Why do we eat?
Do you really think about what or even why you eat food? Though we are conscious of what goes into our mouths, we sometimes do not consider the meaning or purpose behind that action.
To understand nutrition and nourishment, we must first understand why we hope to achieve it and why we must eat a certain way. What will happen if we do not eat the proper foods or take in the proper nutrients? What will happen if we continuously eat junk foods or do not drink enough water throughout the day?
According to Dr Jermaine Nicholas, board certified doctor of naturopathy and director at Nutriverse Natural Wellness Centre, food can be a valuable asset in how we process our emotions and harness the power of energy for our physical well-being.
“Consuming healthy foods can boost how you feel on the inside and create a positive mood on the outside. Good foods can enhance your body performance at its peak, providing the energy you need at work, taking care of your family, exercising and doing the activities you enjoy,” Dr Nicholas said.
“But if you choose the wrong foods they can decrease your energy level, which will produce poor performance results at work and at home, and you will have no energy to do all the things you love to do,” he added.
The foods we eat provide us with a range of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, water, fat, carbohydrates, fibre, and protein. These nutrients are put to different uses as building materials to construct the tissues and organs from which our bodies are made; as the components of the molecular machinery that keeps our cells running as they should.
You may not notice it, but there are several factors of influence that come into play when you are making decisions every day. Think about the last time you ate. Why did you eat it? Were you extra hungry? Where was the food from?
Understanding the different factors, personal and environmental, that influence our food choices will help you understand why we choose to eat certain foods. Some factors that influence food choice include hunger as our physiological needs form the base of our food choices. As humans, we need energy and nutrients to survive and will respond to the feelings of hunger and satiety.
Taste is also a major influence on food behaviour. Taste is the sum of all sensory stimulation that is produced by eating the food, including taste, smell, appearance, and texture of food.
Dr Nicholas, who was presenting at the ‘B-Healthy 2023 Webinar Series’ hosted by Dr Orlando Thomas, physician and surgeon, and functional medicine specialist, said food security is also the state of having consistent access to sufficient and adequate food.
“Those who are food insecure due to financial limitations may skip meals or go entire days without eating. This is why the cost and accessibility of food is a major determinant when it comes to our food choices,” Dr Nicholas said.
The cost of food can contribute to poor health outcomes by choosing the cheapest possible option available to them rather than the more nutrient-dense option.
“Our traditions are one of the strongest influences on our eating habits, including which foods we eat, how we prepare them, and which foods we do not eat. For example, if you grew up in a household where you consumed less meat, this could influence you to consume less meat later on in life. The influence our family and culture play when it comes to food is very prominent in our day-to-day lives,” Dr Nicholas said.
Our attitudes and habits regarding food choices also develop through the interaction with others, especially our family.
Psychological factors such as stress also can create an influence on food intake. However, this also depends on the individual, the stressor, and the circumstances. In general, some people tend to eat more and some eat less than normal when experiencing stress.
“During high-stress times like examinations, stress eating is very common. When we are feeling emotions such as boredom, we may also turn to food, and also when we are in high spirits, it can also stimulate us to eat more,” Dr Nicholas said.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that food is not a reward or a punishment, but more so something that fuels us.