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  • Archive for August, 2010

    Is The Honest Food Guide the New Food Pyramid?

    HFG_300pixelsI just stumbled across The Honest Food Guide (click here to download a PDF copy), described as “the food guide to benefit you, not Big Business”.  In case you are wondering what that’s about, it is a direct response to powerful food lobbies that have influenced official dietary recommendations for decades.  Marion Nestle’s brilliant book Food Politics covers this in great detail.

    Some people claim this should be “the new Pyramid”.  While it makes some great points, I have some problems with it.

    WHAT I LIKE:

    1. The detailed categories.  Nuts and seeds are their own categories, not “meat substitutes”.  They have their own unique health benefits, and need to be considered for more than protein equivalencies.  Similarly, vegetables and sea vegetables are considered two different items (as they should be; sea vegetables’ nutrient makeup is different).

    2. The inclusion of sunlight and water.  Physical activity should be the third non-food item, though!

    3. Rather than make a “low-fat” or “low-carb” argument, the Honest Food Guide is highly “low-processed”.  Love that!

    4. At its core, it encourages the consumption of healthy foods.  Unlike the Food Pyramid, it does not try to make the case, for example, that a slice of white bread and half a cup of quinoa are identical “grain servings”.

    5. The brief explanations next to each item make a clear point — hydrogenated oils, white flour, added sugars, artificial dyes, and foods high in sodium need to be limited.

    6. The not-so-subtle dig at the conventional food pyramid (notice that The Honest Food Guide is essentially an upside-down pyramid!)

    WHAT I DON’T LIKE:

    1. The notion that “bad foods” cause aggressive behavior and learning disabilities is a stretch.  This especially bothers me because it adds an element of unnecessary hyperbole and fear-mongering.

    2. “Blackstrap molasses” as an encouraged food?  I don’t agree.  No added sweetener should ever be an encouraged food.

    3. Canned soups are a “dead food”?  Clearly, this is not a raw-foodists’ food guide, since cooked foods like whole grains and tofu are included, so why are canned soups singled out?  Besides, there is great variety in canned soups.  Yes, you have your sodium-loaded health hazards, but you also have low-sodium healthful bean/lentil-based varieties with wholesome ingredient lists.

    4. I don’t like the message that grass-fed yogurt and diet soda are “equally unhealthy”.  They’re not.

    5. The encouraged soy foods (tofu and soymilk) are rather processed.  Tempeh, natto, and edamame are much better soy-based options (tempeh and natto are fermented, and therefore have more bioavailable nutrients; edamame is “baby soybeans”, which means its anti-nutrient levels are lower than full-grown soybeans).

    6. Although many instant rices and grains are refined, there are many brands out there that are 100% whole grain.

    7. I don’t think whole-food concentrates are necessary, nor do I think spirulina should be singled out for its protein content.  Not only is it not that high, this tidbit also enforces the stereotype that we are all protein-starved and must consistently seek out high-protein foods.

    8. I heartily disagree with the encouraging of rice and soy protein.  Soy protein powders are made from highly-processed soy protein isolate.

    9. Why are beans and legumes absent from the “health” side?

    10. I don’t like the idea that the absence of fiber is reason enough to place a food on the “disease side”.  Healthful proteins like salmon, shrimp, and tuna contain no fiber, but that does not make them “disease-promoting”.  Besides, tofu has no fiber and yet it is on the “health” side of the guide.

    The Honest Food Guide is a start.  It certainly makes more specific recommendations than MyPyramid, and gives much overdue attention to the health benefits of nuts, seeds, sea vegetables, and sprouted grains.  However, the “health” and “disease” dichotomy is limiting.  A spectrum would be much more useful (organic, grass-fed dairy is very different from that produced by hormone and antibiotic-loaded confined cows in “milk factories”).

    Your thoughts?

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    Who Said It?: Reveal

    dr-oz-0304-lg-85334211Interviewer: Is all seafood good for you?

    Our subject’s answer: “Nope. Some of the crustaceans have cholesterol — shrimp, crab, lobster.”

    This is what Dr. Oz told Esquire magazine last year.  Granted, the rest of his nutrition-related answers (except for one other, which I discuss below) are accurate.  However, I am extremely surprised that someone who considers himself a nutrition expert is not up to date on dietary cholesterol research.

    When it comes to issues of heart disease, dietary cholesterol is waaay down on the list of troublemakers.  Trans fats, excessive omega-6 intake, insufficient omega-3 intake, high intakes of sugar, and certain saturated fats (mainly those in the meat and milk of corn and grain-fed cattle) are of much more concern.

    Shrimp, crab, and lobster are not “unhealthy” because they contain cholesterol.  Besides, wild salmon contains cholesterol, so why is Dr. Oz singling out crustaceans?

    In an attempt to avoid cholesterol in crustaceans, many people instead opt for red meat which offers lower levels of cholesterol but significantly higher levels of problematic saturated fatty acids (and not a single milligram of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids).

    Another one of Dr. Oz’s misguided tips — he recommends eating “wheat crust” pizza.  This is one of the most aggravating tips, because… well, it isn’t a tip at all!  White flour is made from wheat; ergo, it is wheat crust.  “Wheat” does not mean whole grain.  The real tip is to aim for “100% whole wheat” crust.

    The whole “wheat bread is healthier than white bread” idea needs to be squashed immediately.  Too many times, breads simply labeled as “wheat” are made from white flour with caramel color or molasses thrown in to give it a healthy-looking brown tint.

    It is statements like these (along with others I have pointed out on the blog) that truly make me wonder why Dr. Oz is viewed as a “nutrition” guru.  The two tips mentioned in this post are basic Nutrition 101 information.

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    In The News: Here We Go Again

    ground-beef_350(1)Now, it’s ground beef’s time to be recalled (for, what, the billionth time?)!

    This is starting to resemble a horrifically twisted version of Mad Libs: “(Name of company) is recalling (name of food) after (number) of people experienced (symptoms).”

    Here’s what CNN is reporting:

    “Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. has recalled about 8,500 pounds of ground beef that may be contaminated with E. coli.  The USDA says it believes certain BJ’s Wholesale Club stores in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Virginia received the products.”

    Alas, the truly disturbing tidbit is right here:

    “The recalled ground beef was shipped June 11 to distribution centers, where it was repackaged into consumer-size packages and sold under different retail brand names. The USDA did not identify the brands.”

    Our current food system is essentially a leaky ship with 80 holes.  Instead of drafting plans to build a new one, authorities think plugging two holes at a time is a feasible solution.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Kitchen Raid Granola

    x2_27cf1e7Granola has often been unmasked as an “unhealthy food with a healthful reputation”, and for good reason.  Many commercial granolas contain lots of oil and added sugars, and very little actual nutrition.

    A true shame, because granola can potentially be a nutrient-rich breakfast or snack.  This is where this recipe comes in.  Not only is it low in added sugars and oil, it is also full of nuts and seeds (hence the “kitchen raid” moniker), all of which offer a wide variety of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats.  The accompanying photograph, by the way, is the granola prior to being baked.

    You are, of course, more than welcome to customize this to your liking.  For example, you can use hazelnuts and almonds instead of pecans or walnuts (or, for a nut-free version, sub in pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds).  Similarly, if cacao powder isn’t your thing (wow, really?), you can instead spice it up with pumpkin pie spice.

    I find that the combination of six different nuts and seeds keeps this granola interesting.  That said, I understand not everyone has them all available at all times.  If using fewer nuts and seeds, just make sure to stick to the total amount of nuts and seeds used in the recipe.

    This is an extremely nutrient-dense food that will leave you satisfied for a long while.  If combining it with fruit yogurt, I recommend a quarter cup.  By itself (or topped with some milk, dairy or otherwise), a half cup is definitely a good amount.  This is not air-filled crisp-rice cereal that has you white-knuckling it until lunch time.

    One last note: Texture-wise, this recipe reminds me more of a muesli-granola hybrid than a traditional granola.

    YIELDS: Approximately 6 cups (24 quarter-cup servings; 12 half-cup servings)

    DRY INGREDIENTS:

    2.5 cups oats (quick-cooking oats are fine)
    1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
    1/2 cup chopped raw pecans
    1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
    1/4 cup flax meal
    1/4 cup chia seeds
    1/4 cup hemp seeds
    1/3 cup cacao powder/unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup raisins
    1/2 cup goji berries

    WET INGREDIENTS:

    5 Tablespoons coconut oil
    1/4 cup agave (or honey or maple syrup)
    1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract (if using vanilla powder, add it to dry ingredients)

    INSTRUCTIONS

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Add all dry ingredients in one large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together.

    Once mixed, add wet ingredients to “dry ingredient” bowl.

    Stir well.  Place mixture on large baking sheet.  Spread and flatten out using wooden spoon.

    Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 to 7 minutes.

    Once done, remove from oven.  Add goji berries and raisins.  Allow to cool and store in containers.

    NUTRITION FACTS (for 1/2 cup serving)

    280 calories
    7 grams saturated fat (see note)
    100 mg sodium
    7.5 grams fiber
    4 grams added sugar
    8.5 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, thiamin, vitamin E, zinc

    Good source of: Folic acid, niacin, phosphorus, riboflavin, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C

    NOTE: The majority of the saturated fat content in this recipe is from coconut.  Unlike other saturated fats, coconut’s fatty acid profile increases HDL cholesterol.  Coconut oil is a much healthier alternative than vegetable oils loaded with omega-6 fatty acids.

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    Three Things I Want Recalled

    RawPotatoC-listers all over Tinseltown must be insanely jealous of eggs’ press agents.  If you were one of the millions of recalled Salmonella-tainted eggs over the past week and a half, you were everywhere — form the morning talk shows to CNN to thousands of blogs and tweets.

    Alas, all this recall business got me thinking about other things I would like taken back as of yesterday.

    1) Potato hate:

    Apparently, some nutritionists and Registered Dietitians are stuck in the “net carb” days of 2003 and consider potatoes to be a “no no”.  Some go as far as claiming “it doesn’t count as a vegetable.”  Magical realism and denial rolled into one big ball of “huh?”.  Pretending something “doesn’t count” if you don’t like it is the new black!

    Since, these nutritionists reason, most Americans eat potatoes in unhealthy ways, then it only makes sense to make a gross overgeneralization and claim the potato itself is not healthy.  Because, hey, why try to educate people when you can just keep a myth going?

    Truth is, when eaten in a healthy way (think baked, with its skin on, topped with some olive oil, salsa, or guacamole), potatoes provide fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.  This notion that a baked potato and an order of large fries are essentially the same thing is reductionist, simplistic, and absolutely inaccurate.  And, please, spare me the “but potatoes are a white food” speech.  So are bananas.  And cauliflower. And garlic.  And most onions.  And coconut meat.

    2) Food/Supermarket Scoring:

    In theory, it sounds helpful.  “Let’s score supermarket foods so people know what’s healthy and what’s not.”  Well, befriending your old high school friends on Facebook also sounded good in theory.

    Truth is, a lot of these systems either state the obvious (“broccoli is healthy!”) or are mired by huge flaws (“if a product is high in fat, it gets lots of points taken off, even if it’s something as simple and healthful as almond butter.”)

    This is something I have personal experience with.  For several months, I was a consultant on a food-grading system (one that, I must say, successfully escapes the pitfalls others plummet into).  Though I exerted a significant amount of effort helping developers come up with algorithms that would lead to an accurate system, it was impossible to not face limiting restrictions (“yes, take off a lot of points for long ingredient lists… oh, well, but, wait, here is a 100% whole grain sprouted bread with no added sugars made from 16 grains.”).  Still, that said, the developers did as comprehensive a job as possible.

    My main concern is that ttoo many variables that come into play.  For example — what’s “healthier”: a full-fat chocolate ice cream made from local, organic grass-fed milk or a reduced-fat ice cream that is lower in calories (with no artificial sweeteners or fake fats) but made from conventional dairy, possibly from cows injected with Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone?

    Food comparison programs and apps are at least more customizable and can capture more nuances than supermarket scoring systems like NuVal, which despite much hyperbole, have yet to be mplemented in more than a handful of stores.  For example, someone concerned with GMOs or a company’s labor practices can find a particular app for their interests, while a supermarket scoring system may only look at variables that may seem irrelevant to a consumer (for example, I don’t give grams of protein a second of thought when food shopping, whereas some supermarket scoring systems do).

    3) Overcomplicating the Issues:

    Find me one person whose weight did not drop (and health did not improve) by eating fewer calories, eating fewer processed foods, and amping up their physical activity.  Yes, there are a myriad of factors that can affect how well those behaviors play out (i.e.: hormonal changes, genetic makeup, etc.), but I don’t understand the need to reinvent a wheel that works (“eat negative calorie foods”, “drink 9 glasses of green tea every day”, “never EVER mix a carbohydrate with a protein”, “no carbohydrates for dinner”, “dairy products make you fat”, etc.).

    As I always ask the “calories don’t mean squat” groupies, please show me examples of people who gained weight as a result of eating fewer calories or individuals who lost weight by doubling their daily caloric intake (without any change in physical activity).

    Of course, the quality of what is consumed is of the utmost importance.  Whether one wants to gain or lose weight, the idea is to fill up with nutrients and other healthful components from whole foods (not chalky astronaut beverages in a can or an “energy bar” more fitting for a chemistry class experiment than your digestive system).

    Oh, PS: if anyone could offer me a time machine, I want to go back to the early 90s and immediately recall the fat-free era.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Are Frozen Fruits & Vegetables Pre-Cooked?

    product_185I heard that all frozen fruits and vegetables are cooked at really high temperatures before being frozen.

    Does this result in a lot of nutrient losses?

    – Patricia (Last name withheld)
    Los Angeles, CA

    No.

    First of all, keep in mind that there is no set standard when it comes to processing fruits and vegetables prior to freezing them; the steps differ from company to company.

    Most frozen vegetables are blanched, which is basically boiling a food for a very short period of time (think: seconds).  This helps provide vibrant colors, make for slightly more palatable flavor, and results in minimal nutrient losses (boiling exposes foods to water for longer periods of time, so nutrient losses are more significant than with blanching).

    In the case of fruits, I have never heard, for instance, of berries being blanched.  I know some companies will occasionally blanch other fruits, though.

    There is no reason to be concerned about this.  To me, buying canned or dried fruit with added sugars or artificial colors is much more troubling.

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    Ah, Of Course… Strawberry FLAVOR

    Picture-64Kellogg’s Smart Start Strawberry Oat Bites promises “strawberry flavor in every bite”.  And, well, technically that’s correct.

    Here is what the ingredient list reveals:

    Strawberry flavored crunchlets (sugar, corn cereal, corn syrup, modified cornstarch, soybean oil, citric acid, glycerin, natural and artificial flavor, red #40, blue #1)

    Did you hear that?  That was the sound of consumers across the country getting a vicious processed-food slap across their faces.

    Sorry, Kellogg’s, the cutesy “crunchlets” term doesn’t take away from the fact that this cereal has as much in the way of real strawberries as a Big Mac.

    The actual cereal has whole grains as the first two ingredients, but it also contains Splenda (the latest trick to adding a jolt of sweetness while keeping sugar values low on the Nutrition Facts label).

    This, by the way, is considered one of the “healthier” big-food-company cereals.  Gulp.

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    Who Said it?

    QuestionMark-300x2991Interviewer: Is all seafood good for you?

    Our subject’s answer: “Nope. Some of the crustaceans have cholesterol — shrimp, crab, lobster.”

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Sunday for the reveal — and to find out why I take issue with the above answer.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    champion_nutsThe vast majority of large-scale, long-term studies on nut consumption conclude that an individual who consumes one ounce of nuts five times a week has, on average, a 35 percent lower rate of developing coronary heart disease than someone who consumes less than an ounce per week.

    This can be attributed to a few factors:

    • All nuts contain a few grams of fiber
    • Some nuts (i.e.: walnuts) are high in omega-3 fatty acids, while others are good sources of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (i.e: hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds)
    • Nuts are a good source of vitamin E
    • Nuts are commonly consumed as a snack, often in place of nutritionally empty foods (i.e.: pretzels, rice crackers, cookies, etc.)

    There is absolutely no reason to avoid nuts (or nut butters) or consider them “occasional treats”.

    Plus, keep in mind that a serving of nuts is larger than you may think.  Consider these examples:

    • 23 almonds
    • 33 peanuts
    • 49 pistachios
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    You Ask, I Answer: “Grass-Fed” Labeling

    naturalorganicmeatsDo the words “grass fed” on a package of beef mean anything, truly?

    Are there strict guidelines, or is it a very loose term?

    – Annie Balzer
    Sacramento, CA
    (Via Twitter, @anniebalzer)

    Twitter’s 140-character limit was definitely not enough space to cover this topic, so I told Annie I would have to answer her question on the blog.  Not surprisingly, this is not as cut-and-dry (does that classify as a bad grass-related pun?) as you may think.

    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) legally defined the term “grass-fed” in October of 2007, as follows.  I have bolded certain parts for further discussion:

    “Grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. The diet shall be derived solely from forage consisting of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g., legumes, Brassica), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state. Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. Hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources may also be included as acceptable feed sources. Routine mineral and vitamin supplementation may also be included in the feeding regimen. If incidental supplementation occurs due to inadvertent exposure to non-forage feedstuffs or to ensure the animal’s well being at all times during adverse environmental or physical conditions, the producer must fully document (e.g., receipts, ingredients, and tear tags) the supplementation that occurs including the amount, the frequency, and the supplements provided.

    Whew.  Let’s break this down.

    “Grass and forage… consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal.  The diet shall be derived solely from forage.”

    This definition means that beef labeled “grass-fed” must be from cows that consume grass throughout their entire life.  This is to prevent grass-finished or grain-finished beef from being labeled “grass-fed”.  “Grass-finished” means that a cow eats grain for most of its life, but is then fed grass the last few months.  Prior to this 2007 ruling, some unscrupulous individuals would do this and label their products “grass-fed”.

    “Grain-finished” is a more common practice, in which cows consume grass until the last few months of life, during which time they are fed grain.  The grain diet bulks up cows (which means more weight, and therefore, more money when sold), but ultimately negates the health-effects of a grass-exclusive diet (mainly lower levels of saturated fat and higher levels of heart-healthy conjugated linoleic acid).

    “Animals must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season…”

    This is one of the more vague and controversial parts of the definition.

    “Access to pasture” is not the same as “pasture-raised”.  Per USDA laws, “access to pasture” can mean that cows are confined indoors, but a gate that leads to pasture is open.  Sure, the confined cows are eating grass or hay — as opposed to grains — from a trough, but their mobility is severely restricted.  This usually comes as a surprise to people who equate “grass-fed” with “pasture-raised”.

    If incidental supplementation occurs due to inadvertent exposure to non-forage feedstuffs or to ensure the animal’s well being at all times during adverse environmental or physical conditions, the producer must fully document (e.g., receipts, ingredients, and tear tags) the supplementation that occurs including the amount, the frequency, and the supplements provided.

    This is also rather unsettling, for it appears to indicate that all the farmer has to do is document instances where cows may have eaten grains.  There is no mention of a farmer being forbidden from selling that meat as “grass-fed”.

    Then, of course, there is the issue of what is not said in the definition.  “Grass-fed” does not indicate an absence of antibiotics or growth hormones.  That falls under the definition of “organic”.  So, organic grass-fed beef is certainly different from grass-fed beef.

    The American Grassfed Association is very unhappy about that tidbit, and has therefore implemented its own third-party verification system.  You can read their standards here (specifically, read pages 3 to 9 to become familiar with their criteria). You can view a rather lengthy list of producers who meet their criteria here.

    In essence, the American Grassfed Association label means that beef is from cows that:

    • Solely subsist on grass their entire lives
    • Do not consume antibiotics
    • Are not injected with hormones
    • Are pasture-raised

    FYI 1: Let me once again remind you that “vegetarian-fed” is not the same as “grass-fed”!

    FYI 2: Keep in mind, too, that this is all about certification.  It is very plausible that a local farm which labels its beef as “grass-fed” and does not carry an AGA label still meets all of their requirements.  If they don’t take the initiative to apply for certification, they won’t display the AGA seal of approval.

    The problem isn’t that all beef labeled “grass-fed” is subjected to hormones and antibiotics, but rather that, due to loose standards, beef labeled in such a manner doesn’t necessarily have to abide by standards that some people erroneously assume come with that term.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Omega 7

    product502Do you have any insight on Omega 7?  Someone told me it was good.

    – Marie-Rose Nduku
    New York, NY

    Before we get to the actual answer, I think it is worth reminding everyone that only two omega fatty acids — omega 3 and omega 6 — are essential.  In the world of nutrition, an “essential nutrient” is one we must obtain from food since our bodies are unable to manufacture it.  This is why cholesterol is not an essential nutrient.  Our bodies produce it on a daily basis, so one can be perfectly healthy without ever consuming a single milligram of cholesterol.

    Omega-7 is not an essential fatty acid, no matter how crucial manufacturers of omega-7 supplements make it seem.  Let’s learn more about it, though.

    There are two types of omega-7 fatty acids: palmitoleic acid and vaccenic acid.

    Palmitoleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid manufactured by our bodies from other fatty acids in the diet, but is also found in decent amounts in fish and macadamia nut oil.  Though research on it is very limited, we do know that it raises the body’s levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.  This is quite an anomaly, since most monounsaturated fatty acids raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

    And so we come to the problem of isolating nutrients, rather than considering them within their respective food matrix.  Unfortunately, the mainstream media loves to isolate nutrients and attempt to incite unnecessary hysteria.  The fact that palmitoleic acid raises LDL levels does not mean fish and macadamia nut oil are now “unhealthy”.

    Foods are a combination of fatty acids.  In the example of fish, palmitoleic acid makes up a small amount of the total fatty acid percentage.  Even in the case of macadamia nut oil, palmitoleic acid only makes up about twenty percent of its fatty acid profile (almost two-thirds of it are comprised of heart-healthy oleic acid).

    Vaccenic acid — the other omega-7 — is a healthful naturally-occurring trans fat found in full-fat dairy products (and, to a smaller extent, in reduced-fat products).  I know, I know; all this time you have heard trans fats be vilified.  However, the trans fats nutritionists declared Public Enemy #1 were man-made, artificial trans fats.  Natural trans fats (like vaccenic acid and conjugated linoleic acid) are a whole other story.

    Vaccenic acid is an isomer of heart-healthy oleic acid (“isomer” is science-speak for “not identical, but very very similar to”).  Research on vaccenic acid has also been rather scant, but it appears that it is converted into conjugated linoleic acid by the body, thereby providing some cardiovascular-protective benefits.

    So, what are our takeaways?

    • The only fatty acids we must get from food are omega 3 and omega 6 (though, as regular Small Bites readers know, omega-6 consumption in the US is too high).
    • When examining a food’s fat content, it is important to consider the entire fatty acid profile.
    • There is no reason to shy away from full-fat or reduced-fat products.  The fat-free phenomenon of the 1990s caused more harm than good.  It led to an increase in added sugar intake (sugar replaced fat in processed low-fat and fat-free convenience foods) and reduced our intake of healthful compounds found in foods that naturally contain them.  For this reason, I find that two-percent dairy products are a better choice than fat-free ones.  Even in the case of your morning latte, I see absolutely nothing wrong with getting it with whole milk.
    • What if you don’t consume dairy products?  No biggie.  Vaccenic acid is simply one of many fatty acids that provide heart-healthy benefits.  As long as most of your fats come from the right foods (avocados, olives, walnuts, coconut, flax, fish, sea vegetables, etc.) you have no reason to be concerned.
    • As for the “age defying skin complex” statement on the accompanying supplement image’s bottle: omega-7 has been found to be effective as a topical solution for certain skin conditions.  The specific omega-7 associated with skin conditions is palmitoleic acid — the one our bodies manufacture from other fatty acids!  There is no need to spend money on a supplement.
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    And, For My Next Magic Trick… Guacamole With No Avocados!

    Calavo_With_TaglineAs a nutritionist and journalist, ingredient list hunting is one activity that is right up my alley.

    Oh, yes, I do mean “activity”.  It is not at all odd for me to walk the aisles of a supermarket for a good half hour with the sole intention of seeing if I encounter any blog-worthy “WTF”-ness.

    I’m not in there for any other reason.  I don’t need garlic for dinner.  Not even a stick of gum from the checkout counter.  I’m just there to walk and — cross my fingers! — come across something heinous.

    Alas, I struck gold today with Calavo’s Guacamole Tortilla Chips.

    Here is what the front of the bag tells us:

    “Rich Guacamole Taste!”

    That’s more than a statement — that is an enthused proclamation.  But wait, there’s more:

    “So green and so good, you’ll think you already dipped.”

    Alright, then.  Let’s get our avocado goodness on.  First, though, let’s take a look at the ingredient list (I purposefully bold part of it to make sure you read the really crazy part).

    Whole white corn, vegetable oil and/or canola oil and/or soybean oil and/or sunflower oil, guacamole seasoning (salt, cheddar cheese [pasteurized milk, salt, culture, enzymes], lactose, whey, buttermilk, maltodextrin, onion powder, garlic powder, sour cream [cream, nonfat milk, culture, enzymes], monosodium glutamate, citric acid, spice, lactic acid, natural flavor, tocopherols, yellow 6 lake, yellow 5 lake, titanium dioxide, blue 1 lake, red 40, corn flour, lime.

    I could potentially understand the use of guacamole seasoning in these chips, but why is it made from cheddar cheese?  At least Kraft’s highly controversial “faux guacamole” dip contained a smidge of avocado!

    The presence of all those artificial dyes in Calavo’s product also makes the “so green” tagline sound a whole less appetizing.

    What’s particularly odd, though, is that the company’s guacamole dips are the real thing (no artificial colors, no weird fillers, etc.).  These chips certainly tarnish their brand name.

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    You Ask, I Answer: “Greek-Style” Yogurt

    JF08_IO5aI’m a little afraid to ask you this, but here it goes.

    I have noticed that some Greek yogurts actually say “Greek style” on their packaging (with the word “style” in tiny letters).  I’ve been reading your blog for a while, so I have a feeling this is significant.

    Are these different from (or less healthy than) a “real” Greek yogurt like Fage?

    – Melissa Heaney
    Albany, NY

    Ah, the drawbacks of being a sharp-eyed nutrition sleuth at the grocery store.

    I recall several years ago, when I first started reading ingredient lists for common brands I used to buy, walking around supermarket aisles in a heavy-hearted daze.  It was almost as if I had just been told that my significant other had been cheating on me on a daily basis.  Except that, rather than stumbling across a hurriedly-scribbled name and number on a piece of paper, I was alerted to the presence of artificial dyes, partially hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup.  Heartbreak on aisle five!

    Onto your question — there is a difference between Greek-style yogurts and actual Greek yogurts.  If you’re curious about what makes Greek yogurt special, please read this post.

    Here is the ingredient list for Fage non-fat Greek yogurt:

    Grade A Pasteurized Skimmed Milk, Live Active Yogurt Cultures (L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus)

    Now, let’s take a peek at the ingredient list for a Greek-style yogurt.  For this example, I am using The Greek Gods brand:

    Pasteurized Grade A Nonfat Milk, Inulin, Pectin, Active Cultures (S. Thermophilius, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, L. Casei)

    Whereas “true” Greek yogurt’s thick consistency is the result of straining out the watery whey, Greek-style yogurts add thickeners (ie: gum blends like pectin and inulin, milk solids, stabilizers).

    Each yogurt’s respective Nutrition Facts label also tells the tale.  Here is what 6 ounces of real Greek yogurt offer:

    • 90 calories
    • 0 grams fiber
    • 15 grams protein
    • 19% of the Adequate Intake of calcium

    That same amount of Greek-style yogurt contains:

    • 60 calories
    • 2 grams fiber
    • 6 grams protein
    • 25% of the Adequate Intake of calcium

    Let’s make sense of that.

    • The decrease in calories is due to the reduction in protein.  Remember, Greek yogurt’s higher protein levels are due to the absence of watery whey.  Greek-style yogurt retains the whey and adds on thickeners.
    • As you know, all dairy products are fiberless.  The 2 grams of fiber in Greek-style yogurt are due to the presence of thickening gums.  Depending on what other brands of Greek-style yogurt use, the fiber value may be zero.
    • The higher percentage of calcium is also attributed to the presence of whey.

    There is nothing troubling, disturbing, or unhealthy about pectin and inulin.  We aren’t talking about blue dyes or trans fats here.  Two FYIs, though:

    1. For optimal health benefits, fiber should come from foods that naturally contain it, rather than add-ons.
    2. If you’re looking for the higher protein benefits of Greek yogurt (mainly the ability to feel satiated for a little longer), reach for the authentic product.
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    LOTS More Info on Twitter & Facebook!

    Twitter-LogoDear readers,

    If you aren’t yet following Small Bites on Twitter or Facebook, I highly suggest you do.  I post an average of ten items a day, most of which are news tidbits, nutrition/food resources, and facts/statistics not published on the blog!

    For the optimal Small Bites experience (and to stay on top of everything nutrition-related), I suggest keeping tabs on Small Bites.

    On Twitter, follow @andybellatti

    On Facebook, search for Andy Bellatti’s Small Bites

    The Twitter and Facebook accounts are the same, so you only need to follow one.

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    Numbers Game: Munch Your Way To A Healthier Heart

    mixed-nutsThe vast majority of large-scale, long-term studies on nut consumption conclude that an individual who consumes one ounce of nuts five times a week has, on average, a _____ percent lower rate of developing coronary heart disease than someone who consumes less than an ounce per week.

    a) 35
    b) 21
    c) 14
    d) 46

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

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