Food is any material consumed to give nutrition to an organism. It is consumed for the purpose of maintaining health, or to satisfy one’s appetite. Food is generally of animal, plant or fungi origin, and has vital nutrients, including vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals. The word ‘food’ can be used to refer to anything that an organism needs to grow, survive, and perform an action.
Plants, animals and fungi all derive nutrition from food. Some foods are more important to the health of a living thing than others, however, for example, plant-based foods are rich in vitamins and other antioxidants necessary to strengthen the immune system. Fungi are well known for their ability to serve as natural antibiotics, through their ability to kill certain types of bacteria. The role of dietary fiber in the body is often overlooked. Yet food habits and the makeup of the immune system can affect and even control it.
People around the world typically consume three food groups, with most people eating in one or the other but seldom in combination. These three food groups include: fruits, vegetables and whole grains; these three groups have different requirements for diet. Fruits contain much of the antioxidant vitamin C, and whole grains are made up of complex carbohydrates that are metabolized slowly in the body and provide a large amount of energy.
It is difficult for many people to eat enough food to meet their recommended daily allowance of vitamins and nutrients. Many people also find it difficult to portion their food, since even the leanest meats are heavy and many people do not eat enough food to compensate for the additional calories. For example, the amount of protein a person eats may not be sufficient to meet their daily requirements, especially if they are trying to build muscle. Because of these difficulties, many people turn to supplements, either to help meet their dietary needs or as an extra source of nutrition.
One of the ways we supplement our diets is with food supplements, which are either complete or partial food substances made from one or more of the food groups. These food supplements may be in the form of powders, pills or liquids. They are important for people who eat a primarily vegetarian diet, because they provide certain vitamins and nutrients that are lacking in their diet, such as B12, folic acid and other important nutrients. Some examples of complete food substances are flaxseed, fish oil, calcium and wheat gluten, which are all important for building strong bones and muscles and for living things like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
The third group, whole grains, is a group that people normally eat at every meal, so it is important to eat enough vitamin and mineral substances to support good health. Vitamin B12 is especially important for people who have blood-clogged arteries, because it helps them make sure that the blood does not clot. This disease called “coronary artery disease” has been shown to be more common in people who have low vitamin B12 levels. Thus, it is recommended that anyone over age 50 should get a daily supplement of vitamin B12 to protect against this disease.