USC Biology and Food Consumption Essay

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Project # 1 – How Diet Can Affect Our Health


So far, we have learned about how our diet can affect our overall health. We’ve also been introduced to the human microbiome. The human microbiome contains all the microbes that live on and in the body. This includes:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Protozoa
  • Viruses

The microbiome helps us digest our food, regulates the immune system, protects against other, disease causing bacteria, and produces vitamins (among other things).

Our microbiome is affected by our every day activities, including the foods we eat and other things, like taking antibiotics when we are sick, or by antibiotics present in the animal products we consume.

For your first project, we will be putting some of this knowledge to use to analyze how what we eat affects our microbiome and may contribute to things like antibiotic resistance (which we will learn about later in the semester).


This assignment has 4 parts.

  1. One table for food choices for day 1 AND answers to “end-of-day” questions for day 1.
  2. One table for food choices for day 2 AND answers to “end-of-day” questions for day 2.
  3. One table for food choices for day 3 AND answers to “end-of-day” questions for day 3.
  4. Answers to “conclusions” questions.

You will submit this within Canvas with a “text box submission”. You also may submit a .doc, .docx, or PDF through Canvas. Submissions must be typed. Written submissions that are scanned and uploaded are not permitted.

Other formats (including email submission) will not be accepted nor graded.

A grading rubric is included at the end of the project description. Be sure to review the rubric thoroughly before submitting your project.


Part I: For this project, you need to track and record all of the food and beverages you consume for three days. For each meal, you need to make a table containing the following information:

1) Identify the food/beverages you consumed, and in what quantity

  • Place each item in its own row.
  • For example, if you ate a turkey sandwich with french fries, the sandwich needs its own row and the fries need their own row
  • If you are eating something, like a sandwich, that has multiple components (e.g., bread, turkey, lettuce), feel free to give each component its own row. That makes it easier for you to answer each column correctly. This is not necessary, but it does make it easier to address the columns. See the example table below.

2) Identify what class of foods you ate during each meal (e.g., fruits, grains, vegetables, etc.)

You can use (Links to an external site.) to help you determine food classes.

3) Identify how much sugar was in each meal and report the sugar content in your table by converting grams of sugar to teaspoons of sugar. Four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon.

You can estimate sugar content in several different ways:

  • You can read the nutrition label on packaged foods, determine how much sugar is in each serving, and how many servings you ate
  • You can use any number of sugar tracking apps (Wholesome app, One Sweet app, (Links to an external site.) or (Links to an external site.))
  • Note: If you are eating something that does not contain a label (e.g., a smoothie from Jamba Juice or a piece of fruit), you will need to do a bit of research and look up how much sugar is contained in what you are eating. Grossly incorrect estimates of sugar content will result in lost points. For example, if you drink a smoothie and put down 2g of sugar when there really is 35g.

4) If you are consuming animal products (e.g., meat, dairy, eggs), mark whether they are antibiotic free. If they are not marked antibiotic-free or organic, they contain antibiotics.

  • Note: this column is ONLY is you are consuming animal products. Grains, vegetables, etc. that do not contain animal products can have an N/A in the column next to them.

For example, part of your day may look like this:

Note that the sandwich is broken down into components, while the coffee with cream and sugar is not. You can do your table either way, but you need to address each column for each component regardless of whether the components have their own rows.


Food Quantity Food class Sugar content Antibiotic free?
Turkey Sandwich
– Bread 2 slices Refined grain .25 teaspoons N/A
– Turkey 3 slices Protein .5 teaspoons Yes
– Lettuce 1 oiece Vegetable 0 N/A
– Mayo 1 tablespoon Condiment .25 teaspoons Yes
Coffee with cream and sugar 16 oz Dairy, sugar 1 teaspoon Yes (cream)

Part II: For each day, under your table, you will then need to answer the “End-of-Day” questions for each day (note: you need to actually answer the questions completely and thoughtfully for all three days. If you copy and paste your answers, you will lose points):

1) Based on what you learned from the videos, identify which foods from your meals you think may help or harm your microbiome and which are neutral (meaning they likely have no effect) (e.g., sugar can be harmful, high fiber foods and fermented foods can be helpful)

2) How much total sugar did you consume each day? The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the average adult consume no more than 25 grams of sugar each day. Based on this information, what percentage of the recommended daily allowance did you consume? (you can figure this out by dividing the number of grams you consumed by 25, and multiplying your result by 100. For example, if you consumed 30 grams of sugar, 30/25 = 1.2, multiplied by 100 is 120, so you consumed 120% of your recommended daily allowance)

3) How balanced is your diet, according to the recommendations on (Links to an external site.)

Part III: After you record your food and beverages for all three days, answer the following “Conclusions” questions:

1) Was it surprising to see how much sugar you consumed? Are you consuming more, less, or about the same as you thought you were?

2) Based on what you learned in the videos, do you think your diet is generally helping or harming your microbiome? Why? Be as descriptive as possible here.

3) What might you do to help your microbiome? Be as descriptive as possible here.

4) After this project, are you likely to change your diet?

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