The Concepts of Nutrition and Food Security
There are many factors that determine the nutritional value of food. These factors are: nutrients needed by the organisms in the food, location of the food, soil condition, climatic changes, quantity of water used in processing and storage, and so on. Let’s take a brief look at each of these aspects to better understand food in its natural state.
First, food is any material eaten to give basic nutrition to an organism. Food is generally of animal, plant or fungal source, and includes necessary nutrients, like proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, or minerals for the growth and maintenance of an organism. Therefore, the nutritional quality of such foods is determined by the composition of the tissues and the properties of the enzymes that process them. For example, only some plant foods have been found to contain complete proteins (these are called complete proteins because they contain all amino acids that are required for protein synthesis), while others lack complete proteins and so require the consumption of secondary proteins to compensate for their loss. Animals and fungi may only require fat as a partial source of nutrition.
Second, nutrition is about the balance between the quantity and the quality of nutrients in the food. If some nutrients are more abundant than others, the result can be a poor quality of life and disease, and an imbalance in nutrient concentrations can cause many different diseases, including deficiency of certain essential vitamins and minerals. For example, a deficiency in iron results in anemia, which is a condition that requires iron supplementation in order to prevent the onset of anaemia and other complications. Similarly, a deficiency of zinc is responsible for the common skin ailment known as scaly skin. Thus, it is advisable that a healthy balanced diet be taken, and that it include foods rich in vitamins and minerals, especially if the person concerned has a history of deficiency or illness of these substances.
Third, nutrition is about food choices. In essence, the type of food eaten is more important than the amount of it or what is consumed. Certain nutrients are more available from certain foods than from others, so the choice of food is an important aspect of nutrition, since not all nutrients are contained in all food types. Some examples include the fat content of foods, the water content, and the fiber content of food. Thus, when choosing a food, a balanced diet should be taken into account, depending on whether the food contains one or more of the aforementioned nutrients.
Fourth, nutrition is about the use of food as a source of energy, which it does by converting food into carbon dioxide and oxygen, which it releases as waste during the digestion process. Therefore, the body requires different kinds of food at different times, to sustain its functions. Although some foods are more easily digested, others are easier to digest, thus creating longer-lasting carbon dioxide and oxygen emissions. This, in turn, makes the production of food more efficient, resulting in a greater need for energy. Thus, fruits and vegetables are often recommended for use as sources of longer-term energy.
Fifth, food security and nutrition are interdependent. A nation’s food security usually depends on its ability to produce enough food for its residents. A country’s food insecurity usually worsens in times of food scarcity. Moreover, some studies have shown that there is a growing trend of obesity among adults, which could lead to nutrition problems in the future, if not addressed effectively. To address both the problem of food insecurity and the impact of obesity, the U.S. government has allocated funds to implement programs designed to address both concepts.