Understanding your food, part three


When the eating habits of a family is less than healthy, the negative consequences can be long lasting.

By Gregory Whyte

Cultural Center of Charlotte County

In part three of my continuing journey into the realm of food, nutrition and healthy eating, I will discuss the many factors that tend to motivate us as we attempt to choose the food we eat. Through this you will get some idea as to why selecting and using food can be confusing.


What we eat, when we eat and how we eat are influenced, not by our natural tendencies, but by external forces. Whether as a society, community, family or individual, the reasons for eating what we eat are many. These factors can exert an influence on us that can be controlling.

Because they are so many and so varied, I have selected what I believe to be the most influential factors that motivate us as we choose the food we eat. These factors are: environment, suitability, lifestyle, health state, aspirations (fitness, beauty, etc.), cultural norms (religious beliefs, etc.), and family influences.

The environment plays an important role with regards to food choice. The earliest humans would quickly perish without an understanding of the nature and scope of the environment of which they are a part. They quickly learned to identify, from the vast array of plants, animals and their products, items that are beneficial and safe to consume. This need to understand ones environment in order to secure those items that are capable of being used as food is vital. It helps to ensure survival, the maintenance of good health and general well being.

Suitability is another important factor essential to food choice. Although most things organic can be used as food, not all organic matter is suitable for consumption by all organisms. Whether or not a food item is safe to consume and offers the nutritional benefits desired, should be considered when choosing food.

A problem existing today has to do with the dangerous divide between lifestyle and nutritional requirements. In the “early days” when most things were done manually and activity level was high, it was less difficult to maintain favorable degrees of health and ensure adequate levels of fitness. With dependence of the public on computers, smartphones and similar items that suppress ones dynamic capabilities, it has become important that the food chosen by today’s generation caters to their unique lifestyle.

Another important factor that should be at the heart of ones effort to choose his/her food is the existing state of health of that person. Many of our diseases demand that consideration be given to what we eat. This consideration has led to the creation of numerous lists of food items. These lists display foods that help prevent certain illnesses and/or those that facilitate their cure. For instance, we know that sodium and sugar should be controlled by those with high blood pressure and diabetes.

A person’s aspiration, such as the need to lose weight, get in shape or run a marathon can be a factor at the core of his/her decision to eat certain foods or to eat a certain way. Aspects of culture, such as religious beliefs, can also influence what a person eats or refuses to eat.

The traditional customs and beliefs held by a family can have a strong influence on the food items that are selected and consumed by its members. When the eating habits of a family is less than healthy, the negative consequences can be long lasting.

For answers to your fitness and health questions, contact the Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s Fitness Center by calling 941-625-4175, ext. 263 or visit the Fitness Center at: 2280 Aaron St., Port Charlotte.


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