What is Food?

         Indian_hybrid_OrangeToday I would like to highlight some basic facts about food that on the one hand can be obvious, but on the other hand are not very well known. So the question we start with is: What is food? Of course food is anything that gives us energy and it exists in many forms. But what is it really, from a scientific point of view?

        Any kind of food is a composition of 4 main components: fat, carbohydrates, protein and water.  Sometimes produce don’t have all of these molecules, for instance butter doesn’t have any proteins. Below is an excerpt from ‘On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen’ by H. McGee that defines these 4 food components. 

Water is the major component of nearly all foods and of ourselves! It’s also a medium in which we heat foods in order to change their flavor, texture, and stability. One particular property of water solutions, their acidity or alkalinity, is a source of flavor, and has an important influence on the behavior of the other food molecules.

Fats, oils, and their chemical relatives are water’s antagonists. Like water, they’re a component of living things and of foods, and they’re also a cooking medium. But their chemical nature is very different, so different that they can’t mix with water. Living things put this incompatibility to work by using fatty materials to contain the watery contents of cells. Cooks put this quality to work when they fry foods to crisp and brown them, and when they thicken sauces with microscopic but intact fat droplets. Fats also carry aromas, and produce them.

Carbohydrates, the specialty of plants, include sugars, starch, cellulose, and pectic substances. They generally mix freely with water. Sugars give many of our foods flavors, while starch and the cell-wall carbohydrates provide bulk and texture.

Proteins are the sensitive food molecules, and are especially characteristic of foods from animals: milk and eggs, meat and fish. Their shapes and behavior are drastically changed by heat, acid, salt, and even air. Cheeses, custards, cured and cooked meats, and raised breads all owe their textures to altered proteins.orange

I would like you to acquire a tool. After this reading you will be able to tell how much water there is in any kind of produce. I want you to grab any kind of product you have close to you and look at its Nutrition Facts. You will find information about the products serving size and the quantity of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. In order to count water quantity you need to sum up the three components and subtract it from the serving size. This way you get the quantity of water and from this you can easily get the percentage of water. To show you how it works, I am going to give an example with an orange.

As a sample we take 100 g of an orange. Adding up fat – 0 g, carbohydrates – 12 g and proteins – 1 g we get 13 g. The water quantity in an orange equals 87 g, which stands for 87 % of the whole fruit. You can do it with any kind of food. You just need to type in Google the type of food and nutrition facts. Go and explore this world and see how much water you consume!

posted by Piotr Wielezynski

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