Archive

Monthly Archives: March 2016

I can bet you that there is no fruit more familiar (aside from maybe an apple or an orange) to you than a banana. But sometimes, there are things that could be hiding away from us in plain sight! What you think you might know about the potassium-rich, portable, peely fruit is less than the half of it. Here’s some tidbits about a monkey’s favorite treat.

                Bananas are actually berries, but you’d never know because the seeds that they have are practically invisible to the eye. A long time ago, they used to have seeds, but through extensive selective breeding, all that’s left are the little black specks near the center. Sometimes called a “leathery berry,” it is encased in a protective outer layer with little bundles of strings on the interior, called phloem. The phloem is what carries nutrients to all parts of the banana.

                As a result of there being no seeds produced by the banana, the banana must be reproduced through the cultivation of the base of the banana plant, called the corm. The bananas we eat today are all genetically identical to one another. This makes them susceptible to being wiped out completely… meaning that our favorite fruit could one day go extinct! This is actually what happened in the 1950s. The most massively produced cultivar of banana at that time, the Gros Michel, disappeared from the markets and is very rare today because of Panama Disease which is caused by a fungus that attacks the root of the banana plant (source). While the bananas most common today are resistant to this fungus, other agents of disease such as TR4, Black Sigatoka, Banana Bunchy Top Virus, and Banana Bacterial Wilt pose a significant threat (source).

This is why the bananas you enjoy today are not the same ones that your grandparents probably ate. What you find in the grocery store today, the Cavendish banana, is surprisingly smaller and less aromatic and creamy than the robust Gros Michel.  Ever tasted a piece of banana candy? The extract used to flavor it may taste unrecognizable to your palette. This is the flavor of a Gros Michel. If you’re like me, your first thought may be to assume that it’s because food scientists can’t seem to replicate the true banana flavor. It’s actually because the flavor was based off natural sources: a blend of chemical compounds such as isoamyl acetate and amyl acetate that are found in the Gros Michel!

It might surprise you to know that bananas are the most radioactive fruit. By containing hefty doses of potassium, naturally there are traces of a radioactive isotope within it known as potassium-40. Sometimes, the terms ‘banana equivalent dose’ (BED) or ‘banana units’ are used by scientists as a way to describe amounts of ionizing radiation exposure (source). For example, by eating one banana, you are receiving one banana unit of radiation exposure—which is infinitesimally small, so don’t worry about it.

Bananas are the world’s fourth most important food crop – with more uses than just for eating. The fruit can also be used to make wine and brew beer, and the leaves of the banana can be used like a plate, a piece of paper to write on, or as a way to wrap food. The fibers from banana stems can be repurposed to make things like ropes and mats. Banana stem fibers have also been used to fashion Japanese kimonos (source). The banana fruit has so many uses world wide. It’s eaten fried, baked, steamed, mashed into jam, as pancakes, dehydrated into chips, dried and ground into flour, or even just as is.

Bananas are picked when they’re green, and placed to ripen in special air-tight rooms that have artificially increased levels of ethylene gas concentration. 0.1% is sufficient enough to start the ripening process, and is responsible for the bright yellow color of your typical supermarket banana (source). It indirectly affects the flavor as well, through the stimulation of an enzyme called amylase. Amylase is an enzyme that converts starch to sugar—and the reason why yellow bananas are sweeter than greener ones, and brown, spotty bananas are the sweetest of them all. By this point, almost all of a banana’s starch will be converted to sugar. They’re also mushy at this point too—this is because ethylene also signals the production of pectinase. Pectinase is an enzyme that breaks down a complex carbohydrate called pectin that works as structural support between the cell walls in the banana (source). The breakdown of pectin turns a banana into a perfect candidate for a warm loaf of bread.

Well, that’s about it for today, folks. Don’t slip on a banana peel on your way out 🙂

 

Advertisements

Eggs are one of my favorite foods. They are so versatile, adaptable to all kinds of recipes both sweet and savory. They have a rich cultural history and are touted as a near-nutritionally perfect food.

They are rich in protein and choline, an essential water-soluble nutrient that is utilized in the synthesis of the membranes of our cells.  As a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, choline might play a role in the maintenence of healthy memory, intelligence, and mood. Protein is obviously crucial for many of the functions of living organisms… it’s more than just for putting on muscle. Proteins catabolize metabolic reactions, provide structure, code for genes, regulate hormonal responses, and more. All the more reason to eat eggs! But…

“Eww. What’s that smell?”

If you’re a lover of eggs, as I am, you hear that question posed by others far too often. Peculiarly enough, it’s only when we hard-boil these little oval delights that the question comes to be. It may be met with embarrassment, or dogged acceptance that yes, I do like my smelly hard-boiled eggs thank you VERY much.

But… why?

The smell from all those sources come from chemical reactions that occur after sulfur is subjected to heat or pressure. When you boil an egg, you can smell the gas in quantities as small as one part per billion. By slow-boiling the egg, you get a yellower yoke and cut down on the stench.

The white of an egg is approximately 11 percent protein and 88 percent water. The primary protein in an egg white is known as albumin, or ovalbumin. Within all of the 3,000 atoms in ovalbumin, a mere three are sulfur. These three pesky atoms produce hydrogen sulfide gas when heated. In its solid state, sulfur is odorless—it is only when it forms a gas that it begins to smell. An egg may often start to smell if it is allowed to age, too, but heating it speeds up the production of hydrogen sulfide. By boiling an egg, the reaction occurs 200 times as fast.

So, how can you reduce the odor? Decrease the heat. Submerge your hardboiled egg in a pot of cold water. Take a separate pot and heat it on the stove. Once this pot reaches a boil, take it off the stove and transfer the egg to it. Allow it to sit in this hot water for 10 minutes. The egg will not only cook as it would using the standard egg-boiling procedure, but less smelly hydrogen sulfide gas will be produced. Bonus: that pesky dark-gray ring that you sometimes see will be diminished!

Ok, what about actually peeling the shell off of the egg without getting rid of most of the white along with it? There are a few tricks of the trade. The first is to put salt in the water you cook the egg in.

The second tip is to put vinegar in the water you boil the egg in.

The third tip is not so scientific but it’s something we do in my house all of the time. Immediately after the timer for your eggs goes off, drain the water and shake the eggs around the pot really vigorously. The shells, like magic, will separate apart from the egg and sometimes fall right off!

Did you know that you can also bake eggs in the oven, hard cooking them just like you would with a pot of water on the stove? Look here!

With Easter just around the corner, perhaps you might find one of these cooking methods of good use! And then you can use this natural egg dye recipe…!

22100401-eggs8-onion.jpg

More facts about eggs:

  • The taste of an egg can vary greatly depending on not only the animal who laid it (as you could imagine, roe tastes much different from a quail egg.) but their diet as well. For example, some chickens that feed off of canola or soy meals will lay eggs that smell like fish. This is because the microorganisms that live in their gut will metabolize the food into a chemical compound triethylamine (responsible for the odor of smelly fish), and will end up in the egg (source).
  • How do you preserve an egg? With salt. Salt draws the water out of bacteria and molds, which prevents their growth (source).
  • Egg yolks are one of the few foods that contain Vitamin D.
  • An egg shell’s color has nothing to do with the quality, nutrients or flavor. It simply tells us the feather and ear lobe color of the chicken who laid it!
  • Spinning an egg can tell you what type of egg is underneath the shell. If the egg wobbles, it is a raw egg. If it spins easy, it is cooked. Fresh eggs will sink in water but a stale egg will float (source).
  • Century Eggs, a Chinese delicacy, have not been sitting around in someone’s fridge for a century. Rather, they “are made by storing raw eggs for a few months in a mixture of wood ash, salt, lime, and maybe tea with rice straw or clay” (source).
  • There are so many ways to eat and prepare an egg! Just look at this free Google Book, Eggs, and How to Use Them!

 

Gah. This week went by so quickly, as did all the nice weather. Thanks to a much needed netrition.com order, back in my pantry are some of my favorite food staples, like oat fiber and peanut flour. Such things wouldn’t be possible without the lovely food science! With a nod to the complexity and intellectual awesomeness that is food science, today’s post is only a simple share out of some of my favorite kitchen creations of these past 7 days.
Obsession of the week number one – Quinoa Flakes. A nice change of pace from the usual oatmeal. Did you know that quinoa isn’t a grain, but a seed? Alright, it may not look like much (I know, it probably even looks like TUNA) but this is really quite delicious. Try some quinoa flakes with some grated zucchini, coconut-almond milk, and 2 tablespoons of powdered peanut flour mixed in. Then, douse generously in chocolate fudge sauce (dark cocoa powder + sweetener + syrup + a splash of coffee) Tastes like a peanut butter-chocolate chip cookie.
Smoothies. This week I’ve been loving mixed berry ones topped with love crunch power cereal- made with lentils, brown rice, and beans!- and other fun things like hemp, berries, and other cereals.
I did plenty of baking this week! In this picture here you can see a peanut butter banana bread loaf, sweetened with the help of some perfectly browned bananas and this brown sugar substitute called sukrin gold! Really cool stuff. It’s made from tagatose and erythritol, two sugar alternatives that are almost as sweet as sugar without the adverse side affects of most sugar alcohols. Sukrin gold looks and tastes just like that molasses-y, amber, crumbly goodness we all know as brown sugar.
Did I mention I also have been baking many different variants of brownies (here, here, and here)? It seems that I’m on the hunt to find the perfect odd-ingredient baked good, particularly one containing theobromine. Haha. Gluten free strawberry and shortbread cookies too.
For lunch this afternoon, I enjoyed kale and onion cooked in coconut oil and ume-plum vinegar and mung bean noodles mixed with pumpkin-miso paste-hummus! And this new stevia-sweetened mio drink.
A lot of my dinners this week have featured the wonderful combo of the beloved kabocha squash and avocado, some sort of protein (eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, etc.), and some roasted veggies.
Thank you for taking the time to read! It was nice to pay mention to some of my favorite noshes of this second week of March.
Don’t you just love finding a book that’s been stored away on your shelf, pulling it out and realizing that you’ve been hiding a treasure?
That’s what happened to me this weekend as I was doing some early “spring cleaning” in my room. I found this:
IMG_1838
 As a student, my mind is open to the different perspectives and thought trains that are held about the nourishment we give our body. The thoughts we have about food and our world are constantly changing and are subject to all kinds of speculation. Rather than fearing differing perspectives and only adhering to specific dogma, I think that there’s something that can be learned from every philosophy and way of thinking. And because nutrition is such an intensely personal thing, one must listen to what resonates with them and what they individually need. However, exposing yourself to all kinds of information allows you to make an informed choice about what advice you want to follow.
In David Wolfe’s Eating for Beauty, a raw, plant-based food diet is being praised for its beautifying abilities. It’s not as superficial as you might think. The author makes a good point that the foods that we choose to eat quite literally become us. We are what we eat, and the food that we eat is digested and assimilated as new cells and tissues. So it should make sense that providing our bodies with the foods richest in vitamins and minerals will have the most impact in nourishing our organs and sustaining all of our biological processes.
Apparently, proper nutrition can lend itself to qualities in an individual such as symmetry and ‘magnetism.’ Wolfe suggests that because beauty is often synonymous with the symmetry, then we should mostly be taking in “geometrically harmonious” foods that are based on the golden ratio, or phi. Naturally, raw fruits and vegetables are among the most symmetrical foods on the planet. Wolfe also mentions the phenomena of the encounters we may have with people that have magnetic personalities, almost as though an aura or radiant glow surrounding them. This glow is called electromagnetic radiation and can be made visible through Kirlian photography. Closer inspection of raw produce through Kirlian Images shows that these plants, too, glow extraordinarily. It is then suggested that “raw-plant food” is ideal for obtaining a natural radiance.
 
Specific foods are highlighted in the book as they are potentially some of the most beautifying on the planet. Such foods are Aloe Vera, Arugula, Burdock Root, Coconuts and Coconut oil, Cucumbers, Durian, Figs, Hemp Seeds, Macadamia Nuts, Nettles, Olive oil, Onions, Papaya, Pumpkin Seeds, Radishes, Turmeric, and Watercress. All of these foods are highly concentrated in essential minerals that are favorable for beauty: silicon, sulfur, MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane), zinc, iron, and manganese. They create a basic, alkaline environment in the body, have anti-parasitic effects, high levels of antioxidants (especially vitamins A, C, and E), and have anti-inflammatory properties.
The book talks about the inclusion of these foods as well as the exclusion of others. Such foods are cooked meats, some grains, legumes, refined sugars, dairy, and soda. It explains the adverse effects that these foods have on the body and subsequently one’s beauty. The author advises that we eschew fats that come from animals from the diet, and mentions Dr. Weston Price’s studies that “fat-soluble vitamins found in raw fats/oils promoted the beautiful bone structure, wide palate, flawless well-spaced teeth, ad handsome, well-proportioned faces that characterized members of isolated traditional cultures.” Funny, Wolfe neglects to mention that the people in Dr. Weston Price’s study were drinking raw MILK! It raises my eyebrows a little bit. I also wonder about the validity of his claim that carbohydrates like cereal grains and other starches, having the ability to contribute to an increase of mold and fungus (candida) in the body. It is curious to think about. The book says that though these carbohydrate-rich foods provide sugar (the body’s preferred fuel source), they also lack the key minerals that we need, so it depletes us of energy.
I think it’s most important to consider adding more good foods to your regimen than to worry about taking away problematic foods at first. Once a person finds the foods that make them feel best, then they’ll know which ones are ‘draining them.’ While it’s interesting and exciting to hear about the power of these superfoods that are mentioned in the book, I don’t think that 100% of one’s eating pattern must solely be derived of them. And I certainly agree that soda and candies and “refined carbohydrates” don’t work best for me, but every person is different. Some people may find their happiness in a packet of skittles, which helps them achieve that happy glow that may not come if they feel restricted of their favorite once in a while treat.
I don’t subscribe to a raw vegan plant-food based diet, and don’t plan to abolish foods like eggs, cheese, legumes, fish, meat and bowls of oatmeal from my life any time soon. However, the book reinforces the notion that fruit and vegetables are truly life-bringing and eating them can bring more beauty and natural radiance than any skin cream or foundation.
Stay tuned – there may be a part two of this ‘Eating for Beauty’ blog-post! Though I don’t totally ‘buy’ all of the advice in the book, there was a lot of really cool nutritional information about the super foods in this book, as well as some really yummy sounding recipes. Maybe I’ll discuss ‘raw food diet’ trend on the food science/food production industry?