The first five letters of the word food have a significant meaning, since it tells us the function of the food: Food is any material consumed to give nutrition to an organism. More specifically, food is generally of animal, plant or fungal source, and has necessary nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, or minerals, for growth and development. In general, food is divided into three main categories: animal-derived foods, plant-derived foods of microbiological or nutritional origin.
Food processing and nutrition refer to the methods used to transform food into a product ready for consumption. This includes purification, draining off the edible part (the liquid and edible parts) from the animal, skinning and treating the flesh so that it can be eaten, milling and making breads and other pastas, preparing sauces and gravies etc. So in order to ensure a balanced diet, you need to include all the food groups.
Animal-derived foods are grouped into four: meat, milk, eggs and poultry. These four group foods can provide the building blocks for the rest of the food groups. However, note that not all these types of animal derive foods are required by a healthy diet, especially for those with particular needs. For example, many vegetarians (though most meat eaters are also vegetarians) do not include eggs in their diet, even though they contain important proteins such as cholesterol and vitamins B12.
Vegetable and fruit are two very important but often ignored food groups. Of course, eating more vegetables and fruits means that you are more likely to have a balanced diet, but did you know that vegetables and fruits are also important dietary sources of some essential minerals? You may be surprised to know that a surprising amount of processed, canned and packaged foods are packed with salt, sugar and calories. These types of food are poor substitutes for vegetables and fruits and should be avoided as much as possible. If they absolutely must be included in your diet, add them in small amounts.
Some food groups are highly recommended by leading health organizations and researchers. One of these is the skimmed milk, low-fat cottage cheese and yogurt products, rice cakes and crackers and whole grain breads. These food groups are considered optimal sources of some vital nutrients like calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. Note that these sources of nutrition can be found in plenty in plants and fruits, although they tend to be eaten very minimally in processed foods. Another nutrient group which is highly recommended by nutritionists is the iodine mineral, which can be found in fish oils, seaweeds, mushrooms, eggs and even some types of beans.
Many people need more added sugars and flour in their diet than others. Most of us tend to grab granola bars, cookies and other forms of added sugars and flour as our quick fix, but did you know that most Americans are completely unaware that they are not getting all of the nutrients that they need from their diet? This means that a person needs to learn how to balance diet, and not rely on any one food group. This is the first and most important step when learning how to eat a balanced diet.