• Emily Stynes

How we view the purpose of food

Updated: Feb 14

Sometimes the most basic questions are often the most overlooked and difficult to answer. If you were asked the question ‘How do you view or perceive food?’ or ‘What do you think the purpose of food is?’ What would you say?

1. Carbohydrates as a source of energy

Carbohydrates can be classified into two categories which include simple and complex sources. They are the main macronutrients that supply the digestive system with fuel in the form of glucose to provide energy to carry out our day to day tasks. Also, it is important to note that the main source of energy for our brains is glucose, a simple carbohydrate source. So it is not only necessary for physical activity but for our mental and cognitive function too. Carbohydrates also serve other important functions including a supply of stored energy, preserve muscle by sparing the use of protein, promote digestive health and can improve chronic conditions including heart disease and type 2 diabetes through adequate intakes of dietary fibre (1).


2. Supplies a range of vitamins and minerals

Vitamins classified as water soluble (B,C) and fat soluble (A,D,E,K) and minerals (essential and trace sources) play a role in providing the nutrients needed to serve many essential bodily functions and protect the body against infection and disease. Such examples include supporting our heart health, immunity, nervous system and hormonal balance as well as maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails and protection from inflammation in the body (2). Antioxidants present in a range of foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds play an important role in the inflammation process by protecting your cells from damage caused by oxidative stress in the body. They are important for maintaining physiological functions of the liver, kidney, digestive system and the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer (3).


3. Termination of hunger

Our bodies can provide us with amazing bodily mechanisms that alert and prompt us through various chemical signals when we are hungry and in need of food in order to prevent the body undergoing starvation. Various hormones including ghrelin play an active role in inducing a sensation of hunger in the body (4). Therefore, picking up a quick snack or lunch on the go is often what we think of first when we are under time constraints!


4. Form of enjoyment and pleasure

It may be apparent to most people, but most of our social gatherings are often based around the consumption of food! Therefore, consuming tasty and pleasurable foods with family, friends or work colleagues is an enjoyable past time passed down from generations of tradition. Something we should make more of a priority in our hectic and busy lifestyles!


5. Structure and creativity

This one may seem a bit more abstract however, the art of preparing and cooking food on a regular or weekly basis can often provide us with a sense of structure and certainty in our lives, not to mention how it can enable us to avoid making unhealthy food choices too when we come home from a long day of work. Whether it is baking or cooking you are into, both are very good ways to get creative and also use your time to disconnect.

So in summary, it is clear that food provides us with a variety of diverse functions for both our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Which one would you consider the most important based on your lifestyle?


References:


1. Friedman, M.I., 1998. Fuel partitioning and food intake.The American journal of clinical nutrition,67(3), pp.513S-518S.

2. Huskisson, E., Maggini, S. and Ruf, M., 2007. The role of vitamins and minerals in energy metabolism and well-being.Journal of international medical research,35(3), pp.277-289.

3. Wilson, D. W., Nash, P., Buttar, H. S., Griffiths, K., Singh, R., De Meester, F., Horiuchi, R., & Takahashi, T. (2017). The Role of Food Antioxidants, Benefits of Functional Foods, and Influence of Feeding Habits on the Health of the Older Person: An Overview.Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland),6(4), 81. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox6040081

4. Nakazato, M., Murakami, N., Date, Y., Kojima, M., Matsuo, H., Kangawa, K. and Matsukura, S., 2001. A role for ghrelin in the central regulation of feeding.Nature,409(6817), pp.194-198.

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