Why you need to know about Food Science

Why you need to know about Food Science

I love introducing people to the intriguing world of Food Science

So, why do you need to know about Food Science? An understanding of Food Science can elevate your cooking for homecooks, excite you about science as a student, and ensure your food products are safe and delicious for the food manufacturer. Also, for the food curious, Food Science can be used to make informed food choices.

People are curious when they find out that I am a Food Scientist.  Normally, I am then bombarded with questions about what I eat and food in general. The main question I am normally asked is, What is Food Science?

First, let’s talk more about Food Science.  

What is a Food Science

Food Science is the study of food from harvest through consumption
Food Science is the study of food from harvest through consumption.

Food science is the disciple of understanding food through science.  Which includes the process from harvesting, storage, packaging, preparation all the way through eating.

Food science is science that you can see and taste!

Have you ever wondered why your avocado starts browning after you cut it open? Or why your sourdough bread didn’t rise?  Or what the heck is nitro cold brew coffee?  Food scientist work on questions like these.

Food Scientist work on questions like "Why do Avocados start browning when you cut them open?"
Food Scientist work on questions like “Why do Avocados start browning when you cut them open?”

For me personally, I never thought I enjoyed science when I was in middle school, high school, or even the first three years of college.  I loved math!  Luckily, in college I discovered Food Science and fell in love. 

In particular, Food Science is science that you can see and taste

Food Science is an applied science

Food science is a multidisciplinary field that applies chemistry, microbiology, engineering and nutrition. 

Wait, avocado browning is an example of Food Science?!

A Food Scientist might investigate the following:

  • Why does an Avocado turn brown when it is sliced open? (Food Chemistry, Enzymatic Reactions)
  • How is salad dressing manufactured?  When you mix oil and water at home, they separate…  (Food Chemistry, Emulsification)
  • If I leave meat out for more than 2 hours why will I get sick?  (Food Microbiology)
  • Why do potatoes become soft after I cook them?  (Food Physics)
Food Scientist use Physics to investigate texture changes of foods when cooked, such as athe potatoes pictured here
Food Scientist use Physics to investigate texture changes of foods when cooked, such as athe potatoes pictured here

All these are example of Food Science!

How can Food Science help you?

Food Science is everywhere.  Many people are using Food Science without even realizing!

As a Chef or Home Cook understanding the science behind recipes can help improve your cooking skills.  For example, if you understand leavening agents when you make bread, your end product could be optimized.

Understanding Food Science can help make informed choices about what you are eating as a Foodie and Food Consumer.  As an example, if you are trying to decrease your added sugar consumption, understanding serving sizes can guide healthier eating decisions.

You can improve your cooking and make informed eating decisions when you understand Food Science.
You can improve your cooking and make informed eating decisions when you understand Food Science.

If you’re a Student or Teacher, Food Science can be used to explain science.  Food Science is science you can taste and see.  As a scientist, this is unique to Food Science and is why I think it’s so fascinating.  I never considered myself a very good student of science, until I’ve found the application of food.

And last but not least, Food Manufacturers of all sizes can use Food Science to scale up, four product development, creating innovative products and technologies, as well as solving other problems.  In order to ensure safe and quality products are delivered to the customer, Food Science is critical.

Are Food Science and Food Technology the same thing?

Are Food Science and Food Technology the same thing?  Many academic programs offer “Food Science & Technology” degrees.  Institute of Food Technologist (IFT) is main industry group. These terms are used interchangeably within the food industry for the most part.

What do Food Scientist do?  They use science to understand tomatoes.
Tomatoes can be improved with both Science and Technology.

Some companies do separate them into separate groups. In this situation, Food Scientists would focus on understanding food through science.  While, Food Technology would focus on the processes and technologies required.

How do I learn more?

Universities around the world offer Food Science degrees.  This is the most traditional path to becoming a Food Scientist.  It is however, not the only path.

You can also start now!  I started evaluating food in my kitchen during college.  Start by looking at products in the grocery store.  Food Scientist worked with the majority of products in the grocery store.

Start your Food Science journey at the grocery store.
Start your investigation of food by looking at products in the grocery store.

For a long time, I thought that Food Science only applied to packaged foods.  Packaged foods are only one type of product category that utilizes Food Scientist. Food Scientist also work on fresh produce and food service. Food service is food consumed outside of the house.

Food science can summarized as the disciple of understanding food through science from field to fork.

Now you’re in the “know”

Read more about the impact Food Science has made to our food choices today.

Food Science can elevate your cooking skills, keep you safe from Foodborne illness, and influence what you eat. Let’s explore food through science as Food Detectives!


Smiling Flask with Orange Liquid

Thanks for reading. What do you know about Food Science? What would you like to learn more about?


References

Ward, Janet D.  Principles of Food Science, Third Edition.  Published in the USA.  Goodheart-Wilcox Publisher.  2013.

Aramouni, Fadi and Kathryn Deschenes.  Methods for Developing New Food Products.  DEStech Publications, Inc.  2015.

Shewfelt, Robert L. Introducing Food Science. Published in the USA. CRC Press. 2009

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