Today, you can find hydrogenated butter with canola oil right next to trans fat-free margarine. Partially-hydrogenated soybean oil a few aisles down from Omega-3 fatty acids. Your friends tell you that you can eat fat as long as you avoid sugar, while doctors tell you to avoid some fats because they’ll clog your arteries and cause heart disease. Yes, the world of fats is as complex as it is diverse. Continue reading “Say Goodbye to Trans Fats”
It seems like every year there’s a new miracle food. First it was kale, then it was açai bowls, and now kombucha (pronounced come-BOOCH-uh) is the new health craze. You may have heard friends or colleagues touting its benefits: “It prevents cancer!” “It fights off colds!” “It’s the fountain of youth!” Maybe you’ve recently hopped on the kombucha train, or have been drinking it for years, or, if you’re honest, maybe you have absolutely no idea what it is. (It’s a fermented tea drink, in case you were wondering).
Well, you’re in the right place! Let’s learn more about the science behind kombucha. We’ll explore how it is made and how it interacts with our bodies. And spoiler alert: while it’s probably not the fountain of youth, evidence suggests it could be really, really good for us.
“CBD.” Perhaps you’ve seen these letters shining bright, in green neon, on a store window in a seedy part of the city, fronting a shop with glass vials and trinkets lining the shelves and creepy men behind the counter. Or, maybe you took a stroll downtown on a sunny day and walked into CVS or Walgreens, only to see these same letters on small boxes lining the shelves next to the vitamins. You might be wondering what’s going on – how could the same compound be proudly sold in shady hemp shops and mainstream convenience stores at the same time? What is this confounded chemical? Continue reading “The Truth about Cannabidiol (As Far as We Know)”
While there is an exception to every rule, most bartenders recognize that there are really two types of cocktails: sours and bitters. These flavors temper the taste of alcohol, as most people don’t enjoy straight 40% alcohol booze. The first thing bartenders can do to give their drinks flavor – the first step in creating the perfect cocktail – is to add a source of sugar, often in the form of simple syrup (just sugar and water) or vermouth. However, a drink with just booze and sugar would taste cloyingly sweet to most people, so bartenders often add something else to counteract the sweetness, and this is where the two families of drinks now diverge into bitters or sours. Continue reading “Three Ingredients for a Perfect Cocktail”
In the midst of the cocktail revolution, there’s no shortage of online recipes for aspiring home mixologists to shake or stir at the end of the day. However, outside of (often long) lists of (often obscure) ingredients to throw together, there’s little out there to provide an understanding of why we’re combining these ingredients and what makes a good drink. With that in mind, let’s dive into the ideas about why some drinks work, and explore how you can optimize and improve the taste of your beverages. Continue reading “Using Science to Step Up Your Cocktails”
According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2014, over 29 million people had diabetes in the United States – a disease that is more common among the poor, the less educated, and racial and ethnic minorities. While some people inherit genetic susceptibility to Type 2 diabetes, the onset of this disease can be exacerbated by factors that are all common to underserved neighborhoods, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and limited access to quality healthcare. This is a complex problem that requires a multifaceted solution. Continue reading “Diabetes in Low-Income Communities: Its Causes and Its Solutions”
Autumn is officially here, and if you’re anything like me, you’re a little sad that the smell of charcoal and mosquito spray is going away with the summer. I’m also always a little sad knowing that I won’t have the treat of my husband’s latest barbecued meal on my Dixie plate when dinner time rolls around in the winter months. Whether it is the hundreds of pounds of pulled pork he makes for our family’s annual pig roast in Michigan or a simple charred salmon with fresh corn on the back porch, the fish skin delicately charred and greasy as you flake it onto your fork, I will surely miss it. Continue reading “The Science of Grilling vs. Barbecue”
In the last several years, I, like many others, have become increasingly aware of and concerned with the issue of food waste. In 2014 (the most recent published data), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that, of the 136 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) sent to landfills that year, food was the largest component, accounting for over 21 percent of the total landfilled MSW. Continue reading “Go Home Food, You’re Wasted: What You May Not Know About Food Waste in the U.S.”
According to a common piece of folklore, you swallowed eight spiders in your sleep last year. Urban legend or not, the very thought of spiders crawling into your mouth while you slumber likely triggers many unpleasant sensations, from mild discomfort to outright repulsion. After all, insects and spiders are gross critters that belong outside in the dirt, not inside our home. And certainly, not inside our mouths while we sleep.
…but who says they can’t also be food? Continue reading “Eating Bugs: A Diet That’s Hard to Swallow”
Ah, summer in Chicago. A time of long days, longer lines at the Shedd Aquarium, and endless amount of fruit flies everywhere in your kitchen. Continue reading “Getting Clean with Some Household Science”
The year was 2008. A year of recessions, Obama, and the last Batman movie to be filmed in Chicago. It was also a year when a mistake of mine led to a loss that still affects me today: that of my beloved wool trousers from Nepal. Continue reading “The Science of Laundry”
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony before Congress, there is growing concern over data privacy and how companies like Facebook handle user information. Where this information ends up, and how it is being used—largely without our direct knowledge—seems limitless.
Editor’s Note: This is Part II of Ben Marcus’ series on the science of sugar. For Part I, click here.
When was the last time you saw a processed food in the grocery store with real sugar in it? Odds are, its’ been a while. Over the past few decades, most food manufacturers have decided to forgo sugar for artificial sweeteners to save costs. Continue reading “What is Corn Syrup, Anyways?”
My first memory of knitting wasn’t of my grandmother making a scarf by a roaring fire, though it did involve a stern matron overlooking my work as her needles clacked together, knitting a blanket as we took out our pencils and our Scantrons. Continue reading “Knitting: For Senior Citizens or Scientists?”
What does this… Continue reading “Making Cheese Taste Gouda”
By pure volume, America has become one of the largest consumers of wine in the world. Twenty years ago, Americans produced about 440 million gallons of wine, and the average person in the US drank about two gallons of it a year. Continue reading “Where Wine Gets its Kick”
“I PURPOSE, in return for the honor you do us by coming to see what are our proceedings here, to bring before you, in the course of these lectures, the Chemical History of a Candle.” Continue reading “How Candles Work”
Popcorn. Classic movie snack. Perfect combination of salty and light, fluffy crunch. Continue reading “Why Does Popcorn Pop?”
Glass is a solid, right? Obviously. You touch it, your finger doesn’t go through. You stand it upright, it doesn’t collapse. You whack a baseball through it, and it shatters into a million pieces. Continue reading “Glass: Solid or Liquid?”