Are Microwaves Frying our Brains?

Have you ever stood next to your microwave while you wait for your noodles to cook and wondered if the micro-waves were burning your brain? I know I have.


Microwaves are magical machines that manage to cook anything from soup to brownie just by spinning them round on a plate a few times. Seems pretty mystical to me. And naturally, like anything we don’t understand, we humans have a tendency to fear these mystical qualities.

Is our fear justified though? I mean Madame Curie, the lady behind x-ray machines in the war died because of the radiation from those very machines, could that happen to us too?

First of all, what is microwave radiation?

Well, radiation is just the release of energy from something. So lots of things release radiation, and many of them aren’t harmful at all. Our bodies are constantly radiating heat, and so is the sun. X-ray machines also release radiation, that’s how they do what they do.

But there are two forms of radiation, one more harmful than the other. They are ionising and non-ionising radiation.

Ionising radiation is the strong stuff. This kind of radiation is made of high energy waves which can get into cells and chemically change how they work. Lots of tests have been done on this type of radiation and we know that it is okay in small doses, but too much can cause burns, radiation sickness and cancer. Not good.

This kind of radiation is given off by things like X-Ray machines and is used in radiotherapy to treat cancer cells and in Nuclear power plants. Happily though, this isn’t the kind of radiation produced by microwaves.

Microwaves produce non-ionising radiation. This radiation has less energy than it’s ionising counterpart. This means that it can move things around in your cells, but not chemically change them and therefore cause cancer.

Non-ionising radiation is what is given off by things like the sun, cell phones, computers, heaters and radio waves. Of all of these types of non-ionising radiation only one has ever been found to be harmful and cause cancer, and that is UV rays from the sun.

So microwaves don’t produce the scary, harmful, I’m going to wake us as Spiderman kind of radiation. Phew!

But is there any chance microwave radiation could be harmful anyway?

There have been lots of studies looking at whether people who use or are around microwaves are more likely to get cancer or be otherwise harmed, and there have been mixed results. Some studies have found a link between microwaves and cancer, but other studies have found absolutely no link at all.

Microwaves do create a magnetic field around them when they are being used. However most experts agree that microwaves just don’t give off enough energy to alter the DNA in your cells and therefore won’t cause cancer.

Some people also think that food cooked in the microwave might be harmful. But this isn’t true. Microwaves cook food by heating up the water molecules inside the food, making them vibrate. The jiggling water method is how lots of food cooks, and doesn’t change the makeup of the food at all, which means that food cooked in the microwave is no more harmful than food cooked on the stove or in the oven.

Moral of the story?

Microwaves are safe. Standing next to the microwave while it’s humming away spinning your food round in circles is no more harmful than standing in the sunshine spinning your head round in circles. It might even be safer.


So now we know they’re safe, lets get our microwaves to do what microwaves do best and make some brownie!


Magical Microwave Mug Brownie

  • 4 Tbsp white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp of flour
  • 2 Tbsp Cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp boiling water
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 Egg
  • A pinch of salt

Mix everything in a nice big mug until just combined. Microwave for 30 seconds. Take it out, give it a quick mix and put it back in for another 30 seconds. Then you’re done!

I highly recommend topping with a scoop of ice cream. Mmmmm…


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Craving Change? Your Sciencey Guide to Food Cravings


We all get food cravings every now and then right? That undeniable need for some overly salty, sugary or fatty food that you know isn’t good for you, but you just have to have. Even if you do manage to resist the initial urge, it’ll come back to you a few days later and you know that there’s just no hope. You have to have that triple chocolate chip cookie, warm, with ice cream and hot fudge sauce on top.  Mmm. Cravings.


The problem is that you never crave something that is good for you. In fact cravings are usually for foods that you probably shouldn’t eat at all right? So why would our brain tell us that we need something that our body clearly doesn’t, it makes no sense!

Luckily scientists have been looking into the mysteries of cravings for a while now and can shed some light on the situation.

Cravings -- Do you want science with that

Why do we have cravings?

It’s a tricky question, and there isn’t a simple answer.

Sometimes if you’re craving something unusual it might be your body telling you that you need more of a particular nutrient found in that food. This is thought to be particularly true during pregnancy when women are craving all kinds of weird and wonderful things. But usually this isn’t the case and cravings are actually all in your head.

When you eat a delicious food like say, french fries or Russian fudge, your brain releases some wonderful chemicals called dopamine and seratonin. These chemicals make you feel good and are your body’s way of rewarding you for eating a high energy food like sugar or fat. This response dates back to cave man days when these foods were hard to come by and essential for survival. However these days it is much easier to load up on these energy dense foods, so much so that they are a health risk. But your body hasn’t caught up with the times yet and is still busy rewarding you every time you indulge.

Cravings are a product of this reward system. Your body feels sooo good when it gets a dose of dopamine or seratonin that it remembers that good feeling and gives you cravings to convince you to eat the foods that will make it happen again. Scumbag brain.

Can we resist them?

Probably, but it won’t be easy.

A French study in 2007 found that super sweet things like sugar and artificial sweeteners, are more appealing to lab rats than cocaine, even if the rats are already addicted! Then a study at the University of Florida found that commonly craved foods had the same effect on the brain as alcohol and other addictive substances. Eek.

So the happy juice that our brain feeds us when we eat delicious fatty and sugary foods is pretty strong and while the cravings might be all in our heads, there’s no doubt that they are there.

Is there any way to avoid cravings?

Not really, no, but there are ways to manage them.

The first tactic is simple; plan to give in every now and then. If you try to resist every craving you have you could end up pretty miserable and the more miserable you are the more cravings you will have.

The next tactic is sensible; make it healthier. If you’re craving french fries, don’t head straight to Burger King, bake your own hand cut oven fries for dinner instead.

The last tactic is super important; limit yourself. By all means give in every now and then, but don’t go overboard. Take three cookies out of the pack and put it back in the pantry, don’t sit on the couch with the entire packet while you watch Gossip Girl or you’ll have finished it before the first ad break.


So science hasn’t succeeded yet in finding a way to trick your brain into craving carrots not caramel, but it has taught us one thing; it’s okay to give in. In fact, it’s pretty hard not to, but if you have some tactics up your sleeve you should be able to curb your food enthusiasm, but still have a fair amount of fun.

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Are We Cooking the Nutrients out of Our Foods? The Raw Truth

Oh the world of diet fads. Every week there seems to be a new one! Our Facebook newsfeeds are always being bombarded with “before and after” photos of girls who have become miraculously slimmer (and more tanned, toned and generally happy) by adopting the newest crazy diet.

With all of these stories out there, it is becoming increasingly hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to healthy eating. Luckily that’s where I can help, and today I’ll be delving into the mysteries and myths of the raw food diet, a fad which has gained a fair amount of popularity recently.

The Raw Food Diet -- Science With That

Why go raw?

Raw food enthusiasts insist that it is better to eat food in its natural state – uncooked. They say that cooking food destroys all of the good nutrients and enzymes, essentially making it a dead shell of what it once was.
This is a bit of an exaggerated version of the truth. Heating food does take away some nutrients from food, it’s true. Levels of vitamins that dissolve in water like vitamins B6 and C are reduced in cooked foods compared to fresh ones, but that isn’t the whole story.

The benefits of cooking

Raw food might have higher levels of vitamin B and C, but it has lower levels of some other important nutrients. In a recent post on the health benefits of pizza I told you about a cool chemical called lycopene that is found in tomatoes. Lycopene is super good for your skin and can help reduce your risk of getting prostate cancer, wohoo. But do you want to know the craziest thing about lycopene? The amount of it drastically increases when you cook your tomatoes!

And tomatoes aren’t the only food that improves with cooking. The levels of antioxidants in carrots and corn have also been found to increase with heating, so when it comes to cooking, you really do win some and lose some.

Cooking your food also breaks down fibre which makes it easier for your body to process. Fibre is what makes your carrots crunchy and your asparagus stringy, and it can also give you bloating and gas. By cooking your veggies you break some of this fibre down and make it easier for your body to deal with, avoiding that puffy, gas-filled tummy feeling.

You might miss out on more than you gain

The biggest danger of the raw food diet is (ironically) that you are at risk of becoming deficient in a few vital nutrients.

While the raw food diet does mean you can eat raw fish (sashimi) and raw beef (tartare), many people choose to skip meat altogether. This poses some risks when it comes to getting enough of the good stuff. Vegan raw foodies could be at risk of not having enough Vitamin B12, calcium, iron, Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids in their diet, and that’s a lot to be missing out on! These nutrients can be found in other, non-meat foods, but that means you have to face the prospect of eating raw legumes or chickpeas… Not a hugely inviting thought!

The Raw Food Diet ... Science With That

All in all the raw food diet isn’t terrible. It is based on some fact, although you do gain just as much from cooking your food as you do from eating it raw. But the diet would mean you would eat a bundle of unprocessed food which is primarily fruit and vegetables, and that is going to have its benefits.

As far as religiously sticking to a raw diet though, it won’t do you as much good as the fanatics claim. Maybe just be raw in moderation and accept that cooking is okay too.

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Is that Ham Sandwich Giving You Bowel Cancer?

Chances are you know someone who doesn’t eat meat right? Whether they are vegetarian, vegan or pescetarian, they have made the decision to cut meat out of their diet.

Lots of the world looks on these people as ‘greenies’, who are missing out on man’s greatest invention: bacon. The warnings about red meat in particular usually fall on deaf ears, because we just don’t want to give up meat.

It might finally be time to listen up though, and reconsider the amount of meat we are eating every day.

How much meat should you eat --- Science With That

What’s so bad about red meat?

First of all, red meat is all beef, pork, lamb and veal. 

A pigment found in these meats seems to damage the DNA of the cells in your digestive system. This is bad because DNA damage is one of the first signs of cancer. As well as that nasty pigment, it is also thought that burning meat and some of the preservatives used in processed meats increase risks too. 

So what are processed meats then? You ask. These are bacon, sausages, ham, pate and tinned meat, as well as preserved, salted, smoked and marinated stuff too. You might be thinking that those are the most delicious ways to eat meat, but they happen to be the most dangerous too.

The World Cancer Research Fund actually recommends you cut processed meat out of your diet completely. They say that if you have to have it, you should limit it to 70g of processed meat a week. That’s the equivalent to 3 rashers of bacon! As far as cancer research goes, processed meat is pretty bad.

Four big meta-analysis studies have found some pretty sobering facts when it comes to red and processed meat too. They found that eating 100-120g of red meat a day increased your risk of getting bowel cancer by 17-30%, that’s a fairly scary statistic! But how much meat really is that? 120g is about four slices of meat from your Sunday roast or the amount of meat you get in a doner kebab. One of those a day could increase your risk of getting bowel cancer by a third!

How much meat should you eat  Science With That

So how much red meat should I eat?

Luckily there are a bundle of scientists in America called the Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition who work tirelessly to figure out how much we should be eating to stay healthy and avoid the scary bad things.

They say that we should eat no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day to avoid the higher risk of getting bowel cancer. But how much is that really? That’s a piece of meat roughly the size of a deck of cards, so it isn’t huge. It’s about the same as two sausages or half of the mince on your spaghetti bolognese.

Should you ea meatt -- Science With That

Should I just cut meat out of my diet altogether?

Not necessarily, no. Being an animal lover myself I would love to tell you that eating meat is terrible and that we should all become vegetarian, but it’s just not true. We humans are omnivorous for a reason.

Meat is a great source of some pretty vital stuff like iron, zinc, B vitamins and omega-3. Meat is a good way to get these essential vitamins and minerals because they are more easily absorbed by your body this way as opposed to getting them through veges or legumes. However the thing is, it all needs to be in moderation.

You don’t need to eat much meat at all to reap these benefits. We in the Western world have become accustomed to super huge portions of meat compared to Asia and the Mediterranean, and our portions just aren’t healthy. Most government issued recommendations say that you should eat 70-100g of meat, which is a piece the size of a deck of cards, 6-7 times a week.


Okay, so what should I aim to be eating

The American Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition recommends that your weekly diet consists of 2-3 servings of lean red meat, 2 servings of fish and 1-2 servings of chicken or pork. Remembering that a serving is the size of a deck of cards. It might seem like a pretty small serving, but it’s all you need to reap the health benefits of the stuff and avoid the scary bowel affecting stuff.

Should you eat meat ... Science With That

One last thing before you go!

Chances are you have been eating a little more meat than you really need. This is super good news! It means that you can save money by not having to buy as much of the stuff. There’s another option though that I think is worth considering. Now that you don’t need to buy as much meat, you can afford to get the good stuff. Choose free range meat! It tastes better, is better for you and you know that the animals were treated more humanely as they made their way to your plate.

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The Forgotten Superfoods

It seems like there’s a new ‘superfood’ emerging every week.

Some exotic, hard to pronounce fruit or grain ancient cultures have been using for years that the Western world has just discovered. There are so many fad foods out there now that it’s super hard to decide what is and isn’t… super.

Plus we are so busy following the latest trend of the new abstract superfood that we tend to forget how amazing some of our less exciting foods are.

What about the hard-working, never tiring foods that are imparting huge nutritional benefit on us every day with no thanks at all? They don’t get to be the new health wonder-food that all the celebrities are being photographed eating, but they work tirelessly to improve the health of the everyday person. What about those guys?

So here is a list of the forgotten superfoods. Everyday foods which have huge nutritional benefit that we take for granted.



Okay, so maybe there’s a reason marketed superfoods are exotic end exciting, I mean potatoes seem so run of the mill, surely they can’t be super. But Spiderman was just a run of the mill photographer during the day right? potatoes are totally the spiderman of the food world.

Underneath their boring exterior, potatoes are packed full of nutritional punch. Your average potato contains vitamin C, iron, copper, potassium, magnesium, manganese and most of the B vitamins. Who’d have thought right?

These white wonders actually contain a wee bit of almost everything we need. As well as that, according to researchers they are one of the most filling foods, and if you cook them then let them cool they form lots of starch, a super healthy fiber-like substance.



I love garlic. My motto in cooking is that you really can never have too much garlic. So no one wants to be near you because you smell like the stuff is seeping out of your pores? It’s okay, just think about how delicious your dinner was. Who needs human contact when you have garlic. Not me.

As well as being amazingly delicious, garlic is packed full of nutrients. It has lots of calcium, potassium, vitamin C, B1 and B6, copper, manganese and selenium.

Garlic also has a secret weapon called allicin. This is the active ingredient in garlic and has been shown to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol as well as having cancer fighting properties. Studies have shown that people who eat lots of garlic  are much less likely to get colon and stomach cancer particularly.

On top of all this garlic is super good at killing bacteria and fungi, meaning it can help us deal with everything from the common cold to athlete’s foot, horay!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


I will admit, these days it seems a bit gross to have to eat the liver of an animal. From a nutritional point of view though, it is oodles more nutritious than the lowly muscle meat we eat today.

If you think about it though, it makes sense that the liver would be so nutritious, because one if its functions is to store nutrients for the body. That means that it is a treasure trove of nutrients in really concentrated levels.

A piece of liver the size of an egg actually contains 3 times your recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin A, 3.5 times your RDI of copper, your entire RDI of vitamin B2, 6 times your RDI of vitamin B12 and a quarter of your RDI of vitamins B6, B5, niacin and folate. And just for good measure it contains a fair amount of selenium, zinc, phosphorous and iron.

On top of all that it also has about 15 grams of really good animal protein. Talk about the over-achieving food.



There must be something about spending your life surrounded by salt water that makes you hugely nutritious. Most of the animals and plants that come from the ocean have lovely health benefits, but of those shellfish really stand out.

Take clams for example. These shelly swimmers have outrageously high levels of vitamin B12, as well as iron, selenium, potassium, vitamin C, D and B vitamins.

Oysters are full of fabulous nutrients in super high levels too. One 50g oyster has all the copper you need for the day and three times the amount zinc you need. It also has lots of vitamin D, A, C, B6, B12, iron and calcium.



For years eggs have been the bad guys of the food world because of the amount of cholesterol they contain.

Scientists and doctors alike have come to their senses though and realised that eggs really aren’t as bad as they seem. This is because actual cholesterol ironically has very little effect on our bad blood cholesterol levels. The real bad guy when it comes to heart health is actually saturated fat.

Egg yolks are packed full of nutrients, containing vitamin A, D, B12 and B6 as well as iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. On top of that they also have lutein and zeaxanthine which are antioxidants that improve your eye health, reducing the risk of you getting cataracts and macular degeneration. Plus they contain choline, a nutrient that helps improve brain function, and who wouldn’t like improved brain function huh?

Then there are egg whites. These contain super duper good protein. The protein in eggs is actually so good that nutritionists use it as the ‘gold standard’ against which they rate other proteins. Pretty impressive stuff.


Dark chocolate

I will finish on a personal favourite of mine, delicious dark chocolate.

We all know that chocolate isn’t the best food for you in the world, but it only gets that reputation because it has a high fat and sugar content. Strip those away though and at the base of chocolate there is a wonder ingredient; cocoa.

Cocoa is an amazingly rich source of antioxidants. In a study which tested different foods for antioxidant levels it was found that cocoa scored higher than anything else, even blueberries and acai berries!

And if this isn’t enough, dark chocolate is also full of fiber, iron, manganese, magnesium and copper.

Lots of studies on people have shown that dark chocolate can have lots of benefits like better brain function, lower blood pressure and better blood flow.

The key is to choose chocolate with a really high cocoa content and avoid the fattier milk chocolate varieties.


There you have it. Superfoods you probably already have sitting in your pantry. So next time you’re complaining about your boring mashed potatoes and garlic bread take a minute to think about these wonderful forgotten foods. They might not look like much, but they are likely the reason you have that spring in your step.


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Are Eggs Bad for Your Heart?


Poor eggs have been victimized in the past. Not long ago doctors were telling us that eggs were loaded with cholesterol and if we ate them we would probably get heart disease.

Do eggs deserve this bad reputation though? And if you are a lover of the yolky pockets of fun, how many can you eat without increasing your risk of all sorts of nasty heart consequences?


Cholesterol and eggs

The reason scientists and doctors alike have been hating on eggs for so long is because they are high in cholesterol. That’s the fatty stuff that can build up in your arteries, clogging them up wreaking more havoc in your heart than a three way love triangle.

But recent research has found that eggs are no way near as nasty as they seem. It turns out that eating cholesterol doesn’t actually raise the levels of cholesterol in your blood as much as you might expect. In reality, there is something else that increases the amount of cholesterol in your blood much more than cholesterol and that is saturated fat.

So saturated fat is the real enemy. Dum dum dummm.

Which means that eggs are off the hook a bit. This finding has also been backed up by research, like this study which found that eating an egg a day really didn’t affect your risk of getting heart disease or having a stroke at all. Horay for eggs!

There’s good stuff in eggs too

So the bad stuff in eggs really isn’t so bad and the good stuff in eggs is really good!

Protein We all know that eggs are full of protein, but did you know that they are actually considered the best protein of the lot? This is because they have a super amazing amino acid mix meaning their six grams of protein are absorbed really easily by your body.

Vitamin D – There aren’t many ways we can get natural Vitamin D, but eggs are one of the lucky few. This elusive vitamin helps us absorb calcium and so is good for your bones and teeth as well as your heart and colon.

Choline – Choline helps our brain’s cogs keep moving and egg yolks are one of the best sources of this clever nutrient.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin – These scary sounding, but really very helpful nutrients are also found in the egg yolk. They are really good for your eyes, helping to prevent things like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.


So there you have it. An overview of eggs. And the verdict? They aren’t the heart clogging danger foods we once thought they were. An egg a day is totally fine and is a great source of some hard to get nutrients, so go forth and egg!


Mum and eggs

This is my mum with some lovely eggs from our chickens. One of them lays green eggs, which are totally good for your heart too!

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The Benefits of Breakfast

Want to know which food can help you lose weight, concentrate better and lower you cholesterol? Well, it’s no one food in particular, but an entire meal: breakfast.

The Benefits of Breakfast - Do You Want Science With That

All this time you’ve been waiting for that magic pill or wondrous super-food that will improve your performance, make you healthier and help you knock a few pounds all at once and it’s been here all along. Your mum always told you to have a good breakfast, and she was right (as usual)!

I’d just like to add a little disclaimer though, before I tell you all of the wonderful ways your morning meal is helping you be a better person. The goods you reap from your bountiful breakfast depend a bit on what you eat. You’re doing fine as long as your breakfast is fairly healthy. That means it doesn’t contain over 50% sugar or fat and has a good amount of fiber and protein. Think muesli and yogurt not chocolate chip pop tarts. A sprinkle of sugar is fine on your cereal as long as its cornflakes not frosted flakes.

So being the logical and scientifically minded folk I know you all are, there must be one burning question on your lips:

Where’s the proof?

This is one of those brilliant times when the proof is everywhere! Lots of studies have been done on the magic of morning eating and they’ve pretty much all come to the same conclusion: breakfast is a keeper.


Breakfast and weight loss

There have been many studies like this one and this one, which have linked a healthy breakfast to lower body weight and long term weight loss in both adults and children.

But how? I hear you ask. Eating breakfast mean you are consuming more calories so how could it possibly help you lose weight? One of the theories is that breakfast makes you less hungry for the rest of the day. Breakfast eaters have been shown to make better food choices at lunch time and throughout the day than those who prolong their sleeping fast until midday.

This is particularly true if your morning munch is high in protein. Protein is the most satiating and keeps you feeling full for longest. There have even been studies which look at people who eat a protein rich breakfast (like eggs) versus people who have a lower protein meal which have found that the protein loader loses a significantly larger amount of weight. So get your whisk out, because scrambled eggs on grainy bread is the way to go!


Breakfast and concentration

There is a reason why governments all over the world are trying to convince parents to get their kids to eat a proper breakfast. And parents would benefit from the meal just as much.

There have been lots of studies, particularly on school children, which have found that breakfast eaters concentrate better at work and school. Studies have also found that those who have a morning meal have much better functioning memories than those who skip the wonder meal.

Why? You ask. One of the theories is that it has to do with blood glucose levels. While you’re asleep you don’t eat so your blood glucose levels drop. Breakfast is so named because you are literally “breaking the fast” of your sleep hours and thus raising your blood glucose levels. However if you skip breakfast your body has to wait longer before you break the fast. When your blood glucose levels are too low your brain just doesn’t work as well, so having breakfast may act to even out blood glucose levels and get your brain and body back to normal.


Breakfast and cholesterol

Your body needs cholesterol to work properly, but if you have too much of the stuff it starts to clog up your heart and arteries and can be very dangerous. Luckily for us, we can lower our cholesterol levels easily, just by eating breakfast.

The lowering of cholesterol levels by eating reakfast had been shown in lots of studies, like this one and this one. These studies both present very convincing evidence that adults and children who eat breakfast have lower cholesterol levels. This means that breakfast eaters are at a much lower risk of heart disease, yay!

But breakfast is eating things, how could that possibly lower cholesterol? Basically, eating breakfast kick starts your body’s response to insulin. So if you skip breakfast your body doesn’t start responding to insulin properly and it starts building up in your blood. Having so much insulin in your blood means that your sensitivity to it declines and low sensitivity to insulin means your body holds on to fats. Cholesterol just so happens to be a fatty blood fat and your breakfast deprived body is holding onto every fat it can so it doesn’t get rid of the heart harming fat like it should.

Toaster 1

So eat your breakfast! It’s a pretty easy (and thoroughly enjoyable) thing to do and you will end up being so much better at life. Or at least a little better.


And last, but not least…

A delicious healthy breakfast option

This is what I have for breakfast almost every day, and I love it!

It’s packed full of fibre, protein, calcium and vitamins. The perfect way to start your day!

  • 1/4 cup of museli
  • 1/4 cup of youghurt
  • 1 bananna
  • 1/4 cup of berries (I use frozen ones when they are out of season)

Put everything in a bowl, top with some milk and enjoy.

Benefits of Breakfast - Do You Want Science With That

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The Skinny on Salad Dressings

We’d all like to lose a few pounds right? And on the quest for a slimmer waistline we find ourselves exchanging lots of full fat foods for their low fat and fat free counterparts. This is a great way to easily cut down on some calories, but could it be doing us more harm than good?

Take salads for example. You’ll be having far less calories if you switch your mayonnaise for balsamic vinegar, but cutting the fat could actually be making your salad less healthy.



Oils are good for your heart

For starters, fats aren’t always bad. The fats in olive or canola oil are called monounsaturated fats and are actually good for you. This study looked at the effect of fats on a person’s risk of heart disease. They found that people who ate lots of saturated fats (like the ones in processed meat and dairy products) had the highest risk of heart disease. That’s no surprise right? And you’d think that people who ate less fat altogether would have the lowest risk right? But they actually found that the people with the lowest risk of heart disease were those who replaced saturated bad fats with monounsaturated good fats like the ones in vegetable oils and nuts. Who’d have thought!

You miss out on your salad’s nutrients if you skip the dressing

The vegetables in salad are virtually fat-free and packed full of carotenoids. Carotenoids are super good for you and can be converted into vitamin A or used in your body as antioxidants. But your body needs a little help to be able to absorb these wonder compounds, and that help comes in the form of fats.

A study by researchers at the University of Iowa showed this in a recent study. They had three groups of people and fed them each the same salad. The difference was in the dressing. The first group’s salad had a fat free dressing, the second a low fat version and the third had a salad with full fat, traditional salad dressing. The researcher fed their subjects the salads and then took blood samples and measured the levels of carotenoids in each person’s blood.

The results were pretty clear. The people who ate their salad with fat free dressing had very small amounts of the healthy carotenoids in their blood in comparison to those with the fattier dressings. The people who had 1 or 2 tablespoons of oily dressing on their salads absorbed lots more of the good nutrients from their salad than their fat free counterparts.

So full fat mayonnaise is good! Without it you might be short changing yourself and missing out on a lot of the good stuff in your salad.

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Fudgey, Cakey or Chewy? The Science of Brownie Baking

You’re getting all dribbly just from reading the title aren’t you?


The Ultimate Brownie - Do You Want Science With That

The humble brownie. There’s just something about it.

A wee while back I wrote a post about baking chocolate chip cookies and how to use science to make them crunchier or chewier. It was pretty popular, so I thought, why not make another baking “how to” post! So here it is, how to make your brownie fudgier, cakier or chewier.

It’s all about proportions

Just like crafting cookie, brownie baking takes some careful measurements, and changing the amount of each ingredient that you use will change the final brownie outcome.

There are three main ingredients that you can alter to make your brownie fudgier, cakier or chewier and they are chocolate, butter & sugar and flour. So lets get started!


For an intensely dense chocolate hit

Chocolate: The more the merrier! The fudgey texture of your brownie is amplified by the fats in your chocolate so more chocolate will result in a fudgier brownie.

Butter and sugar: Melt and mix. Like I said in my cookies post, melting the butter before adding the sugar stops air bubbles from forming and making your brownie fluffy. So don’t cream your butter and sugar, gently melt your butter on the stove with your sugar instead.

Flour: Less is more. When flour is mixed with wet ingredients it forms gluten. Gluten is what makes baking tall and crunchy, which is the exact opposite of what you want in a fudgey brownie, so keep the flour to a minimum.


For those who like them light and fluffy

Chocolate: Don’t overdo it. Chocolate is full of fats which will weigh your batter down. If you want a lovely cakey brownie limit your chocolate so that your batter will be able to rise.

Butter and sugar: Beat them into cream-mission! To create a truly cakey brownie you need to get some air bubbles into the batter. You can do this by softening your butter instead of melting it and then whipping the sugar in. The sugar will forge little holes in the butter which trap air and leave your brownie feeling light as a feather.

Flour: Less is again more. While you want your brownie to be nice and cakey, you don’t want it to be crunchy like a cookie. Since you’ve creamed the butter and sugar you have already got some air bubbles into the mixture so your brownie will be fluffy. The gluten formed by flour can turn this cakeness into crunchiness and that just isn’t what you want.


For those who crave the chew

Chocolate: Take it out alltogether. It sounds like a bad idea, but trust me, it isn’t. Cocoa actually contains more pure chocolate liquor than chocolate anyway because it isn’t diluted with milk and sugar, so your brownie won’t be any less deliciously rich. By taking out the chocolate though, you’re removing fats and allowing for a chewier, more delicious brownie.

Butter and sugar: Melt and mix. You want chewy, not fluffy, so the melt on the stove option is the way to go for those after a chewy treat.

Flour: Go for gold! Flour is the key to a good chewy brownie. Adding more four will transform your brownie from a flat fudge to a cheerful chewy by creating some glutenous support during baking.



Two more tips before you hit the mixing bowl

For maximum chocolate flavour: The secret to a super chocolatey brownie is in how you treat the cocoa. You want to really release the delicious flavour, and you can do this with heat. If you pour boiling water over your cocoa, or add it to your butter as you’re cooking it on the stove, the lovely flavour molecules will be broken free from their protein confines and your brownie will be all the chocolatier.

For a crunchy top: There’s nothing like a little texture contrast in food, and brownie is no exception. I love a good fudgey brownie with a crunchy top, it’s just so satisfying. And easy to achieve! The crunch is all in the sugar. You want o use white sugar, not brown. The granulated white sugar will rise to the surface as your batter bakes and dry out, creating a delightfully crunchy crust. Yum!


Okay so it’s finally time. I am going to share with you my absolute favourite brownie recipe. I am a huge fan of the chewy brownie, and this is hands down the best chewy brownie I have ever made. It is just so delicious!


Amazing Brownie - Do You Want Science With That


The Unbeatable Brownie Recipe

  • 140g butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 large, cold eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour

Preheat your oven to 160°C and line a 20cm square pan with baking paper.

Fill a fairly large pot with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Put the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt into a heatproof bowl and put it into/sit it on top of the pot. Stir while the butter melts. Once the mixture is hot and the butter is melted, take it off the pot and let it cool.

Once cool, stir in the vanilla, then the eggs, one a time. Stir vigorously until the batter looks shiny and well-blended. Stir in the flour until no streaks remain and then beat the batter for about a minute more.

Pour the batter into your lined pan and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpic comes out of the middle with just a little bit of batter on it.

Ultimate Brownie - Do You Want Science With That


Mmm Brooownie…

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Should You Be Gluten Free?


A few years ago there was almost no such thing as “gluten free”. Recently though, little gluten free signs can be found everywhere from the supermarket to your favourite cafe. And we humans are simple creatures, when we start seeing lots of signs boasting that their foods are gluten free, we start wanting things that are gluten free.

Our funny human brains just want to follow the trend. What? Jessica Alba has gone gluten free? I have to go gluten free too! We don’t tend to ask too many questions, after all the cafes wouldn’t make gluten free brownies if people didn’t want them right? Well I’m people, I want them!

There is a reason for the surge of gluten free products on our shelves though, and that is celiac disease. This is a genetic disorder that you inherit from your mum or dad (thanks guys) which makes your intestine super sensitive to gluten. This means that your body can’t deal with gluten and instead you have all sorts of nasty reactions to the stuff. You might have diarrhoea, anaemia or feel very tired all the time. Luckily for you if you think you might have the disease all you have to do is visit your lovely doctor and they will run some tests to see if you do.

If you are celiac then a gluten free life is essential to be a happy chappy, but what if you aren’t? Are there health benefits of cutting out gluten even if your gut is able to process it?

The simple answer is not really, no.

Even though it’s super easy to Google up hundreds of the health claims for being gluten free, there is actually very little scientific evidence to back them up.

This study, aptly titled; Gluten-Free Diet: Imprudent Dietary Advice for the General Population?” looks into just that. It asks whether a gluten free diet really is a good idea for the everyday, healthy public. Their answer is no, and they have a bunch of reasons to back this up.

Going gluten free won’t help you lose weight: The study points out that there is actually no published research showing that cutting out gluten will help you lose weight. It did find though, that in studies on celiac people who switched to a gluten free diet it has been found that the switch might actually cause weight gain. A high proportion of obese celiac patients who changed to a gluten  free diet actually gained weight. Not good news for those looking for a dieting option.

Gluten is good for your gut: People who have celiacs disease have bad gut reactions when they eat gluten. However healthy poeple actually need gluten to have a healthy gut, who’d have thought? The study looked at lots of research which shows that gluten is a vital chemical that you need for all sorts of health reasons like immune function, lipid metabolism and vitamin absorption. It has even been found that a gluten free diet might reduce the amount of good bacteria in your gut, which is exactly what was also found in this study. Those little guys are helping us out and we want all the good bacteria we can get.

Plus there are other health benefits of gluten: The study also looked at how gluten can improve your health. Turns out the stuff can help lower your blood pressure ad boost your immune system as well as improving your blood lipid levels, yay!


Moral of the gluten story? If eating anything with gluten in it makes you feel a bit sick, go to the doctor and get him to test you for intolerance. If it doesn’t, keep eating it! Going gluten free won’t make you magically skinnier, more energetic or have a superhuman sense of smell. In fact not eating gluten might make you more likely to get sick and farty. No one wants to be farty.



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