Food is one of the basic necessities of life. Food contains nutrients—substances essential for the growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues and for the regulation of vital processes. Nutrients provide the energy our bodies need to function.

The energy in food is measured in units called calories. Age, sex, weight, height, and level of activity determine the number of calories a person needs each day. In the United States, the average daily calorie requirement for a child aged 11 to 14 is 2,550. An adult needs about 2,700.

Kinds Of Nutrients

Scientists divide nutrients into five major groups: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Most foods contain all or most nutrient groups, in different amounts.

Carbohydrates provide energy for the body. Nearly all the carbohydrates we eat come from plants. They include starches found in cereal grains and plants like potatoes and yams. Sugars, found in fruits, vegetables, and milk, are also carbohydrates. Sugar cane and sugar beets are grown specifically for their high sugar content.

Many of the starches and sugars we eat have been processed into products such as flour and corn syrup. These processed carbohydrates are used in cookies, cakes, breads, pastas, and pies.

Fats provide more than twice as much energy as carbohydrates. They also help protect and insulate the body and its internal organs. Common fats include vegetable oils such as soybean, cottonseed, and corn oil. They are used in cooking and in the processing of many foods. Fats that come from animal products include butter and lard. Eggs, milk, cheese, meats, poultry, and fish also contain high levels of fats.

Proteins are the body’s chief tissue-builders. They help keep skin, bones, muscles, and blood healthy. Proteins also help regulate bodily processes including transporting oxygen and nutrients into and out of cells; the clotting of blood; and the formation of antibodies, which help fight disease. Animal products such as beef, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are high in protein. Grains, nuts, and some beans are also protein-rich foods.

Minerals and vitamins are called micronutrients because they are needed in very small quantities compared with carbohydrates, fats, and proteins (known as macronutrients). Minerals provide building materials for the body and help regulate its activities, much as proteins do. Calcium and phosphorus build strong bones and teeth, iron contributes to healthy blood, and iodine helps keep the thyroid gland working.

Vitamins help the body make full use of other nutrients by assisting the chemical reactions that make those nutrients work. For example, vitamin B1, or thiamine, helps regulate the release of energy from carbohydrates, promotes a healthy appetite, and aids the functioning of the nervous system. Vitamin D helps in the growth and maintenance of healthy bones.


Other essentials for the body’s health include water, oxygen, and fiber. Some scientists include water in the list of basic nutrients. Water makes up more than half of a human body’s weight. It is involved in most body processes, such as the regulation of temperature, the transporting of nutrients into cells, and the elimination of waste products from cells.

Oxygen is not a nutrient, since it is breathed in and not eaten, but it is essential to life. It permits the release of energy from food in the body.

Fiber is indigestible material found in most plant foods. It adds bulk to the diet, helping to keep the intestines healthy. Fiber-rich foods include whole grains, dried beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

A healthy diet contains a balanced mix of different foods that together provide all essential nutrients. Malnutrition is the lack of a balanced diet. Too few nutrients, too many nutrients, or an imbalance of nutrients (too many carbohydrates, for instance, and not enough fruits and vegetables) can lead to malnutrition.

Undernutrition is a form of malnutrition. It is usually linked to hunger. Undernutrition happens when the body does not get enough food to meet its needs. Many diseases and even death are caused by lack of food. Death due to lack of food is called starvation.

To get the right amounts of nutrients, people need to select from a range of foods: cereal grains; fruits and vegetables; legumes, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs; and milk and dairy products. A food pyramid outlines the suggested amount of these different types of foods people should eat each day.

Cereal Grains

Cereal grains are the edible seeds of certain grasses. People have grown them since the beginning of agriculture. Today, the most commonly grown grains are wheat, rice, and corn (maize). Other important grains are sorghum, millet, barley, oats, and rye.

Worldwide, cereal grains are the most important food staples. They are eaten almost daily by large populations. They supply three-fourths of the calories consumed by the world’s population. Cereal grains and the products made from them provide food not only for people, but also for livestock such as cattle, chickens, and hogs.

Throughout the world, more wheat is planted than any other grain. Wheat is the chief ingredient in most breads, cookies, cakes, crackers, pastas, and some breakfast cereals. China, the United States, Russia, Ukraine, India, France, and Canada are major wheat-producing countries. Wheat, often eaten as bread, serves as the principal food grain for people living in regions with temperate climates.


Rice, an Asian tropical grass, is a food staple for more than half of the world’s population. More than 90 percent of the world’s total rice crop is produced and eaten in southern and eastern Asia. Rice is also a food staple for people in parts of Africa and Latin America. This cereal grain thrives in a warm, humid climate with heavy rainfall or wet ground. It is often grown in flooded fields called rice paddies.


Hominy grits, corn bread, popcorn, and tortillas are all made with corn. Outside the United States, this grain is called maize. Although native to the Americas, maize is now cultivated throughout most of the world and is a staple food in many areas. It grows in various soils and climates and at different elevations. American farmers produce nearly half the world’s corn; 80 percent of it is used to feed livestock. Corn is also used to produce sweeteners such as corn syrup and cornstarch.

Sorghum and millet are other grains commonly used as livestock feeds. These grains are also staple foods for people in parts of Africa and Asia, where they are used in breads, porridges, and cakes.

Three other grains—barley, oats, and rye—are important in many regions. Barley thrives in a wide range of climates. One type of barley is the source of malt for making beer. Barley is also used in making vinegar, malt extract, and beverages similar to milk. Pearl barley, the most popular form of this grain, is often used in soups and other foods.

Oats and rye were domesticated much later than other grains. They can survive in cold weather better than wheat, and are grown farther north. Oats are used mainly as livestock feed, but also go into oatmeal and other breakfast cereals. After wheat, rye is the second most common grain used as a bread flour; the two are often mixed together in breads. Bread made with rye alone, called black bread, is popular in many European countries.

Fruits and Vegetables

The term “fruit” has several meanings. To a botanist, it means the part of a plant that contains seeds. According to this definition, fruits include most nuts, as well as vegetables such as cucumbers and tomatoes.

To most of us, though, “fruit” is defined as the soft, edible, seed-bearing part of a perennial plant. A perennial is a plant that lives for more than one growing season. Fresh fruits are rich in carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They can be preserved by freezing, canning, or drying.

Scientists classify fruits into groups according to the kind of climate in which they grow: temperate fruits, subtropical fruits, and tropical fruits.

Temperate fruits grow best where there is a well-defined cold season, as in the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon. Temperate fruits include apples, berries, grapes, pears, plums, and peaches.

Subtropical fruits thrive where temperatures are mostly warm year-round. The area around the Mediterranean Sea has a subtropical climate. Citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruits, as well as dates, pomegranates, and some types of avocadoes, are subtropical fruits.

Tropical fruits require a hot climate to grow. Tropical fruits such as bananas, mangoes, and papayas grow in hot, humid areas like the Philippines.


Vegetables are the edible parts of herbaceous plants. Herbaceous plants, sometimes just called herbs, have stems that are softer and less woody than those of trees and shrubs. Vegetables are good sources of fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Most vegetables are annuals, living for only one growing season.

Vegetables can be roots, leaves, stems, seeds, or bulbs. For example, carrots, radishes, and beets are roots. Cabbage, celery, lettuce, and spinach are leaves or leafstalks. Heads of broccoli are flower stalks topped by thick clusters of flower buds. Asparagus is a stem. Cucumbers, eggplants, and tomatoes contain the seeds of the plant. Garlic, leeks, and onions are bulbs.

Some plants, called tubers, have a special type of underground stem that can be eaten fresh as a vegetable or used as an ingredient in other dishes. In temperate regions, the most important tuber is the potato. The potato was first a food staple to indigenous cultures of the Andes Mountains of South America. Today, major potato-growing countries include Russia, China, and Poland.

Important tropical tubers include yams, cassavas, and taros. These tubers are staple foods in many cultures. For instance, taro is a major food crop of the islands of Polynesia, as well as West Africa. Cassava is a staple food for more than 500 million people in Africa and Latin America.

Legumes, Meat, Poultry, Fish, and Eggs

Legumes are plants that are raised for their edible seeds or seed pods. Peas, lima beans, soybeans, peanuts, and lentils are all legumes. Legumes that are harvested for their dry seeds, such as beans or lentils, are called pulses. Pulses are food staples in India and Pakistan.

Legumes and pulses contain high amounts of protein. In addition, they supply iron, other minerals, and vitamins.

The term “meat” usually refers to the edible flesh of mammals such as cattle, pigs, and sheep. Meat is a high-protein food and is rich in other nutrients, as well.

The United States, Australia, Russia, and Argentina raise much of the world’s beef cattle. Beef can come from cows, bulls, or steers. Cows are adult, female cattle. Bulls are adult male cattle capable of reproduction. Steers are adult male cattle that have been castrated, or been made incapable of reproduction. Meat from very young cattle, or calves, is called veal.

The world’s major hog producers include China, the United States, Russia, and Germany. Meat from hogs is called pork.

Lamb is meat from sheep less than a year old. It is especially popular in the Middle East, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Mutton, meat from mature sheep, has a stronger flavor and a rougher texture than lamb. New Zealand and Australia are the world’s largest exporters of lamb and mutton.

Bison, water buffalo, camels, goats, and yaks are all sources of meat. Wild animals, such as rabbits and deer, are also eaten as meat. Meat from wild animals is called game.


“Poultry” refers to domesticated birds that are raised for meat and eggs. Chickens are an important food source for most of the world’s population. Raising chickens is a major industry in many countries, including China, the United States, Russia, and France. Ducks, turkeys, geese, and guinea fowl are also raised for food in many parts of the world.

Fish and shellfish are probably the most popular meats worldwide. Fish provide about 15 percent of all animal proteins consumed by the world’s population. Fish and shellfish are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. People eat fish raw or cooked, and preserve it by canning, freezing, drying, salting, smoking, or pickling.

Most of the fish and shellfish people eat come from the ocean. Tuna is one of the most popular ocean fish. Other fish come from inland bodies of fresh water such as lakes and rivers. Bass, perch, and carp are popular freshwater fish worldwide.

An increasing amount of fish comes from fish farms, where fish and shellfish are raised commercially. The cultivation of fish and shellfish is called aquaculture.

Clams, oysters, crabs, and shrimp are popular shellfish. Abalone, a kind of mollusk, is a popular seafood in Latin America and east Asia. Conch, a large type of sea snail, is eaten in the Florida Keys and in the West Indies. Eels, octopuses, squids, and mussels are other popular seafoods.

Eggs are a source of proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins. Boiled, fried, scrambled, or deviled, chicken eggs are popular around the world. They are also used in a variety of baked goods. People also eat the eggs of other birds, such as ducks and plovers, and those of reptiles, such as turtles and crocodiles. The eggs of certain fish, mainly sturgeon, are prepared as a delicacy known as caviar.

Milk and Dairy Products

Much of the world’s milk, cream, butter, yogurt, and cheese come from dairy cows. However, goats, camels, reindeer, sheep, yaks, and water buffalo supply milk products as well.

In much of Asia, people have traditionally consumed “milk” made from soybeans. Soy milk is made from soaking and grinding soybeans with water. Soy milk contains about the same nutrients as cow’s milk.

Milk and dairy products supply proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and essential vitamins and minerals. The Maasai people of East Africa use milk as a staple food, consuming about 1 liter per person per day. Yogurt, a fermented milk product, is a staple food in parts of the Middle East and India.

Diet

People’s diets vary from one country to another. Diets can also vary within a single country. Geographic differences explain part of this variation. For example, people who live near the ocean tend to eat greater amounts of fish than people who live far inland. People living in cool regions with short growing seasons depend on crops that mature quickly, such as potatoes. In warm, wet lowlands where the soil retains water, rice is often a staple.


Geographic factors are less important today than they were a century ago. Improved methods of agriculture and transportation, as well as increased trade and tourism, have made more types of food available to a wider variety of people. For example, imports allow people in freezing climates, such as Siberia, to enjoy tropical fruits.

Improved methods of food processing, preservation, storage, and shipping allow many people to enjoy foods produced far from their homes. Spanish olive oil, French cheeses, and sardines from Norway, for example, are eaten as far away as Australia.

Local traditions and customs play a role in determining what foods people eat and how they are prepared. English tradition encourages roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, a type of bread, be eaten together. Many Asians serve rice with almost every meal.

Economic factors also affect what people eat. In the U.S. state of Maine, lobster is a relatively inexpensive food. The shellfish is native to the state’s coastal areas and has been a traditional food for hundreds of years. However, lobster is a luxury item in the Midwest, where it must be flown in. Lobster dishes served in Iowa may cost two to three times what they do in Maine.

In developed countries, many people have enough money to buy a variety of nutritious foods. Malnutrition is not a large problem, and people have a long lifespan. But even in these countries, there are many people who cannot buy these foods because resources are not evenly distributed throughout the population. Healthy, nutritious food is often more expensive than so-called “junk food,” which has many calories but little nutritional benefit.

Even those who can afford healthy food may eat poorly. The diets of many people in developed countries are too high in the fats, salt, and refined sugars found in junk food. These diets are too low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber.

In developing countries, malnutrition is more common. A poor harvest, flood, or drought may cause famine, because the community or nation is not economically able to import food.

The diets of the urban and rural populations of developing countries are often quite different. People in urban areas eat more processed foods, while people who live in rural areas may have access to fresh milk, fruits, and vegetables. However, people living in rural areas are the first to be affected by a poor harvest.

Food and Culture

People do not eat only to obtain nutrients and ward off hunger and starvation. People’s eating habits are strongly influenced by culture. Rituals around preparing, sharing, and consuming food serve social roles as well as biological ones.

Religion sometimes plays a role in what, and when, people eat. Followers of the Jain religion, for example, strongly believe in nonviolence toward all living things. Strict Jains never eat meat. Many Jains also refrain from eating potatoes and other tubers because many small organisms are harmed as the tubers are pulled from the earth.


Jewish kashrut law and Muslim dhabihah law outline many rules for eating. Both include a ban on pork. Food that is prepared according to kashrut law is called kosher, while food that is prepared according to dhabihah law is called halal.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast, or avoid eating, during daylight hours. Typically, Muslims will eat one meal before dawn and one after sunset, but nothing at all while the sun is shining. Ramadan is considered a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control.

Feasting is also an important ritual, both for religious and non-religious reasons. Most religious fasting periods, such as Ramadan, are followed by holiday feasts. Eid al-Fitr is the Islamic holiday following Ramadan. One of the ways Muslims celebrate Eid is to donate food to the poor.

Non-religious holidays often include feasts, as well. In the United States, people gather to eat turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. In China, families celebrate the Chinese New Year with foods that symbolize luck and prosperity, such as long noodles, chickens, fish, oysters, dumplings, tangerines, oranges, and sticky rice cakes.

Many people make dietary choices based on ethics—beliefs about what is right and wrong. For instance, some people choose not to eat meat out of concern for the environment. Livestock is one of the leading contributors to carbon emissions, and some people reduce the amount of beef they eat to reduce their “carbon footprint.” Many people avoid eating meat out of concern for animal welfare.

Vegetarians avoid eating all meat and fish. Vegans avoid all animal products, including eggs, milk, cheese, and honey. Some people who are not vegetarians may raise or buy humanely produced animal products such as free-range chicken and grass-fed beef.

Other ethics-based food practices include choosing organic or locally grown foods. People who choose organic foods may do so because of the reduced number of chemicals in the food. Organic food relies little on genetic modification or pesticides. Organic food also releases fewer chemicals into the environment in the form of runoff.

The “locavore” movement values the reduced environmental impact of local foods. There are fewer transportation costs, such as greenhouse gas emissions, with local foods.

The way we serve and eat food is as culturally important as what foods we consume. In East Asian countries, most people use chopsticks to pick up their food. In Europe and the Americas, a variety of utensils serve different purposes. A full, formal place setting can include a salad fork, dinner fork, dessert fork, teaspoon, soup spoon, butter knife, and dinner knife. In other countries, such as India and Ethiopia, many foods are picked up with pieces of flat bread rather than utensils.

Table manners vary widely from culture to culture. Manners include rules about how and where people should sit, when to begin eating, which utensils to use in certain situations and with which hand, and what behaviors might be considered rude.


In Asian countries, it is considered rude to point at people with your chopsticks, or to rest your chopsticks standing upright in your rice. In Malaysia, eating with your left hand is considered unclean. In Japan, it is acceptable and even encouraged to make slurping noises while eating hot noodles, but not while eating soup. In Russia, it is considered polite to leave a bit of food after eating, but in Brazil, people are expected to eat everything on their plates.

Cuisine

Food and food preparation associated with a specific region are known as that region’s cuisine. Cuisine can be national, such as the fresh fish and noodles associated with Japanese food. Cuisine can also be regional or local. California cuisine, for instance, is known for mixing different types of national cuisines, such as French and Chinese.

A food’s adaptability to a specific region can define that region. Maize, native to North and Central America, is considered one of Mexico’s greatest “national treasures.” An image of Xochipilli, the Aztec god of maize, appears on Mexico's 100 peso bill.

Most cuisines feature staple foods of the region. In the central African country of Zaire, boiled cassava root is a staple food. The large leaves of the cassava and a fiery pepper sauce called pili-pili are often part of a traditional Zairian meal. Fresh-picked bananas, papayas, and pineapples are frequently eaten. Animal proteins from poultry, fish, and crocodiles are also popular foods in Zaire.

Climate can also impact the cuisine of a region. Russia faces cold winters, so few crops grow there. Warm soups are a large part of Russian cuisine. Borscht, or beet soup, is probably the most familiar Russian soup. Beets are vegetables that are capable of growing in the cold, hard ground. Grains that grow well in cold climates are also popular in Russian cuisine. Kasha, for example, is cooked grains such as buckwheat, barley, or semolina. Blini, or buckwheat pancakes, are served with caviar, smoked fish, butter, and sour cream. Pickles, cucumbers, and onions are widely eaten.

Since Japan is surrounded by the ocean, fish is a mainstay of Japanese cuisine. It is prepared in a variety of ways. Sashimi, for example, is raw fish dipped in seasoned soy sauce. Tempura is prawns or slices of fish and vegetables dipped in batter and fried. Sushi is made from flavored rice covered with slices of raw or cooked fish and vegetables.

Even non-native foods can define a region. Potatoes were introduced to Ireland in the early 17th century, probably by the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, who brought the tubers home with him after exploring the Americas. Potatoes, especially the “lumper” variety, grow well in cold climates and rocky soil. Within 200 years, the population of Ireland was dependent on lumpers for most of their carbohydrates. A potato disease, or blight, struck Ireland in the mid-19th century, causing the so-called Irish Potato Famine. More than a million Irish people died of malnutrition, and a million more were forced to immigrate.


Often, cuisine reflects a country or region’s history. Pho, for instance, is a Vietnamese noodle soup made with large chunks of meat, vegetables, and spices such as basil. Vietnam was a French colony from the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. French colonists brought French cuisine with them, including the stew called pot au feu. Pho is an adaptation of pot au feu, with the most significant addition being rice noodles, which are native to Southeast Asia. “Pho” even sounds like “feu.”

The growing number of immigrants in many cities has broadened people’s tastes in food. Many foods associated with national cuisines are inventions of immigrants. Chicken tikka masala, for example, is one of the most popular “Indian” dishes in the world. Chicken tikka masala was invented by an immigrant Pakistani chef in Glasgow, Scotland.

Often, immigrants will adapt their traditional diet with foods not available in their homeland. Chinese American food, for instance, often features tomatoes and potatoes, foods that are not native to Asia. 

Cuisine varies widely, even within a specific region and a specific food. In the Carolinas region of the United States, for example, there are more than a dozen types of traditional barbecue. Pork is the most familiar barbecued meat, although chicken and beef are also barbecued. Some barbecues feature a mustard-based sauce, while others feature tomato, vinegar, or molasses. Still other traditional barbecues are “dry,” and feature spice-based rubs instead of sauce.

World Food Supply

The world food supply is the total amount of food produced on Earth. Since the late 1940s, grain supplies have fluctuated, but worldwide there has been a surplus, or more than enough food to feed everyone. Yet millions go hungry. Of the nearly 7 billion people on Earth, more than 1 billion are undernourished, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Poor nutrition plays a role in about half of all child deaths every year.

Why do so many people starve when the world produces enough food to feed everyone? One reason is that resources, such as farmland and money, are not evenly distributed among the world’s people.

Many developed countries have millions of acres of fertile land. This huge agricultural economy allows nations like Canada, the United States, and Australia to have a strong food supply for consumption as well as export of billions of tons of grain, livestock, and produce.

Most hunger is not the result of a lack of fertile land, however. Most hunger is the result of poverty. Many people in developing countries are too poor to grow or buy the food they need.

Crisis situations contribute to hunger and starvation. Severe droughts, floods, and other natural disasters can create famines. In many developing counties, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, the population is growing faster than the rate of food production.


In some countries, years of continuous war have severely disrupted food production. During conflicts, millions of people flee their homes, often leaving crops to rot in the fields. The region’s uncertainty and fear mean fewer crops are planted and cultivated. Factories that produce processed foods, such as breads and canned fruits and vegetables, may simply shut down. This reduces the amount of food available to residents of urban areas.

Food Aid

These natural and manmade crises can lead millions of people to become dependent on international food aid. Food aid, usually in the form of grain and other starches, is distributed to either the government or local communities. Food aid can also mean money for people or governments to buy their own food.

Food aid is controversial, for both recipients and donors. Recipients do not want to depend on wealthier countries for survival. Some receiving countries are not allowed as much independence as they would like. Sometimes, food aid comes with restrictions or rules that might have little to do with food.

The governments of countries donating food may disagree with the politics or decisions of the country receiving the food aid. Food aid may be reduced if the donating country disagrees with the receiving country’s politics, such as nuclear weapons development.

Some aid programs encourage farmers in developing countries to cultivate food for export instead of local consumption. Scientists debate the relationship between economic security and food security. Food security is the access a person, family, or community has to healthy foods. Growing food to export may increase a nation’s food security if the exports bring in more money to buy food imported from elsewhere in the country or abroad. However, access to food may be reduced, and the nation may become dependent on foreign food sources.

To help solve the problem of hunger and increase local food production, farmers in many developing countries need economic assistance in acquiring new agricultural technology, such as tractors. Small-scale farmers may also benefit from healthy draft animals such as water buffalo or oxen, which are used to operate machinery such as plows.

Agricultural technology also includes improved varieties of seeds. Seeds may withstand longer periods of drought or flood, or they may resist disease. Better transportation, communications systems, and storage facilities would help improve food distribution.

Experts believe that hunger problem will be solved in two ways. First, citizens of all countries need to have the ability to grow or purchase their own food. Second, citizens of all countries need to have responsible diets and spending habits.

food
Tomatoes, like the fresh ones in this stand, are so rich in nutrients that they are known as a "superfood."

Foodies
Foodies are people who are fascinated by food, food preparation, the food industry, and the culture surrounding food. Unlike professional chefs, cooks, or farmers, foodies do not usually have an economic interest in food. For foodies, food is a hobby.

Deadly Dish
Fugu is a Japanese delicacy made from the meat of the pufferfish. The fish contains a deadly poison called tetrodotoxin. If fugu is prepared incorrectly, it can kill the people who eat it. So chefs need a special license to prepare the dish. In recent times, scientists have bred non-toxic pufferfish for fugu, so perhaps this fish will lose its risky reputation.

agricultural technology
Noun

the art and science of complex machines used to perform tasks associated with farming and ranching.

Noun

the art and science of cultivating land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

annual
Adjective

yearly.

appetite
Noun

physical desire for food.

aquaculture
Noun

the art and science of cultivating marine or freshwater life for food and industry.

Aztec
Noun

people and culture native to Mexico and Central America.

barbeque
Adjective

style of cooking that features roasted meat, vegetables, or fruit over an open flame.

barley
Noun

grass cultivated as a grain.

beer
Noun

alcoholic beverage made from grain.

beverage
Noun

liquid for drinking.

bison
Noun

large mammal native to North America. Also called American buffalo.

black bread
Noun

dark colored bread made from rye flour.

blight
Noun

plant disease that causes rapid and widespread death of that variety of plant.

blini
Noun

pancakes made with buckwheat flour.

borscht
Noun

soup made from beets.

botanist
Noun

person who studies plants.

buckwheat
Noun

type of grain.

bulb
Noun

bud part of a plant with leaves at the top and a flat stem on the bottom.

bull
Noun

adult cattle capable of reproduction.

butter
Noun

fatty, solid part of milk used as flavoring for food.

calcium
Noun

chemical element with the symbol Ca.

California cuisine
Noun

food and food preparation that stresses fresh ingredients and different cooking styles.

calorie
Noun

unit of energy from food, equal to the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.

carbohydrate
Noun

type of sugar that is an important nutrient for most organisms.

carbon emission
Noun

carbon compound (such as carbon dioxide) released into the atmosphere, often through human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels such as coal or gas.

carbon footprint
Noun
total sets of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organization, event, product or individual over a set period of time.
Carolinas
Noun

the U.S. states of North Carolina and South Carolina.

cassava
Noun

tuber originally native to South America. Also called manioc or yuca.

castrate
Verb

to remove the testicles, or male reproductive glands, of an animal.

cattle
Noun

cows and oxen.

caviar
Noun

delicacy made from the eggs of sturgeon or other fish.

cell
Noun

smallest working part of a living organism.

century
Noun

100 years.

cereal
Noun

type of grain, including wheat.

chef
Noun

head cook, responsible for menus, food preparation and presentation, and management of staff.

chicken tikka masala
Noun

dish made with chicken chunks in a curry sauce.

chopsticks
Noun

thin utensils used for eating.

citrus
Noun

type of fruit tree, including lemon and orange.

Noun

all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

clot
Verb

to form a clump or semi-solid mass.

colony
Noun

people and land separated by distance or culture from the government that controls them.

commercial
Adjective

having to do with the buying and selling of goods and services.

conch
Noun

marine animal (mollusk) with a large spiral shell.

consumption
Noun

process of using goods and services.

controversial
Noun

questionable or leading to argument.

corn
noun, adjective

tall cereal plant with large seeds (kernels) cultivated for food and industry. Also called maize.

cornstarch
Noun

flour made from corn, often used as a sweetener or thickener for foods. Also called corn flour.

corn syrup
Noun

sweetener made from cornstarch.

cow
Noun

large, domesticated mammal used for milk and meat.

crisis
Noun

event or situation leading to dramatic change.

Noun

agricultural produce.

cuisine
Noun

a style of cooking.

cultivate
Verb

to prepare and nurture the land for crops.

culture
Noun

learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

dairy
Adjective

having to do with the production of milk, cream, butter, or cheese.

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit
Noun

(1686-1736) Polish physicist.

delicacy
Noun

food or dish notable for its rarity or cost.

developing world
Noun

nations with low per-capita income, little infrastructure, and a small middle class.

dhabihah
Noun

Muslim law that outlines the preparation and consumption of food, specifically the slaughter of animals.

Noun

foods eaten by a specific group of people or other organisms.

disease
Noun

harmful condition of a body part or organ.

distribute
Verb

to divide and spread out materials.

domesticate
Verb

to tame or adapt for human use.

donor
Noun

person or community who gives something away.

draft animal
Noun

animal used for pulling or carrying cargo.

Noun

period of greatly reduced precipitation.

economic
Adjective

having to do with money.

economic security
Noun

access a person, family, or community has to money, goods, and services.

edible
Adjective

able to be eaten and digested.

Eid al-Fitr
Noun

festival that ends the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Noun

height above or below sea level.

energy
Noun

capacity to do work.

essential
Adjective

needed.

ethics
Plural Noun

beliefs about what is right and wrong.

export
Noun

good or service traded to another area.

Noun

an extreme shortage of food in one area during a long period of time.

farmer
Noun

person who cultivates land and raises crops.

fast
Verb

to not eat.

fat
Noun

material found in organisms that is colorless and odorless and may be solid or liquid at room temperature.

feast
Verb

to eat large amounts of food, usually to celebrate or honor something.

ferment
Verb

to undergo the natural or artificial process of fermentation, or changing a food's sugars into alcohols.

fertile
Adjective

able to produce crops or sustain agriculture.

fiber
Noun

long, thin, threadlike material produced by plants that aids digestive motion when consumed.

fish farming
Noun

art and science of raising and harvesting fish and other seafood, such as shrimp or crabs.

flee
Verb

to run away.

Noun

overflow of a body of water onto land.

flour
Noun

ground grain, usually of wheat.

fluctuate
Verb

to constantly change back and forth.

Noun

material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

food aid
Noun

money or food given to regions faced with malnutrition and starvation.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Noun

United Nations agency responsible for improving food production in developing countries.

food processing
Noun

preserving and preparing food for consumption and sale, usually in large quantities.

food pyramid
Noun

diagram of a healthy diet that shows the number of servings of each food group a person should eat every day.

food security
Noun

access a person, family, or community has to healthy foods.

Noun

food that is eaten frequently, either fresh or stored for use all year.

food supply
Noun

total amount of food produced in an area.

free-range
Adjective

having to do with livestock or poultry that have been allowed to graze instead of being fed on a feed lot.

fruit
Noun

edible part of a plant that grows from a flower.

game
Noun

wild animals hunted for food.

genetic modification
Noun

process of altering the genes of an organism.

geographic
Adjective

having to do with places and the relationships between people and their environments.

gland
Noun

group of cells that secretes a chemical useful for the body to function.

Noun

harvested seed of such grasses as wheat, oats, and rice.

grass
Noun

type of plant with narrow leaves.

grass-fed beef
Noun

meat from cattle that have been raised on grass pastures, not corn feed lots.

greenhouse gas
Noun

gas in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and ozone, that absorbs solar heat reflected by the surface of the Earth, warming the atmosphere.

grits
Plural Noun

ground hominy, often eaten boiled or fried.

guinea fowl
Noun

bird native to Africa.

halal
Adjective

food that has been prepared according to Muslim dhabihah law.

harvest
Noun

the gathering and collection of crops, including both plants and animals.

herb
Noun

type of seasonal plant often used as a medicine or seasoning.

herbaceous plant
Noun

seasonal plant used for seasoning or medicine. Also called an herb.

holiday
Noun

period of celebration or honor.

hominy
Noun

kernels of corn with the husks and seed germ removed.

humane
Adjective

kind or gentle.

humid
Adjective

containing a large amount of water vapor.

hunger
Noun

the need for food.

immigrate
Verb

to move to a new place.

import
Noun

good traded from another area.

Adjective

characteristic to or of a specific place.

indigestible
Adjective

unable to be absorbed and used by the body as nutrition.

insulate
Verb

to cover with material to prevent the escape of energy (such as heat) or sound.

internal organ
Noun

group of tissues located inside the body of an organism that perform a specific function.

intestine
Noun

tubular system in the human digestive system, which regulates elimination of waste products from the body.

iodine
Noun

chemical element with the symbol I.

Irish Potato Famine
Noun

(1845-1852) period of starvation and disease in Ireland largely caused by a blight on the lumper potato plant.

iron
Noun

chemical element with the symbol Fe.

Islam
Noun

religion based on the words and philosophy of the prophet Mohammed.

Jain
Noun

follower of the religion of Jainism, which supports nonviolence toward all living things.

Jewish
Adjective

having to do with the religion or culture of people tracing their ancestry to the ancient Middle East and the spiritual leaders Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

junk food
Noun

food that has many calories but little nutrition.

kasha
Noun

cooked grains eaten as porridge.

kashrut
Noun

Jewish law that outlines the preparation and consumption of food.

kosher
Adjective

food that has been prepared according to Jewish kosher, or kashrut, law.

lard
Noun

fat from animals used to flavor food.

leaf
Noun

organ growing from the stem of a plant.

legume
Noun

type of plant with a pod that splits, with seeds in the middle, such as peanuts.

lentil
Noun

plant with small, flat seeds, native to Asia.

livestock
noun, plural noun

animals raised for sale and profit.

lobster
Noun

large marine crustacean, often caught for food.

locavore
Noun

person who prefers to buy and eat food that has been raised or grown locally.

lumper
Noun

type of potato.

luxury
Noun

expensive item.

Maasai
Noun

people and culture native to eastern Africa.

machinery
Noun

mechanical appliances or tools used in manufacturing.

macronutrient
Noun

nutrient needed by people in large quantities.

mainstay
Noun

regular, dependable support.

maize
Noun

corn.

malnutrition
Noun

lack of a balanced diet.

malt
Noun

cereal grain that has been allowed to sprout in water, but halted from further growth.

mammal
Noun

animal with hair that gives birth to live offspring. Female mammals produce milk to feed their offspring.

manners
Noun

standards of polite social behavior.

meat
Noun

animal flesh eaten as food.

micronutrient
Noun

nutrient needed by people in small quantities.

military
Noun

armed forces.

milk
Noun

white liquid produced by female mammals to feed their young.

millet
noun, adjective

a type of grain.

mineral
Noun

nutrient needed to help cells, organs, and tissues to function.

molasses
Noun

syrup made from refining sugar cane or sugar beets.

mollusk
Noun

large phylum of invertebrate animal, all possessing a mantle with a significant cavity used for breathing and excretion, a radula (except for bivalves), and the structure of the nervous system. 

Muslim
Adjective

having to do with Islam, the religion based on the words and philosophy of the prophet Mohammed.

mutton
Noun

meat from mature sheep.

natural disaster
Noun

an event occurring naturally that has large-scale effects on the environment and people, such as a volcano, earthquake, or hurricane.

nervous system
Noun

cells, organs, and tissues including the brain and spine that respond to internal and external stimuli.

nuclear weapon
Noun

explosive device that draws power from the splitting and combining of atomic nuclei.

Noun

substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.

nutrition
Noun

process by which living organisms obtain food or nutrients, and use it for growth.

oats
Noun

type of edible grass.

olive oil
Noun

liquid fat extracted from olives.

organic
Adjective

produced according to standards using limited amounts of chemical additives.

organism
Noun

living or once-living thing.

oxygen
Noun

chemical element with the symbol O, whose gas form is 21% of the Earth's atmosphere.

perennial
Adjective

continual, perpetual.

peso
Noun

unit of currency for Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Mexico, and the Philippines.

pesticide
Noun

natural or manufactured substance used to kill organisms that threaten agriculture or are undesirable. Pesticides can be fungicides (which kill harmful fungi), insecticides (which kill harmful insects), herbicides (which kill harmful plants), or rodenticides (which kill harmful rodents.)

pho
Noun

Vietnamese noodle soup with chunks of meat, vegetables, and spices.

phosphorus
Noun

chemical element with the symbol P.

pickle
Verb

to preserve in salted water.

plover
Noun

small wading bird.

plow
noun, verb

tool used for cutting, lifting, and turning the soil in preparation for planting.

politics
Noun

art and science of public policy.

pork
Noun

meat from pigs.

porridge
Noun

thick, pasty soup made from boiled cereals or beans.

pot au feu
Noun

French stew with chunks of meat and vegetables.

poultry
Noun

domesticated birds, such as chickens.

poverty
Noun

status of having very little money or material goods.

process
Noun

natural or human actions that create and change the Earths features.

protein
Noun

one of many complex compounds, made of chains of amino acids, that make up the majority of all cellular structures and are necessary for biological processes.

pulse
Noun

edible seeds of legumes, such as beans and lentils.

purchase
Verb

to buy.

Ramadan
Noun

ninth month in the Muslim calendar, when Muslims fast during daylight hours.

recipient
Noun

person or organization that receives something.

religion
Noun

a system of spiritual or supernatural belief.

reptile
Noun

animal that breathes air and usually has scales.

requirement
Noun

something that is needed.

restriction
Noun

barrier or prohibition.

rice
Noun

grass cultivated for its seeds.

rice paddy
Noun

rice field.

ritual
Noun

series of customs or procedures for a ceremony, often religious.

root
Noun

part of a plant that secures it in the soil, obtains water and nutrients, and often stores food made by leaves.

rot
Verb

to decay or spoil.

rub
Noun

collection of dry spices rubbed directly on meat or other food for flavoring.

Noun

overflow of fluid from a farm or industrial factory.

rural
Adjective

having to do with country life, or areas with few residents.

rye
Noun

cereal grain grown for food.

sardine
Noun

small marine fish.

sashimi
Noun

Japanese food consisting of thin slices of raw fish.

seafood
Noun

fish and shellfish consumed by humans.

seed
Noun

part of a plant from which a new plant grows.

semolina
Noun

heavy particles of wheat.

shellfish
Noun

any aquatic organism that has a shell or exoskeleton.

Siberia
Noun

region of land stretching across Russia from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

significant
Adjective

important or impressive.

soil
Noun

top layer of the Earth's surface where plants can grow.

sorghum
Noun

type of grain.

soy milk
Noun

liquid made from soy beans and water.

soy sauce
Noun

salty liquid used for flavoring.

starch
Noun

carbohydrate found in many vegetables and cereals.

starvation
Noun

dying from lack of food.

starve
Verb

to die from lack of food.

steer
Verb

to guide or direct.

stem
Noun

main stalk of a plant.

storage
Noun

space for keeping materials for use at a later time.

sturgeon
Noun

type of marine or freshwater large, long, bony fish.

sub-Saharan Africa
Noun

geographic region located south of the Sahara Desert in Africa.

subtropical
Adjective

bordering the tropics, just north of the Tropic of Cancer and south of the Tropic of Capricorn.

sugar
Noun

type of chemical compound that is sweet-tasting and in some form essential to life.

surplus
Noun

more than what is needed or wanted.

sushi
Noun

bite-sized rolls or balls of sticky rice topped with seafood or vegetables.

taro
Noun

type of tuber vegetable. Also called dasheen and cocoyam.

temperate
Adjective

moderate.

tempura
Noun

Japanese dish of battered and deep-fried food.

thiamine
Noun

vitamin that helps regulate the nervous system. Also called vitamin B1.

thyroid
Noun

gland that regulates growth and metabolism.

tissue
Noun

cells that form a specific function in a living organism.

tortilla
Noun

flat, round bread made from corn or flour.

tourism
Noun

the industry (including food, hotels, and entertainment) of traveling for pleasure.

tractor
Noun

agricultural vehicle used for moving and operating heavy machinery.

trade
Noun

buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.

transportation
Noun

movement of people or goods from one place to another.

tropical
Adjective

existing in the tropics, the latitudes between the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the south.

tuber
Noun

thick part of an underground stem of a plant, such as a potato.

undernourished
Adjective

hungry, or not having enough nutrients to function normally.

Noun

developed, densely populated area where most inhabitants have nonagricultural jobs.

utensil
Noun

tool or instrument for preparing or eating food.

veal
Noun

meat from very young calves.

vegan
Noun

person who does not eat meat or any animal product.

vegetable
Noun

plant that is grown or harvested for food.

vegetable oil
Noun

liquid fat extracted from a plant.

vegetarian
Noun

person who does not eat meat.

vinegar
Noun

sour liquid used for flavoring or as a preservative. Also called acetic acid.

vital
Adjective

necessary or very important.

vitamin
Noun

chemical substance that is necessary for health.

vitamin D
Noun

chemical substance necessary for healthy bone and tooth development. Also called calciferol.

Walter Raleigh
Noun

(c. 1552-1618) English explorer and writer.

war
Noun

large-scale armed conflict.

welfare
Noun

health or well-being.

wheat
Noun

most widely grown cereal in the world.

Xochipilli
Noun

Aztec god of arts and agriculture.

yogurt
Noun

thick dairy product made with sour milk.

Yorkshire pudding
Noun

biscuit-like bread made with beef drippings.