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  • Staple food

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    Various types of potatoesUnprocessed seeds of spelt, a historically important staple food A staple food, food staple, or simply a staple, is a food that is eaten routinely and in such quantities that it constitutes a dominant portion of a standard diet for a given people, supplying a large fraction of energy needs and generally forming a significant proportion of the intake of other nutrients as well. A staple food of a specific society may be eaten as often as every day or every meal, and most people live on a diet based on just a small number of food staples. Specific staples vary from place to place, but typically are inexpensive or readily available foods that supply one or more of the macronutrients needed for survival and health: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Typical examples include tubers and roots, grains, legumes, and seeds. Early agricultural civilizations valued the foods that they established as staples because, in addition to providing necessary nutrition, they generally are suitable for storage over long periods of time without decay.

  • Mineral (nutrient)

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    In the context of nutrition, a mineral is a chemical element required as an essential nutrient by organisms to perform functions necessary for life. Minerals originate in the earth and cannot be made by living organisms. Plants get minerals from soil. Most of the minerals in a human diet come from eating plants and animals or from drinking water. As a group, minerals are one of the four groups of essential nutrients, the others of which are vitamins, essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids. The five major minerals in the human body are calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. All of the remaining elements in a human body are called "trace elements". The trace elements that have a specific biochemical function in the human body are sulfur, iron, chlorine, cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, iodine and selenium. Most chemical elements that are ingested by organisms are in the form of simple compounds. Plants absorb dissolved elements in soils, which are subsequently ingested by the herbivores and omnivores that eat them, and the elements move up the food chain. Larger organisms may also consume soil (geophagia) or use mineral resources, such as salt licks, to obtain limited minerals unavailable through other dietary sources. Bacteria and fungi play an essential role in the weathering of primary elements that results in the release of nutrients for their own nutrition and for the nutrition of other species in the ecological food chain. One element, cobalt, is available for use by animals only after having been processed into complex molecules (e.g., vitamin B12) by bacteria. Minerals are used by animals and microorganisms for the process of mineralizing structures, called "biomineralization", used to construct bones, seashells, eggshells, exoskeletons and mollusc shells.

  • Iron deficiency

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    Iron deficiency, or sideropaenia, is the state in which a body has not enough (or not qualitatively enough) iron to supply its eventual needs. Iron is present in all cells in the human body and has several vital functions, such as carrying oxygen to the tissues from the lungs as a key component of the hemoglobin protein, acting as a transport medium for electrons within the cells in the form of cytochromes, and facilitating oxygen enzyme reactions in various tissues. Too little iron can interfere with these vital functions and lead to morbidity and death. Total body iron averages approximately 3.8 g in men and 2.3 g in women. In blood plasma, iron is carried tightly bound to the protein transferrin. There are several mechanisms that control human iron metabolism and safeguard against iron deficiency. The main regulatory mechanism is situated in the gastrointestinal tract. When loss of iron is not sufficiently compensated by adequate intake of iron from the diet, a state of iron deficiency develops over time. When this state is uncorrected, it leads to iron deficiency anemia. Before anemia occurs, the medical condition of iron deficiency without anemia is called latent iron deficiency (LID) or Iron-deficient erythropoiesis (IDE). Untreated iron deficiency can lead to iron deficiency anemia, a common type of anemia. Anemia is a condition characterized by inadequate red blood cells (erythrocytes) or hemoglobin. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body lacks sufficient amounts of iron, resulting in reduced production of the protein hemoglobin. Hemoglobin binds to oxygen, thus enabling red blood cells to supply oxygenated blood throughout the body. Children, pre-menopausal women (women of child-bearing age) and people with poor diet are most susceptible to the disease. Most cases of iron deficiency anemia are mild, but if not treated can cause problems like fast or irregular heartbeat, complications during pregnancy, and delayed growth in infants and children.

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