I am a Science nerd! I love science, and I love cooking. I view the world through the lens of science, and yes, even cooking. When I cook and ensure certain processes, I always think of the science behind it. There are a few tricks that I always do, and so over the years, I have looked into the science of why various techniques are used in cooking, and also how these tips are also relevant to our health and our bodies. And some of them even inspire the need for a development of a supplement. It is all just so fascinating when you look into the why and the chemistry of food. Lets outline a few!
- Adding salt to water when hard boiling eggs. The boiling point of water is 100 degrees celsius. When salt is added to cooking water; you will notice the water boils stronger and faster; salt also will increase the boiling point of water to approximately 100.04 degrees celsius. This effectively will speed up the cooking via increased heat.
- Salt also will harden the shell of the egg. The interaction of salt with the Calcium carbonate of the egg shell will harden the eggshell and it is less likely to crack. High quality celtic sea salt will also assist with formation of a strong bone matrix in our bodies. Unrefined sea salt is an essential component to bone health and bone strength. In cooking lentils, salt can harden the outer shell of the lentil with the same principles outlined above. Knowing this science, I would add salt after the lentils and/or beans are par-cooked.
- One fascinating food chemical study is fermentation. Salt is always required for lacto-fermenting foods. The chemistry of using salt is to pull out the water; keeps away unwanted bacteria from infecting the fermented food; triggers the growth of lactic acid producing bacteria which then begins the fermentation process; salt allows the vegetables to remain intact and crunchy. Again, using this theory in the body, salt is notoriously known for its topical use as an antibacterial agent. In the gut, with this same theory, it seems as if it will likely help maintain proper bacterial balance of the gut flora and assist in preventing bacterial and viral overgrowth in the gut.
- Vinegar is used in cooking as an agent to denature proteins. I often like to poach proteins as a cooking method. I will often poach salmon; and very often poach eggs. To the poaching water I will always add white vinegar. Vinegar tightens the protein bonds and expels trapped water. When poaching fish, the vinegar in the water will help tighten and keep the integrity of the fish firm. When poaching eggs, this is a tip for a nice well formed, tightly kept poached egg. Adding vinegar to the water will prevent the egg from stringing out all throughout the water.
- Lemon and papaya are often used for cooking and specifically in marinades for meat. The effect of lemon and papaya is an enzymatic marinade. They both work to tear down the connective tissue of the meat/fish and soften the protein. Think of a marinate of a tougher cut of meat. The lemon in the marinade, along with slow cooking will often result in a tender cook of the meat. Conversely the enzymatic effect of the lemon and or papaya can be the actual cooking method, as in a Ceviche. There is no boiling, no grilling, no baking. Yet the enzymatic transformation of the fish that occurs, is a tear down of the protein structure of the fish The fish protein is transformed via the acid of the lemon and considered cooked. The supplement industry will take these enzyme denaturing acids such as papaya and lemon and use them in formulas for digestive enzyme and suggested use is to help digestion and breakdown proteins consumed for your meal. You can also drink lemon water prior to a meal or between meals enjoy a papaya. These will both enhance the digestive process.
Fat to Starches:
- The example I used in the facebook live was the difference in techniques of cooking rice. Rice simply cooked in water, when that rice is consumed it is studied to spike the blood sugar and therefore peak insulin release. However, when cooking rice, if olive oil or butter or coconut oil is added to the water, when that rice is consumed, there is a slower breakdown of the starch, less of an insulin spike and a slower release of glucose. The fat slows the digestion. This principle can also be added to pasta water; and also why Italians prefer to cook their pasta al dente (translated as: to the tooth). The fat in the cooking water and the al dente cook, also slows the breakdown of the starch in the system and decreases the release of insulin. Bread and butter; bread and cheese; butter on Roti, all have the same concept. Fat will slow the release of starches and less spike of our blood sugar.
Alcohol lowers the freeze point:
- In recent years I have experimented with making coconut milk ice cream. I use the same custard base theory as with a dairy Ice cream, except I substitute high fat coconut milk. As I make the mixture, during my research, I often found a few tablespoons of alcohol would be added to the ice cream mixture prior to mixing and freezing it. The reason for the alcohol is that it lowers the freezing point and therefore decreases the chance of the ice cream turning into ice crystals and instead a smoother, creamier ice cream finish. Water freezes at 0 degrees celsius and vodka for example will freeze at -26.95 degrees celsius. Many will store alcohol in the freezer and it will not freeze. Thus using the theory of this science once again, knowing what we know, adding a small amount of alcohol to the ice cream custard, then results in a smoother, creamier ice cream. And it does!
As mentioned, I love science, and I really do love cooking. Whenever I cook, I always view it from a science lens. I can see how science impacts cooking and also the same principles can be used for our health and wellness. I hope you enjoyed a little bit of this geek out science session. It really is so fun!!
Enjoy, In health, Dr. Neetu