Some Of The Constituents Of Food

By Owen Jones

It is very handy to know something about the most common constituents of foodstuffs, so that you can use this knowledge to your advantage when selecting and cooking food. The more you know about the constituents of food the better prepared you will be to select the best way of preparing that food. In this article we will talk about some constituents of food.

Carbohydrates are a concentrated form of energy as is fat. However, the two substances differ in a number of ways, not least in that fat supplies energy in a very concentrated kind whereas carbohydrates deliver energy in a more economical way. Over indulging in either fats or carbohydrates will result in becoming overweight quite quickly.

Therefore, this is the region that dieters must concentrate on, although 'specialists' disagree which is the most detrimental. Traditional diets recommend cutting back on fats, whereas some more modern diets recommend virtually eliminating carbohydrates from one's diet.

The fact is that the body and most of the food that we put into it is made up of chemical elements, the most vital of which are nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Protein is the only thing that we eat that contains nitrogen, which goes a long way to explain why protein is essential to us.

Protein is also the hardest substance to find in the vegetarian diet. It is not impossible by any means, but the options are severely restricted because most individuals get their protein from meat, fish, dairy and eggs.

The other three elements: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are constituents of carbohydrates. In fact, the very word 'carbohydrate' suggests the names of those three elements. 'Carbo' - carbon and 'hydrate' - hydrogen and oxygen, as in water. Carbohydrates are most present in starches and sugars.

Starch is one of the most omnipresent forms of carbohydrate. It is found exclusively in vegetables and pulses et cetera. While starch is boiled, it expands and bursts its cell walls causing water to thicken and when it is cooked with dry heat, it melts and turns into dextrine, which is a stage before it turns into sugar.

Sugar is another vital constituent of carbohydrates and is also found mostly in vegetables and fruit, although there is also some in milk in the form or lactose. Corn produces glucose. Young vegetables contain sugar, but as they become older it becomes starch.

Sugar melts with the application of heat, but if it is already in liquid form, it will give off water and begin to caramelize. The characteristic colour or caramel is brown, yet if it is over cooked, it becomes dark brown and bitter. Sugar in fruit and vegetables will leach out into boiling water and so will be lost, unless that water is retrieved and used elsewhere.

Cellulose is a kind of carbohydrate closely related to starch. It is to be found in the structure of plants and vegetables but although it is largely indigestible, it cannot be left out of the human diet. Cellulose surrounds the goodness we are searching for in vegetables, so by cooking this food we are attempting to break down the cellulose to release the goodness.

Young vegetables have thinner cellulose than older ones, which is why some vegetables need to be cooked quickly and fiercely although others have to be cooked slowly yet gently.

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