Many cultures hold some food preferences and some food taboos. Dietary choices can also define cultures and play a role in religion. For example, only kosher foods are permitted by Judaism, halal foods by Islam, and in Hinduism beef is restricted. In addition, the dietary choices of different countries or regions have different characteristics. This is highly related to a culture's cuisine.
In the 20th century, supermarkets were born. Supermarkets brought with them a self service approach to shopping using shopping carts, and were able to offer quality food at lower cost through economies of scale and reduced staffing costs. In the latter part of the 20th century, this has been further revolutionized by the development of vast warehouse-sized, out-of-town supermarkets, selling a wide range of food from around the world.
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.
Several studies published since 1990 indicate that cooking meat at high temperature creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are thought to increase cancer risk in humans. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that human subjects who ate beef rare or medium-rare had less than one third the risk of stomach cancer than those who ate beef medium-well or well-done. While avoiding meat or eating meat raw may be the only ways to avoid HCAs in meat fully, the National Cancer Institute states that cooking meat below 212 °F (100 °C) creates "negligible amounts" of HCAs. Also, microwaving meat before cooking may reduce HCAs by 90% by reducing the time needed for the meat to be cooked at high heat. Nitrosamines are found in some food, and may be produced by some cooking processes from proteins or from nitrites used as food preservatives; cured meat such as bacon has been found to be carcinogenic, with links to colon cancer. Ascorbate, which is added to cured meat, however, reduces nitrosamine formation.
Cooking meals for two doesn’t mean you have to stick with leftovers (or meat-based dishes). These easy vegetarian meals — ranging from better-than-takeout Pepper-Only Pizza to Spanish Omelets — will keep you and your partner satisfied. Whether you’re gearing up for an impressive at-home date night, or just want to avoid grabbing fast food, these plant-based meals for two are equally healthy and delicious.
For some foods alternative ingredients can be used. Common oils and fats become rancid relatively quickly if not refrigerated; replacing them with hydrogenated oils delays the onset of rancidity, increasing shelf life. This is a common approach in industrial food production, but recent concerns about health hazards associated with trans fats have led to their strict control in several jurisdictions. Even where trans fats are not prohibited, in many places there are new labeling laws (or rules), which require information to be printed on packages, or to be published elsewhere, about the amount of trans fat contained in certain products.
Freeze-drying requires the use of heavy machinery and is not something that most campers are able to do on their own. Freeze-dried ingredients are often considered superior to dehydrated ingredients however, because they rehydrate at camp faster and retain more flavor than their dehydrated counterparts. Freeze-dried ingredients take so little time to rehydrate that they can often be eaten without cooking them first and have a texture similar to a crunchy chip.
Types of fat include vegetable oils, animal products such as butter and lard, as well as fats from grains, including maize and flax oils. Fats are used in a number of ways in cooking and baking. To prepare stir fries, grilled cheese or pancakes, the pan or griddle is often coated with fat or oil. Fats are also used as an ingredient in baked goods such as cookies, cakes and pies. Fats can reach temperatures higher than the boiling point of water, and are often used to conduct high heat to other ingredients, such as in frying, deep frying or sautéing. Fats are used to add flavor to food (e.g., butter or bacon fat), prevent food from sticking to pans and create a desirable texture.
Some wines are packaged in thick plastic bags within corrugated fiberboard boxes, and are called "box wines", or "cask wine". Tucked inside the package is a tap affixed to the bag in box, or bladder, that is later extended by the consumer for serving the contents. Box wine can stay acceptably fresh for up to a month after opening because the bladder collapses as wine is dispensed, limiting contact with air and, thus, slowing the rate of oxidation. In contrast, bottled wine oxidizes more rapidly after opening because of the increasing ratio of air to wine as the contents are dispensed; it can degrade considerably in a few days. Cans are one of the fastest-growing forms of alternative wine packaging on the market.
Wines from other fruits, such as apples and berries, are usually named after the fruit from which they are produced combined with the word "wine" (for example, apple wine and elderberry wine) and are generically called fruit wine or country wine (not to be confused with the French term vin de pays). Other than the grape varieties traditionally used for wine-making, most fruits naturally lack either sufficient fermentable sugars, relatively low acidity, yeast nutrients needed to promote or maintain fermentation, or a combination of these three characteristics. This is probably one of the main reasons why wine derived from grapes has historically been more prevalent by far than other types, and why specific types of fruit wine have generally been confined to regions in which the fruits were native or introduced for other reasons.
At the start of the 21st century, a two-tier structure has arisen, with a few international food processing giants controlling a wide range of well-known food brands. There also exists a wide array of small local or national food processing companies. Advanced technologies have also come to change food manufacture. Computer-based control systems, sophisticated processing and packaging methods, and logistics and distribution advances can enhance product quality, improve food safety, and reduce costs.
Unlike food processors, food retailing is a two-tier market in which a small number of very large companies control a large proportion of supermarkets. The supermarket giants wield great purchasing power over farmers and processors, and strong influence over consumers. Nevertheless, less than 10% of consumer spending on food goes to farmers, with larger percentages going to advertising, transportation, and intermediate corporations.
Some foods not from animal or plant sources include various edible fungi, especially mushrooms. Fungi and ambient bacteria are used in the preparation of fermented and pickled foods like leavened bread, alcoholic drinks, cheese, pickles, kombucha, and yogurt. Another example is blue-green algae such as Spirulina. Inorganic substances such as salt, baking soda and cream of tartar are used to preserve or chemically alter an ingredient.