Food Facts

Can a person survive by eating only slices of New York City pizza? (Yes.) What do brain wrinkles have to do with how smart you are? (More than you’d think.) In The New York Times Second Book of Science Questions and Answers (Anchor Books, 2003), author C. Claiborne Ray answers questions like these on varied topics, from biology to botany and, our favorite, food. Test your understanding of the following food mysteries.

1. True or false? Yellow tomatoes share exactly the same nutritional value as red tomatoes.

2. True or false? Chocolate does not cause teenage breakouts or acne.

3. True or false? A cup of cooked quinoa provides the same amount of calcium as a cup of cow’s milk.

4. True or false? A lunch rich in carbohydrates will give you lasting energy.

1. False. Like all vegetables and fruits, tomatoes differ slightly in nutritional value from variety to variety, and even from season to season. The amino acids in red and yellow tomatoes are found in similar amounts. Beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, is found in valuable amounts in red and yellow tomatoes. Both colors contain vitamin C, although a red tomato has about three times as much. Their mineral content is similar, although a yellow tomato is higher in sodium. Yellow tomatoes have more niacin and folate; red tomatoes have more vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid.

2. True. Studies—and there have been many—have failed to find a link between eating chocolate and teenage breakouts.

3. False. The grain quinoa is a significant source of calcium, but you would have to eat a large amount of it to get a full daily supply. The National Academy of Sciences recommends 1,000 mg of calcium a day for most people; more for those older than 50. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a cup (8 ounces) of cooked Chenopodium quinoa provides about 102 mg of calcium. That’s more than some other grains, but a cup of cow’s milk contains about 300 mg of calcium—a bit less than one-third of the daily value.

4. False. Although eating carbs can produce a short-term increase in energy, a lunch rich in carbohydrates, especially if no protein is eaten along with it, is likely to induce a feeling of calm to the point of sleepiness because of the complex role carbohydrates play in shifting the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Conversely, eating a protein-rich lunch can contribute to alertness.

—Delicious Living

Source: The New York Times Second Book of Science Questions and Answers by C. Claiborne Ray (Anchor Books, 2003).