Many cultures have a recognizable cuisine, a specific set of cooking traditions using various spices or a combination of flavors unique to that culture, which evolves over time. Other differences include preferences (hot or cold, spicy, etc.) and practices, the study of which is known as gastronomy. Many cultures have diversified their foods by means of preparation, cooking methods, and manufacturing. This also includes a complex food trade which helps the cultures to economically survive by way of food, not just by consumption.
Human diet was estimated to cause perhaps around 35% of cancers in a human epidemiological analysis by Richard Doll and Richard Peto in 1981. These cancer may be caused by carcinogens that are present in food naturally or as contaminants. Food contaminated with fungal growth may contain mycotoxins such as aflatoxins which may be found in contaminated corn and peanuts. Other carcinogens identified in food include heterocyclic amines generated in meat when cooked at high temperature, polyaromatic hydrocarbons in charred meat and smoked fish, and nitrosamines generated from nitrites used as food preservatives in cured meat such as bacon.
Fruits are the ripened ovaries of plants, including the seeds within. Many plants and animals have coevolved such that the fruits of the former are an attractive food source to the latter, because animals that eat the fruits may excrete the seeds some distance away. Fruits, therefore, make up a significant part of the diets of most cultures. Some botanical fruits, such as tomatoes, pumpkins, and eggplants, are eaten as vegetables. (For more information, see list of fruits.)
Ultimate Indo-European origin of the word is the subject of continued debate. Some scholars have noted the similarities between the words for wine in Indo-European languages (e.g. Armenian gini, Latin vinum, Ancient Greek οἶνος, Russian вино [vʲɪˈno]), Kartvelian (e.g. Georgian ღვინო [ɣvinɔ]), and Semitic (*wayn; Hebrew יין [jaiin]), pointing to the possibility of a common origin of the word denoting "wine" in these language families. The Georgian word goes back to Proto-Kartvelian *ɣwino-, which is either a borrowing from Proto-Indo-European or the lexeme was specifically borrowed from Proto-Armenian *ɣʷeinyo-, whence Armenian gini. An alternate hypothesis by Fähnrich supposes *ɣwino- a native Kartvelian word derived from the verbal root *ɣun- ('to bend'). See *ɣwino- for more. All these theories place the origin of the word in the same geographical location, Trans-Caucasia, that has been established based on archeological and biomolecular studies as the origin of viticulture.
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.
Medical foods are foods that are specially formulated and intended for the dietary management of a disease that has distinctive nutritional needs that cannot be met by normal diet alone. In the United States they were defined in the Food and Drug Administration's 1988 Orphan Drug Act Amendments and are subject to the general food and safety labeling requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. In Europe the European Food Safety Authority established definitions for "foods for special medical purposes" (FSMPs) in 2015.
Most food has its origin in plants. Some food is obtained directly from plants; but even animals that are used as food sources are raised by feeding them food derived from plants. Cereal grain is a staple food that provides more food energy worldwide than any other type of crop. Corn (maize), wheat, and rice – in all of their varieties – account for 87% of all grain production worldwide. Most of the grain that is produced worldwide is fed to livestock.