Food is any material eaten to supply the body’s essential nutrition. Food is generally of animal, plant or fungus origin, and has necessary nutrients, including protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, or even minerals, which are needed by the body for normal functioning. There are several categories of foods and the type of food depends on the part of the body required for its function. Some examples of categories of food are carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products, fats and oils, alcohol and other toxins.
Carbohydrates are divided into three types: simple sugars (glucose), complex carbohydrates (fibers) and complex sugars. Simple sugars are those that can be derived from plant sources without any process. Examples of simple sugar are glucose, sucrose, galactose, lactose and fructose. Examples of complex carbohydrates are starches, brown rice and corn, potatoes and rice, other complex carbohydrates like apples, peas and beans, other complex carbohydrates like grapes and oranges, and fats and oils, which can be found in sunflower oil, butter, margarine and shortening.
The nutrients in food to provide energy to the body and therefore form the main sources of nutrition for humans. Each food type can be divided into two more categories based on the proportions of its calories. These categories are fats and proteins. The most commonly consumed fats are found in meats, poultry, fish and nuts. The most commonly consumed proteins are meat, eggs and nuts. The nutrient combination of these foods provide most of our daily nutritional needs.
Fats are important nutrients because they add to the body’s energy supply, while providing some of the body’s vital nutrients. Animal fatty acids (omega 3) are the main source of fats in food. Vegetable, animal and dairy fats are also major sources of fats. Essential fatty acids are fats that are necessary for cell membranes to function properly. Oils from plants are another good source of vitamins A, D, E and B-complex vitamins.
The process of digestion of the fat produces several chemical components, some of which are considered bad for health such as trans fat, lauric acid and capric acid. Many of these bad chemicals attach to and contaminate the blood streams through absorption and end up in causing illness. Food processing methods may be used to make food rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and fat without releasing any undesirable components. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fat, vitamins and nutrients. They have a high water content, which makes them an excellent food for absorption.
Milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter are some examples of dairy foods, which are eaten regularly. Cheese contains casein, a protein-enriched milk ingredient that is easily digested by the body. Yoghurt contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, a bacterium that is beneficial for overall health. Rice milk, made from white rice, is also very good for absorption and contributes to healthy bacteria in the gut. Fatty fish such as tuna, trout, mackerel, salmon and halibut are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent heart disease. Fatty fish contain EPA fatty acids, which can help lower cholesterol.