a person receives all the substances he needs to live a healthy life, including energy, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals.
From a food system perspective, human beings are primarily an animal-nutrition-driven culture. Humans have a very long history of collecting food, using wild food sources, and developing sophisticated ways to store, prepare and eat food. Our ancestors survived thanks to all these food strategies and continued doing so until around twelve thousand years ago when farming and domesticating became more productive than hunting and gathering. A combination of crops, domestication and complex technologies allowed people to produce more food per head of livestock than they had ever done before. Over time, this led to an increased population, more material wealth, greater technological capacities, and a greater need for food security.
Throughout most of human history, there was little if any effort to store food, save for a few days when family members returned from a long journey and left behind their accumulated supplies of food for the common use. As people travelled and developed farming communities, food storage began to take shape as individuals’ means of preserving food for the duration of their stay in a community. Initially, food storage methods included simple methods such as securing dry straw from root crops (such as millet) stored in hanging baskets, which could be accessed by only the strongest members of a farming community. As more sophisticated means of food preservation were developed, it became possible to store more foods and longer periods of time. One of these methods was refrigeration, which made it possible to preserve food that was suitable for consumption up to a year or more after the date of purchase. In addition, refrigeration made it possible to store food from wild catches, allowing early settlers to enjoy fresh meat, fish, milk, and vegetables for months or even years.
The nineteenth century saw major advancements in food storage and transportation. An improvement to refrigeration brought about the invention of the ice box, which could store foods for long periods of time without spoiling. This gave many people the opportunity to buy food in bulk. At first, many people relied on salt, which was easily obtainable in great quantities and sold in stores. In addition, many people were reluctant to cook their own food for fear of poisoning it or of spending too much time making it. Finally, in an effort to reduce the chances of death by starvation during the Great Depression, the US government created the Federal Office of Education’s Special Health Program in order to promote the purchase of more food.
In the twentieth century, new methods of food preservation and transportation helped introduce a new era of healthy eating. For example, many foods can be preserved or packaged at home so that they don’t need to be shipped in large quantities. Furthermore, the production of foods has become more sophisticated, giving people access to a wide variety of whole foods, fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce is especially important for maintaining a healthy diet, since it provides B vitamins and other nutrients that are not found in junk foods.
The twenty-first century will probably see even further developments in food nutrition. Already, foods that are safe for consumption on the diet are available in tablet form. Additionally, there are several foods that are now considered superfoods, which are extremely nutritious but difficult to find, because they are over-harvested. Also, the production process of many fruits and vegetables has become easier, resulting in foods that are even more nutritious than they were in years past. This trend is likely to continue as people become more concerned about their health and the food that they eat.