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Garlic

Image Credit: Robert Benner (mullica/Flickr)

Image Credit: Robert Benner (mullica/Flickr)

If you’ve ever made the mistake of devouring three bowls of James Beard’s Garlic Soup a few hours before The Job Interview Of Your Life (I’m not speaking from experience here), you will recognize the frantic moment in which you pray that 1) the handful of mints burning in your mouth have superpower strength, or 2) your interviewers cannot smell, or 3) whoever you’re meeting had four bowls of garlic soup. Ahhh, the allure and woe of garlic. Why do you hate me if I love you so much?

Known for its distinct aroma and taste, Allium sativum – or garlic, as most of us know it – makes dishes sweet and pungent while it turns breaths foul and fetid. But what exactly causes garlic breath? More importantly, how do you get rid of it?

Image Credit: (fiverlocker/Flickr)

“Dear god, what did this guy have for lunch?”  —  Image Credit: (fiverlocker/Flickr)


The Breakdown of Garlic Breath

Garlic contains many sulfur compounds, but the ones most responsible for garlic breath are: diallyl disulfide, allyl methyl disulfide, allyl mercaptan, methyl mercaptan, and allyl methyl sulfide (AMS). The gases released by all of these compounds, except forAMS, originate in the oral cavity when we mechanically crush garlic in our mouths, so brushing your teeth and tongue will reduce the presence of the mouth-originated odors. However, good dental hygiene doesn’t usually entirely get rid of the smell because AMS is what causes unwelcome garlic breath, and this can linger for several hours or even days.

Background Credit: Crispin Semmens (conskeptical/Flickr)

Allyl Methyl Sulfide (AMS), the unwanted pungent houseguest that overstays its welcome. — Background Credit: Crispin Semmens (conskeptical/Flickr)

AMS is a sulfur compound formed inside the body from allyl mercaptan, so instead of originating in the mouth, AMS is produced in the microflora of the gut. The resultant gas quickly evaporates into the bloodstream, which then diffuses to the lungs and infuses each breath of air that leaves our bodies with traces of strong-smelling allyl methyl sulfide. And if that isn’t wonderful enough, the compound is also released through pores of the skin, which is why you may notice a lingering body odor after garlic-heavy meals. Unfortunately, AMS does not get metabolized in your gut and liver like many other molecules that we eat, so it takes much longer for AMS to breakdown – which is why the AMS stays in the body for many hours later. [1]

SOLUTIONS: When brushing your teeth (sadly) isn’t enough

Image Credit: Robert Bertholf (robbertholf/Flickr)

Image Credit: Robert Bertholf (robbertholf/Flickr)

  • EAT THIS: Parsley, Spinach, Mint, Apples, Pears, plus any fruits and veggies that are prone to browning (think avocados, bananas, potatoes, etc.)

    WHY: These foods contain an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase. (The same enzyme is what makes your fruit salad look brown!). When this compound is exposed to oxygen, it reacts in a way that reduces both the odors of the volatile compounds and the formation of more AMS. [2]

Image Credit: A Girl With Tea (agirlwithtea/Flickr)

Image Credit: A Girl With Tea (agirlwithtea/Flickr)

  • DRINK THIS: Green Tea, Coffee,  Ku-Ding-Cha (a bitter-tasting Chinese tea),  Prune Juice

    WHY: These drinks contain a polyphenolic compound called chlorogenic acid, which is another chemical that works to deodorize garlic-derived sulfur compounds on human breath. [2]

Image Credit: (Unsplash/pixabay)

Image Credit: (Unsplash/Pixabay)

  • ALSO DRINK THIS: Lemon juice, Soft Drinks, Beer, Hot Cocoa (and other acidic foods/beverages)

    WHY: When garlic cloves are cut or crushed open, they release an enzyme called alliinase that facilitates the reactions which produce compounds responsible for the smell of garlic. Because these drinks have a pH below 3.6, they quickly destroy alliinase and minimize the formation of garlic volatiles. [2]

Image Credit: Mike Mozart (jeepersmedia/flickr)

Image Credit: Mike Mozart (jeepersmedia/flickr)

  • DRINK THIS INSTEAD OF WATER: Milk!

    WHY: While drinking water works extremely well for reducing garlic breath, milk works even better because of its extra fat, protein, and sugar. Specifically, whole milk is effective in the reduction of the hydrophobic compounds diallyl disulfide and allyl methyl disulfide because of its high fat content. Note that drinking milk during a garlic-heavy meal does a better job of killing garlic breath than drinking milk afterwards, because the milk is able to directly react with the volatile compounds when it is mixed with garlic. [3]

Makes me think garlic ice cream might actually be a genius all-in-one odor-neutralizing dessert!

References Cited:

  1. Suarez, F., Springfield, J., Furne, J., Levitt. M. Differentiation of mouth versus gut as site of origin of odoriferous breath gases after garlic ingestion. Am J Physiol. 1999; 276(2):425–30.[http://ajpgi.physiology.org/content/276/2/G425]

  2. Munch, R., Barringer, S.A. Deodorization of Garlic Breath Volatiles by Food and Food Components. Journal of Food Science. March 2014; 79(4): C536-533.

  1. Hansanugrum, A. Barringer, S.A. Effect of Milk on the Deodorization of Malodorous Breath after Garlic Ingestion. Journal of Food Science. August 2010; 75(6): C549-558.


Eunice LiuAbout the author: Eunice Liu is studying Neuroscience and Linguistics at UCLA. She attributes her love of food science to an obsession with watching bread rise in the oven.

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Fruit Images & Wasabi Meds

strawberry-b

Yes, that’s a strawberry as seen from under the microscope. Wait ’til you see what a peach looks like zoomed in. For more “Whoa!”, the burn from wasabi could be useful in developing new pain medications.
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Coffee Revolution & Freakish Vegetables

Are you ready? A cold brew revolution is upon us, according to Espressoworks, and they have an infographic explaining why. If you’re looking for greater and colder things, look towards Alaska, where giant vegetables grow to set world records.

Cold-Brew-Coffee-Revolution-Infographic

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Veggie Microbes & Soil Microbes

You call it salad. The bacteria call it home.

Microbes–they’re everywhere! While scientists at the University of Colorado take an inventory of the microorganisms that live on the fruits and vegetables we eat, soil scientists are discovering the link between microorganisms that live in the soil and human health.
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Why Are Root Vegetables Sweeter in Cold Weather?

Local grower Alex Weiser stopped by the 2013 Science & Food course discuss all things potatoes and parsnips. We heard all about Weiser’s experimental plant varieties (Laker Baker, anyone?) and even learned why parsnips always taste just a little bit better in the winter. Check out the highlights:


Vince ReyesAbout the author: Vince C Reyes earned his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at UCLA. Vince loves to explore the deliciousness of all things edible.

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Space Veggies & Bland Tomatoes

SpaceGreenhouse

Astronauts grow veggies in space, while Earth-bound scientists uncover a genetic clue that could lead to tastier tomatoes. Read more

Alex Weiser

Alex Weiser of Weiser Family Farms is a grower of specialty fruits and vegetables in Kern and San Bernardino counties. You can find Alex and his produce at farmers’ markets across Southern California.

Photo credit: KCRW Good Food

Photo credit: KCRW Good Food

What hooked you on farming?
Father and mother
The coolest example of science in your produce?
The creation of it from seed!
The produce you find most fascinating?
Romanesco cauliflower
What scientific concept–food related or otherwise–do you find most fascinating?
Photosynthesis
Your best example of a food that is better because of science?
Carrots
How do you think science will impact your world of food in the next 5 years?
There will be a lot of new biological tools available to farmers
One kitchen tool you could not live without?
Toaster oven
Five things most likely to be found in your fridge?
Citrus, potatoes, butter, pickles, broccoli
Your all-time favorite ingredient?
Sunchokes
Favorite cookbook?
Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook
Your standard breakfast?
A large coffee and seasonal fruit

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


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

The Benefits of Well-Rested Produce

Cabbage - credit postbear

Beauty rest isn’t just for people—cabbages also benefit from a good night’s sleep. (photobear/Flickr)

In 400 BCE, the Greek admiral Androsthenes wrote* of a tree that

“opens together with the rising sun . . . and closes for the night. And the country-dwellers say that it goes to sleep.”

Over the next 2000 years, researchers discovered that the daily cycles first observed by Androsthenes fall into 24-hour periods similar to our own cycles of waking and sleeping [1]. In plants, these circadian rhythms help control everything from the time a plant flowers to its ability to adapt to cold weather [2]. Plants can even use their internal clocks to do arithmetic calculations to budget their energy supplies through the night [3].

But what happens when part of a plant is harvested for food? In a recent study, researchers at Rice University and UC Davis showed that cabbages can exhibit circadian rhythms as long as a week after harvest.

As with any plant, cabbages experience circadian rhythms while growing out in the field; however, cabbages stuck in the constant dark of a delivery truck or light of a 24-hour grocery store will inevitably lose their sense of time. Like travelers adjusting to a new time zone, cabbages deprived of cyclic light conditions suffer a severe bout of veggie jet lag. And just as travelers overcome jet lag by readjusting their sleep cycles, cabbages can “re-entrain” their circadian rhythms by being exposed to cyclic light conditions. This also works with spinach, zucchini, sweet potato, carrots, and blueberries, suggesting that post-harvest circadian rhythms are a general characteristic of many, if not all, fruits and vegetables.

The ability to re-entrain circadian rhythms in produce presents an intriguing new way to improve the palatability and even nutrition of our fruits and vegetables. In the wild, circadian rhythms can help plants defend themselves against hungry herbivores. The researchers showed that cabbages with re-entrained circadian rhythms use a similar mechanism to avoid becoming an afternoon snack for plant-eating larvae—with less damage from hungry larvae, re-entrained cabbages appear fresher and tastier than cabbages kept under constant light or dark conditions.

Circadian rhythms help protect produce from herbivores. Samples from cabbages kept in (A) cyclic “in phase” light, (B) constant light, or (C) constant dark conditions were fed to larvae. Cabbages kept in constant light or constant dark sustained the most damage.

Cabbages fight off larvae and other pests thanks to molecules called glucosinolates. Any cabbage can produce these molecules, but re-entrained cabbages produce glucosinolates in sync with their circadian rhythms. Because larvae also experience circadian rhythms, re-entrained cabbages get an extra boost of molecular larvae-fighting power just when they need it the most.

While glucosinolates are bad news for larvae, they have valuable anti-cancer properties when consumed by humans. In fact, the very molecules that plants create to defend themselves against their environment are often beneficial for our own health. Future research will show whether such phytonutrients in other types of produce can also be reconditioned to accumulate in predictable 24-hour cycles. Taking advantage of circadian rhythms in fresh produce could then give us more control over the way phytonutrients accumulate over time, helping us maximize the nutritional benefits of our fruits and vegetables. Improving the nutrition of our food could be as simple as giving our produce a good night’s sleep.

 

*The original Greek passage comes from Botanische forschungen des Alexanderzuges [4] with a very special thank you to Tovah Keynton for the English translation. The drawings (also from Botanische) depict the tree leaves transitioning into and then assuming their “sleeping position.”
TamarindTreeRhythms

References Cited

  1. McClung CR (2006) Plant Circadian Rhythms. PLANT CELL ONLINE 18: 792–803. doi:10.1105/tpc.106.040980.
  2. Kinmonth-Schultz HA, Golembeski GS, Imaizumi T (2013) Circadian clock-regulated physiological outputs: Dynamic responses in nature. Semin Cell Dev Biol 24: 407–413. doi:10.1016/j.semcdb.2013.02.006.
  3. Scialdone A, Mugford ST, Feike D, Skeffington A, Borrill P, et al. (2013) Arabidopsis plants perform arithmetic division to prevent starvation at night. eLife 2: e00669–e00669. doi:10.7554/eLife.00669.
  4. Bretzl H (1903) Botanische forschungen des Alexanderzuges. B. G. Teubner.

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