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What does your life depend on? What can make you healthy, ill or even kill you? What do over a billion people not have enough of? And another billion have too much of? What can be yummy or yukky?
You’ve got it, haven’t you?
Yes, it’s food!
I’ve found out a lot of stuff about food. Now you can too in my Guide to Food.
here to find out how you can use this guide.
Why do I have Infolinks InSearch ads?Infolinks InSearchThey are to help raise some money to keep my website going. You only see them if you’ve found my site at a search engine. A small advertisement appears at the bottom of the page. A few seconds later, InSearch shrinks down to a quiet headline. Every click you make on these ads brings me a tiny bit of money. I hope you don't find them annoying.
What is food? Everyone knows that. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. For me, it’s very simple: food is fish. I just love fish (especially eating them!). I wonder what your favourite food is? Let me guess… hamburgers? Ice cream? Candy bars? Well that’s probably more likely than raw carrots or garlic.
So anyway, what exactly is food? Let’s look at what it’s made of.
Food (which really includes many types of drinks too – like milk shakes and cola – but not water) is made up of nutrients. These are the things which give you energy or help build up your body as you grow.
Maybe you already know what the most important Big Three nutrients are:
proteins which you find in meat, fish, beans
carbohydrates – sugar is one and you find others in bread, cereals and vegetables
fat – I guess you know what that is. You find it in fried foods, cheese, butter, margarine and oils
Almost all the food you eat has some of the Big Three in it. But there are other things too which you need to eat in much smaller amounts. They are vitamins and minerals. You need small amounts of both.
I’m sure you know about vitamins. There are quite a few and most of them have letters: vitamins A, B, C, D and E.
And minerals? One is salt. Other important ones are calcium and iron.
Anything else? Well yes. Scientists have discovered that all kinds of other things in fresh fruit and vegetables are very useful in helping stay healthy. This is part of the reason why it’s a good idea for people to eat lots of these foods. They contain useful things like flavonoids as well as lots of vitamins. They also have stuff in them that people can’t digest very well called fibre (so do grains like oats) which turn out to be useful too because they help prevent nasty diseases like cancer.
Where does food come from? How is it made? Easy. You know the answer already, don’t you? Food comes from farms – right?
It’s true that most food comes from farms in the first place, but most of the stuff people eat today has been processed so much in factories that the only way you can know what’s in it is by looking at the list of ingredients. And if you do that, you may get a shock because you won’t know what half the things are.
Scary sounding names, and some of these additives may be harmful.
Some people have found that they can farm fish too. This seems like a good idea until you find that they too use poisons on the fish to stop diseases which only start because the fish are kept close together in tanks or floating net cages in the sea.
Of course, not everything that comes out of the sea is a fish. People catch lots of animals like squids (I like those!) and octopuses, shellfish, crabs and lobsters. Some people farm prawns in big open ponds along tropical coasts, once protected by mangrove trees. The ponds for the prawns meant the mangroves were destroyed. This can be very bad because when big storms happen, the coast isn’t protected any more.Food processing Even if you buy flour to make your own bread, that flour is processed. First the wheat grains get ground up in a mill and then different parts, like the brown outside of the seed, get separated. Then, if you don’t make your own bread (hardly anyone does this anymore), the flour is mixed with other ingredients and baked in an oven to make the loaf you buy in the shop. That’s an example of simple food processing. Almost every food you buy in a packet, box or tub is processed in some way. This is where some problems can start.
Most of the food
you eat will have been processed in a factory in some way.
An fresh orange is not processed – though unless you eat the peel too (ugh!) you will process it yourself by peeling the skin off. Food processing used to be done at home but now, people have become rather lazy – or just too busy - and prefer to have someone else do it so they can buy and eat right away. This adds to the cost. How many of the foods you eat come from factories, do you think?
Here are some examples of foods made - processed – in factories:
|Milk (which is a food) usually gets put in packages after being heated to kill any bugs (pasteurised). Then it’s cooled and taken in big trucks to supermarkets and shops. Milk can be made into cheese too. Skimmed milk has the cream taken off to be sold separately as cream or butter. Some milk gets made into yoghurt|
|Snack foods like chips. There are hundreds. Most of them are made from potatoes, corn (maize) or other grains with added salt, sugar and fat which makes them taste good|
|Tinned, frozen or dried (dehydrated) food|
|Breads, biscuits, crackers|
|Soda drinks (pop, fizzy) like cola and fruit flavours. Some of these really are foods because they contain nutrients like sugar|
|Meat – animals are killed in special factories called abattoirs (slaughter houses). Almost every scrap of them is used for something. For example, their skins become leather for clothing and shoes, and other stuff that nobody would much like the look of gets made into sausages and pie fillings|
|Sugar. This is made from crushing either sugar beet or sugar cane|
And so on. I’ve only mentioned a few of the main sorts of processed food. How many more can you think of?
|TIP: Everything is processed if it’s not fresh. Foods you buy in sealed packages like cans are processed.|
Try my first quiz: do you know which foods are processed?
Good and bad foods: health “You are what you eat”, goes a well known saying. It’s not quite true but its message really means that if you eat healthy foods, you are most likely to be healthy. If you eat nothing but corn chips, you won’t get to look like a corn cob but you certainly won’t be fit and healthy. This is because your body needs a good mix of foods.
anything fresh is a good start. Better still is fresh organic
(By ‘bad’, I don’t mean they will make you sick or anything. Just that you should eat them in moderation.)
processed foods – which generally contain sugar, salt and fat
Try my second quiz: which foods are good and which bad?
Click here to find out about vegetarians and vegans
Does everyone have food? If not, why not? Sadly no. Nearly 1 billion people on our planet – three times more people than live in the United States - are constantly short of food or near starving. This seems doubly wrong when you think that almost the same number have so much food they get to be overweight and even obese. Couldn’t humans divide things up a little more fairly? We seabirds never eat more than we need. You know why? We can’t afford to get fat! Can you imagine a fat penguin trying to catch a fish? We have to stay sleek and healthy. Humans can get fat and it doesn’t matter (though they might be quite unhappy about it) because they don’t have to hunt their food. They can just get into their cars and drive to the supermarket or takeaway when they feel hungry.
That other billion people – the hungry and starving ones – can’t get enough food to eat because they are so poor. They can’t afford to buy food – or can only afford the very cheapest, low quality stuff no one else wants. If they each had a little piece of land, they could grow their own. But they don’t because most of them live in slums (favelas, pueblos jovenes). They can’t get jobs because there are none, so often they have to beg, steal or scavenge the garbage from richer neighbourhoods.
What a miserable life.
The Meatrix: Let Moophius take you and Leo, the pig, on an animated tour of industrial farming.
It’s not all gloom though.
Things are – as
ever – changing. People are beginning to see that money isn’t everything
if making it damages the planet so badly that the future is bleak. So
many farmers are beginning to convert their farms to sustainable farming
(which is what they were anyway before industrial farming took over).
Ads You know all about ads if you have a TV. Companies spend millions – billions – of dollars on trying to get people (including, especially, kids like you) to buy things they don’t really want and don’t need. Advertising is really all about making people desire things. The ads do this in various ways. One of the most successful is by ‘spinning’ the product in such a way that it becomes cool, trendy and fashionable to have it – whatever it is. This is what designer labels (very well known brands) are all about. And kids fall for it as well as adults! Just check out how many items of clothing or shoes you or your friends have got that carry these ‘must have’ labels.
Food and drinks are high on the advertisers list. And it works. Advertisers wouldn’t waste money advertising if it didn’t. So all your life, you get bombarded by ‘messages’ – dozens a day, and not just on TV – trying to get you to part with your money. And kids everywhere buy food and drink they don’t need – or pester their mums and dads to do it. The food companies even sponsor schools. The idea is not just to sell you stuff now but to make you loyal their ‘brand’. They know that if you start buying a particular brand of cola or hamburger, you’re likely to stay with that… which over the years could mean thousands of $$$ from you flowing into that company.
So there are several things you can do to help your family to a healthier and, often, cheaper way of eating:
|Things you can do||>More details|
|Buy locally grown food whenever you can||Check for farmers’ markets in your area. Many places in America have CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) schemes you can link up with. Ask your local shops or supermarket to stock locally grown food. They usually try to provide what their customers want. Some farms run a delivery service – vegetable boxes – so you don’t even have to go out. Some mail order companies can supply quality foods (including fresh) which they also deliver|
|If you can afford it, buy organic||Better for you, your family and the planet. And you don’t have to do without many cans of soft drink or takeaway meals to save quite an amount of money.|
|If you’re thirsty, try drinking water.||It’s free – unless you buy the bottled sort - and it’s the healthiest drink there is. If the water out of the tap tastes bad (chlorine or something), you can get simple filters which remove the bad taste. Or just fill a jug with it and leave it for a day (no lid so the chlorine escapes). Then drink it.|
|Watching a cook on TV is no substitute for cooking yourself||If people did as much cooking as there are programmes on TV (and books) telling them how to, they’d never be out of the kitchen!|
|Learn to cook||Be bold when you cook: try different recipes or even invent some yourself.|
|When you have plenty of fresh veg, make salads||These are easy to prepare – especially if you have a food processor with a grater attachment. Salads are very healthy indeed and yummy (so I’m told) with a delicious dressing – which you can also make yourself. You can use lots of root vegetables like squashes, carrots, rutabaga (swede) and so on, to grate into your salads.|
|Invite your friends to have a meal with you that you’ve made||It will probably be a new experience for all of you and an opportunity for fun!|
|Grow your own food||Even if you've only got a small space, you can still grow some of your food. What's more, it's fun: sowing your seeds, watching your plants grow as you care for them and, finally, harvesting. You can even grow tomatoes (or other plants like capsicums) by the window in your room... wherever there's good sunshine. Many cities now have local community farms where you can join other people who grow their own. It's cool!|
Happy cooking and happy eating! As for me, I'm tired and hungry after all that and I'm off to catch my fish for dinner!