Interesting facts on the sense and nonsense of food
GRAPES — AN ALL-YEAR PLEASURE
Fresh — dried — as juice — as wine — as oil — grapes offer pleasure in many different ways. Worldwide grape production is in third place of all types of fruit, behind bananas and apples, and in 2013 it amounted to over 77 million tons worldwide. Around 80% of grapes go towards making wine and 20% go to retailers as fresh table grapes or in dried form.
Botany and appearance
In botanical terms, grapes belong to the berries.
The berries are round or oval and they come with or without seeds. Their colour varies from bright yellow, bright green to red to blue or blue-black. They are among the nonclimacteric fruits which means they do not continue to ripen after harvesting.
Grapes grow on a vine, a climbing plant which forms dozens of grapes per season and can last for several decades. Thousands of different grape varieties are known although only a few have any commercial significance for wine-growing (wine grapes) or in the production of table grapes. Vines grow in all temperate, in some cases sub-tropical regions of the earth although table grapes need a particularly warm, mild climate to enable them to develop their sweet, aromatic flavour.
Grapes are available all year round. The pictures at the bottom show various varieties currently available. The graphic shows the harvest times in the most important countries of origin.
The table opposite summarises the most important nutritional values for grapes. These are average values which can vary according to the type and variety, origin and weather conditions.
Grapes have a high sugar content mainly composed of equal proportions of glucose and fructose.
The current sugar levels for the varieties shown below, measured with a handheld refractometer, are as follows:
- Black Pearl (Italy): 20 %
- Crimson (Turkey): 20 %
- Timco (Brazil): 21 %
- Crimson (Italy): 16%
- Thompson Seedless (Peru): 19%
- Italia (Italy): 19%
Besides the vitamins and minerals (above all potassium), the number of bioactive compounds is remarkable. Red and blue grapes, in particular, contain tannins, polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyans, i.e. so-called secondary plant compounds to which antioxidant and other positive health effects are ascribed.
Report: Dr. Kerstin Filipzik
PUNICA GRANATUM – FASCINATING INFORMATION ON THE POMEGRANATE
The pomegranate which is currently prized as a super fruit, is one of the oldest cult fruits, cultivated shrubs and medicinal plants. The fruit which is also known by its French name grenadine was considered in classical times to be the epitome of divine love and immortality and also as a symbol of fertility and happiness with its numerous seeds. In the Middle Ages, alchemists praised its life-prolonging effect, and as the imperial orb, the pomegranate became a symbol for sovereign virtue.
Origin and appearance
The pomegranate tree belongs to the Lythraceae family, growing five to eight metres in height, and it is normally cultivated as a bush. The plant which probably originated in Persia (today: Iran), has been cultivated for centuries in Mediterranean countries. The pomegranate, a berry in botanical terms, has a red-brown, leathery skin. Several chambers are to be found inside, divided by whitish pith and filled with several hundred seeds surrounded by red, fleshy, glassy pulp. An average fruit has a diameter of ten centimetres and it weighs 400-500 grams half of which is made up by the seeds.
Storage and use
Pomegranates are harvested when ripe and they can be stored at room temperature for two to three weeks. They can even stay fresh for several months if kept in a fridge at a temperature of five to ten degrees Celsius. The seeds are the part of the pomegranate that are eaten. They burst when chewed and taste bitter sweet to bitter, similar to blackcurrant. In the kitchen, they are used in salads, desserts, oriental dishes and as a garnish for cheese, fish and meat. The juice of the pomegranate is drunk pure or diluted and processed to make deep red grenadine syrup which is often used in cocktails and refreshing drinks.
Pomegranates contain around 16 percent of total sugars mainly consisting of almost equal proportions of glucose and fructose. They are rich in potassium, contain iron, vitamin C and folic acid and above all, they contain numerous bioactive compounds, far more than blueberries, green tea or red wine. Antioxidant properties and other positive health effects are ascribed to these secondary plant compounds (flavonoids, anthocyans, polyphenols), and the pomegranate owes its reputation as a so-called super fruit to these effects.
The following procedure is recommended to open a pomegranate attractively, demonstrated in the images by Mehmet Güzelel, employee of Helmuth Ehmann Fruchthandels GmbH:
- Cut a circle at the top end of the fruit with a sharp knife and remove the flower.
- Cut into the skin vertically along the individual chambers, bend the seed chambers outwards and remove the white pith.
- To eat the pomegranate, cut off individual chambers, pick off the seeds one by one or prise them out carefully with a small spoon.
- To extract the juice, cut the fruit in half and use a citrus juicer to carefully squeeze out the juice.
Caution — The juice contains tannins and pigments which will give stubborn stains on hands and clothes. For that reason, disposable gloves should be worn when cutting and squeezing pomegranates, and care should be taken to prevent the juice from squirting.
Report: Dr. Kerstin Filipzik
HARDLY ANY FRUIT IN THE YOGHURT
SEARCHING FOR THE FRUIT IN YOUR YOGHURT?
Quick and easy, and if you believe the advertising, healthy and tasty! But what is really in the yoghurt?
- We solve the tricky question and calculate the actual proportion of fruit and the amount of added sugar!
- We look at the purpose of the individual ingredients and additives!
- We compare the price of raspberry yoghurt bought in the shop with a home-made one!
The actual proportion of fruit
First of all, the list of ingredients for a raspberry yoghurt gives the consumer no absolute figures. Altogether, they contain three components: yoghurt, a fruit preparation and sugar. The fruit preparation consists of seven components, sugar as the main ingredient and the raspberries are obvious but no-one would stir the other five ingredients into their home-made yoghurt. The actual proportion of fruit is not clear and you almost need higher mathematics to work it out! At the very least, you have to do a bit of creative thinking!
The proportion of fruit preparation is clearly shown as 18% which looks good. In addition, the statement “3.5% fat in the milk” and the figure of “2.7 g of fat in the overall yoghurt” can be used to calculate a yoghurt proportion of around 77% which gives the following composition: 77% yoghurt, 18% fruit preparation, 5% sugar
The total sugar content of 13.2% from the nutritional value table can now be split into the 5 g added sugar above, approx. 3.8 g lactose in the 77% yoghurt share and the resulting 4.4 g of sugar in the raspberry preparation.
4.4 g sugar in the raspberry preparation! As the proportion of raspberries is only given after the sugar, meaning in other words in accordance with current legislation that the figure is lower, this results finally in a proportion of around 4.3 g = 4.3% in the whole yoghurt!
The actual fruit content in the 250g carton under review is therefore barely 11g of raspberries — a negligeably small amount! Against that, however, there is a whole 22g of added sugar, that corresponds to around seven cubes of sugar — much too much!
The purpose of the ingredients and additives
11g: that is three average-sized raspberries, just about as many as shown on the packaging. And that is what gives the yoghurt its taste? Hard to imagine! This is where the added flavouring in the raspberry preparation comes into play. This is added in the form of a fragrance, and the consumer smells the raspberries and associates their perception with the fragrance of the raspberries that are so nicely shown on the packaging. But this natural fragrance is created without the aid of any raspberries. The term “natural fragrance” only means that the substance was made from a natural substance. In the case of the raspberries, this is achieved by boiling cedar wood shavings (wood is natural) or microbiologically with the aid of mould which is also natural. Unfortunately, three raspberries are also not enough to give the yoghurt a proper colour... that’s why red beet concentrate is added.
The addition of water is in fact completely unnecessary while adding modified starch has a nice binding effect, creating a creamy sensation in the mouth. And finally, there’s the acidity regulator which softens the bitter taste of the yoghurt somewhat as promised in the statement “250g mild yoghurt”.
Conclusion – Consumers can well do without these ingredients and additives!
The finished 250g branded raspberry yoghurt currently costs around 65 cents in the shop. The self-made version is to have a fruit component of 30%, that’s 175g of yoghurt and 75g of raspberries.
- A carton of natural yoghurt, 500 g, can be bought for 60 cents. So that’s 21 cents for the 175g needed.
- We will charge € 3 for a bag of frozen raspberries. That makes 45 cents for 75g of raspberries.
- We will ignore the cost of adding a little sugar which most consumers still need.
- That makes 66 cents for the home-made version.
Conclusion – No major price difference between bought and self-made versions but an incomparably better taste for the self-made recipe with seven times higher raspberry content. Give it a try!
Report: Dr. Kerstin Filipzik
CHILLIES — SMALL BUT WATCH OUT
CHILLIES — SMALL BUT WATCH OUT
Some like it, some don’t ... spicy food. Chillies are usually responsible for making a dish hot. They are supposed to be healthy and make you happy. They provide a special taste experience and can even give a so-called capsaicin high effect. And if you take too much, there are dozens of tips on putting out the fire. Here are some interesting facts about chillies and their effects.
Chilli — Spanish pepper — red pepper — paprika
...various terms for one and the same plant species that goes by the botanical name of Capsicum, belonging to the family of nightshades.
Capsicum comes in a wide variety of shapes, colours and tastes, starting with the large, round bell peppers and the sweet mini-peppers, via the long and somewhat hotter red peppers to the hot/super hot chillies. Capsaicin is mainly responsible for the spiciness of the various types. This substance is found principally in the lighter membrane as well as in the seeds and less in the flesh of the fruit although the tip of the chilli is usually milder than the other end. The capsaicin content in the types of chillies found in shops is typically around 0.02-0.03% for the medium hot jalapeño and 0.5-0.6% for hot habaneros. Anyone who has bitten into one of these varieties will definitely do without the pleasure of tasting the hottest variety of chilli, the Bhut Jolokia, with a capsaicin content of 6-7%.
The pungency of chillies is usually measured in Scoville units. This measurement goes back to a procedure invented by Wilbur L. Scoville in 1912: A sample of the chilli is diluted in increasing amounts of water and tasted to determine the point at which the perception of heat is no longer noticeable. The Scoville rating quoted (SHU = Scoville Heat Units) then corresponds to the particular dilution factor. A rating of 100 HSU would then correspond to a one hundred-fold dilution, and a rating of 1,000,000 HSU to a million-fold dilution.
Chillies are healthy
As well as valuable carotenoid pigments, the high vitamin C and potassium contents are to be highlighted for all types of chillies, and the aforementioned capsaicin in the hot chillies. Scientific studies show that capsaicin has an antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effect, and even small quantities help with digestion. Drugs containing capsaicin are used in medicine, e.g. for treating rheumatism and pain. And they are also found in pepper sprays as a self-defence substance acting as an indirect form of health protection.
Chillies make you happy
Heat is not a taste but a sensation of pain via the trigeminal nerve which is located in the head. The capsaicin stimulates the receptors (free nerve ends) which are also responsible for feeling heat. It is hot, we feel pain and begin to sweat. And, as with any other pain, the release of endorphins is triggered which suppress the feeling of pain and have a positive effect on our mood. And it is precisely these happiness hormones that lead to the capsaicin high effect... as how nice the feeling when pain subsides.
Chillies as a flavour enhancer
The receptors of the trigeminal nerve and the tongue’s taste receptors, sweet-sour-salty-bitter-umami, are right beside each other. If some receptors are stimulated by hot substances, increasing the blood flow, this affects the neighbouring taste receptors which become significantly more sensitive to actual tastes. Senses of taste and heat are wholly individual, however, with the result that there can be no general rules for how spicy food should be. It is important to stay within your own positive perception thresholds in order not to spoil the taste. Because, if it gets too hot, any taste is lost. So chillies should be used in moderation. What form they should be used in, fresh, dried, powder or filamentous, is a matter of taste. The spice capsaicin is resistant to heat and will also survive the freezer.
Remedies for the pain caused by chillies
Hot food affects our sense of taste but it also works the other way around. Sweet and salty, above all, have a noticeable influence on our perception of spiciness and mitigate the effects. For example, one tried and tested method to relieve the pain caused by chillies is to suck on grains of salt or sugar. Further good tips are to drink milk and eat cheese as the capsaicin which triggers the pain dissolves well in fat. And the most expensive way to alleviate the pain is then to drink a vintage dessert wine. Here the combination of very high sugar content and the aromatic, alcoholic components seem to be particularly effective in affecting the perception of pain.
Pepper and chilli were voted “Vegetable of the Year” for 2015/2016 in Germany by the Verein zur Erhaltung der Nutzpflanzenvielfalt (Association for the Preservation of Crop Diversity). Its purpose is to work to preserve diversity among varieties. A worthwhile assignment as around the world there are far more than 2,000 varieties of peppers/chillies.
Report: Dr. Kerstin Filipzik
HOLY PLANT TURMERIC
TURMERIC: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SPICE AND THE PLANT
Besides salt and sugar, spices and herbs are essential for making food taste, smell and look good. One interesting spice, for example, is turmeric which we use purely as a powder, mainly as one component in curry powders.
The plant Curcuma longa belongs to the ginger family. It has large green leaves and it forms a flower head in the form of an ear with small white or pink-coloured blooms. As with ginger, the rhizome (shown on the right) which forms beside the root in the ground, is used as a spice. The plant shown is grown from such a rhizome.
Turmeric is also known as the yellow spice and it contains around 3% of the intensive yellow dye curcumin. It also contains around 5% essential oils which are behind the resinous odour and slightly bitter taste. Used fresh, these components come into their own and lend the food a characteristic, bitter, slightly spicy taste. In powder form, i.e. dried, the flavour-enhancing effect is less intensive, and a mild spiciness predominates.
The main area where this plant is cultivated is in India where turmeric used to be known as the “holy plant”. In traditional Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurveda, it has been used as a cure for a wide range of symptoms for millennia, and particular mention must be made of its digestive, anti-inflammatory properties.
The food industry likes to use this powder spice in ready-made meals, e.g. in soups from the packet or can, mainly due to the intensive colour it provides. On the other hand, in food where the spicy flavours get in the way, the pure colouring curcumin is used. This is either extracted from the rhizome by a process of fermentation using certain bacteria, or produced synthetically from inexpensive raw materials. It is then to be found in the list of ingredients, e.g. in sweets, mustard and pasta products, as “Curcumin colouring” or “Colouring E 100”.
Your own kitchen is certainly not complete without turmeric. Even the smallest amounts are enough to give rice dishes, curries, soups and sauces a nice colour. Larger amounts also give an exotic, spicy taste. The yellow colouring achieved with turmeric corresponds roughly to that of saffron with the advantage that turmeric is cheap by comparison. You can buy 100g of turmeric for € 1-2 while 100g of genuine Spanish saffron costs several hundred euros. For this reason, people like to cheat and they add turmeric to saffron to make it go further. So here’s a simple test for saffron fans; all you need is a small amount of soda (sodium carbonate) which is available on the detergents shelf in any drugstore.
Pour a little spice into a small glass and shake it with a few millimetres of water until it turns yellow. Add a little soda on the tip of a knife, shake again and look at the colour. A red discolouration points to turmeric. Fig. 5 shows the colour of saffron/turmeric in water on the left and the right-hand image shows the same glasses after adding soda and shaking.
Bericht: Dr. Kerstin Filipzik
SOFT DRINKS: PURE SUGAR
SOFT DRINKS – PURE SUGAR WATER
The selection is becoming ever greater and more varied, and more and more new creations are coming onto the market with ever more unusual ingredients. According to the definition, soft drinks are simply “refreshing drinks with ingredients to add taste”. But certain brands have become a status symbol, especially among the young, and are associated with special values.
Water is not tasty. This statement can be frequently heard. In addition, the choice of refreshing drinks is huge, ranging from flavoured mineral water, lemonades and ice teas with a wide variety of different tastes all the way to energy drinks with the wildest names. They taste good, the bottles and cans are attractively designed and the advertising promises much. The prices are correspondingly high and may well go up to 6 euros a litre.
Unfortunately, the reality is completely different, however, and it can be summed up in the simple sentence: We are drinking cheap sugar water pepped up with additives and flavours. The main ingredients are 1 litre of water, 100g of sugar, 3-5g of citric acid, colouring and flavour, and the cost runs to just a few cents per litre with industrial production.
The price is one aspect ... and health is the other one. The sugar content of food is a much-discussed subject and among other things, it is identified as the cause of obesity, caries and diabetes. The maximum amount we should be consuming on a daily basis according to the GDA (Guideline Daily Amount) is 90g/day (women) and 110g/day (men) for normal adults.
This 100g of sugar per day sounds a lot but it is quickly reached, and above all, the amount must be split:
- into 50% for the sugar which we consume via the natural sugar content of fruit, vegetables and dairy products (fructose, glucose, sucrose, lactose). And here we can’t make any cuts as these foods are essential for a healthy diet.
- and into max. 50% for the sugar added to food, sweets and drinks and which we also use ourselves to sweeten drinks or when we cook and bake. And here we can and must cut back.
Half a litre of a regular soft drink contains approx. 50g of sugar, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. And this very half litre is enough to reach our sugar consumption for the whole day in the blink of an eye.
There’s not much else to be done other than to check your drinking habits and change them on a lasting basis. Because the body definitely needs water but not the many empty calories which we toss down with our soft drinks.
A healthy tip for drinks
If you don’t want to drink pure water, flavour your tap water or mineral water with freshly pressed lemon or lime juice, apple slices or other fruits and herbs or drink unsweetened tea.
Report: Dr. Kerstin Filipzik