Why Do Onions Make You Cry? How Chemicals Work in Food [Infographic]


We eat. It’s as much a part of being human as breathing. But unlike breathing, food is much more fun, and complicated. We have so many flavors, colors and textures of foods to choose from. But with that come all kinds of weird effects as a result of the chemical compounds in food: Why do onions make you cry? Why does asparagus makes your pee stink? If you have ever wondered about these weird effects of food, you’re not alone.

A British graduate chemist and secondary school teacher, who is remaining anonymous, set out to help explain these food chemical phenomena with some pretty rad infographics on a blog called Compound Interest.

“Chemistry gets a pretty bad reputation at times, with the word “chemicals” too often used to denote something bad. I want to show [with the infographics] that chemicals are in fact in everything, in all the foods we eat and responsible for some pretty interesting effects,” he told MailOnline.

Oh yeah. Chemicals aren’t always bad. We totally forgot about that (thanks, Monsanto!).

“For example, asparagus causes the urine of some – but not all – people to smell and for 40 years scientists have tried to pinpoint the chemical compounds responsible. While there is no definite verdict, it is thought they are all compounds formed by the breakdown of asparagusic acid,” explains the Daily Mail. “The ability to smell asparagus-influenced urine is not universal and research has shown that two out of 31 people could not detect the difference in smell. It has also been proven that not all people produce smelly urine after eating asparagus.”

And what about those onions? Why do onions make you cry? “The chemist also explained why onions make humans cry,” explained the Daily Mail. “None of the compounds that cause people’s eyes to water are present in an intact onion, but when the cell walls are damaged by chopping, an enzyme produces a range of compounds as a defence mechanism, which act as irritants.”

If you’ve ever wondered why grapefruits interact with medications, or why chilis make your tongue feel like it’s on fire, these infographics may just give you some food for thought. And they’ll probably also make you really hungry.

Image via Compound Interest


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