Slicing and dicing through all the media noise about food fads and diets can be overwhelming. Five meals a day or three? Paleo or Zone? Quinoa or kale? We're caught in an ironic onslaught of super foods and super-sized junk along with a myriad of experts who know best. Head to the supermarket shelves without a plan and your head will spin. Recently, my mother dug out her (now vintage, sorry mum) Home Economics text book. I was surprised and amused to read its no-nonsense definition of 'food' and what a balanced diet is. Its simple tale of food as fuel is certainly food for thought in these modern times of excess consumption. Here's the unabridged first paragraphs of Simple Cookery from 1957. It might just bring a little culinary clarity to the table...
Food (a definition)
Food is material that is taken into the body, and after being digested is taken into the blood stream and used to build and replace body cells, to give energy or to keep the bodily processes going. Different foods do different work.
Building and repairing foods include proteins, minerals, and water. Proteins are found in meat, fish, eggs and milk, nuts and legumes. Calcium and phosphorus form the largest part of bones and teeth and help in making muscles and nerves. Iron with copper is needed to form red blood cells.
Energy giving foods are carbohydrates (starches and sugars, fats and proteins). Energy is measured in calories or heat units. Fat gives more energy per unit than carbohydrates or proteins. Energy is needed for all body functions, including breathing, beat of the heart, as well as for muslce activity in work or play.
Body regulating foods are minerals, vitamins, water, and cellulose. Vitamins help the body to use up the food and to prevent disease. Water helps to regulate the temperature of the body and to carry off waste products. Cellulose assists in passing the food through the digestive tract.
So that we may be properly nourished we must have food - not only sufficient in quantity but of good quality as well. As greater knowledge is gained we understand which foods are essentials, and which can be omitted. A balanced diet is one which contains the right foods in correct proportions.
In addition to cooked foods we must include daily a liberal supply of fruit and salad vegetables. So that we may be able to present the food in an appetising way, great care met be taken in its preparation. No matter how good the food is, it loss much of its value unless it is cooked properly and served attractively.