Food is any material eaten to supply nutrition to an organism. In the modern world, food is typically of animal, plant or fungi origin, and usually contains various essential nutrients, including vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, sugars, or minerals. The first people were nomadic pastoralists who hunted and gathered food from natural sources. Today, food supplies are vast and include cereals, pulses, vegetables, legumes, grains, fish, meats, dairy products, and fruits and fruit. The modern diet provides an adequate amount of nutrition for most of the population, although insufficient food supplies have been experienced in certain countries, mostly in the developing world. The main areas of food production are: livestock (such as poultry, cattle, buffaloes, sheep), grains, dairy products, sugarcane and palm oil, alcoholic beverages, coffee and tea.
The way the food is prepared, stored, and eaten influences its nutritional quality and quantity. The composition of the typical western diet varies with time, with more emphasis on meat and potatoes and less on carbohydrates and some fruits and vegetables. Since the earliest years of recorded history, people living in different environments have developed very different eating habits, based largely on the availability of food and the ability to acquire it. For example, hunter-gatherers have a completely different diet from farmers, who typically comprise mainly cereals, root crops and legumes, while in the southern US, consumption of dairy products has been limited to very low levels only over the generations. Modern diets have become more complex, with food being prepared and stored in a number of ways. The traditional foods, which derive their nutrition principally from plant matter and a variety of different animal organs, are becoming less important as more edible varieties of food are grown in more places.
Traditionally, fresh foods were the richest in micronutrients, such as iron, zinc and vitamin B12. Modern food sources, where these nutrients can be more easily obtained, are more often eaten in their processed forms, with little attention to their nutritional quality. Often the source of a particular food’s micronutrient content has been forgotten, either due to a lack of or contamination of the food by chemicals or preservatives. Even when the right nutrients are added, food processing makes the food taste bland and flavorless and can alter its nutritional value. So even though fresh produce and meats are rich in micronutrients, their natural state may reduce the amount available to us.