Healthy Food Choices
The word “food” can refer to any of the following substances: Plants, animals, fungi, microorganisms, minerals, and vitamins. Food is generally of animal, plant or microorganism origin, and is made up of essential nutrients, including vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals. In all three categories of food, protein forms the most important component, and in all three categories, some food supplies are more nutritious than others. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts are examples of plant food sources; animals include meat, dairy products, eggs, fish, poultry, and other animal products. The refined and prepared form of sugar is also considered food, as is alcoholic beverages.
The main food nutrients necessary to maintain health are protein, carbohydrates, fat, and vitamins. Protein is the most important nutrient, because without it, humans and most other animals are unable to survive. To meet the needs of the average person, a diet must provide at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight daily. Specific nutrients that are particularly important to human nutrition include the B vitamins, which are important for the development of healthy skin and nerves; folic acid, which help prevent defects in the birth process; and minerals, which are needed to maintain the overall health of the human body.
Some foods are better sources of some important nutrients than others. For example, while vegetables are good sources of carbohydrates, they contain relatively few carbohydrates; fats are better sources of fat than carbohydrates and calories, but they contain only small amounts of both. Oils are fats. Fats can be vegetable oil, such as sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil, or olive oil, and can be a healthy part of a well-balanced diet. Whole grains are also good sources of dietary fiber. However, refined carbohydrates, such as white flour, white rice, and sweeteners (sucrose and saccharin) should be avoided because they contain excessive amounts of carbohydrates.