Sweet, sour, spicy, salty, and savoury – which is your favourite? Scientists believe that humans have developed a liking towards sweet food items over the years as they often contain sugars that provide our bodies with energy. Besides energy, sugar promotes the release of brain chemical messengers like dopamine, making us feel good and satisfied. Thus, the consumption of sweet food items feels rewarding and leaves us craving for more. Let’s discover some interesting food science about man-made and natural sweet treats around us!
Man-made sweet treats
Over the years, we have created many sweet treats to satisfy our palate. Let’s take a look at some of them!
The chewy gummy candies
Gummy candies are popular for their chewy texture, which comes from the addition of a thickening and gelling agent called gelatin. Gelatin can be found in the skin and bone tissue of animals, such as pigs and cows. When hydrated, the protein chains in gelatin form a firm gel, resulting in a chewy texture.
The next time you visit a supermarket with your child, try to identify food items that contain gelatin and observe their textures!
The oozing popping boba
Popping boba is a common topping in beverages like bubble tea. The bursting of flavoured liquid or fruit juice out of the thin, gel-like skin in our mouths never fails to surprise us. To form popping boba, the flavoured liquid is thickened with sodium alginate and placed in calcium chloride or calcium lactate solution. This forms a thin, gel-like sphere that envelopes the flavoured liquid, creating the popping topping that we love.
Did you know that you can recreate your own popping boba at home? Simply purchase these ingredients from your local baking supplies store and experiment away!
Nature’s sweet treats
Manufactured sweet treats are often high in sugar, artificial colouring, flavouring, and preservatives to make them more appealing. However, overconsuming sugar for a prolonged period may lead to health complications.Overconsuming sugar can also lead to tooth decay. According to a Straits Times article in 2017, 50% of Singapore’s pre-schoolers have tooth decay! For a healthier alternative, try nature’s rendition of sweet treats!
Fruit is nature’s candy and contains natural sugars, unlike sweetened food. It is nutrient-packed with lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, offering many health benefits. Fruit is also rich in fibre, which keeps us full and promotes bowel movement.
Did you know that you can also use fruit to teach simple concepts, such as colours and numbers?
The thick, long-lasting honey
Did you know that honey found in ancient Egyptian tombs over 3000 years ago is still well-preserved? Honey comes from nectar, a sugary and watery liquid from flowers. After being collected and stored in the bee’s honey stomach, nectar gets regurgitated and passed from bee to bee to turn it into the sugar form that is easy to store.
Sweet treats for life?
It is important to strike a balance and eat everything in moderation. Healthy eating habits, such as choosing whole fruits and opting for treats with reduced sugar content, can also be cultivated in children from a young age.
For a start, make tasty slushie with your child without any added sugar by using freshly squeezed fruit juice. Watch the video below to find out how!
Written by Lim Kah Suan
Illustrations by Chua Jia Qi