Food Chemistry

Time to spice up your high school curriculum with Food Chemistry!

Many people turn their noses up when they hear the word chemistry. Maybe it would be a different story if chemistry reminded people of the smell of warm apple pie or fresh roasted potatoes. This is a change that isn’t that hard to make. Cooking is just applied chemistry and chemistry is a lot like cooking. It may be time to remove the barriers and bring the science of food into our teaching of chemistry.

ChemSumer: The Dog Ate My Homework and Other Gut-Wrenching Tales


April 2006 (pp 4–6)
Author:
Michael Tinnesand
Chemistry Connections:
Bonding, Organic/Biochemistry
Description:
Describes the digestive processes in animals, specifically a dog in this article, with emphasis on the breaking and reforming of chemical bonds in biomolecules. The role of enzymes is used to explain why cellulose, which is made up of glucose units, cannot be digested but starch, also made up of glucose, cannot. Article notes that most animals that feed on a cellulose-rich diet cannot digest cellulose and, therefore, have a symbiotic relationship with micro-organisms that break down the cellulose.


Carb Crazy


October 2004 (pp 6–8)
Author:
Brain Rohrig
Chemistry Connections:
Organic/Biochemistry, Thermochemistry
Description:
Explains the chemical structure of different types of carbohydrates and their role in cellular respiration. Also explains the relationship of carbohydrates and blood sugar. Examines low-carb diets and how they work and how low-carb diets lead to ketosis, the conversion of fat to ketones. Offers pro and con research on the value of low-carb diets for teenagers.


Chocolate, the New Health Food—Or Is It?


April 2009 (pp 13–15)
Author:
Gail Kay Haines
Chemistry Connections:
Organic/Biochemistry
Description:
Details the various important chemical components and the purported health effects of pure, processed chocolate with structural formulas of caffeine, theobromine, anandamide, phenylethylamine, various polyphenols (antioxidants) and flavanols. Side bar shows production of chocolate extract from cocoa beans.


Bringing Chemistry to the Kitchen


February 2009 (pp 10–12)
Author: Patrice Pages
Chemistry Connections: Organic/Biochemistry, Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Solutions
Description: Experimental cooking based on some understanding of chemistry and physics but primarily experimental using new physical forms of ingredients in the mix. Influence of color on taste perception studied; good taste influences amount eaten (savoring means less eaten)


Coffee: Brain Booster to Go?


December 2008 (pp 7–9)
Author:
Gail Kay Hines
Chemistry Connections:
Organic/Biochemistry
Description:
Discusses chemicals contained in coffee, including caffeine (of course) and chlorogenic acids. Describes caffeine’s effects on the brain and the role of chlorogenic acids as major antioxidants in the body, as well as other positive health effects of drinking coffee, such as preventing tooth decay and intestinal infections by killing bacteria and relieving stress and reducing alcohol cravings. The article shows structural formulas for caffeine and a chlorogenic acid.


Glowing Proteins with Promising Biological and Medical Applications


December 2008 (pp 12–14)
Author:
Linda Zajac
Chemistry Connections:
History/Biography, Organic/Biochemistry, Reactions
Description:
Discusses research done to discover why crystal jellyfish glow in the dark, which led to discovery of green fluorescent protein (GFP, for short). Describes how GFP genes can be inserted into DNA of other cells that can then act as tracers as they travel throughout the body. Describes the uses of other colors of fluorescent proteins that have been discovered, including: tracking viruses in plant diseases, helping to cure brain diseases, and cancer therapy studies. Might be used in class in discussion of light emission and absorption and energy and wavelength of light


Corn—The A“Maiz”ing Grain


December 2006 (pp 4–7)
Author:
Gail Haines
Chemistry Connections:
Organic/Biochemistry
Description:
Describes the evolution of corn (grass derivative) over 8000 years with genetic changes through natural selection and deliberate genetic modification (inserting genes). Corn’s multiple uses—animal feed, alcohol fuel, food-additive as corn syrup (modified for sweetness)—are highlighted. Unresolved controversy over the role of corn syrup in “causing” obesity


Vanilla! It’s Everywhere!


December 2003 (pp 4–6)
Author:
Gail Haines
Chemistry Connections:
Organic/Biochemistry, Nuclear, Reactions
Description:
Describes historical origins of the most widely used flavoring, vanilla, sources of natural and methods to synthesize vanillin, chemical methods of analysis (authenticate natural vs. synthetic). Side bar describes most sensitive test using isotopic ratios of carbon to detect substitution of synthetic vanillin for natural.


Sugar: An Unusual Explosive


December 2010 (pp 5-7)
Author:
Michael Tinnesand
Chemistry Connections:
Reactions, rates, equilibrium, energy.
Description:
Burning sugar—chemically known as sucrose (C12H22O11)—produces energy almost immediately. Most of our use of sugar as food involves the regulated release of this energy. But in some industrial settings the energy can be released in an uncontrolled manner, with catastrophic results.


Space Food


December 2009 (pp 11–13)
Author:
Diana Lutz
Chemistry Connections:
Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases
Description:
Various techniques for preserving food for astronauts detailed including freeze-drying, thermostabilizing and irradiating. Goal to eliminate bacteria and water. Water for rehydration from fuel cell chemical reaction.