Blog Directory - Blogged foodliterate: October 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Protein Primer

You know what a protein is, right? But do know what it is made of, what it does, why you need it, or if one is better than another? Don't worry, you'll know soon!

Proteins play a large role in so many of our body's functions. They are needed to synthesize tissues (muscles, connective) and enzymes, to maintain your acid-base and fluid balance, create plasma, antibodies, and clotting agents in your blood, produce hormones (thyroid, insulin) and manufacture light sensitive pigments in your eyes. Whew! Ok, that's not the entire list, but you get the idea - protein is important. Your body contains an estimated 10-50,000 different proteins, many of which are still being researched.

So, what is a protein? In a nutshell, it is a chain of amino acids. Need more detail? Ok. They are highly complex biopolymers comprised of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Still with me? You see, it's that nitrogen which sets them apart - both carbohydrates & fats are made up of carbon, hydrogen & oxygen, but no nitrogen. In fact, 'amino' means 'containing nitrogen'.
CHEMISTRY ALERT! (I've found its better to give a warning when covering the really sciency stuff. ) Chemistry 101: All carbon atoms must have 4 bonds, nitrogen 3, oxygen 2 and hydrogen 1. Hanging in there? All amino acids have three identical parts: they have connected to their central carbon atom an amino (NH2) group, an acid (COOH) group and a hydrogen (H). That leaves one more bond on the central carbon atom available. It is this side group and what it contains that makes each amino acid unique. To see protein's structure in 3D look here.

With 20 different major amino acids and a few minor ones, there are almost an infinite number of combinations (ok, maybe not quite that many, but a lot) that can be joined together to form proteins. Most proteins are made of chains of 100 to 300 amino acids. Within these 20 amino acids, there are 9 essentials and 11 non-essentials. Now that protein has been defined as an organic biopolymer, essential to life as we know it, it is time to learn about complete proteins and protein scores and what standards are used to determine them. But that will be my next post!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Where to Start

Food - it seems the obvious place to start this blog. I'm sure everyone could improvise a definition for food if pressed, but I'm going to discuss only two here.

Food (fōōd) n. 1. A substance, usually of plant or animal origin, taken in and assimilated by an organism to maintain life and growth: nourishment. That's how Webster's Dictionary defines it, but it isn't the legal definition our industry uses. We use the definition from the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act which defines food as: (1) Articles used for food or drink for man or other animals, (2) Chewing gum, and (3) Articles used for components of any such article (i.e. ingredients).

But what is food really? Essentially it is all of those items you find on a label and nutritional data panel. It is comprised of three main constituents: protein, fat & carbohydrates. Lets start here; there is plenty of time to cover the other organic & inorganic substances found in what we eat. I want you to understand the basics.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Welcome to Food Literate

About Me:

I can't really remember a time when I wasn't in the food industry. You see, I am the third generation of my family to work with food. I grew up, literally, in a food manufacturing plant, but that's not my only credential. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Food Technology from The Ohio State University and have almost 20 years of experience in the field.

I spent the first half of my career on the product development bench designing new marinades, glazes, coatings, snack seasonings, soups, gravies, and side dishes. I've served as a trained sensory panelist, written FDA and USDA formatted labels, and performed application work with flavors.

I've spent the second half of my career as a laboratory director involved in technical and regulatory services. I am immersed in the constantly changing world of FDA regulations, DOT regulations, The Bioterrorism Act of 2002, kosher & halal certifications, GMO, BSE, BST, irradiation, MSDS, etc. I am a Certified Food Defense Coordinator and am in charge of Food Security at the company for whom I work.

I have completed my culinary coursework at the esteemed Culinary Institute of America (CIA) so that I can become a Certified Culinary Scientist (still need to take my test). I am a Professional Member of the Institute of Food Technologists, a Food Science & Technology Member of the Research Chefs Association, and a Member of the Women's Foodservice Forum, where I am active in Committee leadership.

In a nutshell, I'm a food geek. So much so that my friends and family encouraged me to share some of this knowledge of food, ingredients, their workings, and this industry with you and anyone else that happens to land on my little corner of the internet.

Why this site:

To expose and refute the junk science and unsound information you see and read daily on television and on the internet spread by purported pundits, unscrupulous marketers, shady advocacy organizations, and uninformed journalists. It is also to share information about the ingredients and processes used to make the foods we all love. Our society is very far removed from its food. It comes in brightly colored, fantastically marketed packaging but too few consumers know how it actually gets from the farm to the family dinner table.

Let's face it - we are a nation of food illiterates.

There are too few people that actually have basic food knowledge and they tend to get their scientific information concerning the food they eat from Alton Brown (whom I admit, I do adore). I'm pretty sure I may be on to something simply because not a day goes by that someone doesn't ask me a food-related question (outside of my work responsibilities).

This website is dedicated to fielding questions, having conversations, and disseminating food-related information to a wider audience. I will endeavor to keep the information interesting, fun, and useful. I'll trust that you'll let me know how I'm doing!