Why are some foods made with chemicals - Food - Why Is Milk White?: & 200 Other Curious Chemistry Questions (2013)

Why Is Milk White?: & 200 Other Curious Chemistry Questions (2013)

10. Food

Everyone loves to eat, and needs to eat. Our bodies are made of chemicals, and we need new chemicals to fuel us, build the parts that grow, and rebuild the parts that are constantly wearing out. Chemicals are what make food look, smell, and taste the way they do. They are what make food healthy and good for us. We tend to forget about all the good chemicals in food because we fear the ones that are bad for us or that we don’t understand. But knowledge of food chemistry can alleviate that fear.

Why are some foods made with chemicals?

Of course all food is made from chemicals. But this book has discussed the meaning of the word chemical earlier and found that people without a scientific education confuse the word chemical with concepts such as things in my oatmeal you can’t pronounce.

Oatmeal is a wonderful food all by itself. The Fruit & Maple Oatmeal you get at McDonald’s might have far too much sugar added, but that is not the “chemical” that people are complaining about, even if it is the most dangerous ingredient in the bowl.

The oatmeal contains rolled oats, brown sugar, modified food starch (regular starch broken down into smaller molecules to change its thickness), salt, natural flavor (from plant sources—specifically the maple flavor), barley malt extract (what you put in malted milk), and caramel color (burned sugar).

The diced apples in the oatmeal are made from apples and have calcium ascorbate added as an antioxidant to keep the color from changing. Calcium is an essential nutrient, and ascorbate is vitamin C. Many people think antioxidants are good for your health and that we should get more of them.

The cranberry raisin blend includes cranberries and raisins— and more sugar. It also has sunflower oil, and the dried fruit has been preserved with sulfur dioxide. Most dried fruit you eat is preserved this way. Some people are sensitive to sulfites, which are formed by the preservative, but most of the sulfur dioxide has dissipated by the time the product gets to the consumer.

The light cream part of the product has the most unfamiliar names. Milk and cream are in it, but so are sodium phosphate, diacetyl tartaric ester of monoglyceride, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, and carrageenan.

Sodium phosphate is one of the electrolytes added to sports drinks. It controls the acidity and stabilizes the proteins in the milk. Datem (diacetyl tartaric ester of monoglyceride) is an emulsifier made from vegetable oil and cream of tartar, which keeps the cream from separating from the milk. Sodium stearoyl lactylate is another emulsifying agent. Sodium citrate is a salt of citric acid (the stuff in orange juice), and it prevents milk from curdling by acting as an acid buffering agent, much like sodium phosphate. Carrageenan is a thickening agent (like a starch) that is made from seaweed.

With these ingredients the milk can be stored and transported without curds and lumps of fat forming. You will find these ingredients in single-serving coffee creamers for the same reason.