You probably know that lots of foods are full of starch, but did you know you can test foods in your own kitchen to see what has starch and what doesn’t? You can even see how starch is broken down by your own saliva by chewing a cracker for a long time and testing it for starch.
Starch is a carbohydrate, or a long chain of glucose (sugar) molecules stuck together by chemical bonds. All plants make starch, but some contain more than others. It is the most common carbohydrate in the human diet!
Iodine usually looks brown, but when long chains of starch interact with iodine, scientists think the iodine molecules get wrapped up in the chains, as if a snake is coiling around them. This changes the way the iodine reflects light, and it starts to look black or blue, instead of reddish-brown. Sugar that is not in long chains doesn’t do the same thing to iodine.
To test for starch in your own kitchen, you’ll need iodine, an eyedropper and the food you want to test. I’d suggest table sugar, potato slices, banana slices, cucumber slices, bread or anything else that is light colored. Dilute some iodine by adding about a teaspoon (5ml) of it to a teaspoon of water (5ml.) For each sample, have a control. For example, have two slices of bread: one to drop water on and another to drop iodine on. This experiment should be done with adult supervision since iodine should not be ingested!
Add a drop of water to each control sample. Then, add a drop of iodine the other samples. Watch and wait for about 5 minutes. Can you tell which samples contain starch? The ones that contain the most starch will turn the iodine blue or black.
Now, take a cracker, chew it for a minute or so and spit it out into a dish. Mash another cracker up with water and put in another dish. Drip iodine on both of them and wait. What happens?