Food Culture – Term Paper

Socio-cultural influences that affect the consumption of food

Food refers to any substance that is nutritious and that is eaten or drunk by people or animals in order to sustain life, encourage growth and provide energy required for time to time activities. The foods that are consumed are classified into various categories for instance, the proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates and fats (“5 Food Groups, 2012”) Several factors have been proven to affect the rates and levels of food consumptions in different societies. The factors are classified as either, ecological, social, cultural, demographic and socio cultural. This research study analyses the socio-cultural factors that play a key role in determining the extent to which the members of that society consume the said food. The key socio-cultural factors analysed in this study are urbanization, health benefits of the food, age, gender among other factors. One key factor that has been found to affect the consumption pattern for food in various societies is urbanisation. This refers to the development of urban settings from areas that were initially rural. This process usually involves drastic changes by members involved in moving from consistent consumption of traditional foods to adopting the consumption of western foods (Ferraro, Briody, 2013 p34). The western culture is also adopted as a result of urbanisation that usually comes along with multiple changes in the trends of food consumptions among the various members of the affected society. The early socialisations in various societies have had a significant impact on the foods that were adopted. Most societies have maintained the consumption of the foods that were previously adopted during these early socialisation periods despite the urbanisation that has been witnessed in most regions in the world.

Food and culture

The significance of food especially when it comes to satisfying the basic needs of an individual cannot be simply overlooked. The body needs foods of all classes to ensure that it remains healthy and strong enough to perform the various activities necessary for the survival of an individual. However, excessive consumption of food may in most cases lead to undesirable health conditions on the individual’s body. These complications could include cases such obesity where an individual consumes excessive amounts of fat leading to excessive increase in the weight of the individual. Diabetes mellitus type 2 is another type of health complication that arises from excessive consumption of sugary foods. This condition however is not exclusive to the type of food that the affected individual consumes. The condition is in some cases inherited from one generation to the next (Lee et al., 2011, p46). Hypertension is another condition that results from excessive consumption of fatty foods accompanied with limited exercise for the body.

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There are several factors that are associated with food intake in various societies. The dietary intake of any population is usually strongly affected by the food preferences, economic activities, dietary changes and the eating habits of the population in question. The dietary changes as earlier discussed usually result from urbanisation. This study on the socio-cultural factors that influence the food intake in any society is very crucial in ensuring that a clear insight into understanding the measures that can be put in place to ensure that these food-related disorders such as obesity, hypertension and high blood pressure are considerably reduced. 

Trends in food consumption

The availability of food is another factor that affects the trends in food consumption for most societies. It is logical that the members of any society will only be in a position to access and consume the food types that are available in the region. This is despite the fact that some of the foodstuffs may not be of a rich nutritional value. The affordability of that food stuff is also a factor to be considered since most individuals across various societies usually do their best to live within their means. 

The type of food consumed in any society is usually subject to approval by the relevant ethnic and societal affiliation. There are foods certain types of foods that are not acceptable according to different societies and cultures. An example is in the Muslim society where pig consumption is a taboo. Those found consuming pigs according to the laws of this society are exposed to a painful process of punishment. The societal belief is therefore a significant predictor of whether or not the members of a given society consume a given type of food or not. This is as a result a significant predictor of the food patterns in most societies.

Food consumption factors

The general perception on food and the importance of food differs from one society to the next. Age is a significant that determines the perception that individuals in any society have towards food. The older people tend to be more conservative and are not flexible to adopting new kinds of food even when they are subjected to an environmental change. They usually feel that the indigenous foods have inbuilt value that is usually incomparable to any kind of food that they find new in the market. Older people tend not to prefer processed meals and in most cases opt for natural foods. This is not usually the case with younger people since they usually tend to like fast foods due to laziness and the modern culture of getting things done as fast as possible. Older women tend to believe that food is meant to be used to satisfy the family satisfaction needs. However, younger individuals in some cases take food basically for entertainment and nothing else. This is sufficient evidence to prove that the perception that individuals have towards food is significantly affected by the age of the individuals in that society.

Gender is another socio-cultural factor that influences the feeding patterns of individuals in different societies.  Women usually see themselves as the key providers of food in the society. In most societies, it is usually the role of the woman to ensure that food is cooked and served on time. This is despite the fact that in some cases, the food that is needed by the family may be considerably scarce (“Social and economic factors determining food consumption-NCBI”). The women are usually dedicated to going extra miles to ensure that the family has something to eat at the end of the day. Food is known to be a unifying factor for most families since the family members come together during meals. Most reconcilements are usually done round the food table both in the traditional and modern societies.  Some women for instance believe culturally that they can please their husbands by preparing them their favourite meals. In cases where there are disagreements in the family, the woman usually prepares the favourite meal for the husband so that they talk off the issue. There are some women from different societies who can confirm that their husbands will never eat any meal if meat is not part of that meal. This is a culture that emanates from the societies that believe that pure vegetables can never be a delicacy. The have the perception the either red or white meat must be part of any meal to make it complete. With the aim of always making the family happy, the woman usually take it as an initiative of ensuring that some meat is available for preparation of any meal. Older men are reported to have more of this tendency of addiction to red meat in most societies. This could even in some cases include going to the extent of borrowing.