Food Chemistry: Definition, Examples, Components

The establishment of food chemistry as a distinct field of study occurred during the 19th century, coinciding with the increasing concern for food quality and the need to combat food adulteration and falsification.

Food Chemistry
Food Chemistry

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  • Food chemistry is a scientific discipline that encompasses the intricate study of the chemical composition of various food items. It delves into a profound understanding of the chemical structure and properties of the constituents present in these foods. Additionally, it investigates the intricate chemical transformations that occur in food during the processes of both processing and storage.
  • Food chemist heavily relies on a profound understanding of chemistry in their work. Additionally, food chemistry has a close relationship with biochemistry, particularly in the examination of chemical transformations that occur within food components. It also intersects with the fields of nutrition science as it investigates the nutritional content of foods and the presence of contaminants. Furthermore, food chemistry delves into the realm of microbiology, exploring topics such as food spoilage, preservation techniques, and making sure of the safety of food products.

Development of Food Chemistry

  • Although food science as a separate science was founded only in the second half of the nineteenth century, a sufficient food supply has always been a fundamental challenge for governments from the founding of early societies thousands of years ago.
  • Food laws have been documented as one of the earliest forms of regulation established by humans. Consumer protection in the realm of Adulteration and falsification of food stands as a venerable example of governmental oversight over business entities, dating back to its earliest origins. Food regulations were present in various ancient civilizations, including Egyptian, Hebrew, Chinese, Hindu, Greek, Roman, and Arab societies.
  • Scheele, a distinguished Swedish pharmacist, made notable contributions to the field of chemistry by unveiling the existence of chlorine and glycerol. Additionally, he skillfully extracted citric and malic acids from various fruits, showcasing his adeptness in isolating these compounds. In his meticulous pursuit of knowledge, Scheele meticulously examined twenty widely consumed fruits, meticulously analyzing them for the presence of citric, malic, and tartaric acids.
  • In 1874, the Society of Public Analysts was founded with the primary aim of employing analytical methodologies to contribute to societal improvement. The initial experiments were based on the use of bread, milk, and wine.
  • The Agricultural and Food Chemistry Division was started by the well-known American Chemical Society in 1908. This milestone in chemistry highlighted the expanding relevance of agricultural and food research.
  • In 1995, the Institute of Food Technologists created a Food Chemistry Division. This showed the importance of chemistry in food science and technology.

Components of Food

The main components of food that we intake as a daily consumption are discussed in brief.


  • Proteins are intricate macromolecules that serve a crucial function in cellular processes. The main constituents of these entities consist predominantly of nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon.
  • Furthermore, these elements may also be present in trace amounts within the composition, namely zinc, phosphorus, and copper. Proteins are commonly referred to as foods that encourage building muscle due to their crucial role in facilitating the development of the body and enabling the healing of bodily tissues.
  • Proteins are obtained from a diverse range of sources, encompassing both plant-based and animal-based origins. Legumes, grains, and nuts are among the diverse array of plant-based protein sources, offering a rich and nutritious alternative to their animal-based counterparts. On the other hand, animal-based protein sources, such as meat, milk, and eggs, provide a distinct nutritional profile.


  • Water is a vital constituent of sustenance, playing a pivotal role in its composition, with a wide spectrum ranging from 50 to 95%.
  • The proliferation of bacteria in food is primarily attributed to the addition of water, a factor that may accelerate the spoilage process if appropriate preservation methods are not employed.
  • One of the most crucial methods for prolonging the shelf life of food products is the reduction of water content within them.


  • Carbohydrates are a class of organic compounds that are ubiquitously present in both plant and animal organisms. The general or empirical formula is represented as Cm(H2O)n.
  • The carbohydrates are usually referred to as hydrating agents of carbon due to their basic structure as water and carbon. Carbohydrates are a class of macronutrients that serve as a primary source of energy for the human body.
  • They are digested, absorbed, and assimilated by the body after being broken down into simpler compounds like glucose, which is then oxidized to provide energy.
  • Simple carbohydrates encompass sugars, while complex carbohydrates encompass starch and fiber. A monosaccharide represents the most elementary form of carbohydrate. Glucose and fructose, two fundamental constituents of carbohydrates, are classified as monosaccharides.
  • Grains, such as wheat and rice, along with fruits like bananas, and staples like bread, serve as vital sources of carbohydrates.

Vitamins And Minerals

  • Vitamins and minerals are essential micronutrients that the human body necessitates in limited quantities. These foods are commonly referred to as anti-inflammatory foods due to their ability to enhance the body’s immune response against diseases and infections.
  • Vitamins can be categorized into two groups based on their solubility: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Insufficient consumption of vitamins in one’s diet can result in the development of various deficiency diseases, including but not limited to anemia, beriberi, and scurvy.
  • The human body requires minimal amounts of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Certain compounds are inherently present in food sources, yet they can also be consumed in the form of dietary supplements.


  • Lipids are a class of molecules characterized by their non-polar natural world as well as difficult to dissolve in water. The constituents encompassed within this category consist of fatty acids, phospholipids, glycolipids, terpenoids, and other similar compounds.
  • The structures of lipids may exhibit either a linear or a ring-like configuration. The compounds in question possess the ability to exhibit either aliphatic or aromatic characteristics. Lipids possess a certain degree of polarity; however, a significant portion of their molecular structure is characterized by hydrophobicity or non-polarity.
  • Lipid-rich food sources encompass grains such as soybean and corn. Additionally, they can be found in various animal-derived products, including cheese, meat, and milk, among others.


  • Enzymes are a group of biomolecules that act as catalysts, facilitating the acceleration of biochemical reactions. The reaction of chemicals could be expedited and energy consumption reduced by employing more efficient methods.
  • Enzymes play a crucial role in various food processes, including but not limited to brewing, fermentation, and baking.

Examples of Food Chemistry

In our daily lives, we frequently encounter food technologies that may not be readily recognized as products of advancements in food chemistry. Numerous instances can be presented:

  • The intricate phenomenon of dairy product fermentation entails harnessing the formidable capabilities of bacteria to catalyze the intricate disintegration of lactose into lactic acid, in tandem with the inherent and innate course of natural fermentation.
  • The adverse consequences of consuming fat and sugar on one’s overall health are widely acknowledged and recognized. Through the application of food chemistry principles, chemists are presently immersed in the endeavor of developing alternative substances that possess comparable taste profiles, while simultaneously addressing the adverse consequences associated with their consumption.

Read Also: Forensic Chemistry

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  • Fennema, O.R., Ed. (1985). Food Chemistry – Second Edition, Revised and Expanded. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc.
  • Francis, F.J. (2000). “Harvey W. Wiley: Pioneer in Food Science and Quality.” In A Century of Food Science. Chicago: Institute of Food Technologists. pp. 13–14.
  • John M. de Man.1999. Principles of Food Chemistry (Food Science Text Series), Springer Science, Third Edition

About Author

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Jyoti Bashyal

Jyoti Bashyal, a graduate of the Central Department of Chemistry, is an avid explorer of the molecular realm. Fueled by her fascination with chemical reactions and natural compounds, she navigates her field's complexities with precision and passion. Outside the lab, Jyoti is dedicated to making science accessible to all. She aspires to deepen audiences' understanding of the wonders of various scientific subjects and their impact on the world by sharing them with a wide range of readers through her writing.

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