The Definition of Food
The word food brings to mind the nourishing sustenance that sustains our bodies. Our ancestors have used food as the primary source of nourishment, even before they had written language, and even before fire lit the first fire. Today, food plays a critical role in keeping our bodies healthy and operating properly. We need food to survive, to grow and thrive, and to maintain our physical activities. In this way, food is a basic necessity.
Food is any material consumed to supply nutrition to an organisms. It may be in the form of water, solid matter such as leaves, seeds, fruits, and vegetables, or in the form of gases with a solid solution. Food is generally of animal, plant or fungi origin, and has necessary nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, or other minerals. The primary components of food are carbohydrates, fats and proteins. These elements are required to provide the energy needed by the body for normal functioning.
Carbohydrates are found in foods such as glucose, starch, sugar, fiber, and cereals. Carbohydrates are broken down to simple sugars, which are the most common form of sweeteners, including honey, maple syrup, and processed sugar. Fats are present in animal fat and vegetable fat. Proteins can be digested directly from plants (such as protein from beans and nuts), or by means of the digestive system of animals or fungi.
Essential amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Protein is mostly found in meat, milk, eggs, fish, poultry and vegetables. Milk and meat products, especially the lean meats, contain complete proteins. Fish and poultry contain incomplete proteins, which are not the building blocks of protein, but are essential to life.
The human body needs carbohydrates to sustain a healthy metabolism and energy supply. Most carbohydrates are found in foods such as breads, cereals, pasta and potatoes. Most Americans eat at least one serving of carbohydrates per day, which provides them with energy. Vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which help prevent diseases that may result from free radicals in the body, such as cancer. Whole grains are also a rich source of nutrients and contain important vitamins and minerals.
A good diet includes a variety of foods that are a form of food, or food groups. Foods from each food group provide different nutrients. A good example is the dairy foods, which provide calcium, protein, vitamin D, and several other nutrients. Legumes and beans provide fiber, protein, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin and folic acid. Animal meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, nuts, and eggs are protein rich and contain all eight of the nutrients we need. A proper diet ensures that our bodies have the nutrients they need to function properly.