When my family gets together, they quiz me about food and nutrition. They've come up with some great food questions over the years. I thought I'd share a few with you.
Q: Why do beans cause gas?
A: Beans produce gas because they contain the natural indigestible sugars called oligosaccharides. In the large intestine, bacteria ferment the sugars and gas is formed.
Q: Why does soaking beans make them more digestible?
A: Soaking beans releases an enzyme that, along with the water, helps break down the oligosaccharides, making them more digestible. Therefore, fewer oligosaccharides reach the intestine, and less gas is produced.
Q: Why does powdered sugar — but not granulated sugar — clump when you add it to coffee?
A: Most powdered sugar contains cornstarch, which when added to coffee can form a gooey clump. Granulated sugar doesn't contain starch — so it doesn't clump.
Q: Why do pasta recipes recommend adding salt to the cooking water?
A: Tradition has more to do with this than anything else. It is commonly believed that pasta will cook faster because salt increases the temperature at which water boils. From a chemistry standpoint this is true. However, if you add 1 tablespoon of salt (way too much) to 5 quarts of water, you only increase the boiling point of water by 7/100th of 1 degree. Not enough to shorten cooking time.
Q: Whatever happened to cod liver oil?
A: Years ago parents gave their children cod liver oil to stave off rickets and night blindness caused by deficiencies in vitamins A and D. One tablespoon of cod liver oil contains 13,600 International Units (IU) of vitamin A and 1,360 IU of vitamin D. The upper limits are 10,000 IU for vitamin A and 4,000 IU for vitamin D. So, cod liver oil fell out of favor because of concerns about possible vitamin toxicity. Cod liver oil is making a resurgence, however, as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is thought to have benefits for heart health.
Do you have food questions? Send them in and we'll do our best to answer them.
Sept. 28, 2011