What do we mean by nutrition and quality?

Today consumers are increasingly concerned about what they eat, what food to buy, and how to make healthier, safer and more sustainable food choices. We want our food to be nutritious and safe. But what does it mean? Being surrounded by, often, conflicting information leaves us confused as to what’s good for us. What is nutrition and food quality? How do we define them?

Nutrition

Nutrition is the science of food and how food interacts with our bodies. Food provides energy and nutrients helping the body grow, maintain and repair itself. Nutrients are also essential for keeping good health. We need more than 40 different nutrients, and no single food can supply them. Nutrients can be divided into macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins), which provide energy, and micronutrients (minerals and vitamins). Water and macronutrients are recommended to be consumed in larger amounts in comparison to micronutrients. For example, the recommended intake of carbohydrates is approximately 260 grams per day for an adult. However, only a few milligrams or micrograms per day are needed for vitamins and minerals. A good balanced diet is essential and consists of a combination of both macro- and micronutrients. It seems easy, but having a good balanced diet is harder than it looks. The key is having a variety - consuming a mixture of a wide range of different foods. It also helps to be mindful and eat in moderation foods such as biscuits, chocolate bars, burgers, pizzas and similar.

Food quality

Food quality can be described as the characteristics of food that are crucial to satisfy the needs and expectations of the consumer. Naturally, what’s important for one person, may not be as important to others. The fundamental characteristics of food, often important to most consumers, include the safety of food, its nutritional value, sensory aspects such as the look, texture and flavour and foods’ authenticity. However, other elements that play a role in consumers’ satisfaction are the way the food is produced and packaged, whether it’s produced ethically and without causing harm to the environment.

Some food quality information can be found on the packaging. Ingredient, nutrition and reference intake labels provide information about which ingredients were used to prepare a food product, its nutrients content and daily requirements for them. Expiry date is another indicator of food quality that describes the shelf-life. Shelf-life is the length of time a food can be kept under stated storage conditions while maintaining its optimum safety and quality. It’s normally indicated on a food label by either a best-before date or a use-by-date.

Furthermore, in the European Union, there are different quality logos that describe the origin, authenticity and quality of food products. By knowing how to compare products and their ingredients’ list or the nutrient content, you can make informed decisions about which food is a better option for you.

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References

  • World Health Organisation (WHO) (2017). Nutrients (Accessed: 2 July 2018).
  • Peri. C. (2006) ‘The universe of food quality’, Food quality and preference, 17(1-2), pp. 3-8. doi: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2005.03.002.
  • The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) (1998) What do we mean by nutrition? (Part 2). (Accessed: 25 July 2018).

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Trust in Our Food: Understanding Food Supply Systems

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