Food is any material consumed to supply nutrition to an organism. Essentially, food is composed of all organic matter that contains nutrients, including protein, vitamins, sugars, carbohydrates, or both, and is consumed to supply the body with energy. The human body requires a variety of different food types to meet its nutritional requirements. Some of the food types that are required by the body include proteins, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Each food type has its own specific functions and benefits, which derive from its composition and processing.
Oils and fats are both food sources, with the oils providing a lubricating effect, while fats provide a low-moisture source of energy. Most vegetable oils are extracted from crops and nuts and seeds, although animal fats are also used. Fats are generally hydrogenated and have a higher saturated and trans fat content than unsaturated fats. Trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils that are made from using hydrogen and one or more of the hydrogen atoms rather than oxygen.
Carbohydrates are the most important nutrients in determining a healthy diet. Most carbohydrates are found in vegetables and fruit, although some grain products, such as rice, are high in both complex and simple sugars. These foods provide energy and contribute to the development of tissues and organs. However, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which provides the body’s only nutrient of energy. To keep the glucose in the blood from becoming too concentrated, it is stored in the form of fat. Meats and some dairy products also contain fat.
To digest carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks them down into simple or complex sugars. Foods that are rich in calories include those with high amounts of carbohydrates and unsaturated fatty acids, as well as soybeans and nuts, because of their high protein content. Simple sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly and are used immediately, whereas complex sugars take a longer time to be absorbed. Trans fatty acids found in some oils, like coconut oil, contribute to bad cholesterol because they combine with proteins to create plaque on artery walls that may clog the arteries.
Oils from sesame, peanut, corn, sunflower, canola, and safflower oils are less likely to cause allergic reactions and are generally considered to be healthier alternatives than polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are commonly found in cooking oils and some vegetables. They can add to the LDL or “bad” cholesterol in the blood stream. Foods that contain high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids include olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, fish, soybeans, and nuts, but are a much better choice than vegetable oils in general. Vegetable oils are generally considered to be bad for heart health because they contain trans fatty acids.
A balanced, healthy diet is essential to good overall health. You can eat large amounts of fruits and vegetables and avoid food containing saturated fats and trans fatty acids if you follow a strict food chart. Adding protein and fiber to your diet from whole grains and dairy products will also help you maintain a healthy weight.