Food provides humans with more than just energy and nutrients, addressing both vital needs and pleasure. Food habits are determined by a wide range of factors, from sensorial stimuli to beliefs and, once commanded by local and seasonal availability, are nowadays driven by marketing campaigns promoting unhealthy and non-sustainable foodstuffs. Top-down and bottom-up changes are transforming food systems, driven by policies on SDGs and by consumer’s concerns about environmental and health impacts. Food quality, in terms of taste, safety, and nutritional value, is determined by its composition, described in food composition databases (FDBs). FDBs are then useful resources to agronomists, food and mechanical engineers, nutritionists, marketers, and others in their efforts to address at maximum human nutrient needs. In this work, we analyse some relevant food composition databases (viz., purpose, type of data, ease of access, regularity of updates), inspecting information on the health and environmental nexus, such as food origin, production mode as well as nutritional quality. The usefulness and limitations of food databases are discussed regarding what concerns sustainable diets, the food ‘matrix effect’, missing compounds, safe processing, and in guiding innovation in foods, as well as in shaping consumers’ perceptions and food choices.
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