Types of Food – Do You Know All The Various Food Categories?

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Food has an important role in the culture and cuisine of every country in the world. Different types of food combine to create tasty culinary delights that can bring people together. Food culture often develops by combining local ingredients, different cooking styles, and influences from cuisines from around the world.

This means that most people can eat variety of foods from the many types of cuisines. But what are the building blocks of these dishes?

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In this article, you will learn about the many different types of foods and about the 7 food categories. You will also find out how many of these basic food staples can be transformed into delicious dishes.

Food Categories

All the food we eat can be divided into basic categories.

The seven food categories are:

  1. Vegetables
  2. Fruits
  3. Grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
  4. Meat and poultry
  5. Fish and seafood
  6. Dairy foods
  7. Eggs

Let’s look in more detail at the different types of food in each category.

Types of Food

Food sources from animals, birds, seafood and some plants provide protein that is the building blocks of cells.

Apart from eating animal meat such as beef, poultry, lamb, or pork, we also consume other animal products. For example, milk, eggs, and animal fat play an important role in many people’s diet. Milk is used to create a range of dairy foods such as cheese, yogurt, and butter.

Even honey produced by bees is an important food because it is a source of nutrients and energy.

Of course, plant-based foods are some of the healthiest foods to eat. Grains, beans, peas, nuts, and rice are just some examples of healthy plant food we consume regularly. For example, various grains can be milled to create flour which is then used to make pasta, bread, and pastries.

Other important types of plant foods are fruits and vegetables. The roots, stems, and leaves of some plants are nutritious and are essential to many cuisines in the world. Many plants also produce types of fruit such as berries, apples, apricots, citrus fruits, and bananas.

Let’s look in more detail at the various food categories, starting with healthy vegetables.

Vegetables

vegetables

The food category of vegetables contains important healthy foods

Vegetables are some of the most important foods we need to consume regularly. Depending on which part of the plant is consumed, the food in the vegetables category is divided into a number of subcategories. There are root vegetables, bulb vegetables, stem, leafy, and podded vegetables.

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Some ‘vegetables’ such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant are actually types of fruit botanically, but in the culinary world are eaten as vegetables.

Root vegetables are some of the most commonly consumed plants. In many cultures, potatoes are an important source of carbohydrates. Potatoes can be boiled, fried, sauteed, or mashed. In Northern Europe and America ‘French fries’ are one of the most popular foods. Also, most restaurants serve potatoes as a side dish.

Bulbous vegetables are also important foods in nearly every type of cuisine. Chopped garlic or onions are often fried gently and form the basis of many French, Chinese, Indian, and Mediterranean dishes.

Other important vegetables included in this category are green leafy vegetables. Healthy foods such as fresh lettuce, spinach, and other greens can be mixed with tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, and lemon juice to create a Mediterranean salad. In Asian cuisine, bok choy, Chinese lettuce, broccoli, or kale are often stir-fried with other vegetables and meat.

Bamboo shoots are a type of stem vegetable used extensively in Asian cooking. European and North American cuisine use stem vegetables such as asparagus and celery.

Some types of root vegetables are also used to flavor food. For example, ginger and turmeric are often used in Indian, Chinese, and other ethnic dishes. The spicy roots are chopped, grated, or sliced and fried along with onions and garlic for color and flavor.

It is also important to remember that many plants have stems and leaves that are used as flavoring herbs. For example, fresh and dried oregano, thyme, and basil are the main herbs in Italian and Greek cooking. However, tarragon, bay leaves, and chives are common in French cuisine. Some green herbs such as cilantro (coriander) are popular in cuisines such as Mexican, Thai, Chinese, and Latin American.

Leaves from the Camellia sinensis shrub are used to make different kinds of tea such as black tea, oolong tea, jasmine tea, and green tea.

Fruits

fruits

Eating a variety of fruits will help you get the necessary nutrients your body needs

Foods in the fruits category are not just delicious but they are also healthy. Different types of fruit are common in all food cultures. We can divide the foods in the fruits category into various categories such as tropical, citrus, drupes (fruit with a single hard stone), berries, pomes (such as apples), and pepos (such as melons).

There are also some types of fruit that we commonly think of as vegetables or savory foods. For example, avocados, olives, and tomatoes are botanically ‘fruits’ commonly used as part of a main meal, not a dessert.

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Various types of fruit should be an important part of everyone’s diet as they contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Even the humble apple is a storehouse of goodness.

One of the most common way to eat fruit is raw. There is nothing easier than peeling a banana, orange, mango, or pineapple and enjoying the succulent, sweet tasty flesh. You can also chop up fresh fruit to create a tasty fruit salad. Variations of fruit salads are enjoyed in most cultures.

Apart from eating fruit fresh, you can also cook fruit and prepare it in many ways. Apple pie with a tasty pastry crust is a common dessert in American cuisine. Apart from scrumptious pastry desserts, a very tasty dessert in French and British cuisine is a poached pear. Or, a delicious warm German strudel with creamy Italian ice cream can seem like a match made in heaven.

Because various types of fruits are so versatile, they are commonly found in other foods. For example, chopped dates, cherries, raisins (dried grapes), and citrus peel are often used in baked goods or in muesli as a breakfast food. You can also add a few berries for decorations on indulgent desserts.

One of the best ways to get all the healthy goodness from fruits is by juicing or blending them. Putting a banana, some blueberries, or any other kind of fruit with plain yogurt and milk in a blender can create a healthy fruit smoothie.

Some exotic food cultures also use fruits along with savory dishes. For example, mango chutney and lime pickle are common condiments in Indian cuisine. Avocado (botanically a fruit) is the main ingredient of Mexican and Tex-Mex guacamole. Different types of Chinese cuisine such as Hunan and Sichuan commonly use different fruits in spicy dishes.

Grains, Legumes, Nuts, and Seeds

legumes

Beans and legumes are types of foods rich in fiber and plant based protein

Grains form the staple food of most cultures around the world. This food category includes grains such as wheat, oats, rye, and barley that are common in Europe and North America. In other countries, rice, millet, and corn are commonly used to accompany dishes or as flour.

Grains are so important in most food cultures that they are eaten at breakfast (porridge or cornflakes), lunch (wholemeal, white, rye, or multigrain bread sandwich), or in the evening (tortillas, noodles, or rice).

Milled grains such as wheat flour are the basis for popular foods such as pastries, bread, and flatbreads. Rice porridge (pudding) is commonly consumed in Asian cuisine as a breakfast food or as a dessert in European cultures.

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Legumes are a family of plants that include beans and chickpeas. These are an important basic food in most cuisines around the world. For example, chickpeas are used to create hummus which is a staple food in Lebanese, Greek, and Turkish cuisine. Fermented beans are used to make soy sauce and some Chinese dishes.

Corn is common food in many Mexican dishes and used to make taco shells. Also, stews, casseroles, and other types of food can contain beans or lentils to reduce the amount of meat consumed.

We shouldn’t just think about beans as a type of food. Beans from the Coffea plant are also roasted to create one of the world’s most popular beverages – coffee. Don’t forget that chocolate is the product of cocoa beans!

Foods in the nuts and seeds category are not just a great source of fiber and vitamin E, they are also very tasty. In Indian, Moroccan, and some Asian dishes, cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds are toasted and ground before being used to spice up food. In some Eastern European cuisine, caraway seeds are added to bread or even cheese. Some seeds like sesame or poppy seeds are used on bread rolls and bagels to add texture and flavor.

Apart from being a tasty snack, nuts are also a good source of oil. For example, walnut, peanuts, almonds, and coconut oils are used in cooking. Nuts are also popular ingredients in desserts where they go well with chocolate, ice cream, and cakes.

Meat and Poultry

meat

Meat and poultry are important foods in many cuisines

There are very few cultures where meat and poultry are not important types of food. Some animals such as cows, pigs, chickens, and lamb are raised specifically for their meat. Others, such as game birds, wild boar, rabbits, and deer, are often hunted. For cooking, meat can be minced, cut into chops, diced, sliced, or roasted as large cuts.

In many Western countries, one of the best kind of food to eat is a rare to medium cooked steak. Even though Westerners tend to eat too much red meat such as beef and pork, hamburgers, meatballs and sausages are popular meal choices.

Deep-fried chicken drumsticks or wings are also a popular Sunday lunch in Southern states in the US. Of course, turkeys or chickens roasted whole in the oven are a traditional holiday food in many countries.

Many food cultures also include cured meats in their culinary delicacies. For example, Spain has dry-cured Jamon or Serrano ham, Italy has Parma ham, and in American cuisine, bacon is a popular breakfast staple.

When it comes to different cuisines in the world, each region has a preference for meat. Lamb and goat meat are popular in the Mediterranean region, poultry is the meat of choice in Asia, and Latin American food culture mostly revolves around beef.

Some delicacies in French cuisine use the liver of some birds such as duck or goose to create pate known as foie gras. Other types of offal used in cooking include the heart, kidneys, or tongue.

The cut of meat can affect the way it is prepared and cooked. For example, a choice T-bone steak or pork chop may be pan-fried. But a tougher cut of beef may be braised or stewed for many hours to tenderize it. A ‘rack of lamb’ is a popular way to roast and serve meat from sheep.

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Fish and Seafood

seafood and fish

Seafood is type of popular food around the world

Seafood is another important category of food. This food category includes fish, shellfish such as crab and lobster, and squid or octopus. Most types of fish sold in shops are caught at sea. However, fish farming is also a common way to raise salmon, carp, rainbow trout, mussels, oysters, and clams.

Most countries that have coastal regions have a distinct fish culture. For example, in Mediterranean countries, whole grilled, baked, or steamed fish is often on the menu. Also, deep-fried squid rings are popular as an appetizer and are even sold in fast-food restaurants.

In fancy restaurants, choice fillets of fish including salmon, tuna, or cod are usually on the menu. In some countries, deep-fried fish and fries (chips) are an integral part of the food culture. Fish can also be chopped for stews or made into fish cakes and fish curries.

Many Eastern European countries smoke various types of fish to preserve them. Also, caviar is a delicacy in Russian cuisine and an expensive addition to any fish-based meal.

In Asian countries, people tend to eat more fish than meat. For example, in Thai cuisine, green fish curry is a popular choice. Also, Chinese dishes include pan-fried fish or steamed fish in Cantonese cuisine.

One of the strongest fish cultures in Asia is in Japan. Slices of raw fish or slightly-salted fish are delicately cut and served with rice and nori (seaweed) rolls. Popular types of seafood or fish for sushi include tuna, salmon, halibut, clams, scallops, or sea bass.

This Japanese culture has been successfully exported all over the world. Now many countries have their own take on sushi dishes that originated in Japan.

Apart from fish, other types of seafood are also popular, especially in coastal towns. For example, Alaskan crab such as the King crab is a sought-after seafood delicacy. Also, Blue crab is popular in American and Asian cuisine. Prawns are part of Spanish cuisine and a basic ingredient of paella. Other delicacies from the sea include oysters, scallops, razor clams, and lobster.

Dairy Food Group

dairy

Dairy foods are made from the milk of animals such as cows, sheep, goats, and even camels and buffalo. Milk is processed in particular ways to create types of food that are the central part of many cuisines around the world.

Of course, the most well-known dairy product is cow’s milk. This common food can be sold full-fat, semi-skimmed, or skimmed, depending on the fat content. Cream is a by-product of milk and this can be used to make butter or whipped up to use in desserts or fill pastries.

When it comes to types of cheese, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and other European countries have an important cheese culture. For example, soft French cheeses such as brie or Camembert are popular favorites. Hard, aged cheese from Italy such as Parmigiano-Reggiano tastes delicious when grated over pasta dishes, and strong-tasting Stilton from the UK is an acquired taste.

Mozzarella is a type of soft fresh cheese made from Buffalo’s milk. This is an important food in American and Italian cuisine as it is a favorite topping on pizzas. Feta cheese is made from sheep’s milk and is synonymous with Greek cuisine.

One healthy type of dairy product is plain or natural yogurt. This is a fermented milk product that contains healthy bacteria. Natural yogurt is a popular accompaniment to many Turkish dishes, as well as being common in Moroccan and Mediterranean dishes. Milk kefir is a type of yogurt drink that is popular in Eastern European and Russian cuisine.

For many people, one of the most popular foods in the world is ice cream. This delicious frozen dessert comes in all flavors. Ice cream can contain nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, or chocolate. Also, non-dairy alternatives to ice cream can be made from coconut milk or almond milk. Or, you could try to eat sorbet – a type of frozen fruit juice similar to ice cream. In Italy, gelato is a popular type of ice cream.

Eggs

eggs

Fried eggs on toast is a popular breakfast food in many countries

Some people group together eggs and dairy or eggs and meat, as both are animal products and are high in protein. However eggs are not considered a dairy product, as dairy is produced from milk whereas eggs come from birds. Also non-fertilized eggs are not considered meat as they don’t involve animal flesh used for eating. This is why eggs are a food category by themselves.

Eggs are commonly used in baking, quiches and omelettes, and are very versatile type of food. Eggs can be consumed boiled, fried, poached, scrambled and even raw such as in mayonnaise and eggnog drink.

The Italian pasta carbonara is a delicious pasta dish made with egg, hard cheese, cured meat, and black pepper. The Tunisian egg brik is a popular dish where a whole egg is wrapped in a triangular pastry pocket with various fillings. And don’t forget the croque madame and croque-monsieur sandwich served in many French cafes with a poached egg on top, similar to eggs Benedict that are commonly served in American breakfast or brunch.

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