Food for Thought

    Kids, have you heard of Bill Nye, The Science Guy? He has a fast-paced television show that we can highly recommend. Here we are going to summarize the show on nutrition. Both this column and Bill Nye stress that not all chemicals are necessarily "bad", and quite often they are absolutely essential. Take food, for instance. All food is made of chemicals, whether they're called protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, or minerals. When your body gets ahold of these chemicals, it burns them up and makes energy for us to live on. Different types of food make different amounts of energy, which is measured in calories. How do chemists figure out the amount of calories in any certain food? They use an instrument of food science called a bomb calorimeter, which is not really a bomb at all but a container that measures the amount of heat liberated or consumed by a reaction.

    Food is the body's fuel and, like a car needs gasoline, your body needs food to make energy and keep going. A balance of food from the major groups is essential to good health, and it's important to give your body enough food every day. However, too much of one type of food can backfire, so you need a balanced mix. Take fat, for instance. Fat cushions your body, keeps you warm, and gives your body lots of energy. Your brain is about 60% fat! Eating fat is important but too much can make you... well... fat. To get an idea of the presence of fat in your meals, try this fat-sensor experiment.

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    Cut a brown paper grocery bag into squares and label them with foods you want to test. Rub each different food onto their labeled squares. Although fun, there is no need to mash the food into a pulp. Set the squares aside for about 30 minutes, then hold them up to a light. It should be "clear" which foods have the most fat, for they will leave oily spots that are virtually transparent.


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    May 1998


    Reference: "Bill Nye, The Science Guy's" website is: