Nutrition and Diet: Food Science Experiments

By Summer Banks FNS, SPT
Learning about food and nutrition helps you make choices that can keep you healthy now and throughout your life. The science of nutrition can seem complicated, but there are fun ways to learn about diet and food. Science experiments show you how different foods react in specific situations and help you learn more about their properties. Participating in a science fair allows you to choose a question to answer, then design a project that answers the question. Use fun, hands-on experiments and projects to learn about health and nutrition!

One of the first places to start learning more about nutrition is to take a look at your own diet. You may not think much about what you eat in a typical day, but the foods you choose are very important for your overall health. The food pyramid shows the various food groups and the number of servings people should have from these groups. The groups include grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, proteins, and fats. At the base of the pyramid, grains should make up the biggest part of people’s diets. Fruits and vegetables come next, dairy and proteins above this, and fats sit at the top of the pyramid. You could keep a food journal for several days to learn about your typical diet. Once you know what you tend to eat, compare it to the food pyramid to see if you might need to make some adjustments. Getting your whole family involved with following the food pyramid can help everyone feel more healthy.

Conducting nutrition science experiments is another way to learn about diet and nutrition. Food experiments are easily conducted in your kitchen, often using materials you already have on hand. An experiment about tasting helps you learn about the science behind tasting, your tongue, and taste buds. The experiment involves examining the tongues of several participants, counting the number of papillae, or taste buds, within a small area of the tongue. The number of papillae corresponds with tasting abilities, with people being non-tasters, average tasters, or super-tasters.

Another popular experiment to try involves diet soda and mint candies. Set the experiment up outside so you don’t make a mess in the kitchen! Simply open a bottle of diet soda, add the mint candies, and watch the liquid explode. The liquid explodes because the candies cause a huge release of carbon dioxide, which is already present in the drink. You could also use soda to learn about the corrosiveness of this liquid. Pour a small amount of soda into a plastic cup, and place a tarnished penny in the liquid. Watch the penny every day for about one week to see what happens to it. As the penny’s tarnish is slowly removed by the soda, you can think about the corrosive properties of soda and what it might do to a person’s digestive tract.

Participating in a science fair is a great way to learn about nutrition. To choose a project, consider a question you might have about nutrition or food. For example, you might wonder about the differences between fresh and frozen food and which tastes better. To answer these questions, collect samples of foods such as fruits, vegetables, and meats. Divide the foods into two groups, and keep one group fresh while you freeze the other group. After freezing, examine both the fresh and frozen foods under a microscope and record your results. Then, prepare both foods using the same process. Perform a taste test on both foods using a group of volunteers, and record preference results. Analyze your data to determine whether volunteers preferred the fresh or frozen foods. You could also explore the permeability of different brands of plastic wrap to determine how quickly different brands allow moisture in food to get through the plastic wrap. This project involves setting up identical bowls of food and covering each bowl with a different brand of plastic wrap. Weigh each bowl at the beginning of the project and record the weights. Leave the bowls on the counter for a week, and then weigh each one at the end of the week. The bowl that is the closest to its original weight experienced the least amount of evaporation, or water permeating the plastic wrap.

Visit the following websites to learn more about science experiments and science fair project ideas:

About the Author:

Summer Banks has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.