It’s been a while since my last ’10 things’ post, so I thought I would share my list of 10 uses for food other than fuel for the body.
1. Skin care
My skin was so bad a couple of months ago that I couldn’t put any pre-made preparation onto it without sharp pain and itching. So I made my own ‘soap’ using what I had in the house and my limited knowledge of the health properties of food, and it worked an absolute treat.
Avocado and oatmeal are excellent for the skin, and I use coconut oil for a soothing mask. Spread coconut oil all over your face and neck, then lie down with a warm, damp flannel draped over your face for 10 minutes. The result? Instant soft skin.
Cosmetics have traditionally used food products in their manufacture. Even today you will find vegetable fats, chicken bone marrow and capsicum extracts in commercial makeup products.
3. Personal hygiene
Many foods, such as cashews and coconut oil, have natural antifungal, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties so it makes sense for their extracts to be used in personal hygiene products.
Although I am certain that most of you use or will have used mint-flavoured toothpaste to clean your teeth, you may also have chewed on mouth-freshening seeds like (sugar-coated) fennel and cardamom following a meal in an Indian restaurant.
4. Cleaning the house
I know I am not the only one who scrubs stained benchtops and cookware with vinegar and bicarb soda, or removes the sticky residue from tapes and labels with eucalyptus oil. Wikipedia also recommends some excellent household uses for lemon — and many of Shannon Lush’s cleaning tips recommend the use of food products.
You do need to eat food items to take advantage of their medicinal properties so this item is stretching the limits of this post’s definition… As an example, lemons in the form of powdered lemon zest can be used as a vitamin C tonic to aid iron absorption, and monoterpenes, including the d-limonene in oranges has been shown to inhibit cancer growth.
The recent use of superfoods (or foods that are unusually dense in one or more nutrients — eg. chia seeds, blueberries, purple corn) is a prime example of food products as supplements to support optimal health. Remember that Hippocrates famously advised: “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”
It is well documented that certain scents can be used to enhance mood and memory. For example, rosemary and orange are both uplifting aromas, while lavender is calming.
I still remember that Pro Hart ad. You know, the one with the shotgun-blasted sponge cakes, bottles of wine and spaghetti on carpet. I found it liberating as a child.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of art, has anyone heard of that unfortunately-labelled artform, food porn?
8. Industrial applications
Did you know that guar gum and xanthan gum (with water) are commonly used as lubricants in hydraulic rigs? Now you do.
The other industrial application I can think of is fuel — specifically the manufacture of ethanol (via corn) to operate vehicles.
It’s commonly known that capsaicin, the main ingredient in pepper spray, is extracted from peppers (aka capsicums).
Probably lesser known is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s assertion that: “Food is no less a weapon than tanks, guns, and planes.” He was referring to the need to control food sources in order to protect citizens. Sadly, access to food can be and is used as a powerful tool for controlling enemies — and it is usually the civilians that bear the brunt of such decisions in times of unrest.
Finishing this list on a lighter note, I have noticed that food products have become standard features in modern sports — whether it’s a hotdog-eating competition or the winning racecar driver spouting a champagne fountain from a shaken bottle. And don’t forget the food fight across a kitchen table — rare as such events may be, food fighting is a game the whole family can enjoy!
Food is just so darned versatile! Can you think of any other uses for food?