agricultural practices, increases in imported foods, and new commercial product formulations. Including all these foods in a single composition database has not been attempted, and instead, regions and countries have focused on compiling food composition tables that are specific for their populations. Several types of foods are usually found in such composition tables.
Basic agricultural commodities are considered essential in most tables. These include both plant and animal foods that are typically consumed by the population of interest. Frequently, composite values are given in composition tables and reflect an average of multiple samples collected from different regions of the country. For example, nutrient profiles of oranges in the United States are an average of different species of oranges grown primarily in California and Florida; the average is weighted to reflect the production of different types of oranges. Composition tables may contain both cooked and raw values for a food item, which can be helpful if a food is consumed both ways (e.g., tomatoes). Because nutrients may be lost during cooking, and also because the water and fat contents may change, it is important to have nutrient values that correspond to the form of the food that is actually consumed. In addition to cooked and uncooked forms, basic foods may also be available in processed forms, such as canned, frozen, or dried. Many of these processing procedures can alter the nutrients in foods, and thus it is sometimes desirable to have composition data for the differently processed forms of the food.
In addition to basic foods and ingredients, food composition tables usually also contain values for mixed dishes. Some of these mixtures may reflect common recipes that are used in the home, and others may represent commercially available foods, either in food stores or in restaurants. Because recipes may vary greatly, it is particularly useful if the software that accesses the composition table allows the user to alter the recipe ingredients.
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