Food is any material eaten to provide nutrition to an organism. In humans, food is of animal, plant or fungi origin, and is made up of necessary nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, or other nutrients. The human body needs food to survive, but not all food is needed at the same time and in the same quantity. When a person eats food, certain enzymes in the mouth break down the food into usable materials for the body. The different types of food provide different nutrients.
Plants contain complex molecules that help with the breakdown of carbohydrates, but most plant-based foods are low in calories and high in fiber, making them excellent sources of nutrition. Animals have protein, fat, iron, zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-complex and fiber, which is another kind of nutrient that the body needs. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains and seeds all contain nutrients that are important to humans, though some are more important than others, depending on the individual’s needs and lifestyle.
Legumes,beans, grains and seeds all contain protein, but this is not the most important element. Animal food such as meat, poultry and fish contains more protein and iron than plants, although the iron most frequently found in animal source foods is not healthy. Plant food processing methods can be used to make foods that are nutritionally incomplete, especially if the food is not prepared and cooked properly. Cooking destroys some nutrients and cheats the body of other nutrients that it needs. For example, many plant foods are relatively low in calories but contain large amounts of sugar.
As food choices today are made more from convenience rather than nutrition, many people don’t eat enough vitamin and mineral foods. Vitamins are important for good health, because without them, the body cannot produce enough energy to function properly. Iron, on the other hand, is found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which we must chew to obtain it.
Low-fat and high-fiber vegetables are the best choice for adding vitamins and minerals to the diet. These include green, leafy vegetables, potatoes, sweet potato, carrots and other brightly colored vegetables, eggplant, zucchini, peas, mushrooms and other vegetables with a strong, bitter taste like cilantro, parsley or onions. When selecting vegetables, remember that they all have different shapes, colors, textures and flavors. Additives that act as sweeteners can alter the flavor or nutritive value of a food and should be avoided. In addition, most vegetable recipes call for meat or seafood or both, so it is better to use vegetables in food processor recipes instead.
Even meat eaters can benefit from a well-balanced diet. Lean cuts of meat are usually more nutritious than fatty cuts, unless a recipe specifically calls for ground beef or steak. Ground beef contains three times more protein than lean beef. Similarly, shrimp and fish make good foods, but when added to ground beef, they diminish its protein content.