8 Awkward Food Questions You've Always Wanted Answered

They may not be the kind of questions you ask over dinner, but they're still worth answering.

bunches of asparagus
Photo: BreakingTheWalls/Getty Images

Food can do odd things to your body from time to time. You may be too embarrassed to ask a friend some of these questions, but we're not too embarrassed to provide you real answers. Here are eight questions about funky foods and the unusual things they can do to you.

Does Asparagus Make Everyone's Pee Smell Funny?

Those narrow green stalks contain asparagusic acid, and as your body digests them, it turns it into sulfuric compounds. Shortly after your meal, you may smell a particularly pungent odor coming from your chamber pot. That's the asparagus at work.

Asparagusic acid is only found in asparagus, and not everyone will experience the seriously strong stench. Research isn't clear on who, how many, or why some people have the post-veg odor issue. Some people do not produce the odor at all; some do, but they can't smell it. In fact, a 2010 study found that a single genetic mutation may account for some people not being able to smell the stink in their urine.

If your pee is particularly ripe after your side of grilled asparagus, don't worry. This is normal and harmless. The funk will fade within a day, but you can expect to experience this again, every time you eat the vegetable.

Does Gum Really Stay In My Stomach Seven Years?

No, your relationship with your piece of Juicy Fruit is unlikely to last longer than your previous relationship. Your stomach does not process gum as quickly as it does, say, rice, because your body can't break down gum resin — so it may linger a bit longer as your body slowly moves the elastic substance through your intestines. Still, you can expect gum will clear your entire system within two or three days.

If you — or more likely, your child — swallow a large wad of gum at once or several small pieces in a short span of time, you could develop a blockage in your intestines. While this is serious and requires emergency medical attention, this is very rare and more likely to occur in small children who don't quite catch the point of gum: chew, not swallow.

Can I Get Drunk off Kombucha?

Kombucha is fermented, and the fermentation process does create alcohol. So the answer is technically, yes. Lindsay Lohan even blamed a failed alcohol test on the bubbly brew. However, plights of childhood stars aside, the alcohol-by-volume level (ABV) is so low in kombucha that you'd have to down several pints (maybe gallons) to even see a rise in blood alcohol levels. Before you get to that point, we suspect the fermented tea will have your belly so bloated you'll just give up your quest for a buzz.

By regulation, kombuchas must remain below a 0.5% ABV threshold in order to not be classified as alcoholic beverages. That's about one-eighth the alcohol of a typical light beer, and one-twelfth of a Bud Light. In the past, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has warned kombucha makers that their ABV was too high and threatened hefty fines.

Why Do Beets Turn My Urine Pink?

Compounds in beets called betanin give the root vegetables their ruby red hue. Not everyone's body can break down these compounds, and the pigment travels through your intestines to your kidneys, and then out through your urine. (The red hue can also pop up in your poo.) This condition is called beeturia, and its entirely harmless.

One study suggests beeturia occurs in about 14 percent of people, so if you don't experience pink pee the day after a roasted beet salad, consider yourself in the majority of individuals who can properly break down the powerful pigments. The shade of urine differs between people, and it's possible you may see different hues depending on how the beets are prepared — raw beets may cause darker red urine.

Why Do Brussels Sprouts Give Me Gas?

Brussels sprouts, as well as beans, cabbage, asparagus, cauliflower, and other similar plant foods all contain raffinose, a type of complex sugar that your body struggles to digest. While the antioxidant-rich vegetables may be great for lowering your risk for heart disease, cancer, or obesity, they may not be so great for your gut and gas issues.

As the foods pass through the small intestine and into your large intestine, the bacteria work to break down the vegetables, including the raffinose. Unfortunately, in the process, they produce a large quantity of carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen, gases which need to escape your body...

Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do to cut down on the raffinose or encourage your gut bacteria to produce less gas. You can try to boost the good-bacteria population in your gut by eating more yogurt or drinking kombucha. However, the gas may be one side effect you have to accept in order to get these deliciously healthy vegetables into your diet.

Will Poppy Seeds Show Up Positive on a Drug Test?

For once, all that high school locker room talk will be useful: Yes, poppy seeds can create a false positive on drug tests, according to National Institutes for Health. Some of the most powerful drugs on the market today — morphine, codeine, and heroin — are made from the same flowers from which you get the petite bagel toppers and muffin speckles.

Within two hours of eating poppy seeds, your body may show detectable levels of urinary morphine, and the level may remain detectable for more than a day. This could lead to a false positive if you're asked to submit to a drug test at school or work.

If you get a positive that you believe to be false because you recently ate a poppy seed bagel, you may be able to request additional tests such as blood or hair sampling that can vindicate you and reveal the positive to be incited by poppy seeds. But don't use the poppy seed defense if you're trying to cast doubt on a real positive result. These additional testing steps will verify if you're telling the truth or trying to pull one over on someone.

Will Eating Food Past Its Best-By Date Hurt Me?

Expired food isn't bad. In fact, as much as 20 percent of food waste every year comes from people misinterpreting expiration dates. The terms "best by" or "sell by" are not a magical hour after which every food suddenly becomes dangerously bad. These dates are estimates — suggestions, if you will. Based on proper storage and for best flavor, these dates are indications from food manufacturers, butchers, or other packagers that the food should last at least that long, if not longer.

So if you crack open a box of rainbow-colored fruit-flavored cereal hoops only to discover they've been expired for six weeks, don't panic. The food isn't dangerous; you can still have your morning cereal. You might notice, however, the cereal seems a bit stale. That's to be expected once the expiration date flies past. The food may not be in prime texture or flavor condition, but it's not unsafe.

The same can be true for foods that aren't shelf-stable. Meats, vegetables, and dairy have estimates from manufacturers to tell you how long the food should be fresh and flavorful. In the case of these foods, you need to use a few of your senses. If the food looks fresh and in good shape, it's likely fine. Smell it next. If you get any unusual odors, it may be an indication the food isn't worth the risk. Lastly, feel it. Squishy potatoes or floppy green onions may not be a health risk, but they're certainly not going to be as tasty as you want. Of course, taste will be the final tell. If something tastes off, don't risk it.

Press pause before you toss foods with expiration dates already past on the calendar. If the food looks, smells, and feels OK, try to use it up as quickly as you can in order to prevent more food waste.

Why Does Garlic Make My Pits Stink?

Take a whiff. Odds are, it's not just your pits. Garlic, that oh-so-delicious allium that's used in everything from stir-fry to frittatas, can leave more than just a stench on your hands. It can make your whole body reek.

An enzyme in garlic called allicin turns into a sulfuric compound as it breaks down in your body. If you bust a sweat during a gym session after a big, garlicky meal, or hike uptown in 90-degree weather, the compounds may begin to seep out of your pores. That will make your sweat — and you, in turn — much stinkier.

Don't tie yourself up in knots about the smell, though. Garlic is a healthy addition to your diet — it can do everything from reduce cancer risk to lower your blood pressure — so you should keep eating it. Likewise, it's possible no one else is as attuned to your natural odor as you are, so they may not even smell it. Just avoid the pungent onion relative if you plan on being with friends on a hot day or are doing a group exercise class in close quarters.

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