The food industry is one of the most diverse, wide and complex businesses. This can be attributed to the immensely high human population. In addition, there are numerous types of foods which are consumed in different parts of the world. There is also a significant variation in taste and preferences in various parts of the globe. Farmers who mainly survive on the produce of their subsistence farms are considered to be out of the scope of the food industry. They make no contribution to this industry as they do not produce surplus or supply to the food industries.
The food industry is very attractive for investments especially in the United States and European markets. The food processing industry of the United States is one of the most recognized internationally for its sizeable exports in the international market. Most of the leading food processing firms in the United States have been globalized owing to the business friendly regulatory regimes and maturity of its domestic markets. About 40 percent of the top fifty most recognized food processing firms are owned by citizens of the United States either as subsidiaries of franchises.
The main exports of the food industry of the United States are meet products, fruits and vegetables. The continually strengthening dollar has been negatively affecting the size of exports of these products as a result of the high cost of purchasing these products using the local currencies. The United States also imports food products from other countries mainly their neighboring Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Mexico and Thailand. The country mainly exports coffee from South America and especially from Brazil which is often considered among the highest producers of this product in a list that includes many East African countries such as Kenya.
Importance of Food in Our Lives
We have all felt hunger pangs biting at one point or another. Most of us probably do not think beyond the point of swallowing the food and filling our bellies to our satisfaction. The truth is that the importance of food cannot be overemphasized. There are several classifications of food based on the functions that they serve in the human body. The main classes include carbohydrates, fats, proteins and vitamins.
Carbohydrates are foods which are considered to primarily provide energy to the body. Some of the popular sources of carbohydrates include potatoes, corn, cassava, sweet potatoes among many others. The carbohydrates are first digested in the mouth after mastication by the process of various enzymes such as the salivary amylase. Further digestion of the carbohydrates with subsequent absorption occurs in the various parts of the duodenum. The eventual products of the digestion of carbohydrates are monosaccharides such as glucose and disaccharides such as maltose. These sugars are then taken through various metabolic processes to eventually produce ATP which is the energy currency of the body. ATP is used to drive forward the various processes towards the normal physiology of the body such as transmission of impulses and eventual firing of neurons. It is because of this ATP that we are able to walk, talk with our friends and even look at objects.
The fats are sometimes used to produce energy after undergoing complex metabolic processes. In addition, fats are important for insulating the body against excess loss of heat from the body. Most body organs such as the heart are covered by thick layers of fat which serves to protect them from shock and effects of trauma.
Proteins are considered as the body building foods. True to this, body builders are able to bulk their muscles by relying on the repair and hypertrophy of their muscles as a result of the effects of proteins. Proteins also have many other functions such as protection, transport processes, biological communications among other functions.
Vitamins are protective foods. Some such as vitamin A and E have anti-oxidant properties and significantly reduce the rate of development of cancerous cells. Vitamin A plays a significant role in vision while vitamin D keeps the bones and teeth strong and healthy.
Does the food have an effect on our health?
Malnutritional diseases are conditions which result from eating inadequate or more than adequate nutrients in the body. Some of the popular malnutrition conditions include marasmus, kwashiorkor and obesity. These diseases and their severity is a significant proof that in deed food affects our health.
Marasmus is a condition that results from inadequacy of generally all types of food. This condition causes severe and visible wasting characterized with loss of cutaneous fats and muscles. It results from famine disasters mainly prone among Sub Saharan countries especially among communities which do not practice farming. Anorexic patients may also present with poor health as a result of the undying urge to consume little or no food at all.
Kwashiorkor is associated with inadequate consumption of food rich in proteins. This causes a reduction in the levels of amino acids in the body. The presenting health complaints include wasting, hepatomegaly, skin depigmentation and swelling of the body especially the extremities and the belly. This condition is especially common among young children in Sub Saharan Africa and some Asian countries such as India.
Other effects of food on human health include weakening of bones and poor vision. Weakening of bones and teeth is associated with low serum levels of vitamin D and minerals such as calcium. On the other hand, poor vision is associated with inadequate consumption of sources of Vitamin A such as carrots and other vegetables.
Generally, malnutrition increases the risks and susceptibility to infections. It is a major risk factor in active tuberculosis. It contributes negatively towards the global efforts being made to drastically reduce the rates of mother to child HIV transmissions by increasing the viral replication and hence the viral load.
The Food in Campuses
In most institutions of higher learning in the United States as well as in many other parts, food is one of the most important parts of their culture. In fact, in most of these institutions, food is considered an extension of the values and priorities of the universities. There is also an ever increasing diversity of the food services that are available in the on-campus menu. In the old days, there were limited options of food that were available to the students. This could have been as a result of the low number of foreign students back in the days. This trend has since changed because of the increasing influx of foreign students in these campuses. The students carry with them the necessary skills to prepare their local delicacies into these campuses hence bring more diversities.
Fast foods, in as much as there is food diversity in these campuses, are the most consumed of all the food types that are available on campus. This can probably be explained by the ease with which they are prepared and packaged as well as the component. In addition, most of them are sugary and tasty which serve as a big attraction to most of the students. They are especially popular among the female students who live on-campus as they take away their responsibility of having to prepare a meal every-day in the evenings.
Increasing consumption of first foods should be a worrying trend. This is because of the association of most of these delicacies with lifestyle diseases such as obesity and early onset diabetes. These foods have a high content of calories and cholesterol which also contribute to other lifestyle diseases such as hypertension.
My opinion is that in as much as these fast foods are sweet and tasty, awareness is necessary among the students to avoid their overconsumption to mitigate against some of these lifestyle diseases. In any case, it is also interesting to have a taste of other international delicacies available in the on-campus food services.
Healthy food accessibility in campuses in in United States
A balanced diet forms part of the most integral components of a healthy lifestyle. The daily nutritional requirements of the body must be met for an individual to function maximally both physiologically and physically. This can be achieved if a well-established routine of taking meals that proportionately contain fats, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and other essential mineral components is maintained. Among this includes fruits and vegetables which provide the necessary vitamins and fiber.
Majority of campuses in the United States have well established diet programs in their student dining halls. Most of the universities are devoted in providing meals that contain the basic healthy diet requirements such as fresh fruits and vegetables, bare protein and grains; readily accessible from the dining halls. Coupled with this are the healthy nutrition online plans and information about the foods offered by the campuses and this has been availed in the websites of most of these universities. Physical fineness training, fitness assessment and awareness about keeping a healthy weight is also provided by most of the universities as part of extra curricula activities.
In some institutions like the Columbia University, there are menu courses that are specifically made for certain groups of students such as the vegans, those with food allergies and kosher. Foods that lack genetically engineered molecules are also provided example being GMO-free milk.
Against this backdrop, students in campuses, however, still find it difficult to keep up with the government recommendations of 4.5 to 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables. This can be attributed to the cost of fresh food as compared to packed processed foods. Moreover, lifestyle and behavioral change campaigns form part of the first line strategies which target educating students about healthy dieting.
Should we care more about our health by choosing what to eat and what not?
Our health depends heavily on the foods we eat. This therefore means that extreme care should be taken in regard to what forms our routine diet. The importance of taking this precaution can be argued out by the fact that a great deal of diseases arise from modifiable risk factors that are linked to diet.
What we choose to eat determines our weight, our physical activity and our physiological function. Diets rich in fat and oils and processed food have been linked with obesity which is a risk factor to atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Cardiovascular ailments being the leading cause of death in the United States can thus be prevented by dietary measures.
Various foods have a strong association with other disease morbidities such as cancer. Smoked fish and sea foods which are a major nutritive components among the Japanese has been related with cancer of the colon. Use of alcohol is a major contributor to pancreatic and liver cancer, heart disease, and gout. Gluten rich foods such as wheat products, barley and oats are known to cause gluten sensitivity to some individuals thus leading to gluten induced enteropathy.
Our physiological body function depends on the nutritional constituents of our diet. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins which are core requirements in the maintenance of homeostasis in cells and intracellular milieu. Lack of dietary intake of these foods leads to vitamin deficiencies and thus cellular dysfunction which culminates into disease.
Lifestyle diseases comprise an array of disorders that result from poor diet and inappropriate feeding behavior. Diabetes one of the major health challenge of the times can be attributed to certain diets in the setting of a sedentary living. Sugar rich foods, fatty diets, alcoholism and physical unfitness constitutively predispose an individual to the development of diabetes and hypertension.
In the modern society individual measures should that be taken to achieve healthy living by adequate nutrition and taking a balanced meal. This can be achieved by making informed decisions on what to eat and what should be avoided.