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Archive for the ‘coffee’ Category

Stop the Proteinsanity!

Think food manufacturers had run out of places to add soy protein? Guess again!

Say hello to Kosmo Protein Coffee, “a specialty [performance] coffee with 4 grams of plant-based soy protein per serving to keep your muscles strong.”

Did I mention it was created by a Registered Dietitian??

I am amazed at how strongly the “you need tons of protein every day!” marketing has stuck, even half a decade after the low carb 2.0 craze.

I simply don’t get what audience this product is aimed at. Protein-obsessed bodybuilders? Atkins addicts?

If you want an extra 4 grams of protein with your coffee, simply add half a cup of soy or dairy milk to it.

Or, accompany it with a toasted slice of whole grain bread (for an EXTRA four grams, spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter on it).

Although protein is an essential nutrient, the average person in the United States is getting more than they need.

Besides, extra protein doesn’t necessarily mean extra healthy. It simply tacks on a few extra calories.

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Buyer, Beware (And Be Smart)!

The latest video on the Small Bites YouTube channel discusses four popular deceptive advertising techniques relating to nutrition:

  • “A daily dose of antioxidants”
  • “Cholesterol-free”
  • “0 grams of trans fat per serving!”
  • “Made with fruit”

Once you’re familiar with these tricks, you won’t be a sucker at the supermarket!

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Starbucks’ Little Secret

Did you know Starbucks menus are leaving out some vital information?

Although “tall” (12 ounces), “grande” (16 ounces) and “venti” (24 ounces for a cold beverage, 20 for a hot one) are the three sizes everyone is familiar with, there is a fourth one many people don’t even know exist — “short” (8 ounces)!

Funny, isn’t it?

Whereas in many countries a standard coffee order comes in a very small cup containing just 2 or 3 ounces, here in the United States the smallest size is completely hidden from customers.

Don’t be afraid to order a “short” beverage at Starbucks if it strikes your fancy — I assure you every single barista knows what you’re referring to.

However, two friends of mine have reported that two New York City branches had “run out” of 8 ounce cups (interesting, seeing as how most consumers don’t even know there is such an option!)

The photo at right displays all four sizes. Quite the spectrum, wouldn’t you say?

One great thing about smaller portions is that they present a manageable way to consume foods that can be problematic in large amounts.

A short latte with whole milk, for instance, contains 110 calories and 17% of the daily saturated fat limit.

Make it a Venti, and you’re up to 290 calories and 45% of a day’s worth of saturated fat!

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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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You Ask, I Answer: Flavored Coffee

I drink vanilla or hazelnut flavored roasted coffee almost every morning. Is that high in sugar?

— Lori Frankel
Atlanta, GA

I am assuming you are referring to roasted coffee beans infused with flavor. If so, you can consider that to be equivalent to plain black coffee in terms of calorie and sugar content.

Coffee beans are flavored with chemical solvents, not sugar. A hazelnut roast does not have more sugar than a non-flavored one.

Mind you, this is very different from drinking regular coffee with added flavor shots.

At Starbucks, a tall coffee with a syrup shot has 8 grams (2 teaspoons) of added sugar, a grande clocks in at 12 added grams (3 teaspoons), and a flavored Venti contains an additional 20 grams (5 teaspoons) of sugar.

Powdered flavored coffees – to which you simply add hot water – also contain sugar. For example, a tablespoon (one serving) of International Foods’ French Vanilla coffee powder contains 8 grams (2 teaspoons) of sugar.

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Fat, Sugar, and Calorie Overload (On The Rocks)

As temperatures rise, sweaters are replaced by short-sleeves, steaming cups of coffee by frosty concoctions that perfectly combat the sun’s powerful rays. But, wait, be sure to make the right choice when seeking out that iced beverage.

Many special coffeehouse drinks come with outrageous amounts of calories, fat, and sugar.

If a Starbucks Frappuccino is calling your name, consider the following statistics:

A tall coffee frappuccino with no whipped cream comes in at 200 calories, 1.5 grams of cholesterol-raising saturated fat (8% of the maximum amount recommended) and 33 grams (8 teaspoons) of sugar.

A grande caramel frapuccino with whipped cream and caramel provides you with 390 calories, 10 grams (50%) of saturated fat, and 46 grams (11 1/2 teaspoons) of sugar.

Curious about a Venti? Let’s look at a strawberries and creme blended frappuccino with whipped cream of that size. That would come out to 750 calories, 8.5 grams (45%) of saturated fat, and 117 grams (29 1/4 teaspoons!) of sugar.

I’m afraid Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t fare much better.

Their Vanilla Bean coolatta contains 450 calories, 15 grams (75%) of saturated fat, and 73 grams (18 1/4) teaspoons of sugar.

Your absolute best bet is to order an iced latte — just coffee and milk (a grande with non-fat milk provides 200 calories, 0 grams of saturated fat, and only naturally-occurring sugars found in milk). You really can’t go wrong.

After all, if coffee and milk are sufficient during the winter months, why must that turn into liquid candy when the temperature goes above 70?

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