Food is any material consumed to supply nutritional support to the organisms. The word ‘food’ can be used in a wide variety of ways, but in the context of this article the term refers specifically to food-food preparation, processing, cooking or eating of food. Generally, food is of plant, animal, or fungi origin, and includes essential nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, or mineral salts. Plants are divided into seasonally changing crops such as corn, lettuce, squash, okra, pumpkins, melons, peppers and onions, each having its own distinctive flavor and variety; animal foods are mainly legumes (beans, peas, etc. ), cereals, meat, dairy products, fish, poultry, etc., and fungi such as mushrooms, tea (e.g. coffee, black, green), milk, honey, salami, saffron, and nuts.
Plants and animals nourish themselves by eating food particles available at various times of the day, but in most cases this food is obtained by hunting, gathering, the eating of other living things, or respiration of air (the process of converting food into energy) at night. In recent years, with the advance of human activity, the scope of food has widened, owing to urbanization, modern farming techniques, etc. At present, practically all kinds of living things are being used to produce food: fresh, dried, processed, manufactured, etc. The production of food by man is highly dependent on the availability of carbohydrates (the main source of energy for the body), proteins (for the building of muscles and tissues), vitamins (for growth, development, etc. ), minerals (for the function of the body), and fats (which add calories to food). Today, practically all kinds of food are being used, and even in backward areas some foods have become important staples.
The diet of man is a very complex and intricate one, involving more than 200 different kinds of food items. It varies from region to region, as well as country to country, because of the climate, agricultural practices, differences in family structure, social class, cultural practices, etc. In certain regions, a particular food is known as a Superfood, or a food that has special nutritional qualities, because it is rich in antioxidants (vitamin E, beta carotene, etc.). Several Superfoods are fruits, nuts, legumes, grains, vegetables, seaweeds, and fruits and vegetables (a sort of a generalized classification). In Asia, traditionally known as the “Land of Fresh Foods”, nearly one third of the food intake is food produced with water, either in irrigation or horticultural systems, or by use of aquaponics, a system in which fish and plants are grown in water.
The importance of vegetable protein and mineral nutrition has been recognized from the beginning of time, because it is believed that vegetables contain most of the nutrients necessary for nutrition. At first, many people did not understand that vegetables were actually a form of food, and that they should not only be eaten for their taste and color, but that they had important nutrients within them which were not being utilized. As our understanding of nutrition and diets has grown over the years, more specific terms have been used to describe foods containing nutrients. Whole food is a food that consists of most of the nutrients that are required by the human body, while a nutrient-dense food is one in which most of the nutrients are provided by the food itself, without having to increase the food’s caloric content.
Vegetables are most commonly eaten fresh, although they can be stored at times. Fruits are most often eaten frozen but can be added to the list of favorite foods in a few ways. The canned fruit has much more nutritional value than does the fresh fruit. In addition, the canned fruit is usually preserved by adding sugar, citric acid, lecithin, or both to the pulp to prevent spoilage, and to make the fruit more palatable. Because most fruits are high in water content, it is often used locally and add others to the list of favorite foods.
So, as you can see from the list above, there is no single food type that represents all of the foods on the “food pyramid”. Most all of the food groups fall under a broad category known as a nutrient-dense food. The food label will list all of the major food components together, with the percentage of each element listed (such as the vegetable servings above) included in the Nutrition Facts section.