Posts

Pulse Trend & Lentil Geology

Pulses

The UN has declared 2016 as the year of pulses and chef Michael Smith has stated that pulses will be the food trend this year. However, many North Americans, as traditional meat lovers, may not be familiar with pulses, which are grain legumes such as kidney beans, mung beans, and chickpeas. As part of an effort to raise pulse popularity, Carol Henry from the University of Saskatchewan is researching their many benefits, including their ability to lower cholesterol. Over at McGill University, researchers used dry lentils, another edible pulse, to study the formation and deformation of a geological phenomenon found in glacier beds, landslide bases, and gougey faults.
Read more

Eve Lahijani

Eve Lahijani graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Economics and Business and went on to earn her Masters in Nutritional Science at CSU Los Angeles. She is now a registered dietitian for Vitamineve, a nutrition counseling service, and a nutrition health educator at UCLA. Eve’s Fiat Lux seminars on body image and proper nutrition have given many UCLA freshmen the tools necessary to maintain a healthy relationship with food.

8246eec7-c0f2-441d-a84e-8ca417d1dc4d-495x640

What hooked you on cooking?
I love learning about eating behavior. What, how and why people eat is intriguing to me. Especially when the eating is not related to physical hunger.
The coolest example of science in your food?
The process of denaturing an egg white and turning that into a soufflé is like magic to me.
The food you find most fascinating?
Ice cream is cool. Couldn’t help myself with that pun 🙂 I do appreciate the endless array flavors, textures, colors and combinations that can be created!
What scientific concept–food related or otherwise–do you find most fascinating?
How complicated eating behavior and food has become for some people (especially in harmful ways including over and under-eating and other compulsive eating behaviors) – and each individual’s process of understanding, simplifying and ultimately healing their relationship with food.
Your best example of a food that is better because of science?
I love Boysenberries and they are a blackberry/raspberry hybrid. Thank you science! And of course seedless watermelon.
We love comparing the gluten in bread to a network of springs. Are there any analogies you like to use to explain difficult or counter-intuitive food science concepts?
Yes: Eating in a balanced way is like a pendulum in a grandfather clock. You know, it swings back and forth. If the pendulum swings really far in one direction, due to the laws of physics it will swing far back in the opposite direction. Same holds true with eating. That is, if someone restricts (or goes on a diet) it pushes the pendulum too far in one direction so the better someone gets at depriving themselves the more likely the pendulum would swing far back in the opposite direction which may result in binges, cravings or overeating.
How does your scientific knowledge or training impact the way you cook? Do you conduct science experiments in the kitchen?
I like to plan to have well balanced meals that include components that bring about satisfaction. So I like to make sure my cooking involves carbohydrates, protein and fat – as well as fruits and vegetables. My science experiments include cupcake decorating along with trying new recipes with ingredients I get from the farmers market.
One kitchen tool you could not live without?
Sharp knife
Five things most likely to be found in your fridge?
Oranges, soy milk, Brussels sprouts, peanut butter, eggs and garlic so I guess that’s six!
Your all-time favorite ingredient?
Does chocolate flavored coconut ice-cream count as a food ingredient?
Your standard breakfast?
It’s always evolving. Right now I am into a mushroom, onion and garlic omelet or whole grain waffles with peanut butter. Whatever I choose I usually include some fruit and/or milk.

Hangry Hoarders & Juice Processing

Twilley-Hunger-690

Hunger may motivate eating, but a team of researchers recently investigated how hunger can influence people to hoard items that can’t be eaten. Thirsty for juice instead? It turns out that cold-pressing juice isn’t as beneficial as people may tout, due to the multitude of factors that go into how micronutrients are absorbed by the human body.
Read more

Big Soda & Food Perspectives

pepsi-d43ca1b5391e75036b0a1e7c9b7a9b6378ddcaf3-s800-c85

An advocate for anti-obesity and healthful diets worked at PepsiCo to change the way food companies marketed junk food. Also, our understanding of how what we eat affects our biology may change with an alternative perspective on food as a hormone.
Read more

Nutrition Neuroscience & Flavor Perception

Frosting

Our next public lecture is coming up fast! To get ready for How We Taste, read up on how Dr. Dana Small is helping us scientifically understand our relationship with food. Read more

Photo credit: Chris Battaglia (photog63/Flickr)

Hazelnut

Photo credit: Chris Battaglia (photog63/Flickr)

Hazelnuts may not be as popular as other nuts in the U.S., but they have quite the culinary versatility, enjoyed in pralines, Nutella, and even as themselves. These nuts grow on hazel trees, of the genus Corylus. Depending on the plant species and nut shape, hazelnut also refers to the filbert nut or cobnut. Filbert nuts have an elongated shape that tapers into a “beak”, and are found on the Filbert (C. maxima), Colchican Filbert (C. colchica), and Turkish Hazel (C. colurna). Cobnuts are generally rounder, and grow on the American Hazelnut (C. americana) and the more commercially recognized Common Hazel (C. avellana) [1].

Whether in the form of a nut, essence, or oil, hazelnuts owe their sweet, buttery flavor profile to the molecule filbertone. Interestingly, filbertone can be used to test for the authenticity of olive oil. Olive oils are sometimes cheapened by mixing in hazelnut oil [2]. As filbertone is one of the components of hazelnut oil, testing for its presence can determine whether or not a sample of olive oil is impure [3]. Although hazelnut oil is less expensive compared to olive oil, it has a strong, robust flavor that makes it a great substitute in salad dressings and baked goods.

Filbertone_Hazelnut-02

Like many nuts, hazelnuts are a good source of protein and monounsaturated fats. Further, they contain a significant amount of thiamine, various B vitamins, and especially vitamin E [4]. Need another reason to try out hazelnuts this month? The warm, rich, velvety taste of roasted hazelnuts in decadent truffles or comforting lattes has a way of slowing down time. Try it for yourself.


References Cited

  1. Flora of North America: Corylus. <http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=108088>
  2. Arlorio M.; Coisson JD; Bordiga M.; Garino C.; et al. “Olive Oil Adulterated with Hazelnut Oils: Simulation to Identify Possible Risks to Allergic Consumers.” Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2010 Jan; 27(1):11-8. doi: 10.1080/02652030903225799.
  3. Flores, G.; Ruiz del Castillo, M.L.; Blanch, G.P.; Herraiz, M. “Detection of the Adulteration of Olive Oils by Solid Phase Microextraction and Multidimensional Gas Chromatography”. Food Chemistry, 2006 Jul; 97(2): 336–342.
  4. Nutritional Value of Hazelnuts. < http://www.aboutnuts.com/en/encyclopedia/hazelnuts>

Alice PhungAbout the author: Alice Phung once had her sights set on an English degree, but eventually switched over to chemistry and hasn’t looked back since.

Read more by Alice Phung


Why Do We Bother to Eat Bitter?

Photo credit: Melissa McClellan/Flickr

Mustard Greens (photo credit: Melissa McClellan/Flickr)

Through exploration of the ancestral context of taste, scientists can better understand how modern humans use the sense of taste to make decisions and survive. Evolution has shaped our sense of taste to guide us to seek the food we need to survive, while steering clear of foods harmful to us. It is understandable that early humans who avoided spoiled meat and poisonous berries were able to pass down their genes, giving modern humans the ability to avoid them too. But what explains the countless humans who voluntarily consume, and even enjoy, some bitter foods? Why do we eat bitter greens? Brussels sprouts? Hoppy beers? Why do we tolerate some bitter flavors and not others?

Tastes can be positively or negatively palatable depending upon their context among other food flavors. Sour fruit flavors like grapefruit or cranberry can be refreshing and delicious to eat, but sour milk clearly signals that the food has expired. These matches between tastes and flavors are called flavor congruencies.

Most taste-odor flavor pairings are learned associatively through eating. Flavors associated with calories and nutrients become more pleasurable with time, whereas poisoning and illness teach us to associate foods with an unpleasant taste or disgust. For omnivores like us, learning the consequences of eating different foods is an indispensable survival tool. Because our range of food option is so vast, it is essential to sample many foods and connect their post-ingestive consequences with their perceived tastes. Bitter-tasting substances are innately disliked by infants and children presumably because most bitter compounds are toxic. Most children are drawn to all things sickeningly sweet, but as adults enjoy eating eat bitter Brussels sprouts. We learn to enjoy the taste of mildly bitter foods, especially when paired with positive metabolic and pharmacological outcomes. The more your body benefits from an ingested food, the more palatable it becomes [1].

Our bodies require phytonutrients such as flavonoids that cannot be physically separated from their vegetable carriers. Humans learn to tolerate low levels of bitterness in foods as they co-occur with nutrients in plants through a post-digestive reward/punishment system. For example, rhubarb contains 0.5% oxalic acid by weight, a substance that in large doses can cause joint pain and fatal kidney stones. The first time a child eats rhubarb, the initial taste response tells the brain that the food is bitter, toxic, and should be avoided. However, as the body begins to benefit from the essential nutrients in rhubarb without suffering any damage, the rhubarb becomes more and more palatable. Experiments show that rats can very quickly learn associations between tastes and metabolic and physiological consequences, perhaps in a matter of days. These associations occur after only a single trial and are strong enough to resist fading away even after multiple presentations of the food with no physiological consequences [2].

In humans, a large sugar molecule called maltooligosaccharide (MOS) presents a sweeter case of taste association. Human saliva transforms starch into MOS. Although MOS is tasteless, it activates brain reward centers in a manner similar to sugar, while non-nutritive sweeteners do not. Thus, a tasteless molecule that has positive metabolic outcomes can activate brain reward areas more effectively than a sweet-tasting substance that has little nutritional value [3].

The next time you eat mustard greens, stop to appreciate the complex process that allows you to taste and enjoy your leafy meal. Consider how your perception of taste has evolved, which has protected your ancestors from poisoning themselves. Reflect upon the incredible and complex mechanisms humans have developed to keep you well nourished. And if you still haven’t warmed up to greens, consider introducing them gradually into your diet.  By exploiting the body’s associative adaptation to taste, you could learn to love them.

References Cited

  1. Breslin, P. 2013, An Evolutionary Perspective on Food and Human Taste Current Biology, Vol. 23 Issue 9
  2. Sclafani, A., Azzara AV., Lucas, F. 1997, Flavor preferences conditioned by intragastric polycose in rats: more concentrated polycose is not always more reinforcing, Physiology & Behavior
  3. Chambers ES, Bridge MW, Jones DA., 2009, Carbohydrate sensing in the human mouth: effects on exercise performance and brain activity, The Journal of Physiology

Elsbeth SitesAbout the author: Elsbeth Sites is pursuing her B.S. in Biology at UCLA. Her addiction to the Food Network has developed into a love of learning about the science behind food.

Read more by Elsbeth Sites


5 Things About Fruits & Veggies

At our 2013 public lecture Edible Education, Alice Waters, David Binkle, and Wendy Slusser discussed the challenges of eating healthfully in a “fast food” culture and how they are working to improve health and nutrition in schools and on college campuses. When it comes to healthful eating, what could be better than eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables? Here are 5 fun facts you might not know about fruits and veggies:

Veggies1


Veggies2


Veggies3


Veggies4


Veggies5


Liz Roth-JohnsonAbout the author: Liz Roth-Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate in Molecular Biology at UCLA. If she’s not in the lab, you can usually find her experimenting in the kitchen.

Read more by Liz Roth-Johnson


Edible Education

Edible Education
Featuring Alice Waters, Wendy Slusser, and David Binkle
April 25, 2013

At this enlightening evening of food education, Chef Alice Waters shared valuable insights into food culture and her work with the Edible Schoolyard Project. Chef David Binkle and Dr. Wendy Slusser then provided an informative discussion on initiating change in how we eat through school lunches and healthy campuses. Watch the entire lecture or check out some of the shorter highlights below.

Alice Waters on fast food culture and slow food values

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been accused of being a Farmers market philanthropist because I believe in paying people for the true cost of their food and their products. And people say that I’m artificially driving up the prices of food in the markets. And I say, it’s the discounted prices that are artificial. I feel that it’s my responsibility to pay for the true cost of things, if I can.”

David Binkle on LAUSD’s school lunch program

“In our school district more than 80% of our children qualify from circumstances of poverty. And that is a real challenge for our children just to get a good, healthy, nutritious meal every day. So our job is to really provide that healthy, nutritious option to the children.”

Wendy Slusser on UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative

“UCLA serves as a leader in Los Angeles and around the world, and by prioritizing health in its broadest definition we are signaling that we value living well. And so what does the Healthy Campus Initiative focus on? Make the healthy choice the easy choice, so that we can live well, eat well, breathe well, move well, be well, and mind well.”

Stressed Carrots & A Tastier Tomato

StressedCarrots

It turns out that giving fruits and veggies a good night’s sleep isn’t the only way to make them better to eat. Researchers at Texas A&M have shown that carrots produce more antioxidants in response to the “stress” of being chopped or shredded, while scientists at the University of Florida are working hard to make a tastier and more nutritious tomato. Read more