Food – What Is it and How Does it Help Us?

What exactly is food? Food is any material consumed in order to provide nutrition to an organism for sustenance. More specifically, food is the primary source of nourishment for animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. Generally, food is of animal, plant or fungal origin and generally contains necessary nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, iron, or potassium. For instance, meat, eggs, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, sugars and salt are all food.

In most industrialized countries, fresh foods account for the majority of dietary intake. For instance, it takes approximately five pounds of meat, eggs, dairy products, fruits and vegetables to receive the daily recommended amount of vitamins and minerals. The typical American diet is made up of approximately 80 percent carbohydrates, with only small amounts of proteins and fat. With the consumption of large amounts of highly processed foods, carbohydrates have become the predominant source of energy, whereas protein is found in small amounts in most meats, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. As a result, the obesity problem in America has greatly increased.

Carbon atoms and hydrogen atoms are the building blocks of everything that exists in nature. It is believed that all living things, plants and animals, are composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms, with each having their own electrons. Because of this, the types of foods that we consume can be categorized into four main categories: solid, partially liquid, gaseous and organic. Vegetable oil is the primary source of fats and oils, which are separated into two classes: virgin oil and tropical oil.

Fats are a necessary part of the diet because they provide a supply of energy, particularly in times of scarcity. Vegetable oils are high in saturated and trans fats. Trans fats are made when vegetable oils are hydrogenated. In the first case, the hydrogen atoms of the vegetable oil are combined with oxygen to form hydrogenated vegetable oil, while in the second instance, the atoms of the saturated fat are paired with oxygen to form polyunsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fats provide an excellent source of energy for the body because they combine easily with proteins, the very food our bodies need to build and repair cells.

The fats we eat can be classified in two ways: solid and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Solid fats are commonly found in fast foods such as burgers, hot dogs, French fries, cookies and potato chips, whereas partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are found in many commercial products including mayonnaise, salad dressings and frozen vegetable oils. There are different types of fats: bad and good. Bad fats are known as saturated fat and lead to high blood cholesterol levels; while good fats are called unsaturated fat and play an important role in our health by decreasing cholesterol levels. A number of plant products contain fat as well: nuts, seeds, olives and fish oil, especially the linoleic acid found in Shea butter and sunflower oil.

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables and starches; they contain no fat, fiber or amino acids. Complex carbohydrates are made up of chains of sugar molecules, fats and other molecules that make them heavier, more cumbersome and less effective as fuel for the body’s cells. They provide the bulk of our energy and are used primarily in order to store fat, satisfy the hunger of our body’s stored calories and boost the metabolism.

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