We All Scream for…Ice Cream!

By Ashton Yoon | August 1, 2017 10:00 am



Photo Credit: Coolhaus

As the peak of summer approaches, we here at Science & Food love to reach for one of our favorite frosty treats: the ice cream sandwich. Being true Science & Foodies, we started to wonder about this amazing composite material- how do you get the coexisting chewy cookie yet firm ice cream? We began to search for answers by turning to Natasha Case, founder of the Los Angeles favorite “Coolhaus” which serves gourmet ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. Trained as an architect at both UC Berkeley and UCLA, Natasha merged her experience as an architect with her passion for food in the ideation of Coolhaus.  Starting with food trucks and storefronts in LA, Coolhaus is now sold in nationwide grocery stores such as Whole Foods.

We asked Natasha what the main factor is that contributes to the science of ice cream. Her response? Surprisingly, it is air! The amount of air incorporated into ice cream is referred to as overrun [1] and is calculated by this equation [2]:

% Overrun = [(Volume of ice cream produced-Volume of mix used)/Volume of mix used]  x 100%

For example, if we started with 10 gallons of ice cream mix and had 15 gallons of finished ice cream at the end, the overrun calculations would be as such: 15-10 = 5 and 5/10 = 0.5. 0.5 x 100% = 50%, meaning there is 50% volume, or the volume has increased by 50% as a result of the addition of air [2]. Air is crucial in ice cream: air bubbles contribute to ice cream mouthfeel in addition to the use of butterfat. The texture of frozen desserts such as gelato and ice cream depends on this interplay between fat and air. Gelato typically has about 10% butterfat and 20-30% overrun [3] while ice cream can have up to 16% butterfat and 30-50% overrun [4]. With 12-14% butterfat and a low overrun, Coolhaus technically produces “gelato style” ice creams [5]; this is one of the key components to the success of the Coolhaus ice cream sandwich.


igure 1: Stabilization of air cells by fat in ice cream. (Photo Credit: Molecular Recipes)

While air content contributes to ice cream texture, it also affects how quickly ice cream melts. Typically, more air results in ice cream that melts more quickly [5]. Ever notice how when you buy the budget brand ice cream it starts melting almost instantly? This is because budget brands of ice cream typically increase their overrun to decrease ingredient costs – it’s cheaper to fill a half gallon tub with more air than cream! So how does increased air content result in a faster meltdown rate? To answer this question, we need to consider the small-scale structure of ice cream. Ice cream is a colloid, or a solution that is comprised of two insoluble materials with one dispersed throughout the other. When ice cream is churned, it breaks up the ice crystals formed by water to give the ice cream a smooth texture. Churning also causes the fat globules in the milk and cream coalesce and allow for the dispersion and stabilization of air throughout the ice cream. Because fat is hydrophobic, it prefers to align itself closer to the air bubbles rather than the ice crystals. Therefore, the texture of ice cream is a result of the interplay between these air bubbles, ice crystals, and fat globules [4]. Now, let’s consider what happens when ice cream melts.

Melting involves factors such as air cells, ice crystals, and fat globules and the stability of these air cells is one of the largest factors that affect meltdown rate [6]. Air cells are formed in ice cream due to shear stress during churning. Fat globules partially coalesce and form a network around the air cells (Figure 1) that prevent agglomeration and disperse the serum phase around the ice crystals, thus preventing ice crystal collisions that would lead to accelerated melting [1]. Therefore, the ratio of fat : air must be sufficient to prevent the agglomeration, and lower amounts of air will allow for this. Thus, by decreasing the overrun, you can achieve a slower-melting ice cream that stays in your sandwich longer.


Figure 2: Freezing in pure solvent (A) vs. in a solution. (Photo Credit: Seville International College)

So we’ve solved the mystery of the filling, but what about the oh-so-chewy cookie that gives the extra oomph to Coolhaus’ sammies? Natasha gave us the scoop – Coolhaus uses pectin. Though the precise combination of ingredients is proprietary, we postulate that the pectin serves as a thickening and stabilizing agent that allows the cookie to remain chewy despite sub-zero temperatures. Pectin is a polysaccharide contained in plant tissue [7]. As the pectin binds water, it causes freezing point depression, a phenomenon that occurs when a solute is dissolved in a solvent. As a solute is dissolved, it interacts with water molecules, thus interfering with the attractive forces between water molecules that cause them to interact and become a solid (Figure 2). Thus, in order to achieve an ordered state, the freezing point must be lowered even further to decrease particles’ kinetic energy enough that they can no longer overcome the interparticle attractive forces and become frozen [8]. In this manner, pectin lowers the freezing point of the water in the cookie, preventing the formation of ice’s crystalline structure that leads to hardness.

For more about pectin, check out a previous S&F article on Citrus Suprême.


Photo Credit: Coolhaus

In her search for confection perfection, Natasha has one goal in mind with the science behind her ice cream sandwich: to evoke emotional reactions that link to memories and nostalgia.

“Flavor is generally conceived to be an instinctual or emotional aspect of taste, but when you can also get into the understanding of it from a scientific standpoint you can actually, to an even further degree, elevate that emotional or instinctual side by knowing what is actually creating those sensations on your palate, mind, and in your soul.” –Natasha Case


References Cited:

  1. Sofjan, R. P., & Hartel, R. W. (2004). Effects of overrun on structural and physical characteristics of ice cream. International Dairy Journal, 14(3), 255-262. doi:10.1016/j.idairyj.2003.08.005
  2. Goff, H.D. & Hartel, R.W. (2003). Ice cream. New York, New York: Springer US.
  3. Poon, L. (2014). Why scream for gelato instead of ice cream? Here’s the scoop. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/06/16/413223571/why-scream-for-gelato-instead-of-ice-cream-heres-the-scoop
  4. Compound Chem, (2015). The chemistry of ice cream. Infographic. Retrieved from http://www.compoundchem.com/2015/07/14/ice-cream/
  5. Case, N. (2017, July 11). Personal interview.
  6. Pelan, B. M. C, Watts, K. M., Campbell, I. J., & Lips, A. (1997). The stability of aerated milk protein emulsions in the presence of small molecule surfactants. Journal of Dairy Science, 80, 2631–2638.
  7. Pedrolli, D. B., Monteiro, A. C., Gomes, E., & Carmona, E. C. (2009). Pectin and pectinases: Production, characterization and industrial application of microbial pectinolytic enzymes. The Open Biotechnology Journal, 3(1), 9-18. doi:10.2174/1874070700903010009
  8. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Raoult’s law. Retrieved from https://cssac.unc.edu/programs/learning-center/Resources/Study/Guides/Chemistry%20102/Solutions

Perfect Manhattans & Mysterious Fungi

By Ashton Yoon | July 13, 2017 10:00 am


Dave Arnold set up his own experiments to mix the perfect Manhattan, explaining, “A dose of science will do you good. Think like a scientist and you will make better drinks.” In his first experiment, he used different sized ice to make his drinks. His conclusion: different ice, different stir, same Manhattan. James Scott, a mycologist who runs the business Sporometrics, was called upon by the Hiram Walker Distillery to investigate a mysterious black fungus plaguing the warehouses and the surrounding neighborhood. Also using the scientific method, Scott discovered a new fungal species which grows preferably on the angel’s share of whiskey. An identical fungal growth is also found outside the Rémy Martin distillery in Cognac, France.
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The Science of Yogurt

By Ashton Yoon | July 4, 2017 10:00 am

Guest post by Earlene Mulyawan

Yogurt is an ancient food that has been around for several millennia. One theory of the discovery of yogurt is that during 10,000 – 5,000 BC, when Herdsmen began the practice of milking their animals, they stored their milk in bags made of the intestinal gut of the animals. The intestines contain natural enzymes that cause the milk to curdle and sour. The herdsmen noticed that this method of storing milk extends its shelf life and preserves it. When they consumed the fermented milk, they enjoyed it and so they continued making it. Whether or not this theory is true, the consumption of fermented milk has survived into modern times, and spread throughout the world. The word “yogurt” is believed to have come from the Turkish word “yogurmak,” which means to thicken coagulate, or curdle. Today, the FDA defines yogurt as a milk product fermented by two bacterial strains: a lactic acid producing bacteria: Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles.


Photo Credit: Makeyourownyogurt.com

To make yogurt, milk is first heated to 180 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes to denature the whey proteins; this allows the proteins to form a more stable gel. The yogurt is pasteurized before adding the cultures. The pasteurization process kills any pathogens that can spoil milk as well as to eliminate potential competitors of the active cultures. After milk pasteurization, the milk is cooled down to 108 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature for optimal growth of yogurt starter cultures. Last, the yogurt starter cultures (probiotics) is added into the cooled milk and incubated until a pH of below 5 is obtained. This is called the fermentation process, whereby lactose in the milk is converted to lactic acid, which lowers the pH. When the pH drops below pH 5, micelles of caseins, which are amphiphilic proteins, loses its tertiary structure due to the protonation of its amino acid residues. The denatured casein proteins reassemble by interacting with other casein proteins, and these intermolecular interactions result in a network of molecules that provides the semisolid texture of yogurt (Zourari, Accolas, & Desmazeaud).

The fermentation process is also essential for the tangy flavor of yogurt: the production of lactic acid by Lactobacillus bulgaricus imparts a sour acidic and refreshing taste. A mixture of various carbonyl compounds like acetone, diacetyl and acetaldehyde are also major contributors to the tarty yogurt flavor. Yogurt has a high concentration of acetaldehyde due to the low utilization of this metabolite by yogurt bacteria, which lack alcohol dehydrogenase, the main enzyme needed to convert acetaldehyde into ethanol (Lees, G. J., and G. R. Jago). During fermentation, acetaldehyde is produced directly from lactose metabolism as a result of pyruvate decarboxylation. However, lactic acid bacteria also have alternative metabolic pathways that can produce acetaldehyde (Figure 1):


Figure 1: Pathways to acetaldehyde production (Chaves, A.C.S.D. et al. 2002)

Yogurt may provide potential health benefits by enhancing nutrient absorption and digestion (Fernandez). However, most commercialized yogurts that are sold in grocery stores contain added sugars, artificial ingredients and fillers, and only a marginal amount of probiotics. (Mercola). Homemade yogurt is an excellent way of getting probiotics into your system without the unnecessary chemicals and flavorings found in commercialized yogurts. All you need is a high quality starter culture and milk! Epicurious‘ step by step on how you can make yogurt at home can help you get started. Or you can check out The White Moustache, the website of Homa Dashtaki, a guest lecturer during the Spring 2017 Science and Food undergraduate course.




A Zourari, Jp Accolas, Mj Desmazeaud. Metabolism and biochemical characteristics of yogurt bacteria. A review. Le Lait, INRA Editions, 1992, 72 (1), pp.1-34.

Fernandez, M. A., and A. Marette. “Potential Health Benefits of Combining Yogurt and Fruits Based on Their Probiotic and Prebiotic Properties.” Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.). U.S. National Library of Medicine, 17 Jan. 2017. Web. 03 July 2017.

Lees, G. J., and G. R. Jago. “Formation of acetaldehyde from threonine by lactic acid bacteria.” The Journal of dairy research. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 1976. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

Mercola, Joseph. “Benefits of Homemade Yogurt Versus Commercial.” Organic Consumers Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2017.


Why Do Onions Make Us Cry?

By Ashton Yoon | June 6, 2017 10:00 am

Photo Credit: Tastyart Ltd Rob White/Getty Images

We all know that feeling: the burning sensation as we slice into a fresh onion, eyes watering and wincing to relieve the stinging. There are claims that home remedies can solve this problem, including burning a candle, putting the onion in the freezer before chopping, or cutting the onion underwater. In this article we will investigate the culprit behind our onion tears and a possible scientific resolution that has emerged in the 21st century.

The teary-eyed response to cutting an onion is due to the chemical syn-propanethial-S-oxide, which the onion has evolved as a defense mechanism against predators. Each cell inside the onion contains a vacuole filled with enzymes [1] called allinases that convert amino acid sulfoxides that are present in the onion cell to sulfenic acids [2] (namely 1-propenyl-L-cysteine sulphoxide, or PRENSCO)[3]; these are then transformed by another enzyme into syn-propanethial-S-oxide [4] (Fig 1).When the onion cell structure is broken during chopping, the enzymes are released and are then able to interact with other chemicals inside the onion cell, thus catalyzing the chemical reactions that produce syn-propanethial-S-oxide [1] (Fig 1).


Figure 1. Reaction mechanism for the formation of syn-propanethial-S-oxide. (Burnham, P.M. (1996))

The strong, spicy odor that onions emit when chopped are surprisingly not the culprit chemical that makes your eyes water. This odor is formed by the condensation of syn-propanethial-S-oxide to form odorous thiosulfanates [2]. Because syn-propanethial-S-oxide is a volatile sulfur compound, it easily diffuses into the air [1]. Your cornea contains nerves that relay information to the larger nerves responsible for touch, temperature, and pain detection on your face [2]. The nerves on your cornea detect the presence of syn-propanethial-S-oxide and send the signal to your central nervous system (Fig 2), which then stimulate the autonomic nerve fibers on the lachrymal glands to produce tears [2] in order to dilute the syn-propanethial-S-oxide. This is why referred to as lachrymatory compound or lachrymator, which can be defined as “an irritant that causes the eyes to fill with tears without damaging them” [5].


Figure 2. The lachrymal response (Tiwari, S., Ali, M.J., and Vemuganti, G.K. (2014)/ScienceDirect)

Whereas previously it was thought that a generic allinase could produce syn-propanethial-S-oxide, recent research has shown that it is synthesized by a specific enzyme called ‘lachrymatory factor synthase’ [3]. In fact, scientists succeeded in producing onions in 2015 with suppressed lachrymatory-factor synthase genes that contained 7.5 times less syn-propanethial-S-oxide as well as eliminated the lachrymatory response among sensory panelists [6]. Additionally, scientists have found that when they mixed only generic allinases and PRENSCO in vitro, the production of thiosulphinate – the chemical responsible for onion’s flavor – increased [3]. No more tears & more flavor? Sounds like a tasty treat we would be down for!

References Cited:

  1. Singh, M. (2016). The science of why onions make us cry. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/06/22/482032913/the-science-of-why-onions-make-us-cry
  2. Scott, Y. Scientific American. What is the chemical process that causes my eyes to tear when I peel an onion? Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-the-chemical-proc/
  3. Imai, S., Tsuge, N., Tomotake, M., Nagatome, Y., Sawada, H., Nagata, T., Kumagai, H. (2002). An onion enzyme that makes the eyes water. Nature, 419, 685.
  4. American Chemical Society. (2013). Syn-Propanethial S-oxide. Retrieved from https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/molecule-of-the-week/archive/s/molecule-of-the-week-syn-propanethial-s-oxide.html
  5. Burnham, P.M. (1996). Propanethial s-oxide, the lachrymatory factor in onions. J. American Chemical Society, 118(32), 7492-7501.
  6. Kato, M., Masamura, N., Shono, J., Okamoto, D., Abe, T., & Imai, S. (2016). Production and characterization of tearless and non-pungent onion. Scientific Reports, 6, 23779. doi:10.1038/srep23779.
CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: nutrition

Asparagus Season and Banana Problems

By Ashton Yoon | May 16, 2017 12:38 pm


Nothing welcomes spring as deliciously as an asparagus dish. But are you a little lost which is the freshest bunch on the shelf? How to best store them? Other ways to cook them besides oven roasting? City Kitchen’s got you covered. Where asparagus is a springtime treat, bananas are a year-round breakfast luxury. Unfortunately, its perennial availability puts it at risk for extinction.
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The Savory Science of Instant Noodles

By Ashton Yoon | April 25, 2017 12:00 pm

(Credit: Pornpen Suechaicharoen/Shutterstock)

Guest post by Panisa Sundravorakul

Instant noodles are delicious, cheap, and easy to prepare. This combination of traits make instant noodles a seemingly perfect solution for college students’ hectic schedules and depleted bank accounts. Let us take a moment to appreciate what made instant noodles possible — let us savor the science behind this culinary delicacy.

Instant noodles are truly a technological marvel – they can last for up to 12 months on the shelf, and a tiny little packet of seasoning makes the noodles taste so good. You can thank science for making this all possible. The shelf life of instant noodles ranges from 4 to 12 months, depending on environmental factors. Finding ingredients that are stable for this long, especially fats and oils that are prone to oxidation, is a culinary challenge.

Antioxidants like tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ) can extend the shelf life of instant noodles by preventing the oxidation of fats and oils; this happens by donating electrons to neutralize free radicals, which stabilize the radical’s instability [1]. The texture of instant noodles is preserved by propylene glycol, which is found in the noodles mixture, and helps them retain moisture and prevent them from drying [2].

Monosodium L-glutamate  (MSG) is a common additive used to enhance the flavor of instant noodles. This molecule adds a robust and savory flavor to food, which is commonly described as umami, the fifth flavor after salt, sweet, sour, and bitter. Recent studies have found L-glutamate (Glu) receptors and transduction molecules in the gut mucosa, as well as the oral cavity (REF). The gastric infusion of MSG activates several brain areas, such as the insular cortex that is linked to the regulation of homeostasis; the limbic system is linked to olfaction; and hypothalamus is linked to certain metabolic processes and hunger control. This suggests that Glu signaling via the gustatory and visceral pathway plays a crucial role in digestion, absorption, and metabolism. [3]


Figure 1. Nutritional content vs. daily recommended intake for various components of instant noodles. (Photo Credit: Panisa Sundravorakul)

While noodles might be tasty, convenient, and save you money and time, they do not contain sufficient nutrients that fulfill the body’s daily nutritional needs. Instant noodles are relatively high in sodium, carbohydrates and fat, and quite low in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals [4]. Figure 1 compares the daily nutrition intake as recommended by The National Institute of Health to the nutritional content in one package of instant noodles (Figure 1) [5]. Instant noodles account for too much of daily sodium intake, and not enough for fiber, vitamin A and C, calcium, and iron daily intake.

There is no doubt that instant noodles are a fascinating food science innovation. Health-wise, instant noodles are certainly safe to eat, but if you are thinking about consuming them regularly, think again about how your health could benefit from eating more nutrient-rich foods.

References Cited:

  1. Toxicology Data Network. “T-Butylhydroquinone”. S. National Library of Medicine. 2013. Web. 21 January 2017.
  2. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).”Toxicological profile for Propylene Glycol”. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Serv 1997. Web. 7 Jan 2017.
  3. Torii, K. “Brain activation by the umami taste substance monosodium L-glutamate via gustatory and visceral signaling pathways, and its physiological significance due to homeostasis after a meal”. Journal of Oral Biosciences. 54.3 (2012): 144-150. Web. 20 March 2017.
  4. Nissin Foods. “Top Ramen- Nutrition Facts and Ingredients”. Nissin Foods. Web. 21 January 2017. National Institute of Health. “Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI)”. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. 2011. Web. 21 January 2017.

Science & Food UCLA 2017 Public Lecture Series

By Ashton Yoon | April 13, 2017 10:28 pm


Public Lecture

The 2017 UCLA Science & Food public lecture series is here!

FOOD WASTE: Solutions Informed by Science (and what to do with your leftovers)

Tuesday, May 2nd
7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall

World-renowned chef Massimo Bottura, UCLA professor Jenny Jay, Zero Waste Consultant and “Waste Warrior” Amy Hammes will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Evan Kleiman on “Food waste: solutions informed by science,” hosted by Dr. Amy Rowat, Science and Food, and the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. The discussion will focus on measuring the environmental effects of food waste, how policy influences food waste and its relationship to hunger and the environment.

General admission tickets are available for $25 from the UCLA Central Ticket Office (CTO) . Tickets can be purchased from the UCLA CTO over the phone or in person and will not include additional fees or surcharges. The UCLA CTO is located on-campus and is open Monday–Friday, 10am –4pm. A UCLA CTO representative can be reached during these hours at 310-825-2101. Tickets can also be purchased online from Ticketmaster for $25 plus additional fees. A limited number of $5 student tickets are available to current UCLA students. These must be purchased in person at the UCLA CTO with a valid Bruin Card.

For questions, please email laurah@ucla.edu.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Public Lectures, Science & Food

To Eat With Your Eyes

By Nessa Riazi | April 13, 2017 10:26 am

Figure 1: (photocredit: Zazzle)

Interacting with food is an incredibly sensual experience. One might imagine the smell of an oven roast, or picture an oozing chocolate lava cake, maybe even hear the crunch of a stale baguette. But what happens when you lose your sense of smell and taste?

Anosmia is a disorder where one loses their ability to smell. There are various forms of this unfortunate disorder: Congenital anosmia is when someone is unable to smell at birth, and hyposmia describes the diminishing sense of smell that develops over time. Our senses of smell and taste are interdependent, so if you lose one of these senses, you lose the other one too.


Figure 2: (photocredit: Monell Center)

In understanding anosmia, it is critical to first grasp the science of smell. Whenever we breathe air, particles pass through our nose and bind to the olfactory receptors beneath the cribriform plate. The “nerve cells come into direct contact with the air we breathe,” [1] connecting the nose with the brain through the cribriform plate, a structure that resembles a honeycomb. This cribriform plate is crucial to our sense of smell, and any harm done to the plate can in turn damage the neurons that pass through it [3]. Some of the individuals who develop anosmia or hyposmia are either subject to injuries of the head, nasal polyps, inhaling toxic chemicals, or an upper respiratory infection (URI)–such as a cold– that damaged the receptor neurons. Swelling of the nasal tissue as a result of inflammation may “stretch the receptor cells and damage their ability to function properly” [3]. This is one potential factor, but further research is being conducted to understand more about the causes of anosmia.


Figure 3: Anatomical representation of the olfactory system depicting how the nerves run directly through the cribriform plate. (Photocredit: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)

As expressed by Nisha Pradhan, a college student who developed anosmia, her inability to smell is perhaps even affecting her memory, as she cannot recall certain scents from her past [2]. While memories engage with all senses, though primarily with sight, we underestimate the role that smell has in providing a context for us to categorize our everyday life experiences; most importantly though its relevance personal health. Not being able to smell freshly baked cookies is unfortunate, but the inability to detect rotting milk or smoke from a nearby fire is dangerous. While in some cases anosmia can worsen, it is not always a permanent condition and can subside with time as nasal congestion or other issues subside. Scientists are currently conducting research to develop potential treatments for anosmia. The Monell Center—which focuses specifically on research relating to taste and smell– is testing to see if olfactory stem cells can be used to synthesize new olfactory neurons. Olfactory receptor cells have the ability “to regenerate from specialized stem cells across a persons lifetime.” These stem cells would be derived from healthy individuals and then be transplanted into the patient [3].

Though it may slip the crevices of one’s mind, the nose is a vulnerable organ essential in constructing our everyday perceptions of life around us. It allows us to retrace memories, map the physical world around us, and most importantly preserve well-being. Heightening our gastronomic experiences, our ability to smell and taste food is a gateway to more meaningful sensory, social phenomena and life without them could only become incredibly bland.

References Cited:

  1. “What is Anosmia?” http://www.webmd.com/brain/anosmia-loss-of-smell#2-6
  2. Heist, Annette. “With no Sense of Smell, The World Can Be a Grayer, Scarier Place.” http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/10/10/496455192/with-no-sense-of-smell-the-world-can-be-a-grayer-scarier-place
  3. “Causes of Anosmia.” Monell Center. https://www.monell.org/research/anosmia/anosmia_causes



Duncan Grapefruits and Chemistry Court

By Ashton Yoon | March 27, 2017 10:01 pm


The Duncan grapefruit has been described as “the finest, sweetest grapefruit” in the world, but after 187 years as the reigning champion of the American breakfast, the grapefruit inexplicably disappeared from grocery shelves. After only a few decades, it seems like the Duncan is making a comeback in Maitland, Florida.

Meanwhile, a conflict over the essences of sweeteners like Equal and Splenda brings chemistry into the courtrooms.

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The Unique Health Benefits of Winter Produce

By Ashton Yoon | March 27, 2017 9:58 pm

(Credit: Nourish Evolution)

Guest post by Earlene Mulyawan

Winter season is when comfort food seems to take priority over fresh produce. But eating local during winter season is easy! There are plenty of produce that are rich in nutrients and flavor during this time of the year. Winter produce can also be just as tasty and nutritious with some creativity and a little twist. Read on to learn about how these three winter vegetables.

Beets are round, little balls of vegetables that grow underground. They taste a little like dirt too, but in a unique sweet and earthy way. What gives these rooty vegetables their earthy flavor and aroma is an organic compound called geosmin, which is produced by microbes in the soil. It is also the main contributor to the strong scent that occurs when rain falls after a dry weather.

Beets are an excellent source of betaine, a nutrient that has potential to help fight inflammation, improve vascular risk factors and enhance performance [1]. As a group, the anti-inflammatory molecules found in beets may provide cardiovascular benefits as indicated by large-scale studies, as well as anti-inflammatory benefits for other body systems [2]. There are many ways you can enjoy eating beets: Eat them raw, roasted, as a salad topping, or pickled!


(Photo Credit: The New York Times)

Brussels sprouts, along with kale, cabbage, and broccoli, are members of the cruciferous family of vegetables. However, many scientists favor the term “brassica vegetables” over “cruciferous vegetables.” Brassica vegetables are unique because they are rich in sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates.

Our body converts glucosinolates to indoles and isothiocyanates. Epidemiological studies indicate that human exposure to isothiocyanates and indoles through cruciferous vegetable consumption may decrease cancer risk, but the protective effects may be influenced by individual genetic variation in the metabolism and elimination of isothiocyonates from the body [3]. Furthermore, a cohort study shows the inverse associations between the consumption of brassica vegetables and risk of lung cancer, stomach cancer, and all cancers taken together.

Of the case-control studies, 64% showed an inverse association between consumption of one or more brassica vegetables and risk of cancer at various sites [4]. One cup of brussels sprouts contains only 38 calories, and provides us with more than the daily-recommended intake of Vitamins C and K, 125% and 243% respectively. There’s no doubt that brussels sprouts offer plenty of health benefits. A simple way to prepare brussels sprouts is to simply toss them in olive oil and salt, roast them in the oven. When properly cooked, they should be bright green with a slightly crispy texture, and delicious!


(Photo Credit: The Young Austinian)

The health benefits of bright and cheery citrus fruits can help make your day a little brighter, as well. Citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C and flavonoids. Flavonoids are a class of polyphenols found in various fruits and vegetables. There are over 5,000 different flavonoids. Naringin and hesperidin are flavonoids unique to citrus fruits. Naringin and its aglycone naringenin belong to this series of flavonoids and were found to display strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. Some studies even suggest that naringin supplementation is beneficial for the treatment of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome [5].

Hesperidin facilitates the formation of vitamin C complex, which supports healthy immune system functions. It is useful, along with naringin, as a potential treatment for preventing the progression of hypoglycemia [6]. These refreshing citrus fruits may just turn your frown upside down!

References Cited:

[1]: Craig, Stuart AS. “Betaine in human nutrition1,2.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. N.p., 01 Sept. 2004. Web. 07 Mar. 2017.

[2]: Mercola, Dr. “Six Amazing Health Benefits of Eating Beets.” Mercola.com. N.p., 25 Jan. 2014. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

[3]: Higdon, Jane V., Barbara Delage, David E. Williams, and Roderick H. Dashwood. “Cruciferous Vegetables and Human Cancer Risk: Epidemiologic Evidence and Mechanistic Basis.” Pharmacological research: the official journal of the Italian Pharmacological Society. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2007. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

[4]: G van Poppel, and D T Verhoeven , H Verhagen , R A Goldbohm. “Brassica Vegetables and Cancer Prevention. Epidemiology and Mechanisms – Journals – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1999. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

[5]: Alam, M. Ashraful, Nusrat Subhan, M. Mahbubur Rahman, Shaikh J. Uddin, and And Hasan M. Reza. “M. Ashraful Alam.” Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal. N.p., 01 July 2014. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

[6]: John, Aubri. “What Is Hesperidin (Vitamin P)?” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 16 Aug. 2013. Web. 07 Mar. 2017.


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Science & Food brings you content on food and science including but not limited to: the scientific and culinary aspects of food that you eat; how knowledge of science and technology can be used to make better food; how science is integral to understanding the impact of food on our health and environment; as well as profiles of scientists and chefs that are advancing the frontiers of science and food.

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