What Makes Food Appealing?

What’s an unappealing colour that you can think of? The first colour that I thought of was brown. To me, it looks like combination of unwanted colours and reminds me of dirt. However, this colour is highly associated with what makes our food look delicious.

Now, which of the two would look more appetizing: a pale piece of chicken (cooked by boiling in water) or chicken that has been grilled until it is golden brown in colour? I think we would agree the second one is a better choice. So what is the cause of this difference in appearance?

Boiled Chicken and Grilled Chicken

A contrast between boiled chicken and grilled chicken
(Source: Myself)

The Maillard reaction

The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction responsible for releasing flavours and aromas of food, while also browning them. Since most people only notice the colour change, it is also commonly known as the browning reaction! The process works by rearranging amino acids (the building blocks of protein) with sugars, and only occurs in temperatures of 140°C or higher. Usually proteins are coiled-up structures but when there is enough heat, denaturation (the unfolding of amino acids) happens, which is how the sugars are able to combine with them.

The Maillard reaction occurs in many foods, but have you noticed that they don’t all have the same flavour? Coffee and popcorn both experience the same reaction, but coffee has a nutty flavour while popcorn has a biscuit flavour. This is because of the different kinds of amino acids, as each kind of amino acid releases a different scent and flavour.


Why don’t we just cook on high heat all the time?

Although the Maillard reaction is highly desired, we can’t just cook on high heat all the time. This is because another reaction takes place when the temperature is too high: burning. This reaction gives an unwanted bitter flavour.

However, there is a way to increase the rate of the Maillard reaction. Because water boils at 100°C, lowering the moisture content on the surface of your food will promote the Maillard reaction. This helps keep the meat at a higher temperature since it no longer limited by the temperature’s boiling point.


Didn’t you just describe caramelization?

Many people confuse the Maillard reaction with caramelization. Although they are both browning reactions, they are different reactions. Caramelization is the burning of sugar, and as a result, it occurs in temperatures above the Maillard reaction. The results of the two reactions look similar but the key difference is that caramelization breaks down the sugar, rather than recombine them, and does not require amino acids.


Caramelized sugar on ice cream
(Source: Myself)


The Maillard reaction is the reason why our food is so appetizing, but is under-appreciated. Many people who cook know through experience that higher heats will give a nice colour to the food, but do not know that it is actually adding flavour too.

To learn more about how the Maillard reaction works, watch this video.

Is Almond Milk Better Than Regular Milk?

Whether you are vegan or not, you have probably seen plant-based milk like soy milk or almond milk at grocery stores, coffee shops, and more. However, ever since genetically modified soy received a lot of coverage in recent years, almond milk has become one of the most popular choices for plant-based milk. In the US, sales of almond milk already surpassed soymilk. While some people are simply allergic or lactose intolerant, some believe that almond milk is a better option for their health and even for the environment.

Which milk is healthier?

Milk is a great source of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. It is important for people to meet their daily nutrition values in order to stay healthy. However, not all milk offers the same level of nutrients. For example, in one cup of milk, regular whole milk contains 276 mg of calcium. On the other hand, unfortified almond milk contains 61 mg of calcium. It is a well-known fact that calcium is necessary to keep our bones strong. It is especially important for kids to get enough calcium because it may lead to serious health problems such as osteoporosis. Dietitians recommend that when shopping for almond milk, one should check to make sure that it has been fortified with nutrients that provide enough amount of the recommended daily value.

Environmental Impact: Almond Milk vs. Regular Milk 

In order to produce a cup of almond milk, it takes 10 gallons of water while a cup of regular milk takes about six times more water to produce the same amount. In terms of carbon footprint, a cup of almond milk produces 174 g CO2 and regular milk produces 400 g CO2.

In this podcast episode from Science Vs, an environmental scientist Joseph Poore discusses types of milk including soy, almond and oat milk and their impacts on our plant in more detail.


Tina Kwon

Polar what is….. Vortex?

What is a Polar Vortex?

The first thing that strikes to my mind when I say “Polar vortex” is some phenomenon related to earth’s poles. We are hearing a lot about the polar vortex lately, but it has been around a few decades. These are strong and cold winds originating around the Arctic region. These winds originate specially around the North Pole which which are capable to enter parts of United States and Canada. These winds can be strong enough to create very low temperatures around these areas.

An image depicting the region of flow of the winds.


Image showing the flow of the polar vortex winds. Source: https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/what-is-a-polar-vortex/21793077

Credit- https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/what-is-a-polar-vortex/21793077

The following video is posted by USA Today and talks about the Polar vortex and its effects.

(Credit: USA Today

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvHTFNuwa8U)

Recent Effects of the Polar Vortex:

United States: The devastating weather conditions brought by the Polar Vortex around January 31st killed at least 8 people in several places around the US.

Following video shows a river turning into snow in Chicago

Credit: Guardian News

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZAvsU1_ezI)

The following image shows all the regions that faced the consequences of the Polar Vortex:

Areas affected in the USA by the polar vortex, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47055952

Canada: Canada has been affected in regions of Ontario and Quebec. The temperature fell to -30 degree Celsius in these areas. Canada has witnessed polar vortex earlier in 2015 as well. But this year, it had much worse effects.

The following video demonstrates the areas affected in Canada.

(Credit: CTV News, Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8JJYutyFlQ)

These changes have also been observed in Vancouver, with extreme cold snow days even in the month of February. We observed entire days of shutdown due to this extreme weather.

The heat wave at Australia when North America faced harsh cold winters due to polar vortex:

As shocking at may seem, when North America was facing polar vortex, Australia was suffering from extreme heat waves. How can this happen? It was the hottest in 80 years! This climate change is not what anyone expected and has been a major concern for environmentalists.

Below is an image showing a picture depicting the shocking heat wave

Heat Wave in Australia, https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/tale-of-two-hemispheres-world-watching-australias-record-heat/news-story/81a063180acda034caf278bbdd04d1da

The reason behind these extreme climatic variations: 

This is caused by global warming, which can be said as a man-made climatic change. This caused by the burning of various fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal which release CO2 to the atmosphere. This extra release of CO2 in the atmosphere leads to an increase in the temperature of oceans as well as lands. Also, there is a strong link between the extremities of the weather condition and global warming.

By: Simrat Chahal

Why Are There So Few Blue Fruits?

Speaking of fruits, how many kinds of blue fruits can you come up with? A recent research conducted in Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden located in Yunnan, China has shown that, amongst the over 600 species of fruits growing in the garden, only 6 types of fruits are blue. How did this come about? There are a variety of aspects that we need to look at in order to answer this question.

credit: https://thescooponbaking.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/fullsizerender_1.jpg

Where do colours in fruits come from?

Fruits get their colours from three main types of plant pigments: carotenoids for colours red, orange and yellow, flavonoids for blue and red, as well as chlorophyll for green colour. Due to the fact that colour red is the most common hue among the three chemicals, most fruits are red.

Colours of fruits and their reproduction

The reason why we are able to identify different colours is that the wavelengths of these colours can be perceived by a specific type of cells called cones in our eyes. Some animals see more colours than we do because they can detect a wider range of wavelengths in the nature. However, when reacting to different colours, cone cells show different levels of sensitivity to their wavelengths, and the colour blue is, unfortunately, not as visible as other colours to most animals.

Credit: https://www.quora.com/Why-is-red-on-the-right-of-the-light-spectrum-and-purple-on-the-left

Lower visibility of blue fruits leads to lower probabilities that they get spotted and eaten by animals and consequently have their seeds spread, which is an important method of reproduction for most plants. As a consequence, blue fruits can not be spread as easily and frequently as fruits with other colours such as red and orange.

However, while the colour blue gives these fruits a hard time to reproduce, there also exist some animals that are inherently colourblind. These animals spot and eat fruits randomly instead of by identifying colours, and this is also the reason why there is still a small amount of blue fruits we can find in our everyday life nowadays.

Additionally, another factor that should be taken into account is that, because it is always connected with characteristics such as danger, the colour blue can result in a loss of appetite in animals.

(video credit: https://youtu.be/l04dn8Msm-Y)

Overall, the shortage of blue fruits is due to a number of reasons. Specifically, the uneven distribution of pigments in different species of fruits and some special characteristics of the colour blue are the two main factors that account for this phenomenon to a great extend.


– Siqi Tao


Can You Live Without Headphones?

When you are studying in the library or walking around the street, you would probably see so many people with headphones. Yes, that is true that Airpods or other types of headphones are getting popular and furthermore becoming one of “the-most-important-belongings” to us. However, did you notice that constant use of headphones can put your ears in danger and might lead to hearing loss? The damage to hair cells in the ears can last temporarily or permanently.

Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/apple-earpods-983831/

How Headphones Damage Our Ears?

First of all, sound waves need to travel from the outer ear to the inner ear and to be converted into nerve impulses in the inner ear, the cochlea, in order for us to be able to sense hearing. The cochlea is composed of a number of hair cells where sound waves are actually transformed into electrical signals for the brain. Hair cells would be completely bent or broken because of exposure to excessive volume. If the hair cells would not have enough time to recover back, then the damage can be permanent. Therefore, hair cells would not be able to grow back or to send signals to the brain.

Hearing mechanics Credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e4/Hearing_mechanics_cropped.jpg

What Leads to Hearing Loss?

Volume and the length of usage likely contribute to hearing loss. Many people might misunderstand that only high volume would damage our ears, however, it just leads to faster damage. Low volume still affects our ears. Furthermore, the impacts of volume and the length of usage on our ears can be equivalent to other noises that audiologists called “noise-induced hearing loss“, a hearing impairment from overexposure to loud music. According to a research conducted by Josef Shargorodsky, the number of adolescents with hearing loss even in mild level had been increasing over time in the United States from 14.9% in 1988-1994 to 19,5% in 2005-2006.

How Should We Protect Our Ears?

In this video, Greta Stamper, an audiologist at Mayo Clinic, suggested some tips to prevent our ears from hearing loss or ear damages.

It is hard to stop using headphones, however, it is possible to protect our ears by having enough recovery time, setting up the volume low or etc.


Ellen Lee

Blog post #2

Eating Too Much Sugar Leads To Heart Disease

Growing up, we were told that candies and sweets will give us cavities and that sugar will decay our teeth. Sugar, sweets and chocolates may be our guilty pleasure, but what if I told you that eating too much sugar can lead to heart disease? There are many studies that explain how sugar causes tooth decay, however consumption of sugar in large quantities may increase the risk of having heart disease, diabetes, and more. Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease may lead to heart attacks, chest pain or even a stroke. Therefore, having a high-sugar diet can increase the risk of dying from heart disease.

M&Ms Candy GIF by Mainland

How much sugar is too much sugar? Credit: https://media.giphy.com/media/sN6rHuJQ9p61y/giphy.gif

How Can Eating Too Much Sugar Kill You?

In this video, Science Insider a YouTube channel that primarily creates educational videos, explains how over-consuming sugar can lead to heart disease and other health problems.

Once sugar is consumed, the sugar molecule known as fructose is metabolized by the liver. However, when the liver cannot process and metabolize fructose as it reaches its’ max capacity, the excess sugar turns into liver fat. The video further explains that high-sugar diets drive metabolic syndrome such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer or dementia.

 Research Study on Heart Disease

A study from Harvard University, explained that sugar consumption is essential for energy and regular in human diets . However, consuming too much added sugar raises the risk of having health-related implications and in many cases lead to heart disease. The study was performed over the course of 15 years which involved the amount of sugar content in each participants’ diet. The results from the research study shows that participants who had an extra 25% added sugar into their daily diets had a higher chance of dying from heart disease implications. However, participants who consumed sugar with less than 10% added into their daily diets did not. The results were staggering as consumers that ingest 25% more sugar in their daily diet increase their chances of dying from heart disease twice as much.

Black And White Heart GIF

Heart disease affects the function of the heart. Credit: https://media.giphy.com/media/yeUxljCJjH1rW/giphy.gif

The risk of metabolic syndrome such as heart disease is life threatening is very serious. We’re all guilty of having a sweet tooth, and chocolate and lollipops may be irresistible. However, we should educate our family, friends, and children to reduce sugar intake to reduce future health risks

Cindy San

Blog Post #2

Still worry about being infected by a zombie deer? It’s HARMLESS to human!

Recently, a weird “zombie deer disease” spread really fast in North America. Deers from the wild are acting like zombies, walking slowly and unbalanced, hanging around with dead eyes and drooling. Canada wild dears also suffer from this “zombie deer disease”. Based on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the disease was detected in six deer  — four cases in Saskatchewan and one each in Quebec and Alberta.  People are frightened and start saying this is the end of the world,  we will all be infected and become a zombie.

The following photo shows a dear suffers from “zombie deer disease”.

Image result for zombie deer

credit: https://goo.gl/images/yVD3SB

But wait for a second, don’t be panic yet! A study shows that the “zombie deer disease”, which scientifically called Chronic wasting disease (CWD), it’s harmless to human.  CWD is a  transmittable disease commonly for mule deer,  elk, and mouse. The possible route of transmission of CWD is by excrement, blood, or saliva. Once introduced into an area or farm, the CWD protein is contagious within deer and elk populations and then spread quickly. The CWD prions can remain in the environment for a long time so other animals can contract CWD from the environment even after an infected deer or elk has died. Once infected by CWD, the CWD prions will induce normal brain proteins to change abnormally. After enough brain proteins were infected, the brain will become “empty”, and can’t work as usual. Finally, the brain which is already out of order will give wrong and disordered instruct to its body. In that case, the infected CWD patient will have abnormal behavior, just like a zombie.

Don’t believe the terrifying news and videos online, check out the following video to gain a better understanding of what is a Chronic wasting disease.

credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7TddvOQLO4

In the video, Dr. Andy Schwartz talked about the general condition of CWD, a study which is done in 2004 indicates that the transmission of CWD to humans is low. Although the in vitro studies indicating inefficient conversion of human prion protein by CWD-associated prions raise the possibility of low-level transmission of CWD to humans, no human cases of prion disease with strong evidence shows that CWD can actually infect human.

Even though CWD is harmless to humans, The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control have already sent out a precaution, which advice no people eat or consume a CWD infected animal.  Scientific study proves CWD it’s harmless just for now and it’s known that prions virus has the ability to mutation. Maybe someday in the future, the CWD will infect people, but not for now! We are not turning to zombies. Just come back to work and have a good life would be good for you!


We won’t be infected to a zombie!

Image result for no zombie sign


Credit: https://goo.gl/images/smPo9e