What Is Changing in Our Food System?
Food is any material eaten to provide nutrition to an organism. In human terms, food is consumed to sustain the growth and maintenance of an individual. Generally, food is of animal, plant or fungi origin, and contains various nutrients, including vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, sugars, or minerals. It is a living, breathing substance. It is a simple system that responds to hunger signals sent from the brain and provides all the food a body needs to survive. The word ‘food’ has been derived from the Greek word agra, which means grain.
In today’s world, food choices have become increasingly popular. With an aging population in developed countries and fast food outlets everywhere, people are more inclined to eat out. This trend toward non-traditional food options has been reflected in food prices, with more foods costing less and being available in more restaurants; therefore, food security is an important concern for many.
Historically speaking, the human need for food had much more to do with hunting and gathering food rather than eating it. Today, most people eat food because they require it and they like the taste. It is often easier to go to a restaurant for a quick meal rather than to pick up leftovers from the house. However, studies indicate that the number of overweight and obese people has been rising steadily in developed countries, particularly in the Western world. One explanation for this may be that people are eating more processed foods, which are high in fat and low in nutrition.
A balanced diet is the first line of defense against chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. To strengthen the immune system, eat foods rich in vitamin D, minerals and dietary fiber. Vitamin D is essential for helping the body absorb iron, which is essential for fighting disease. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, fortified dairy products and certain foods, such as fortified breads, cereals and breakfast cereals. Deficiency can result in weak bones and an increased risk of osteoporosis, a weakening of the bone that occurs as we age.
Vitamins and minerals also help maintain the health of the cardiovascular system and the nervous system. When we consume food, the nutrients are quickly absorbed by our bodies, providing us with the nutrients we need. However, it is important that we do not over-consume calories, since this can limit the absorption of nutrients and can contribute to obesity. To optimize the absorption of vitamins and other nutrients, increase the daily intake of fruits and vegetables and reduce the consumption of white flour products, salt and refined sugar. To obtain optimal levels of all nutrients, ensure that your food has been prepared according to the Food Guide for Americans ( Foods, Nutrition and Health), which rates all types of foods on a scale of nutrient content.
As these examples include changes to food consumption and diets, it is important to consult a nutritionist or other experts when you feel like you are eating too much or that there are gaps in your eating patterns. Such consultations are usually free of charge and can be scheduled on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. This is particularly useful for people who are newly diagnosed with a chronic illness, or for those who are concerned about their health. There are ongoing studies that will continue to reveal the many ways that eating disorders can develop and how we can continue to improve our food security.