collared greens

Science lessons on Thanksgiving staples 

November 20, 2023


With Thanksgiving right around the corner, food-savvy UR chemistry professors shared their knowledge on a few holiday favorites. Here they explain how to get the most out of your meal — and what to avoid.

Collards: Better with butter, says science

Turns out southern grandmothers have the right idea. Serving buttered collard greens at the Thanksgiving table is a good thing, according to Julie Pollock, a biochemist who studies how our bodies process food.

“The vitamins in greens are fat soluble and need to be consumed with a fat for you to experience the full nutritional value and absorb the vitamins,” Pollock said. “Eating greens plain may give you some fiber, but it’s a waste of vitamins. It’s a great way to feel better about butter.”

Pollock, who is frequently featured on the LabX series Chemists in the Kitchen, said other fats like an oil would also do the trick.

Collard greens — a stand-in for green bean casserole at the holidays for some families — provide the following vitamins if consumed with a fat: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin B-6. They are also a good source of calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Delicious and dangerous: Deep-fried turkeys

Kristine Nolin, a fellow food chemistry scholar, said deep frying a turkey can be a tempting way to guarantee a delicious, moist star for the Thanksgiving meal. “But this method of cooking can be a very dangerous undertaking," she said.

When it comes to this cooking method, most accidents happen because people put frozen turkeys into boiling oil.

“If you are deep-frying your turkey this year, do not forget to thaw and dry your turkey before placing it in the pot. Failure to do so may lead to an explosive disaster,” Nolin said. “There is a difference in density between oil and water. There are also differences in the density of water between its solid, liquid, and gas states. When these density differences interact in just the right way, you get an explosion.”