Welcome Food Matters at Scientific American Blogs- Chemistry Represent!
Sep03

Welcome Food Matters at Scientific American Blogs- Chemistry Represent!

Recovered from your Labor Day barbeque? Good. Because something's cooking at the Scientific American blog network, and it is decidedly meaty. I'm talking about the SciAm network's new food blog, Food Matters, which launches today, in time for Scientific American’s Food Week celebration. This group blog features seven authors- three researchers and four journalists, and includes a familiar face (more on that later). According to Bora Zivkovic, who heads the network, at Food Matters "there will be explainers of basics, coverage of new papers, carefully researched pieces of in-depth journalism, pushback against non-science-based activism, posts that provide historical context, and just plain fun stuff from original multimedia to quirky recipes." And chemists, if that's not enough to whet your appetite, consider this: the blog's authors include Julianne Wyrick, who holds a B.A. in biochemistry, and friend of CENtral Science See Arr Oh. I asked them some questions ahead of the launch and here's what they had to say. (Quotes edited for grammar and/or shortened for brevity). Carmen: Why do you think food is a great medium for talking about chemistry and biochemistry? Julianne: Food touches everyone; from biochemists to ballet dancers, we all eat. Discussing the chemistry involved in food and nutrition helps science come alive to scientists and non-scientists alike. See Arr Oh: People are surrounded by food, but they don't always take a second to realize that food is all about chemical processes- from photosynthesis, to preservatives, to digestion. C: Why is it important to have chemistry representin’ on the big blog networks? J: Blogging about the chemistry involved in topics like food is important because chemistry is the foundation for so much of science. Many processes, like how a nutrient affects the body, boil down to chemical reactions. If we know more about the chemistry, we have a better understanding of the process. S: There's a stereotype that may be in some people's minds of chemists holed up in their labs, drumming up massive profits for corporations. I'd like to show that chemists can be relatable and fun and communicate well. Congrats on hitting the bloggy big time, you two. Now, make sure you commission some guest posts from the likes of Matt Hartings and Martin Lersch, and then I'll really be...

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Green Banana Pasta, Just like Mama Never Used to Make
Jul23

Green Banana Pasta, Just like Mama Never Used to Make

These days it seems like everything’s turning green. Cars. Buildings. And now, thanks to a team led by University of Brasilia Ph.D. nutritionist Renata P. Zandonadi, even pasta is turning green. For her doctoral thesis, Zandonadi used unripe, green bananas to develop an alternative for individuals, such as those with the autoimmune condition celiac disease, who are allergic to the gluten normally found in pasta. The results were recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.04.002). Typically pasta is made with wheat flour (which contains gluten) and whole eggs. Zandonadi’s team, however, cooked up a pasta with green banana flour (which does not contain gluten), egg whites, water, and guar and xantham gum. According to Zandonadi’s teammate Raquel Botelho, green banana flour serves as a great replacement for wheat flour because the fruit’s resistant starch “forms a net similar to gluten” that traps water inside the pasta, ensuring a moist and elastic consistency. Unripe fruit might not sound like the most appetizing of ingredients, but the experimental pasta actually proved quite tasty. The team cooked a meal of green banana pasta for a focus group of 25 people with celiac disease as well as a meal of green banana pasta and whole-wheat pasta for another group of 50 with no gluten allergies. The team then asked the tasters to rate their experience. The diners raved about the experimental pasta, ranking it ahead of whole-wheat pasta in terms of aroma, flavor, texture, and all-around quality. Not bad for pasta that contains 98% less fat than its whole-wheat counterpart. Another benefit, says Botelho: Green banana pasta serves as a source of inulin, a polysaccharide that stimulates the development of “good,” immunity-boosting intestinal bacteria. Through their new recipe, the research team has turned a commonly overlooked fruit into a key ingredient for feeding an underserved section of the world’s population. “Green bananas are considered a subproduct of low commercial value with little industrial use,” the team’s abstract notes. Yet, “the possibility of developing gluten-free products with green banana flour can expand the product supply for people with celiac disease and contribute to a more diverse diet.” Green banana flour has already contributed to a more diverse diet for the Brazilian research team. Botelho tells Newscripts that her lab bakes cakes, cookies, and pies using the alternative pasta ingredient. Still, she contends, “the most difficult recipes to be developed without gluten are pasta and bread. That is why we wrote an article about...

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