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    Archive for the ‘chocolate’ Category

    The Ultimate Chocolate Shopping Guide

    Last year’s “ultimate olive oil guide” was so well received that I thought it deserved a bigger and better sequel.

    While everyone else this year will be talking about the Mayan calendar, we’ll be over in this corner talking about something the Mayans ever-so-intelligently loved, worshipped, and cherished like gold: chocolate.

    My view of chocolate is undoubtedly passionate, yet objective. I don’t think of it as a magical elixir or a  — groan — “super” food. It is, however, very healthful.

    Sadly, a lot of chocolate out there — and I’m talking all sorts of price ranges here — is harmful to your health, the environment, and the well-being of farmers.

    I guarantee that after reading this post, you’ll never shop for chocolate the same way again.

    Continue Reading »

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    Hershey’s: When In Doubt, Hype and Deflect

    For my penultimate post relating to the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo (fun wrap-up post tomorrow!), I want to focus on the rhetoric one often hears at Big Food booths.

    Whereas companies that sell real, whole food products focus on what they are actually selling (be it hemp seeds, green tea, or snacks made from whole, non-GMO ingredients), Big Food tends to rely on hype and deflection.

    Continue Reading »

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    In The News: How Many Misguided Nutrition Tips Fit In One Article?

    time_magazines_logoBack in August, Time magazine ran a bunch of ridiculous nonsense cover story which made the laughingly feeble case that exercise was not at all helpful for weight loss.

    In what seemed to be an essay right out of a middle schooler’s notebook, the author attempted to convince us of this theory by stating that on days when he exercises, he ends up eating more (and, apparently, he decided his personal anecdote somehow applies to the rest of the world).

    In any case, the folks at Time continue their bastardization of nutrition and health issues with their latest article (thankfully, not a cover one) titled “The Thoughest Diet”.

    In it, author Joel Stein talks to popular chefs who have managed to slim down despite working in kitchens  — and being surrounded by decadent food — all day.

    The article quickly goes South, though, when it turns into nothing more than misguided and inaccurate weight-loss tips from men who clearly have very little knowledge of nutrition.

    As can be expected when dealing with celebrity chefs, there is plenty of egotism, too.  In the second paragraph of the article, Food Network star Alton Brown credits himself and other television chefs for being “partly responsible for the fattening of America.”

    Uh, no.

    You want to talk about factors behind rising obesity rates?  Think crop subsidies, expanding portion sizes, food lobbyists, and issues with the National School Lunch Program.  Mario Battali’s alfredo sauce doesn’t even make the Top 100.

    Brown then goes on to make the following statement:

    “The old wisdom of everything in moderation was pretty much hogwash.”

    This from the man who has chosen to “boycott French fries” and  “now snacks incessantly on avocados, sardines, and almonds.”

    First of all, it is still very possible to gain weight while “snacking incessantly”.  Although avocados, sardines, and almonds are very healthy foods, they are by no means calorie-free.

    In fact, I recently spoke to somebody who didn’t understand why she wasn’t losing weight even though she stopped eating junk food.  A look at her dietary habits demonstrated that while she was eating healthier foods, she was getting just as many calories from those foods as she was in the days when potato chips, Skittles, and sugary cereals were staples of her diet.

    Furthermore, Brown’s example that moderation is ‘hogwash’ is based on the fact that he used to eat massive quantities of French fries, which sounds like anything but moderation to me.

    Then there’s chef Alex Stratta, who “decided to get off sugar, fatty meats, and carbs after his suit wouldn’t fit for an awards reception”.

    Sigh.  When I hear people say they “got off carbs”, I always have to count to ten and take deep breaths.

    Carbohydrates are not just in donuts, cookies, cakes, and 600-calorie muffins.  Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and healthy whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and barley are also “carbs”.

    Therefore, when people proudly beam that they “no longer eat carbs” , my response is often: “Wow, you stopped eating fruits, vegetables, and beans?”

    As for sugar — it is absolutely a source of empty calories, and undoubtedly overconsumed in the United States.

    However, what is with this notion of “swearing it off”?  Why not just set a goal of eating significantly less?  Besides, most people who I speak with who claim to be “off sugar” only mean white sugar, since they still consume honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup as if it somehow were calorie-free or chock-full of nutrients.

    Stratta’s “tips” get worse:

    “His new rules include starting the morning with a protein shake, having only three meals a day and never eating after 6 p.m.”

    It is “thanks” to ridiculous articles like these that I come across so many confused individuals at workshops and classes that I teach.

    In essence, what Stratta is doing is — are you ready for it? — eating fewer calories than he used to!  Wow, imagine that.

    It would be much more helpful if he simply credited that for his weight loss, because it is very possible to do the three things he does and still not lose a pound.

    Depending on what goes into it, a protein shake can have anywhere from 200 to 800 calories.  As for “three meals a day”, there are plenty of people who only eat three meals a day and gain weight because their total caloric intake for the day surpasses what they need!

    Rules like “never eating after 6 p.m.” are not only unnecessary, but also overly rigid.  Munching on a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts at 8 p.m. is not going to make the magical weight-loss fairies disappear into thin air.

    Another example of misguided advice?  The article states that renowned chocolatier Jacques Torres (who intelligently lost a total of 32 pounds by joining Weight Watchers) “stocks up on 70% cocoa chocolate bars, with the goal of always having a low-sugar options on hand.”

    Let me be perfectly clear — chocolates with a high cocoa content are great.

    The intense flavor often helps one satisfy cravings with small amounts, and they offer some added health benefits as a result of having more cocoa than milk chocolates.  Low sugar values, however, are irrelevant.

    The reason why high-cocoa chocolates are a better snack than those with lower figures?  They are higher in fat, which means they take a longer time to digest, therefore allowing you to feel full with a lower amount of calories.

    And then the magazine industry wonders why it’s going down the drain…

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    Quick & Health(ier) Recipe: Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Muffins

    img71mSince I am leaving the country for a few weeks on Sunday, I am trying to use up every ingredient in my pantry and refrigerator — like whole wheat flour and soy milk — that will otherwise spoil while I am away.

    This “no frills” muffin recipe (which can be vegan or not, depending on your preference) was the end result.  A friend of mine stopped by later in the evening, and, upon trying them, said I “have to put these on the blog!”

    I personally love them because they are a great way to satisfy a craving for baked goods without overloading on calories and sugar.  The fact that they are 100% whole grain doesn’t hurt, either!

    YIELDS: 12 mini muffins (in 24-muffin pan, as shown in accompanying photograph)

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 cup whole wheat flour
    2 Tablespoons wheat germ (optional)
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons vanilla powder (or vanilla extract)
    2 Tablespoons dark chocolate chips (if vegan, use carob chips or vegan chocolate chips)
    1 “flax egg”* (or 1 egg)
    1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk (or any other milk of your choice)
    3/4 tablespoon coconut oil
    1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    2 teaspoons sugar (or honey or agave nectar or maple syrup)

    *NOTE: a “flax egg” is made by mixing two tablespoons of water with one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds.

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Place all dry ingredients (from whole wheat flour to chocolate chips) in one bowl.  In another bowl, place all wet ingredients (from “flax egg” or real egg to sugar).  If using vanilla powder, place with dry ingredients.  Vanilla extract should go in “wet ingredients” bowl.

    Add dry ingredients to wet ingredient bowl and slowly fold together.  Be sure to not overmix, as this will result in tough muffins you could bounce off the floor.

    Lightly spray muffin pan with baking spray (to prevent the batter from sticking).

    Fill muffin cups evenly with batter.

    Bake for 20 minutes in oven, or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.

    NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (for 2 mini muffins made with soy milk and “flax egg”):

    155 calories
    1 gram saturated fat
    150 milligrams sodium
    4 grams fiber
    4 grams added sugar
    4 grams protein

    Excellent source of: Manganese, selenium

    Good source of: Folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6

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    You Ask, I Answer: Raw Chocolates

    chocolate-bars-400Do you know anything about raw chocolates?

    What are their benefits? Are they better than standard chocolates?

    — Coco (last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    I love raw chocolates — so rich and decadent!

    Actually, I love raw snacks and desserts in general for two reasons:

    • They are absolutely delicious
    • They are made entirely with whole, unprocessed foods and, consequently, are very nutritious

    A raw “key lime pie”, for example, is made entirely from nuts, seeds, dates, avocado, and lime.  It tastes just like — if not better than — conventional pies I’ve eaten.

    Let’s go back to raw chocolates, though.

    Unlike conventional chocolate products, these varieties are dairy-free and not exposed to temperatures higher than 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

    This is where raw foodists and myself see things very, very differently.

    Whereas I view many raw versions of popular foods as nutritious simply because they are made with whole, unprocessed ingredients, raw foodists claim that because these foods are heated at no more than 118 degrees Fahrenheit (or less, depending on who you speak with), they maintain their digestive enzymes, which in turn keep us healthy and slow down aging.

    FYI: thee lower temperatures do help preserve higher amounts of vitamins and minerals.

    The enzyme argument doesn’t hold up though, because enzymes are proteins, which means they are digested and effectively rendered useless in our bodies.

    Remember — our bodies produce the digestive enzymes we need.

    Raw chocolates are great in that they offer a good amount of nutrition due to their unprocessed ingredient lists, but you still need to keep an eye on calories.

    I was recently HORRIFIED when I came across a raw cookbook in which the author declared that “calories don’t matter” when eating raw.

    Excuse me?  They most certainly do!

    It just so happens that raw diets are high in fats and fiber (which help contribute to a feeling of fullness quickly), so it can be hard to consume excessive calories as with other diets.  However, make no mistake about it — consistently surpassing your caloric needs results in weight gain, whether these calories are coming from raw or cooked foods.

    FYI — most raw chocolates still contain some added sugar in the form of raw agave nectar (which, some raw foodists argue, is processed at temperatures too high to preserve those enzymes they are so fond of).

    In any case, there is very little difference between their ingredient list and that of a dairy-free, 75 percent cocoa chocolate bar (like the Endangered Species brand)

    To summarize: Raw versions of snacks and desserts are healthy because they often offer substantial nutrition, not because they are cooked at less than 115 degrees Fahrenheit or offer enzymes.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Chocolate With Benefits

    6a00d83451b19169e20115701502e1970b-500wiHow much truth is there in the idea that chocolate can be a health food?

    If it’s true, does that mean I am getting some health benefits from any chocolate product?

    — Alice Costello
    (Location Withheld)

    To answer this question, it is important to differentiate between cocoa and chocolate.

    Cocoa refers to the seed from the cacao fruit.  Chocolate, meanwhile, is a term that describes a product that, among other ingredients, contains cocoa.

    In the vast majority of cases, chocolate is composed of cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar, milk, and other additional ingredients (i.e., almonds) or flavorings (i.e, vanilla).

    Many articles on this topic inaccurately mention the health benefits of chocolate.  In reality, the focus should be on cocoa.

    Cocoa contains a variety of flavonoids — a type of antioxidant — that have been found to have a protective effect on blood pressure and cardiovascular health.

    To get the most out of cocoa, buy pure unsweetened cocoa powder and include it in a recipe (such as this no-bake brownie bites recipe I posted back in February).

    Flavonoids are negatively affected by processing, which is why you get negligible amounts in popular milk chocolate products like M&Ms or Kit Kat bars.

    That said, some chocolate bars contain higher flavonoid levels than others.  Here are some guidelines to help you find them:

    • Look for “cocoa powder” on the ingredient list.  If you see “alkali-treated” or “Dutch processed” varieties of cocoa powder listed, you are looking at major flavonoid loss
    • Look for chocolate bars that are comprised of at least 75% cocoa
    • Ideally, look for chocolate bars that are milk-free (such as Endangered Species) or contain negligible amounts (such as Dagoba), since certain components in milk appear to limit the absorption of antioxidants from cacao.

    If you seek out cocoa flavonoids in chocolate bars rather than cocoa powder, be sure to keep an eye on calories.

    And, also, as wonderful as the flavonoids in cocoa are,  there are plenty of other foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and seeds) that offer various other varieties that are just as beneficial.

    Remember, health is determined by the totality of your diet, not the inclusion of any one food.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Cocoa

    I always buy Hershey’s Cocoa (natural unsweetened) in the 8 oz. container.

    When I asked my husband to get some more, he came home with a package that was more expensive looking and said on the front: Hershey’s Cocoa (100% cacao) and in a pretty section, red background, gold letters: “SPECIAL DARK [trademark symbol] A BLEND OF NATURAL AND DUTCHED COCOAS.”

    The ingredients list for the former product reads: cocoa (there is a U in a circle, no idea what that means).

    The new product list reads: cocoa, cocoa processed with alkali.

    They do include in the fine print on the side of the package the statement that “…HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Cocoa provides fewer antioxidants than HERSHEY’S Natural Unsweetened Cocoa.)

    What is going on?

    — Maria (last name withheld)
    (city withheld), AZ

    The first distinction that needs to be made here is between cocoa powder and chocolate; too many people get them confused!

    In order to make cocoa powder, cocoa beans are first fermented, roasted, and shelled.

    Inside that shell are cacao nibs, which undergo a heated grinding process to be converted into a liquid known as chocolate liquor (a misnomer, since it contains no alcohol.)

    Chocolate liquor is then divided into cocoa butter and cocoa solids via compression.

    The grinding of cocoa solids results in cocoa powder, which is naturally fat-free (as a result of being separated from cocoa butter) and sugar-free.

    This is all very different from chocolate — which, at its most basic, is a combination of cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, milk, and sugar.

    Let’s now talk about the difference in the two products you mention.

    The standard 8-ounce container of cocoa you buy is pure cocoa powder.

    The special variety your husband bought is a mixture of the cocoa powder sold in the 8-ounce container and some Dutched cocoa (cocoa powder that is mixed with an alkali in order to remove some of its acidity and bitterness.)

    Since the processing of Dutch cocoa results in a loss of antioxidants and flavonoids, the fine print on the “Special Dark” product makes perfect sense.

    In order to get the most benefit from the antioxidants and flavonoids in cocoa powder, have it in its natural form.

    One suggestion? Make a smoothie with your milk of choice (dairy, soy, nut, etc.), one ripe medium banana, and a tablespoon of cocoa powder.

    Or plug in your food processor and try my no-bake “brownie” recipe!

    As for that U symbol — it simply means the product is certified kosher.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Methyl Bromide & Chocolate

    I was going to buy a chocolate bar at a supermarket recently, and a fellow shopper informed me that the source chocolate that constitutes most chocolate bars (even the one I was buying, a 70% cacao Chocolate Santander bar) is treated with methyl bromide, a potentially harmful chemical, to inhibit the growth of fungus, etc. and exponentially lengthen shelf life of the finished product.

    She said that one of the few chocolate bars available that doesn’t undergo such treatment is Kallari.

    You will note that the issue of methyl bromide treatment is addressed on the Kallari website.

    Is there any truth to these claims? If so, what health risks does ingestion of chocolate that has been treated with methyl bromide entail?

    Are there any other brands of chocolate in addition to Kallari that may be somewhat safer to consume than those treated with methyl bromide?

    Finally, what is your informed opinion on chocolate consumption generally?

    — Tim Fisher
    Boston, MA

    Those claims are indeed true.

    Remember, cocoa beans are a crop, just like fruits, vegetables, and legumes. This means you have conventional (grown with the use of pesticides and chemicals) and organic (pesticide-free) varieties.

    Methyl bromide is usually used to fumigate cacao beans when they depart from — and arrive at — ports.

    Since it is not at all uncommon to have insect infestations on cocoa beans, methyl bromide is mainly used as insurance.  It also, as you state in your question, inhibits fungus formation during the transportation process.

    In fact, some countries — particularly those that rely very heavily on cocoa beans for trade — spray methyl bromide on the cocoa bean crops to ensure minimal losses.

    Methyl bromide is so controversial — it also happens to be a class 1 ozone-depleting substance — that the Environmental Protection Agency only allows very specific uses of it (one of them being the fumigation of cocoa) in the United States.

    The only way to ensure you are getting methyl bromide-free chocolate is by looking for a “certified organic” label, or browsing around a company’s website.

    I am sure that any company not using methyl bromide will be more than happy to let site visitors know!

    I know, for instance, that Dagoba does not spray their cocoa beans with methyl bromide.

    Although inhalation of the gas is known to have very serious effects on the lungs, kidney, and central nervous system, there isn’t much information regarding health risks in the context of eating food that has been treated with methyl bromide.

    Some in the industry believe that since it is a very quickly-dissipating gas, only minimal — well below the permitted standard — amounts make it into the actual food.

    As for my informed opinion on chocolate, I think a high-quality product makes for a most excellent culinary treat.

    For optimal health benefits, look for at least 75% cocoa content in chocolate bars, and choose varieties not made with Dutch cocoa (a process which removes a lot of the health-promoting flavonoids and antioxidants).

    The healthiest way to consume chocolate is via raw, unsweetened cacao nibs or unsweetened cocoa powder.  I like to add both to smoothies for an intense chocolate flavor — and a strong mineral boost!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Carob

    SunspireCarobChipsLgCan you tell me what, exactly, carob is?

    I bought the wrong bag of trail mix by accident today and it has almonds, raisins, cashews, and carob.

    The taste is okay. I just don’t know what I’m eating!

    — Ray Amila
    New York, NY

    Although carob is a popular vegan substitute for milk chocolate, it is actually a legume!

    It is made from the pulp of the pods of an evergreen tree indigenous to the Mediterranean Sea region (although it is now grown in many parts of the world.)

    In some countries, like Israel, it is common to dunk the pods in hot water for about thirty seconds (just enough to soften them) and chew on them as a snack.

    In the United States, carob pods are usually roasted, ground into powder, and then used to make things like carob chips (which can then go into vegan cookies, or used as toppings for vegan ice cream.)

    I should note, though, that not ALL carob products are vegan. Some carob manufacturers add milk solids to them, so always be sure to read the ingredient label.

    Some people seek out carob because it is naturally caffeine-free.

    Others like it because it is a cocoa powder substitute that offers a good dose of calcium.

    Two tablespoons of carob powder, for instance, provides almost a tenth of the mineral’s daily recommended intake (that same amount of cocoa powder only provides one percent.)

    So don’t worry, you’re not eating some sort of Frankenfood!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Cocoa Butter

    I recently went vegan.

    The other day I was reading chocolate bars’ ingredient labels and didn’t know if cocoa butter was an animal by-product or not.

    Can you help?

    — Laura Brenty
    Chicago, IL

    Sure!

    Cocoa butter is 100 percent vegan — it is a purely vegetable-based fat naturally found in cocoa beans.

    Vegan chocolate is very easy to come by — a lot of the big drugstores, like Walgreen’s, carry it!

    To make sure it is completely dairy-free, be on the lookout for milk solids and/or whey-based ingredients.

    By the way, one of my favorite brands of vegan chocolate — actually, one of my favorite brands of ALL chocolate — is Endangered Species (pictured alongside this post.)

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    You Ask, I Answer: Chocolate Processed With Alkali

    Sometimes I see “chocolate (processed with alkali)” as an ingredient on food labels.

    What is that all about?

    — (Name Withheld)
    Brooklyn, NY

    Processing chocolate with alkali is known as the “Dutch method.”

    Take note, dear readers: any chocolate product labeled “Dutch chocolate” is not making reference to the cocoa beans’ origin, but rather to this very processing technique!

    The purpose of treating cocoa with an alkalizing agent? To remove its bitter taste and infuse it with a darker and more uniform color.

    The trade-off?

    Cocoa beans processed with alkali lose the healthful flavonoids and antioxidants found in raw cocoa nibs or very dark chocolate (think 85% cocoa).

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    All You Need To Know About Antioxidants

    Knowing my fondness for dark chocolate and almonds, a friend recently gifted me with, what else, a Perugina “dark chocolate & almonds” bar.

    Later that day, prior to indulging in a post-dinner nibble, I scanned over the packaging.

    Right above the nutrition facts was a small text box that read: “175 milligrams of antioxidants per serving.”

    You are already picturing my eyeballs rolling out of my eyes and down the kitchen floor, right?

    Here’s the thing. It’s one thing to advertise certain chocolates as “healthier” by displaying their cocoa content, but displaying milligrams of antioxidants is really pushing it, for several reasons.

    First of all, there is no set number for how many antioxidant milligrams should be consumed on a daily basis.

    Secondly, the way most antioxidant content in food is measured is not in milligrams but by something known as ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity).

    This is basically a test of how efficient a given food is at protecting cells from a radical known as the peroxyl radical.

    (Sidenote: berries are among the highest ORAC scorers.)

    And then, of course, there’s the whole “issue” of antioxidants. We are just now beginning to understand a little bit about them.

    Many people, however, think they’re doing themselves a favor by happily downing whatever antioxidant supplement drugstores or supplement shops are happily shilling.

    Not so fast.

    Let’s start at the beginning.

    Oxygen is a wonderful element that helps our cells function properly, but it also causes a problem.

    When an atom or molecule in our body comes in direct contact with oxygen, it loses one electron (stick with me, I promise this won’t turn into a chemistry lecture) and becomes “oxidized.”

    Although some oxidation is normal (remember, our cells are constantly dying and being replaced), free radicals are, basically, destructive atoms and molecules that are not happy about missing an electron.

    They unleash their frustrations by running into cells and damaging them, unleashing a chain reaction of cell injury that can compromise DNA and set the stage for a variety of diseases and cancers.

    What makes all of this even trickier is that a certain amount of free radicals in our body is actually a good thing, as they make up part of our immune system, fighting off any foreign substances.

    When it comes to excess free radicals, though, this is where the approximately 6,000 current recognized antioxidants come into play.

    Mind you, our body is able to produce some antioxidants. However, these are only able to take care of the free radicals that are the product of normal body functions.

    They are certainly not equipped to handle the free radicals that are the product of environmental pollutants and smoking.

    Antioxidants basically look for free radicals and give them an electron so they can go on their merry way and stop wreaking havoc.

    Some are preventive, and stop a free radical cascade before it begins.

    Others, known as “chain breaking,” get in the middle of a free radical gang and break it up before more trouble ensues.

    Antioxidants (including vitamins C and E) are pretty special because they can donate electrons and, rather than become free radicals, remain stable.

    Believe it or not, antioxidant research is still fairly new, and a lot of questions still need to be answered.

    What is known is that antioxidants are most effective when consumed in food (it is believed that they work better in combination with certain phytonutrients) and in conjunction with other antioxidants.

    So, downing thousands of milligrams of Vitamin C doesn’t automatically guarantee a free radical defeat.

    This partially helps to explain why the issue of “variety” and “diversity” is often stressed in nutrition.

    Red-colored fruits and vegetables offer very different antioxidants than green colored ones, which offer different ones from blue and purple ones.

    This is why “eating the rainbow” is often encouraged — it provides as diverse a nutrient and antioxidant pool as possible.

    Similarly, the antioxidants in whole grains are different from the ones in legumes, which are different from the ones in fruits.

    Clinical trials have shown that isolated antioxidants in pill form are not as effective as those in food; in fact, some preliminary studies have shown that high doses of supplemental antioxidants can actually cause further oxidation.

    I know, my head is spinning too.

    In the end, though, we come back to standard nutrition advice. Eat a diverse, mainly unprocessed plant-based diet. That never seems to be the culprit of anything.

    And a note to the folks at Perugina chocolates: a single cup of coffee delivers about 750 milligrams of antioxidants, so 175 milligrams isn’t exactly a mind-blowing figure…

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    And The Most Unnecessary New Product Award Goes To…

    Snickers Charged.

    A “limited edition” Snickers bar sprinkled with caffeine, B vitamins, and taurine “to help get you through the day.”

    Snore.

    Okay, let’s break this down.

    A regular Snickers bar adds up to 280 calories, 14 grams of fat, 5 grams (25% of a day’s worth) of saturated fat, and 30 grams (7.5 teaspoons) of sugar.

    Snickers Charged comes in at 250 calories, 13 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 25 grams of sugar.

    The lower values are simply because Charged is smaller in size than its regular counterpart. The folks at Mars Inc. have not gotten more health conscious.

    Anyhow, Charged tacks on 60 milligrams of caffeine, 250 milligrams of taurine, and 10 percent of the daily value Vitamins B6 and B12.

    Can you say underwhelming?

    That same amount of B6 can be obtained from half a cup of avocado, one can of tuna, a single ounce of sunflower seeds, one quarter of a chicken breast, a quarter cup of fortified cereal, or half a banana.

    As for B12? Ten percent of the daily value can be found in 1 egg, ¾ cup of milk, 1/6 cup of fortified soymilk, 1 ounce of cheddar chese, 1/5 cup of Cherrios, 1/12 cup of Total cereal, 3 ounces of chicken breast, an ounce of shrimp, or HALF an ounce of lean hamburger meat (remember, a serving is three ounces).

    Snickers Charged is not providing hard-to-come by nutrition.

    Besides, B vitamins in and of themselves do not provide energy.

    The amount of caffeine in this product is also nothing spectacular. A tall latte at Starbucks offers more.

    Drinking a cup of coffee with a regular Snickers basically provides the same caffeine total.

    Now let’s talk taurine.

    Although it is found in seafood, dairy, and meat, it is a non-essential amino acid. In other words, our bodies naturally produce it. There is no need to seek it out in the diet.

    One of its main roles is regulating the cellular transport of sodium and potassium ions.

    There is no scientific body of evidence linking it with central nervous system stimulation.

    Frankly, I’m more than ready for this whole “energy” functional food fad to burn out.

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    Administrative Announcements: Interview with Radio Live (New Zealand)

    I received an e-mail tonight from Mark Wilson, producer of Radio Live New Zealand‘s current affairs morning radio show, Drive Show.

    Mark read my Reuters article in the Sydney Morning Herald and asked if I was free late tonight to chat about it live on the radio.

    I gladly accepted — and here’s the end result!

    A HUGE thank you to Mark and the rest of the team at Drive Show for the warm reception (and providing an MP3 minutes later!)

    boomp3.com

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    In The News: Valentine’s Day/Small Bites

    Last Friday, Terri Coles of Reuters.com interviewed me for a special Valentine’s Day article on the health benefits of common romantic staples like chocolate and wine.

    We also talked about healthy foods often dismissed as “empty calories.”

    She did a wonderful job with the piece, which came out earler this afternoon. Read it here!

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