Saltiness is the taste of alkali metal ions such as sodium and potassium. It is found in almost every food in low to moderate proportions to enhance flavor, although to eat pure salt is regarded as highly unpleasant. There are many different types of salt, with each having a different degree of saltiness, including sea salt, fleur de sel, kosher salt, mined salt, and grey salt. Other than enhancing flavor, its significance is that the body needs and maintains a delicate electrolyte balance, which is the kidney's function. Salt may be iodized, meaning iodine has been added to it, a necessary nutrient that promotes thyroid function. Some canned foods, notably soups or packaged broths, tend to be high in salt as a means of preserving the food longer. Historically salt has long been used as a meat preservative as salt promotes water excretion. Similarly, dried foods also promote food safety.
Communication between the Old World and the New World in the Columbian Exchange influenced the history of cooking. The movement of foods across the Atlantic, from the New World, such as potatoes, tomatoes, maize, beans, bell pepper, chili pepper, vanilla, pumpkin, cassava, avocado, peanut, pecan, cashew, pineapple, blueberry, sunflower, chocolate, gourds, and squash, had a profound effect on Old World cooking. The movement of foods across the Atlantic, from the Old World, such as cattle, sheep, pigs, wheat, oats, barley, rice, apples, pears, peas, chickpeas, green beans, mustard, and carrots, similarly changed New World cooking.
Baking, grilling or broiling food, especially starchy foods, until a toasted crust is formed generates significant concentrations of acrylamide, a known carcinogen from animal studies; its potential to cause cancer in humans at normal exposures is uncertain. Public health authorities recommend reducing the risk by avoiding overly browning starchy foods or meats when frying, baking, toasting or roasting them.
Along with changes in food, starting early in the 20th century, governments have issued nutrition guidelines, leading to the food pyramid (introduced in Sweden in 1974). The 1916 "Food For Young Children" became the first USDA guide to give specific dietary guidelines. Updated in the 1920s, these guides gave shopping suggestions for different-sized families along with a Depression Era revision which included four cost levels. In 1943, the USDA created the "Basic Seven" chart to make sure that people got the recommended nutrients. It included the first-ever Recommended Daily Allowances from the National Academy of Sciences. In 1956, the "Essentials of an Adequate Diet" brought recommendations which cut the number of groups that American school children would learn about down to four. In 1979, a guide called "Food" addressed the link between too much of certain foods and chronic diseases, but added "fats, oils, and sweets" to the four basic food groups.
Edible animal material, including muscle, offal, milk, eggs and egg whites, contains substantial amounts of protein. Almost all vegetable matter (in particular legumes and seeds) also includes proteins, although generally in smaller amounts. Mushrooms have high protein content. Any of these may be sources of essential amino acids. When proteins are heated they become denatured (unfolded) and change texture. In many cases, this causes the structure of the material to become softer or more friable – meat becomes cooked and is more friable and less flexible. In some cases, proteins can form more rigid structures, such as the coagulation of albumen in egg whites. The formation of a relatively rigid but flexible matrix from egg white provides an important component in baking cakes, and also underpins many desserts based on meringue.
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Many people choose to forgo food from animal sources to varying degrees (e.g. flexitarianism, pescetarianism, vegetarianism, veganism) for health reasons, issues surrounding morality, or to reduce their personal impact on the environment, although some of the public assumptions about which diets have lower impacts are known to be incorrect. Raw foodism is another contemporary trend. These diets may require multivitamin supplements to meet ordinary nutritional needs.
^ Griswold, Max G.; Fullman, Nancy; Hawley, Caitlin; Arian, Nicholas; Zimsen, Stephanie R M.; Tymeson, Hayley D.; Venkateswaran, Vidhya; Tapp, Austin Douglas; Forouzanfar, Mohammad H.; Salama, Joseph S.; Abate, Kalkidan Hassen; Abate, Degu; Abay, Solomon M.; Abbafati, Cristiana; Abdulkader, Rizwan Suliankatchi; Abebe, Zegeye; Aboyans, Victor; Abrar, Mohammed Mehdi; Acharya, Pawan; Adetokunboh, Olatunji O.; Adhikari, Tara Ballav; Adsuar, Jose C.; Afarideh, Mohsen; Agardh, Emilie Elisabet; Agarwal, Gina; Aghayan, Sargis Aghasi; Agrawal, Sutapa; Ahmed, Muktar Beshir; Akibu, Mohammed; et al. (August 2018). "Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016". Lancet. 392 (10152): 1015–1035. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310-2. PMC 6148333. PMID 30146330.
Some traditional foods have geographical indications and traditional specialities in the European Union designations per European Union schemes of geographical indications and traditional specialties: Protected designation of origin (PDO), Protected geographical indication (PGI) and Traditional specialities guaranteed (TSG). These standards serve to promote and protect names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs.
The earliest archaeological and archaeobotanical evidence for grape wine and viniculture, dating to 6000–5800 BC was found on the territory of modern Georgia. Both archaeological and genetic evidence suggest that the earliest production of wine elsewhere was relatively later, likely having taken place in the Southern Caucasus (which encompasses Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan), or the West Asian region between Eastern Turkey, and northern Iran.
^ Fraga, Helder; Malheiro, Aureliano C.; Moutinho-Pereira, José; Cardoso, Rita M.; Soares, Pedro M. M.; Cancela, Javier J.; Pinto, Joaquim G.; Santos, João A.; et al. (24 September 2014). "Integrated Analysis of Climate, Soil, Topography and Vegetative Growth in Iberian Viticultural Regions". PLoS ONE. 9 (9): e108078. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0108078. PMC 4176712. PMID 25251495.
Wine is a popular and important drink that accompanies and enhances a wide range of cuisines, from the simple and traditional stews to the most sophisticated and complex haute cuisines. Wine is often served with dinner. Sweet dessert wines may be served with the dessert course. In fine restaurants in Western countries, wine typically accompanies dinner. At a restaurant, patrons are helped to make good food-wine pairings by the restaurant's sommelier or wine waiter. Individuals dining at home may use wine guides to help make food–wine pairings. Wine is also drunk without the accompaniment of a meal in wine bars or with a selection of cheeses (at a wine and cheese party).
In the western world, finger foods are often either appetizers (hors d'œuvres) or entree/main course items. Examples of these are miniature meat pies, sausage rolls, sausages on sticks, cheese and olives on sticks, chicken drumsticks or wings, spring rolls, miniature quiches, samosas, sandwiches, Merenda or other such based foods, such as pitas or items in buns, bhajjis, potato wedges, vol au vents, several other such small items and risotto balls (arancini). Other well-known foods that are generally eaten with the hands include hamburgers, pizza, Chips, hot dogs, fruit and bread.
Food safety and food security are monitored by agencies like the International Association for Food Protection, World Resources Institute, World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, and International Food Information Council. They address issues such as sustainability, biological diversity, climate change, nutritional economics, population growth, water supply, and access to food.