Super(man)foods Pt. 1

Today for dinner I had salmon. Normally I don’t like it pan-fried but my mom strongly encouraged me to eat some, saying that salmon is “good” for you. Even though she couldn’t answer my favourite question “why”, because “mom knows best” the salmon ended up in my stomach. I honestly think parents have the hardest time answering the “why” so to help my mom and others, I’ve compiled a list of superfoods and the science behind them. It also gives me an excuse to eat Kit Kats everyday!

1. Salmon (Sushi)


Salmon has high levels of protein, vitamins (B6, B12, D) and minerals (potassium, selenium). As a quick review, protein is needed for generating new cells, muscles, organs, etc. Vitamins and minerals aren’t produced by the body and are only obtained by eating food. They too are needed for the body to properly function. Vitamin B6 helps make neurotransmitters (chemicals that allow nerve cells to communicate), vitamin B12 is involved in DNA synthesis and vitamin D helps in the formation of bones. The main difference between vitamins and minerals is that vitamins are organic (contains carbon) whose structure can be broken down if sufficient amounts of energy are provided. Minerals on the other hand tend to keep their shape and can be divided into two types – macrominerals and trace minerals. Examples of macrominerals include calcium, sodium and potassium. As the name suggests, high amounts of them are required. Conversely, minimal amounts of trace minerals are needed by the body, which includes iron, copper and selenium.  Rarely do you ever see someone eating a bar of iron for breakfast!

But what most people care about is the high amount of omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and other fish like tuna, mackerel and sardines. There are different types of omega-3 fatty acids, but the best ones are the eicoaspentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), that comes primary from fish. Both help with maintaining the heart, joints and a healthy functioning brain. New studies have also found that regularly consuming fish may lower the risk of developing cancers or other chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, depression and diabetes. Maybe that’s why the world’s oldest person was Japanese!


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Organic Food Basics


Just the other day, my family and I were looking at grocery store flyers and my dad commented about how ridiculously overpriced organic foods were. He did have a point seeing that non-organic beef burgers were priced at $3.58/lbs. while the organic ones were $8.39/lbs. I wanted to make a comment but I realized I didn’t know much about organic foods. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this, so I’ll be giving you everything you need to know about organic foods. 

The rules and regulations governing what can or can’t be “organic” is different in every country but to give you the basic idea, organic foods are produced without the use of synthetic pesticides.  A lot of the times, producers have special certifications in order to label their foods “organic”, allowing the government to create a standard for organic products.

The demand for organic foods have increased over the years because many are worried about the effect long-term exposure to pesticides has on human health. Even folks that don’t work in the agriculture industry are still exposed to some extent. Pesticide residues remain on food even after consumers (like my mom) have vigorously washed their produce. Another reason that has prompted others to purchase organic is due to the fact that many people have claimed eating organic foods are safer and healthier for you. Some even say that organic just tastes better. Watch an organic taste test here:

It is perfectly understandable where the people who support organic foods are coming from but there are a few things to take into consideration. Firstly, there is currently no sufficient amount of evidence that supports the idea that organic foods are healthier/safer. Taste is also very subjective and although synthetic pesticides aren’t permitted, natural pesticides are. As long as they come from natural sources like plants, farmers can spray as much as they like onto their crops and still be labeled as an organic farm. In fact, in the past, natural pesticides have been discovered to be toxic to humans. For example, rotenone used to be labeled as an organic pesticide because it came from the stems and roots of plants. Later, it was linked to Parkinson’s disease. Ironically, abstaining from using pesticides also doesn’t ensure protection from other harmful organisms. For example, scientists found higher levels of e.coli/salmonella from the produce grown on organic farms. The explanation scientists provided was that because organic farms use manure as opposed to artificial fertilizers, the chance of fecal contamination was greater, leading to a higher chance of spreading e.coli/salmonella.

So there you have it! Now you know what to expect from products labeled as “organic” and you are welcome to join in on my conversations at home! In all honesty, I don’t think there are any major differences between organic and non-organic foods because we also have to keep in mind that all the food available to us in the supermarkets have been inspected and pre-approved by the government. There is actually a legal limit on the amount of pesticide residues that can be on our food. But with that said, if the price difference is small I would be willing to pay the higher price for organic foods.

At the end of the day, whether you purchase organic food is completely up to you, but what’s more important is that you become a conscious consumer. 


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Kraft Dinner Goes Natural


The KD we all grew up eating (well at least I did) is changing for the better! In a recent press release, Kraft announced it would be removing synthetic colours, artificial flavours and preservatives from its well-known mac and cheese. Food scientists are working on a new recipe that removes Yellow 5 and 6 dyes because studies have linked them to asthma and hyperactivity. Kraft is looking to use paprika, annatto and turmeric to replace the dyes. The biggest challenge will be finding a recipe that maintains the taste kids (and I) expect without adding ingredients I can’t even begin to pronounce. Food scientists have time though, as these new boxes of KD aren’t expected to hit supermarkets until January 2016.


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Ever wonder what's in your food? As a food science student, I certainly do. I'll be exploring the ingredients found in common food items and explaining the science behind them. I’ll also be blogging about interesting news articles about food ranging from new products to scientific discoveries. Enjoy!