The word “food” is derived from the Latin word “gaste” (meaning eat). Food is any substance eaten to supply nutrition to an organism. Generally, food is of animal, plant or fungi origin, and often contains necessary nutrients, like proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, or iron, which are required by the body in the function of energy production. Our body needs carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals in order to function normally and maintain a healthy weight. Therefore, all food types have a place in our diet.
A variety of foods are available in markets and stores today. People may choose to prepare their own diet, or buy it in packaged form, depending on their individual needs. It is a good idea to keep a record of the ingredients used in preparation of food, along with its effects on our health, so that we can compare later. In our kitchens, we may prepare food according to our tastes or choose a ready-made diet, mixing it with other ingredients. Some of the major food groups are carbohydrates, proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy products, legumes, cereals, salt, processed foods, and fats.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body; therefore, food intake should be balanced with the use of healthy carbohydrates like whole grain breads, pasta, rice and potatoes, in moderation. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles and the body, and therefore, meat, poultry, fish and eggs are good sources of protein. Fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients, including antioxidants, which are helpful in fighting diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Dairy products are also important sources of calcium and other hormones for proper bone development.
Nutrients found in legumes and nuts like seeds, nuts, whole grains and beans are also beneficial in nutrition. However, these sources have low bioavailability. Sources that are easily digested include soybeans, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, mustard greens, cabbage and broccoli. Another important nutrient is magnesium, which helps in regulating blood pressure and improving brain function. So, add this nutrient to the list of food sources in your nutrition plan.
Fats, in moderation, provide energy to the body and prevent fat build up; however, they should not be more than 10% of your total calories. For those who are allergic to cats, it is advisable to eat sunflower oil instead. Other sources of healthy fat are olives and nuts.
Sugar is added sugar that is found in a variety of processed foods. It is another source of calories, but should be eaten in limited amounts. Some common food ingredients that have high calories include cream cheese, ice-cream, chocolate, soda pop, chips, potato chips, cookies, dried fruits, potato chips, sugar cookies, and white bread. To choose food that have low or no calories, substitute these items with fruits and vegetables. You can also use substitutes for dairy products and other non-nutritious food items.