Why do bananas turn brown?

When you peel, bruise, or cut fruits or vegetables, certain chemicals in the food react with the oxygen in the air. This chemical reaction is called oxidation.

The banana turns into a brownish color, because when exposed to oxygen from the air around it, the plant tissue releases an enzyme (a protein that speeds up the rate of chemical reactions) that causesthe yellow-colored pigment in the banana to turn into melanin, a brown-colored compound. This reaction is known as enzymatic browning.

Why is there a custom to eat cheese on Hanukah?

This custom stems from the heroism of Yehudit, of the Hashmonaim family. Yehudit was taken by the leader of the Greek troops. Yehudit fed him a dish cooked with salty cheese, so he would become thirsty. Once he became thirsty, she gave him wine to drink, so he would become drowsy. When he fell asleep, she took his sword and beheaded him. She then carried his head back to Yerushalayim and displayed it, so that the Greek troops would become demoralized. Her plan worked, and the troops retreated. So in her merit, we too eat cheese.

What is “organic” food?

The term “organic” refers to the way food products are grown and processed. Specific requirements must be met and maintained in order for products to be labeled as “organic.”

For a food to be certified as organic by the government, it must be grown without artificial pesticides and fertilizers. Organic crops must have no modifications and must remain separate from conventional products.

In order for milk, meat, chicken, and eggs to be designated as organic, the animals that produce these foods must have access to the outdoors and be fed organic food. These animals may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal byproducts.

Question of the Month:

This month’s question was submitted by Alexis of Brooklyn, NY.

Q: Dear Professor, Do carrots really enhance your vision?

A: While carrots cannot improve your vision, they are one of the best sources of beta carotene, a substance that the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is an important nutrient for eye health; a deficiency in this vitamin can lead to vision problems.