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    Archive for May, 2010

    Vocab Bite: Sourceatarian

    SupportSmallOrganicFarmssource·a·tar·i·an [sohrs-i-tair-ee-uhn]

    1. Individual whose dietary choices are mainly influenced by how food is sourced (i.e.: only eats dairy and red meat that is organic, grass-fed and from small, local farms; only buys white bread from the all-organic, family-owned bakery down the block)
    2. Individual who is more interested in a food company’s food-growing practices and relationship with farmers than whether or not their products are fortified with vitamin C

    Numbers Game: Man, That’s A Lot of Cans

    By the time they are 14 years old, ____ percent of male adolescents in the United States drink 24 or more ounces of soda each day.

    Source: Institute of Medicine

    a) 33
    b) 52
    c) 41
    d) 60

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Friday for the answer.


    You Ask, I Answer: Omega 3 Insufficiency

    toasted-nori-sheets-withbamboo-mat-largeI have to thank you for explaining the differences between omega-3 fatty acids so clearly. Now, when I read about ALA, DHA, and EPA in books and magazines, I know what is being discussed!

    I still have one nagging question.  How do you know if you have an omega-3 deficiency?

    I know that some vitamin deficiencies cause hair loss and fatigue.  So, are there any warning signs that you need more omega 3 fatty acids in your diet?

    Also, what happens if someone gets enough of one type of omega-3 fatty acid (like DHA) but another (like ALA)?

    — Brittany Harwitz
    (Location Withheld)

    Mild fatty acid deficiencies usually do not manifest as physical symptoms.

    Moderate deficiencies are a little easier to spot.  Tell-tale signs include dry and scaly skin, liver complications, and, in young children, stunted growth.

    Complete — or “true” — deficiencies are very rare and only seen in instances of extremely restrictive diets.

    The main concern from insufficient omega-3 fatty acid intake is that, most likely, it means you are consuming a higher amount of omega-6 fatty acids.  For information on why this is problematic, please read this post.

    As far as what happens if someone consumed very high amounts of one type of omega-3 and not enough of another (to learn about the three varieties of omega-3 fatty acids, please read this post), keep in mind that while they share many properties, each of the fatty acids also provides different health benefits:

    • ALA (found in flaxseeds, walnuts, and tempeh) helps lower inflammation as well as coronary heart disease risk
    • DHA (found in some fatty fish and microalgae) has been linked to reduced rates of coronary heart disease and inflammation, improved memory function, lowered triglycerides, and reduced risk of hypertension
    • EPA (also found in some fatty fish and sea vegetables) helps reduce coronary heart disease risk and inflammation, improves blood flow, and reduces blood platelet aggregation (and, hence, atherosclerosis risk)

    Although ALA can be converted to DHA and EPA, some complications can arise.  This is why diets that meet DHA and EPA needs but not ALA needs are more protective than those which meet ALA needs sufficiently, but fall short with DHA and EPA.

    Whenever possible, try to get your omega-3 fatty acids from food, rather than supplements.  These foods also contain vitamins, minerals, and/or phytonutrients that work synergistically and enable the omega 3s to work more efficiently.  This is not to say omega-3 supplements are a waste of money — they are not.


    Why “The Soda Tax” Leaves Me Flat

    710282230_d1fa677c20After months of low-voiced rumblings, it now appears a New York City soda tax is closer to reality than ever before.

    Many nutrition professionals consider this a victory; my mood, however, is not quite as celebratory.

    It appears the main drive behind this “sin tax” is to prop up New York state’s floundering economy.  In that light, how much of this money can we realistically expect to be spent on nutrition education and assistance programs?  After all, measures like these can only prove successful if they are also in favor of something.  It is not enough to simply be “against soda”.  What alternatives will be supported?  How?

    Apparently, some cities have vowed to spend a pre-determined portion of the money raised by a soda tax on improving school lunches.  Sounds like a start.

    My main problem?  I simply can’t muster up enthusiasm about the addition a few cents to the cost of a beverage which has a government-subsidized main ingredient!

    High-fructose corn syrup is the by-product of crop subsidies.  Remember, farmers that receive government agricultural subsides are not allowed to grow other fruits and vegetables!  Read that again, please.  THAT, right there, is the problem that needs a solution.

    Forget a “penny per ounce tax”; what I really want is for my government to stop funding an agricultural system that essentially produces endless tons of cheap junk food on a daily basis.  The fact that farmers can be forbidden from growing pears or apples if they also want to plant a commodity crop (like cotton, wheat, soy, or corn) is mind-blowing.

    This goes right back to the “some of the proceeds will go to improving school lunch” promises.  I applaud the effort and vision, but the deplorable state of most school lunches is a consequence of agricultural subsidies.

    You don’t fix a leak by placing a bigger bucket underneath it with each passing day.  So, too, we can’t expect nutrition and public health issues to be effectively dealt with when our economic priorities are so skewed.


    You Ask, I Answer: High Maltose Corn Syrup

    063121I just grabbed a granola bar that contains high maltose corn syrup.

    I looked up that ingredients and it looks like it’s basically the same as high fructose corn syrup. I also read that it also goes by the name “maltodextrin.”

    This granola bar lists both high maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin in the ingredients.  Why would it contain both?

    Lastly, should I avoid high maltose corn syrup as much as I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup.

    — Beth Longwell
    Via Facebook

    High maltose corn syrup (HMCS) and dextrose are utilized for slightly different purposes.

    Usually, HMCS is used for sweetening, while maltodextrin is used for texture/mouthfeel purposes (sometimes along with the intent to add sweetness).  That explains why they are listed as separate ingredients.

    Much like high fructose corn syrup, HMCS is highly processed and usually made from genetically modified corn, so I don’t see any reason to seek it out.

    If the only time you consume it is two times a week in a granola bar, though, I wouldn’t be too concerned.  Environmental and political issues aside, the alarming fact about high fructose corn syrup is the obscene amount in which it is consumed.  The average American takes in almost 38 pounds of it in one year!


    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Banana Coolers

    DSCN0003_thumb[1]This snack (one of my summertime favorites) is so amazingly simple, it doesn’t truly classify as a “recipe”.

    However, many people who have seen me “making this” often react with surprise because it is a new concept to them.

    One of my favorite things about this snack — apart from the fact that it is fun finger food — is that it is an empty canvas that allows you to add your own flavor touches.

    Additionally, each bite is creamy and cool; reminiscent of banana-flavored soft-serve ice cream.

    YIELDS: 1 serving


    1 frozen banana (very ripe, pre-sliced and frozen at least overnight)
    Nut or seed butter of choice
    Spices (optional; see below for suggestions)
    Toppings (optional; see below for suggestions)


    Lay out frozen banana slices on plate; let thaw for 2 or 3 minutes.

    Top each slice with a dollop of nut or seed butter of choice.  Adjust total amount of nut/seed butter depending on hunger level and caloric need.

    Add toppings and/or spices, if so desired.



    • Cacao/cocoa powder
    • Cacao nibs
    • Chia seeds
    • Chocolate chips (one per banana slice)
    • Cinnamon
    • Ginger (for a real kick, add a drop or two of lime juice!)
    • Hemp seeds
    • Maca
    • Unsweetened shredded coconut

    NUTRITION INFO (per serving; assuming 1 medium banana + 1 Tablespoon almond butter)

    206 calories
    1 gram saturated fat
    3 milligrams sodium (75 if using salted nut/seed butter)
    4 grams fiber
    2 grams protein

    Excellent source of: Magnesium, manganese, monounsaturated fats, vitamin B6, vitamin C

    Good source of: Phosphorus, potassium


    Back on May 26th

    Dear readers,

    I am out of the country with very limited access to a computer.  Posts will resume on Wednesday, May 26th.

    See you then!


    You Ask, I Answer: Dark Chicken Meat

    20090106seared_chickenWhy is dark chicken meat less nutritious than chicken breast?

    — Stefania Pereyra
    (Location Withheld)

    It isn’t, really.

    Yes, dark chicken meat is slightly higher in saturated fat and cholesterol than chicken breast.  However, dark meat still provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals (some of them in higher quantities than you would get in chicken breast).

    As I always like to remind readers of this blog, though, dietary cholesterol does not have as much of an impact on blood cholesterol as trans fats and saturated fats from red meat and dairy.

    A commercial muffin may be cholesterol-free, but if it is loaded with trans fats (as most of them are), it is much worse for your cardiovascular health than a roasted chicken thigh.

    Frankly, I wish people would care more about what the chicken they are eating was fed and how it was treated at the farm it came from than whether or not there’s an extra two grams of fat in the thigh.

    If those were the top priorities though, though, 99% of chicken consumers would think twice about ordering sliced chicken breast over their Caesar salads.


    You Ask, I Answer: Corn, The Vegetable

    Corn on the cobI have watched Food Inc. and other films and books that constantly refer to the consequences of eating too much corn.

    Corn takes on many different identities, most of which have been given a bad rep.  It is either being wrongly fed to animals or causing nutritional problems in society.

    its natural form (like corn on the cob), does corn have any nutritional value?

    — Maggie Peurrung
    (Location Unknown)


    The nutritional villains you refer to are the byproducts of corn.

    High-fructose corn syrup, like all other sugars, provides calories that don’t satiate.  In other words, it is completely feasible to down 400 calories of high-fructose corn syrup (ie: a large soda at 7-11) in a few minutes and still feel as hungry as we did before we took the first sip.

    Corn oil, meanwhile, is extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids.

    Unprocessed corn (i.e.: corn on the cob) is a different story.  Remember, corn by-products are relatively new ingredients.  Whole corn, meanwhile, has been consumed around the world for thousands of years.

    A cup of cooked corn (or one large ear, in barbecue terms) provides 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, 20 percent of the daily requirement for folate, as much potassium as a medium banana, and 15 percent of our phosphorus and magnesium needs.

    The combination of folate, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium make corn a great defender against heart disease and high blood pressure.

    Phosphorus, meanwhile, is the behind-the-scenes player helping our kidneys get rid of waste and is also necessary to keep our nervous system in check and running.

    The healthiest way to eat corn is grilled or popped. Yes, popcorn (especially in an air popper) is a Small Bites-approved snack. Spice it up with some salt-free chili powder, cinnamon, or nutritional yeast for a heart-healthy, fiber-rich pick-me-up.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    cornOne and a half percent of U.S. cropland is devoted to vegetables, 1.6 percent to fruits, and 1.2 percent to corn that is exclusively used to produce high fructose corn syrup.

    a) 1.2
    b) 0.5
    c) 2
    d) 1

    This means, of course, that the percentage of total corn crops (that which goes to use as ethanol, cattle feed, and soybean oil) is higher than that of fruits or vegetables.

    Keep in mind, too, that fruits and vegetables are not subsidized, while corn is.

    Says quite a bit about the United States’ agricultural priorities….


    You Ask, I Answer: Cholesterol Requirements?

    78e8ae3c-ed73-4b28-8afe-12bf334bed21_2I’ve been tracking my food consumption using LiveStrong.com, and for the most part, I noticed that I don’t come anywhere near their recommended cholesterol intake (182 mg/day, based on my height and weight).

    My cholesterol is already genetically high. So is there any reason I need to be hitting that, or any other, recommended marker for cholesterol?

    — Jennifer DiSanto
    Philadelphia, PA

    I can’t, for the life of me, understand why you would be given a “recommended cholesterol intake”.  There isn’t one!

    There is a set limit of 300 milligrams per day, but that is not a “mark to hit”.  Besides, not everyone is cholesterol-sensitive.  When it comes to blood cholesterol levels, trans fats, saturated fats from dairy and red meat, and excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids are the main things to watch for.

    Cholesterol (found exclusively in animal and animal-derived foods) is not an essential nutrient; our bodies manufacture it.

    Vegan diets, for instance, don’t offer a single milligram of cholesterol.

    By the way — let me be perfectly clear: the absence of cholesterol does not automatically make a food “heart-healthy”.  Skittles and French fries cooked in corn oil are “cholesterol-free”, but that one tidbit of nutrition information is not enough to make a qualified judgment on their nutritional value.

    Anyone who mentions a “recommended intake of cholesterol” needs to take a nutrition 101 class.  Stat.

    Is it possible you misread their recommendation and they are actually asking you to consume no more than 182 milligrams per day?  That would make a lot more sense to me.


    A Fresh Take on CSA

    holtonfarms_logoCommunity supported agriculture (CSA) is one area where foodies, nutritionists, and “localvores” easily mesh.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, CSAs consist of members paying a fee upfront (known as a “farm share”) which enables them to receive a certain amount of farm-fresh produce (and, in some instances, eggs, dairy, honey, meat, baked goods, etc.) for a set number of weeks.

    Reduced costs aside, CSAs are a wonderful way to support local farmers and have access to fresh food.

    Part of the contract of joining a CSA is that members have to volunteer certain amount of hours throughout their share.

    I recently learned about the Holton Farms CSA program, which provides a new spin on the traditional model.

    Unlike conventional CSAs (where, for example, you may be allotted an inordinate amount of bok choy one week), this one allows customers to choose what — and how much — they want to receive.  This handy step-by-step illustration summarizes the concept beautifully.

    Another aspect of Holton Farms’ CSA model I love?  Rather than assign one fixed drop-off location, their truck will be in different New York City neighborhoods throughout the week!

    The program — which offers 100 items that can be customized to your liking — will run from May 17 until November 21, and the folks in charge have graciously accepted my request of offering Small Bites readers a discount!  The code HFBELLATTI will grant you five percent off your grand total.

    Details on purchasing your share can be found here.


    Giving Away A Little Bit of Sunshine!

    gardenAs regular readers of Small Bites know, I am a fan of Sunshine Burgers.

    They are delicious (the Southwest flavor is my favorite), ready in minutes, AND:

    • Made from real food (brown rice, beans, sunflower seeds, and spices)
    • Certified organic
    • Allergy friendly (free of wheat, gluten, soy, and nuts)
    • Vegan
    • Provide anywhere from 3 to 9 grams of fiber per patty
    • Provide anywhere from 6 to 10 grams of protein per patty

    Don’t take my word for it — try them yourself!

    The folks at Sunshine Burgers graciously accepted my request to send two “free Sunshine Burger product of your choice” coupons to five lucky Small Bites readers!

    Interested?  Check out the entry and participation details below:

    1. Send an e-mail to “andy@andybellatti.com” with the subject line “Sunshine Burger Giveaway” anytime between 12:01 AM (Eastern Standard Time) on Friday, May 14, 2010 and 11:59 PM (Eastern Standard Time) on Friday, June 11 2010.
    2. Only one e-mail entry per person.  Multiple e-mail entries do not increase chances of winning.
    3. There is one way to increase your odds via Twitter!
      • Tweet the following message: “Win Sunshine Burgers courtesy of the Small Bites blog (@andybellatti): [this post’s URL goes here]”
      • Only one tweet will count.
    4. Winner will be selected at random on Saturday, June 12, and will be contacted by me via e-mail.
    5. Winner must reside in the United States.

    Good luck!


    You Ask, I Answer: Bariatric Surgery

    lapbandWhat is your opinion on bariatric surgery? I have lost a lot of weight by eating less and exercising more, but it took me a long time and I still struggle at times.

    I recently spent some time working at a bariatric center where they do procedures on adults and teenagers and it got me thinking about the issue.

    Just wondering where you stand on the growing popularity of this weight loss solution.

    — Maria (Last name withheld)
    New York, NY

    I certainly appreciate the need for surgical intervention with morbidly obese patients.  In many instances, it’s a matter of preventing an untimely death as a result of an overworked system that can no longer handle the amount of effort and work it takes to sustain itself.

    My concern, though, is for patients who do not simultaneously seek out help for their compulsive behaviors, thinking there is solely a physical component to their weight issues.

    A few years ago, actually, reports surfaced of many post-bariatric-surgery patients developing a gamut of addictions following their bariatric surgeries — from gambling to alcohol and drugs.  Depending on who you speak to within the field of bariatric surgery, anywhere from 5 to 30 percent of patients develop some sort of addiction shortly after receiving treatment.

    One problem, as you may imagine, is that research on this issue is fairly limited since the procedure itself is fairly new.

    That said, I can’t say I am at all surprised.  Too often, we forget that, for the vast majority of individuals, compulsive eating has deep, emotional roots.

    Bariatric surgery has its merits, but it must be part of a multi-prong approach that also examines psychological issues and foundations.

    It frustrates me that so a large percentage of conventional medicine practice fails to acknowledge the mind-body connection.  Detaching the emotional from the physical is, in my mind, an erroneous way to deal with medical concerns.

    If someone binges almost uncontrollably out of emotional issues dealing with self-sabotage and self-hatred, bariatric surgery does not tackle the root of the problem.

    The weight will be lost, but the emotional scarring that leads to the destructive behavior will simply be transferred somewhere else.


    Numbers Game: One of These Things Is Not Like The Other…

    corn-field-schuyler-nebraska-neb168One and a half percent of U.S. cropland is devoted to vegetables, 1.6 percent to fruits, and _____ percent to corn that is exclusively used to produce high fructose corn syrup.

    a) 1.2
    b) 0.5
    c) 2
    d) 1

    Source: Recipe for America by Jill Richardson

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Sunday for the answer.

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