Most major cities in the world are made up of diverse societies, consisting of a wide range of individuals from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Ethnicity refers to a social group, which shares certain distinctive features, such as language, culture, physical appearance, religion, values and customs. Culture on the other hand refers to how we do and view things in our group. For example a shared set of values, assumptions, perceptions and conventions based on a shared history and language can make a certain group. In order for society to function efficiently and smoothly these individuals must learn to integrate and coexist together. This will involve among other things, accepting and sampling different types of foods and even adjusting their diets. This is due to the large impact culture and ethnicity has on diet, which results in changes in heath. As a result the choices and selections of food that people make, in the classes of foods they eat, will vary widely.
Different cultures may encourage or frown upon consumption of different foods by individuals who belong to their groups. Also the consumption of different foods at different stages of life may be actively encouraged or discouraged. This is due to the benefits and dangers of consuming these foods at certain times of life and in certain conditions. For example most cultures will not approve of the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy or lactation. This is due to the adverse affects produced by this drink. Foods and nutrition may also be affected by culture, with respect to different beliefs within the culture. Religion plays one of the most influential roles in the choices and subsequent selection of foods consumed in certain societies. For example, in the Hindu and Buddhist religions the consumption of both pork and beef is frowned upon. This is because it is considered to not be clean meat. Also ancient Hindu scriptures prohibit the eating of these meats. As a result of this the large majority of Hindus and Buddhists (roughly 90%) have taken this rule to the extreme. They refuse to eat any meat at all and are strict vegetarians, despite being allowed to eat chicken and lamb. Conversely only the consumption of pork and not beef is prohibited for the same reasons in the Islamic religion and Judaism. However all other meats consumed in these religions must be halal and kosher respectively. This means that special prayers are performed in order to make the eating of these animals acceptable. In stark contrast Christianity and the Catholic religion allow the consumption of any types of meat without the need for any kind of repentance to God in the form of prayer. Also at the other extreme to these religions the Jain religion does not allow the eating of any meat and any vegetables grown beneath the soil. During my community placement the first patient I interviewed had her diet largely influenced by her religious beliefs. For example she was a strict Hindu who was also a vegetarian. She did not even eat any dairy products. Her diet largely consisted of boiled rice and a wide selection of vegetables, and for dessert some fresh fruit. My second and third patients were both Christians and their diets were not as strict and were more varied and balanced. As a result I would not consider these patients to have their food choices largely affected by their religion. Within certain religious groups there are different levels of acculturation. This means there is a large diversity with respect to the extent certain individuals follow the teachings of their religion. In some cases this diversity may result from the patients own interpretation of their particular religion. For example some individuals may be devoutly religious and follow their religion strictly according to the teachings. Also some individuals may not be as religious to such a degree and will tend to follow their religion more loosely. In the case of the patients I interviewed, only the first...
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