What is Food?


  • What is food? Why do we eat it? What is its function?


Defined in simplest terms - “Food is what people and animals eat to survive.”

Some other definitions include a nutritional element of food. For eg. “Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for an organism.”

Survival or nutrition - both indicate  the significance of food for good health. Yes, food as most of us would agree is meant to keep us in optimal health. Is it not for that reason we eat food?

While the primary function of food is to provide nourishment, we do eat for different reasons! Reasons for eating food can be understood as meeting up with one of the following:

  • Physiological need (includes the need for nutrition, energy).

  • Psychological need (like eating when bored or angry or sad).

  • Social need (eating to enjoy social gatherings and festivals).

Physiological needs - The functioning of our body is similar to that of a machine. And just like any machine, the body needs good maintenance for its proper functioning. It needs to be provided fuel (or energy) to run, must be cleaned and repaired. So the question we need to answer - is the food we eat gives us energy, cleanses our body and helps in repairing the body when required. The human body operates at a cellular level and trillions of cells in the  human body are performing their respective functions continuously. To perform their function cells needs a continuous supply of glucose and oxygen. Oxygen comes through our breath and glucose comes from our food. Other function of food is to provide structure the building material for our cells. So, fuel for cell functioning and the structure for repairing and rebuilding of the cells. 

Psychological needs - Hunger or the prompt to eat food may not always be a physical need. It may arise  to meet a psychological need. Like when you eat when you feel like eating or when there is good food around or even when under stress. In all such situations, food tends to have a calming, comforting, relaxing effect.

Social needs - Think of a situation that calls for people to interact, be it a festival, a formal meeting or a casual get together. Some element of food - in the form of a drink, meal or simply a refreshment is more likely a part of it than not. Food simply helps us connect with people. We eat when we want to have fun, celebrate or just chit-chat together. 

Why we eat is important as it eventually takes us to ‘What we eat’ or our food choices.

Last modified: Wednesday, 19 February 2020, 12:12 PM