Food Chemistry – Impact Factor

Food is any substance which is consumed by living beings – plants, humans or animals. Living beings consume food to produce energy and gather nutrition for their daily lifestyle. There are different sources of food and energy like water, carbohydrates and fats, which will be elaborated more about later on. 

What Is Food Chemistry?

Now that we have a general definition of food and why is it necessary for us and other living beings, let us start with understanding what is food chemistry. The particular branch of chemistry which deals with different constituents of food and how each of these components is used inside the bodies of living beings is called food chemistry. Moreover, food chemistry also involves the study about how components and chemicals in food, like proteins and carbohydrates, are broken down inside our systems and thus, reaching conclusions on how to improve the quality of food by tweaking different aspects of these constituents.  

What do Food Chemists do?

Food chemistry is a very niche profession, and food chemists generally have to tackle the different challenges which come along in the modern food industry. More specifically, food chemists deal with the manufacture and distribution of processed foods – foods which are artificially infused with different chemicals and components to enhance food quality. The work done by food chemists is usually on an experimental basis. They work mostly in laboratories or in-house farms where food is being grown to study more about different components and chemicals in food and how these constituents can be used later. 

Moreover, there are different varieties of food chemists too. Some of them only engage in making food more improved while some of them even work in manufacturing different artificial flavours and colourings, which is deemed safe for human consumption. As the work done by these chemists concerns with food, they are also expected to follow stringent guidelines regarding everything, since lives are at stake if something goes wrong during production. 

Pop Quiz 1

  1. What is food chemistry?

    1. Chemistry related to different artificial products.

    2. Chemistry related to chemicals inside food. (Answer)

    3. Chemistry related to the working of organic and inorganic components. 

    4. None of these. 

Different Chemicals in Food

Each and every food component which we or other living beings consume in their daily lives broadly contains four significant ingredients. 

  1. Fats

  2. Proteins

  3. Carbohydrates

  4. Alcohol

Among these four categories of food constituents, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats provide us with the calories, which is the unit measure of energy. Whatever we do daily, like running, walking, reading or even eating, calories help us in doing those tasks.

Did You Know? 

Every gram of protein and carbohydrate consists of 4 kilocalories of energy, while each gram of fat contains 9 kilocalories of energy. 

Types of Food Chemistry

Now that we have a brief overview of what is food chemistry and what chemicals are present in our food let us delve deeper into it.

Food Components Can Be Broadly Differentiated Into Two Categories. 

  1. Major Components – Components like water, fat, carbohydrates and a few others which are absolutely essential for our living and without which, our bodies cannot function properly. These are the most crucial components of food and are contained in almost everything we eat daily. Deficiency of any of the major components can lead to severe illnesses, during which these chemicals have to be intravenously injected into our bloodstream.

  2. Minor Components – Components like organic acids, enzymes and other vitamins and minerals which are also essential for our bodies, but are not needed daily. Even though the deficiency of minor components also can cause diseases, those might not be as severe as those caused due to lack of any of the major components. Our bodies still need all the minor components and are essential for our living too.  

Major Food Components

  1. Water

The most important constituent for life is water. The abundance of water is the main reason why Earth is still the only known planet to be home to different life forms. Quite naturally, water is contained inside almost every food product we consume and constitutes nearly 60 per cent of an adult human body, even though water does not impart any calories to your diet.

For some food items like fruits and vegetables, water also improves the texture of food. When we go to shops and stores, we tend to buy mangoes and oranges, which look juicier from the outside, rather than those which do not look so. At the same time, items like potatoes, salt and sugar are facilitated by the lack of water to maintain their quality. 

Food products like pickles and sauces are concentrated and frozen for increasing shelf life and preventing microbial growth. Since water has the capability to break acids and bases into ions, it is used in the entire digestion process and causes many useful chemical reactions to occur inside our body, which would have been otherwise impossible. Due to all these properties, water is the most important major component of food. 

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  1. Proteins

Almost 50 per cent of the dry weight inside food items is due to the presence of proteins inside their cells. Each protein has a distinct structure and shape and contributes to unique functionalities inside our bodies. Proteins help in making and maintaining our whole muscular build and are extremely important as carriers of other molecules inside bloodstreams.

Nearly all proteins, inside their core, consist of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and traces of sulphur. Special proteins like milk protein or haemoglobin contain other constituents too. 

Proteins are a collection of amino acids, which are of about 20 different types with each of them having different properties like pH and heating temperature. Amino acids are one of the most essential constituents of food, helping in repairing blood, skin, organs and muscles. Our bodies use proteins to manufacture different hormones too. There are eight essential amino acids needed in our bodies – Tryptophan, Tyrosine, Valine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Lysine, Methionine and Phenylalanine.

Commonly eaten food products like milk, eggs, cheese, fish, and poultry are some of the richest contributors of protein.

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Activity: Take a notebook and write down all the functions which each of the different types of amino acids serve for our bodies. 

  1. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, much like proteins, also comprise of mainly carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. However, unlike proteins, carbohydrates are the most vital sources of energy and fibre in our bodies. Carbohydrates can be simple or compound molecules, and some of the most essential carbohydrates are sugars, starch, dextrins, cellulose, pectins and gums.

Carbohydrates are called such due to them being mainly hydrates of carbon. The general chemical formula of carbohydrates is Cn(H2nO). The simplest carbohydrates found are the monosaccharides or simple sugars and have the chemical formula CnH2nOt. Likewise, disaccharides contain two sugar molecules, trisaccharides contain three, oligosaccharides contain numerous and polysaccharides are complex molecules containing thousands of sugar molecules linked together. 

The most important sources of carbohydrates in food are cereals like wheat, rice and other grains. One of the most vital carbohydrates, starch, is a plant polysaccharide contained in roots and seeds.  Starch is most commonly hydrolysed to glucose, which is then used by our brain and central nervous system. 

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  1. Fats

A principal component of our diet and an essential contributor of calories along with carbohydrates, fats are also known to carry some fat-soluble vitamins. These include A, D, E and K. Fats and oils are mainly manufactured and processed in industries from animal, vegetable and marine sources. 

Fats are mostly used for imparting the texture and aroma of many food items we buy and are stored as backup sources of energy by our body to be used if any deficiency of other components occurs. Fats usually stay solid at room temperature and can also be processed into glycerides, which are then used in different food products as emulsifiers.

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Pop Quiz 2

  1. Which of these two components are made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen?

    1. Fats and Proteins.

    2. Proteins and Water. 

    3. Water and Carbohydrates.

    4. Carbohydrates and Proteins. (Answer)

So, this was everything about what is food chemistry and an overview of all the chemical components which are contained in our food. To know more about it or other topics of Chemistry, visit our website or install the Vedantu app today to get concise guides, PDFs and tutorials on any subject. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What Is Food Chemistry?

The branch of chemistry which deals with the study of different chemical components of food is called food chemistry. Food chemistry is exceptionally essential nowadays due to the sheer number of processed foods which are available in the market.

2. What Is The Difference Between Major And Minor Food Constituents?

Major food components are incredibly essential for our everyday living. Deficiency of any major component leads to severe diseases. Carbohydrates, fats and water are some of the major food components. Minor components are essential too but are not needed in our everyday diet. Organic acids and other enzymes are examples of minor food components.

3. Which One Of The Major Components Gives Us Energy?

Carbohydrates are the richest sources of energy inside our bodies, though proteins contribute to some of it too. Cereal grains like wheat and rice consist of the most amounts of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are of the general chemical formula – Cn(H2nO).

4. Which Of The Major Components Of Food Is The Most Vital?

Though all the major food components are essential and cannot be absent from our daily diet, water is the most vital component needed to survive. Water consists of 60 per cent of an adult human body and is required from almost all significant chemical reactions going on inside us. Humans are reported to have died without water within three days.