Food Facts & Fun

Food Facts is a listing of articles that teaches you how all types of foods, drinks and diets work.


"All-natural" labeling offers a thin slice of reassurance to sandwich lovers who want to avoid nitrites and nitrates. But would deli meat be deli meat without them?

Spoiler alert: Light and heat — not your milk's fat content — are what get bacteria excited.

Wheat takes the heat for gut problems, painful joints — even cancer. Has human intervention transformed modern crops into harmful fake food?

Most of us eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day without stopping to think about it. So why do we eat three meals a day — is there a biological reason, or is it a societal construct?

Whether you're about to munch on some sodium-laden cured meats or a salty snack, go ahead and grab a big glass of water. Why does salt make you so thirsty?

Kale has become the little black dress of the culinary world: chic, understated and perfect for nearly every occasion. But it comes with a not-so-elegant side effect. We'll — ahem — get to the bottom of why kale makes you so gassy.

Meals would be pretty boring without the benefit of herbs and spices. But lest you think those are interchangeable terms, we're here to tell you they're definitely not. What's the difference between herbs and spices?

Discerning between a fruit and a vegetable may seem simple: Fruits have seeds and vegetables don't. This works great if you're a botanist, but not so well if you're not. We'll finally tell you which category tomatoes fall into (or maybe we won't).

Sometimes it seems as if processed meats (like the pastrami on your late-night sandwich) don't last long. But all those preservatives do serve a purpose — you'll be able to eat that pastrami days after your home-cooked chicken has gone bye-bye.

If you can't get enough of starchy foods, you don't need to limit yourself to potatoes and squash. Fruits have starch, too! We'll tell you why, and also reveal the starchiest fruit of them all.

A few years ago, hardly anyone could pronounce this product correctly. Now, it's a well-known nutritional superstar, available in almost any supermarket and a common substitute for rice. Why is quinoa so hot?

People have always had a thing for sparkling water, but it wasn't easy to reproduce the effervescence found naturally in some springs. Why was it so hard to create carbonated water and how did the product gave birth to the soda fountain?

With its extended expiration date and super portability, it's no wonder people have been relying on dehydrated food for centuries. But is it any healthier for us?

Stuffed full of vitamins and minerals — not to mention fats, carbs and proteins — Soylent can replace all those meals you're tired of making. But would you want it to?

Junk food is a miracle of edible engineering. Food scientists have figured out how to trick our brains into eating all that salt, sugar and fat without thinking about the calories. How do they do it? While you're learning, I'll get some Ding Dongs.

Is gluten the new saccharin – the evil product that must be shunned at all costs if we are to avoid cancer, lose weight and feel better? Not so fast, say the experts. A gluten-free diet could be bad for you.

Salt and MSG don't just make things taste saltier – they brighten the flavors of almost any food. But how can the same ingredient make chocolate taste sweeter, take the bitterness out of grapefruit and make cream soup taste thicker?

If you'd love to eat ice cream all day, maybe you can put that desire to work as a food taster. Or maybe not. The job requires more than a love of eating, and could involve sampling dog food.

Figuring out how many people a farmer's work feeds is more complicated than you may think. Agriculture has many variables that affect farm output – what are they?

Americans tend to think of their Puritan forebears as abstemious killjoys. But the truth is, they drank far more liquor than Americans of today. What other alcohol-related fact bubbles can we burst for you?

We're used to looking at the expiration date for milk but how about for beer? While some brands proudly display their beers' "date of birth," others hide it with some cryptic codes. Does the date affect the taste?

If bananas are your favorite fruit, you may soon pick up a bunch that just seems ... different somehow. The culprit: a fungus that's killing the Cavendish.

As the old saying goes, appearances can be deceiving. Most of us use price, the label on the bottle and vintage to prejudge a wine's quality. But do expensive wines actually taste better, or is it all just sour grapes?

If beer commercials are accurate, you can knock back plenty of brewskis without worrying about weight gain. Yet the existence of beer bellies proves otherwise.

Wine lovers are sometimes called snobby, in part because they seem to speak a language of their own. Yet, their beloved beverage likely had some humble beginnings.