Amazing Kids! Magazine

Science of Snack Foods

By Celine Tien, Nonfiction Editor


At the movies, when we’re studying, while traveling, we are constantly gulfing down loads and loads of snacks. Blindly, without thought to the history or making of the food, we digest bags of snack food each year. Here’s an example: it is estimated that Americans consume approximately 17.3 billion quarts of popped popcorn each year! Are you one of the consumers? Have you ever wondered why popcorn can pop? And not just popcorn, but what really constitutes the making of ice cream? Do you engulf bottles of Gatorade during sport practices? Why drink Gatorade and not water?

Today we will answer these questions and divulge the scientific mystery that make up the undeniably scrumptious ice cream, popcorn, and Gatorade.


Popcorn is almost a requisite snack food to have in hand at the movies. While waiting in line to purchase our snacks, we often hear the clamorous popping of corn behind the counter. So what really makes popcorn and allows it to pop? Popcorn is essentially a type of corn that is comprised of three components: the germ, the endosperm, and pericarp.

The reason these corn kernels can pop is because its pericarp is just the right thickness that allows it to burst at high temperatures. Because popcorn is made of starch and just a small amount of water inside the hard shell, when temperatures reach 450˚F the water inside turns to steam. The steam in the shell then begins to build pressure against the hard shell forcing the expansion of the kernel. Eventually the kernel will pop causing the starch to stretch out and form popcorn’s unique shape. The pressure exerted against the kernel can reach 135 pounds per square inch, and usually the kernel will swell to 40-50 times their original size!



Gatorade has been the ultimate thirst quencher since 1965. Along with other energy drinks, Gatorade provides benefits to people who are physically active. When athletes sweat while exercising, they lose fluids, carbohydrates, and electrolytes. These essential elements are replenished when drinking energy drinks. Gatorade is a balanced carbohydrate-electrolyte drink that can replace electrolytes (any substance containing free ions that make a substance electrically conductive- essential for athletes). Because of the replenished electrolytes, athletes are able continue their physical activities and not fear losing their bodily electrolytes through sweat.


Ice Cream

What’s the one dessert perfect for a summer day? Ice cream! The cold delight is made from dairy products with fruits, and different flavored ingredients. First made in England, ice cream didn’t actually gain popularity till the late 20th century (after the refrigeration was invented). It’s composed of 10% to 16% milk fat, and 55% to 64% of ice cream is actually water! Water is unique in that it has three different phases: liquid, solid, and gas. Because of this trait and the Law of conservation of energy (where energy and matter aren’t created or destroyed), the dairy concoction becomes ice cream at the freezing point (the temperature at which the liquid becomes a solid).

From ice cream to popcorn, high to low temperatures, and liquid to solid, all these snack foods behold their own form of science! Hopefully, after reading these little insights into common household delights, you will have gained a better understanding of the foods you pop into your mouth. Enjoy the science, and of course, the eating!