Posts filed under ‘Food and Drink’

Some Fruit Seeds Contain Cyanide

By Chad Upton | Editor

Seeds from peaches, black cherries, apricots and apples contain a compound called amygdalin. Your body metabolizes amygdalin as hydrogen cyanide, which can make you very sick and even kill you (in large doses).

Hydrogen cyanide is lethal because it impedes blood from carrying oxygen, which is of course a critical function of blood.

The pits and seeds from cherries and apples aren’t a huge concern since it would take an unreasonably significant quantity of those to cause you harm. However, you should be more aware of the dangers of peach and apricot seeds if you like to eat them.

If you’re just consuming the fruit, there is nothing to worry about; however, some people buy bags of apricot seeds, or other forms of amygdalin, as a treatment or preventative treatment for cancer. It is marketed under the name Laetrile and “Vitamin B17” although there are many studies that prove it is not effective at treating cancer, not to mention the increased chance of cyanide poisoning.

A fatal dose of cyanide can be as little as 1.5 mg/kg of body weight. Since an apricot kernel contains approximately 0.5 mg of cyanide, consuming 150 seeds in a short period of time could be lethal to a 50 kg (110 lb) person.

It’s not just fruit seeds, there are other foods that contain cyanide too. Cassava, also known as tapioca, contains two forms of cyanide and should not be eaten raw. It is rendered safe for consumption by the process of soaking, cooking or fermentation.

There are many people who consume these foods in small doses without issue; you can buy bags of apricot kernels from Amazon or health food stores. If you do buy some, heed the serving suggestion and warning on the package.

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Sources: wikipedia (amygdalin, cassava, cyanide poisoning, apricot kernel), Saint Louis University (PDF)

September 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm 6 comments

Guinness Beer Has Fewer Calories Than Skimmed Milk

Chad Upton | Editor

As much as I like to write about and consume coffee, beer is actually a more popular drink. Worldwide, Beer is the third most consumed beverage after water and tea.

It shouldn’t be too surprising, beer is the oldest known form of alcohol, thought to be over 10,000 years old. Trappist monks, and other religious people, originally brewed beer to help feed the community. Some dark beer, such as Guinness brand, is sometimes referred to as a “meal in glass.”

Although Guinness is dark, it’s pretty light on calories. A pint of Guinness only has 198 calories, less than skimmed milk, orange juice and most other non-light beers.

Thanks to Gord for submitting this one.

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Image: Daniele Faieta (cc)

Sources: wikipedia (beer, guinness, trappist beer)

September 14, 2011 at 2:00 am 7 comments

Non-Wing Chicken “Wings” are Called “Wyngz”

By Chad Upton | Editor

Boneless chicken “wings” are not made from wing meat at all. They’re generally large piece of chicken breasts or thighs that are cut or shaped to look like chicken wings.

Legally, they can only be called “wings” if they are actually made from wing meat. But, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has an alternative name that can be used, “Wyngz.”

Using “Wyngz” has some specific rules:

  1. No other misspellings are allowed.
  2. The product label must be submitted for approval.
  3. White meat must be used.
  4. The Wyngz* term must be prominent.
  5. An asterisk must link to a statement that indicates the product is not made entirely from wing meat.

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Image: theimpulsivebuy (cc)

Sources: USDA

July 30, 2011 at 1:57 pm 1 comment

The “Asparagus Effect” is Not Universal

By Kyle Kurpinski

Have you ever noticed a peculiar odor from your urine after eating asparagus? If so, you’re not alone. The “asparagus effect” has been documented since at least the 1700’s and was scientifically analyzed as early as 1891 when a chemist named Marceli Nencki attributed the smell to the chemical “methanethiol.” Most people would probably be satisfied with this explanation and move on, but science leaves no stone unturned; we now know that the distinct aroma is actually due to an intricate combination of sulfur-containing compounds (including methanethiol) formed during the breakdown of asparagusic acid.

So, mystery solved, right? Not quite.

Ask around, and you will find that only a portion of the population actually experiences the asparagus effect. A few early studies in the 1980’s reported that not everyone could smell the asparagus-induced odor, but those who could smelled it in all available samples, suggesting that everyone produces the aroma after eating asparagus, but only a portion of the population has the ability to detect it; a characteristic that was subsequently linked to a specific mutation in a group of olfactory genes. However, a more recent study in 2010 reported that a small percentage of people may not produce the odor at all, likely due to differences in the way they metabolize asparagusic acid.

In short, if you don’t notice the odor in your pee after an asparagus-heavy meal, you either have a unique, asparagus-proof metabolism or you simply lack the smell receptors to perceive your own stinkiness. If you do experience the asparagus effect, keep in mind that the odor-inducing precursor compounds are more prevalent in younger plants, so the smell will be less pronounced if you eat asparagus that is a little more mature. The effect is also extremely rapid – producing smelly pee in as little as 15-30 min after ingesting – so plan ahead if you’re thinking about eating asparagus on a hot date.

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Source: Wikipedia, Monell Center, The Guardian, The Discovery Channel, British Medical Journal

Image: Jonathan Moreau (cc)

July 10, 2011 at 12:00 pm 5 comments

Some Avacados Contain Half the Fat of Others

By Kaye Nemec

‘Tis the season for backyard barbecues, refreshing drinks and summertime snacks — like guacamole made from fresh avocados. There are several guacamole recipes available but obviously the ingredient you can’t do without is avocado.

Seventy-five percent of the U.S. avocado crop is made up of Haas avocados grown in California. These are the avocados most people in the U.S. are familiar with and are, most likely, the only variety they can even name. But, it turns out there are other varieties of avocados – and one of them even has half the fat of a Haas avocado.

Fuerte avocados are grown in Florida and are actually larger than Haas avocados. Traditional Haas avocados have about 22 ½ grams of fat and 250 calories. The Fuerte varieties have only about 11 grams of fat and 125 calories.

Additional varieties of avocados include Zutano, Bacon and Cocktail. The Cocktail avocados are only one or two ounces each and do not contain the pit found in most other varieties.

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Sources: Avocado Central, WHFoods

Photo: ingserban

June 9, 2011 at 2:00 am 5 comments

Starbucks is Named After a Moby Dick Character

By Chad Upton | Editor

In 1971, an English teacher, a history teacher and writer started a coffee roasting business in Seattle.

It’s not surprising that such an intellectual group would have an affinity for classics like Moby Dick. In fact, Starbucks was nearly called Pequod, the name of the whaling ship in Moby Dick. Thankfully, one of the partners rejected the name. Instead, they went with Starbucks, the name of Pequod’s first mate.

Although Starbuck was a fictional young quaker from Nantucket, there were a number of real sailors from that era named “Starbuck.” Naming a coffee company was not the first time the Starbuck name was borrowed either. There is an island in the South Pacific, a popular region for whaling, called Starbuck Island.

Starbuck Island was heavily mined for phosphate in the late 1800s and many ships were wrecked there. The high frequency of shipwrecks was probably caused by the reefs that surrounded the island, but there is a mythical explanation too.

In Greek Mythology there are seductresses who lure sailors to shipwreck on the coast of their islands. These mythical creatures are called Sirens and the Starbucks logo contains one.

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Images: Wikimedia (Starbucks)

Sources: Wikipedia (Starbucks, Moby Dick, Starbuck Island, Siren)

June 4, 2011 at 2:00 am 12 comments

Seattle’s Best Coffee is Owned By Starbucks

By Chad Upton | Editor

If you’re not wired into the coffee industry, that Seattle’s Best at the mall may look like a suitable competitor to the Starbucks outlets that flank the mall corridor.

Actually, that’s kind of what they want you to think. If you’re anti-Starbucks, you might feel right at home with Seattle’s Best. It’s still high quality coffee, but it’s cheaper than Starbucks and doesn’t have the same cache, which is exactly what some people are looking for.

Even if you knew they were owned by Starbucks, you might not realize that Seattle’s Best is a few years older than Starbucks. Both companies began in Seattle, Starbucks officially started March 30, 1971 and Seattle’s Best began sometime in 1968.

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Sources: Wikipedia (Seattle’s Best, Starbucks)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

May 18, 2011 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Searing Meat Does Not Lock in Moisture

By Terry D. Johnson

The idea that searing meat locks in the juices has been around since the middle of the 19th century. According to the theory, searing changes the structure of the outside of the meat, preventing the escape of moisture during subsequent cooking. It’s still a popular technique – despite demonstrably failing at its purported task.

This is a simple enough one to test. Take two cuts of meat, sear one, cook both, and weigh them to determine whether the seared meat loses less moisture than the unseared cut. Numerous experiments have shown that the seared meat typically loses at least as much moisture, and possibly more.

Does this mean you should avoid searing meat entirely? Not at all. Browning (or caramelization) of the meat’s surface will introduce flavors and texture. A good sear is still a worthy component of a good chef’s toolbox – but not because it laminates your prime rib.

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Source: The Food Lab
Image: Wikimedia Commons

May 16, 2011 at 2:00 am 9 comments

Poppy Seeds Can Cause Drug Test Failures

By Chad Upton | Editor

Poppy seeds are tasty, especially on bagels or in muffins and lets not forget about cakes either. But, poppy seeds can cause serious situations that might make you think twice the next time you see poppy seed encrusted baking. There are many documented cases of people losing their jobs or even their children because of drug tests with false-positive results.

Poppy seeds are oilseeds that come from the opium poppy. Although the seeds are not used in creating opiate drugs such as morphine or codeine, they do contain a small amount of opiates. If a person consumes enough seeds in the 48 hours leading up to a drug test, they can test positive for opiates in their system.

US federal prisons test inmates for drugs and therefore, they do not serve food containing poppy seeds within the prison. Prisoners on furlough, who are allowed to leave the prison, are forbidden from eating poppy seeds, so they can’t use it as a defense if they do test positive for opiates.

Because there have been so many false positives, testing standards were updated in 1998 to allow a higher amount of opiates before it is considered a positive result. This was done reduce the number of false positives from poppy seeds. Some labs still use the old standards and some medical journals claim that the new standards can still report false-positives in certain cases.

So, if you are at the mercy of drug testing, you might want to avoid poppy seeds entirely.

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Sources: Snopes, Wikipedia (Poppy Seeds, Opiate), Poppies.org

Photo: Johnson (cc)

Relevant

There are a lot of unpleasant opiate withdrawal symptoms that an opiate abuser will have to deal with to finally eliminate the drug from his system.

May 2, 2011 at 3:00 am 3 comments

McDonald’s Imports One Third of Mexican Sesame Seeds

By Chad Upton | Editor

Sesame seeds come from sesame plants where the seeds grow in pods.

The seeds range in color from very dark to nearly white and are used in foods from Europe, Asia, The Middle East, North America, South America and virtually everywhere else. They are found in everything from sushi to breadsticks and soup to hamburger buns.

A tasty Middle Eastern dip known as Tahini, is made from ground sesame seeds and salt (and sometimes other spices too). Sesame seeds are also very popular in a variety of baked goods including breads, bagels and crackers. In Togo, a small country in West Africa, uses sesame seeds as a main ingredient in soup. They’re also used in Greek cakes.

Sesame seeds are popular because they add a subtle savory nut-like flavor. They taste good because they’re high in polyunsaturated fats (the “good” fat). It should be mentioned that heat from cooking or baking damages the polyunsaturated fats.

The largest producers are India and China, and one of the largest consumers is McDonald’s, which buys one third of the Mexican sesame seeds imported by the US annually.

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Sources: Wikipedia (Sesame, Polyunsaturated Fats), Purdue.edu

Photo: Oceandesetoiles (cc)

April 25, 2011 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

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