According to Jelliffe, the world's foods fall into five main classifications.
First are the "Cultural super foods". These foods supply the major caloric load for a peoples. Some excellent examples of these types of foods include rice as a staple food in India and a good portion of Asia. The importance of such foods is highlighted by taking on a symbolism, as rice symbolizes fertility in India. (Kittler and Sucher, p. 374). .
The next category of foods is the "social-prestige" foods. These are the foods reserved for important people or occasions. Chickens were one of these social-prestige foods for Africans. It was afforded this status in West Africa, and when they were brought to the United States as slaves (p. 186). .
Following, are the foods that fall into the "sympathetic-magic" category. One finds the physical qualities about these foods tell one about its effects. The opening of coconuts by Hindu worshipers on temple grounds represents what this group of foods is all about. The human ego is represented by the hard shell. Then, opened, the sweet, soft meat is open to becoming one with the Supreme Being, and this represents the inner self. (p. 82).
Then one would find the "body-image foods". These are the health foods, most simply put. The Puerto Rican custom of drinking eggnog or malt-type beverages to improve vitality is an outstanding example in our own backyard, of this classification of foods. (.p 289).
Finally, Jelliffe categorized the "physiological group". These foods are beneficial for a certain physical group. The use of herbs most clearly illustrated this. Cottonwood, in its effective use to ease childbirth in the Polynesian culture amply illustrated the point of physiological groups. (p. 329).
The division of foods into these five groups allows us to get a broader, cross-cultural understanding of foods and their uses and meaning. Although Jelliffe simplified this categorization process, it does provide a good basis of classifying foods and categorizing them, independent of culture of locale.