15 Bizarre Food Facts That Will Make You Rethink Your Eating Habits

There's so much more to the food you eat every day than you bother to think about (though you probably intentionally don't think about it, since when it comes to food, ignorance is bliss). These surprising facts about what goes into common foods, how undomesticated foods evolved, or how many different chemicals are in your food aren't all bad. For example, you may not know that a lot of foods come from a small handful of plant families, or that the popsicle was invented by an 11 year-old, or that people used to pay their taxes with chocolate. 

There might be some things you learn from this list that will apply to your life - like how ranch dressing isn't really great for you, or that you haven't tried real wasabi or balsamic vinegar yet. Maybe set a goal or two for yourself after you're done reading this. For example, maybe you want to eat more McDonald's (or less) or maybe you'll never look at apples the same way again. Hopefully this list will help you discover mind-blowing trivia about food you eat every day. 

  • The Popsicle Was Invented By An 11-Year-Old Boy

    The Popsicle™ was invented by an 11-year-old boy in San Francisco in 1905. His name was Frank Epperson and he left a cup of powdered soda, water, and a stirring stick on the porch during a very cold winter. Epperson didn't remember the cup until after the cold weather had already frozen over his soda. When he discovered it the next morning, he did what any curious boy would do: he licked it. Thus, the Popsicle™ was invented.

    For eighteen years, Epperson sold the dessert around his neighborhood exclusively. He decided to expand his market in 1923 and debuted his popsicle at a park in Alameda, CA, and people loved it. He originally called it an "Epsicle," naming the food after his own stupid childhood mistake, but his kids called it "Pop's 'sicle," and they eventually convinced him to change the name to Popsicle™. 

  • Your Ranch Dressing Shares Ingredients With Sunscreen, Lipstick, And Paint

    If you love dipping just about anything into ranch dressing, then you should probably know that a lot of it contains some of the same stuff used to make sunscreen and paint. You wouldn't expect there to be titanium in your Ranch dressing, but it's in there. Titanium dioxide is used to whiten most ranch dressing, and it's also used to whiten things like sunscreen and paint. 

    Some studies have found that titanium dioxide may cause some toxicity in the brain, and has properties that are potentially cancerous. Titanium dioxide is also used in a lot of candy, mayonnaise, and cosmetics. It's used pretty regularly in lipstick and paper as well. 

  • Mustard Seeds Are 'Eye Of Newt'

    Mustard Seeds Are 'Eye Of Newt'
    Photo: Hocus Pocus / Buena Vista Pictures

    At this point, it's ubiquitous to have a witch character brewing some kind of evil potion and include an "eye of newt." Your entire childhood, you probably thought that eye of newt was an actual eye from an actual newt. It's actually not. As it turns out, witches wanted to deter people from also practicing witchcraft, so they gave all these fairly common herbs and spices real gross names on purpose. That is how the mustard seed, a common ingredient, came to be known as the eye of newt. The first place to use this name for the mustard seed was in Shakespeare's Macbeth

    Here's a breakdown of some more herbs and spices that might have other, more witch-like names: 

    • Toe of Frog = Buttercup (the flower)
    • Adders Fork = Adders-Tongue (an adder is a snake, but an adders-tongue is just a leafy plant)
    • Tongue of Dog = Houndstongue (another flower)
    • Wool of Bat = Holly Leaves (like at Christmas!)
  • So this is how delicate and impressionable people are as consumers: prior to the American Revolution, dockworkers went on strike because they were burdened with the damning act of eating lobster more than three times per week. Some people even had a clause in their contract that they would not eat lobster more than twice every week. They even served lobsters in prison and the inmates hated it. A single tear for them, please.

    So how did the lobster go from being a peasant food to a delicacy? The North American lobster, at some point, was so plentiful that people actually used it as garden fertilizer. People were so ashamed to eat this peasant food that they would bury the shells, instead of throwing them away, so their neighbors wouldn't know. Lobsters weren't adopted as a popular food until the mid-19th century, when the "lobster smack" was invented to keep them fresh (a kind of boat used to transport live lobsters). People were then able to develop a taste for lobster by the mid-20th century, and now they're the fanciest thing you can eat that isn't caviar. 

  • Some People Think That This Phobia From A Peanuts Comic Strip Is Real

    Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts" comic strip invented a fake phobia called "arachibutyrophobia," which is the "fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth." It is not considered a real phobia, as Schulz literally made it up. The root, "arachis," comes from the Latin word for "peanut," while the "butryum" is Latin for "butter." You pronounce it as, "are-ack-ee-but-tir-o-phobia." 

  • You've Probably Never Had Real Wasabi
    Photo: Sabigirl / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The wasabi you know and love is a lie. Most wasabi you'll find is mostly horseradish, which is why it's so spicy. If you go to your local Japanese market, they should have some fresh Wasabi that you can buy and then grate up into a paste, using a special wasabi grater called an "oroshigane." It's actually quite difficult to find real wasabi in the states. It's extremely difficult to cultivate, making it rare and pretty darn expensive. 

    If you try it, it's not the crazy hit of spice that you're used to. Real wasabi has a much more muted herbal and radish flavor that adds to the sushi. It's definitely more of a texture-based taste than the nose explosion you're used to. If you can find the good stuff, give it a try. It's different.