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    Archive for the ‘trans fat’ Category

    Big Food Crimes: Farmwashing, Ruining Oatmeal

    By this point, Big Food’s nutritional rap sheet is longer than the ingredient list for Pop Tarts — and it only continues to grow.

    A recent stroll through supermarket aisles has uncovered even more felonies of deception and extreme processing.

    These products are considered armed (with lousy ingredients) and dangerous (for your health). If you spot them, do not approach them. Keep walking.

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    3 (More) Examples of Food Industry Deception

    As with computer operating systems or software programs, it is imperative to consistently update your Big Food BS detector.  Below, I decode three of the latest misleading declarations making the rounds.

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    Grilled Chicken = Healthier? Not in Fast Food World!

    Take a look at this one-page document housed in the United States Department of Agriculture’s “Healthy Restaurant Eating” page, titled “Making Better Choices at Fast Food Restaurants” and co-sponsored by the American Heart Association, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and the Clinton Foundation.

    It echoes much of the advice doled out in those all-too-familiar two-minute segments on morning news shows where viewers are assuaged that they CAN “eat right at fast food restaurants,” and America lets out a huge sigh of relief.

    I particularly want to focus on one “healthy” tip in that document that I have read and heard for years and continue to come across (and one that, when I first started my nutrition studies, I thought seemed reasonable): “choose chicken”.
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    American Heart Association – Selling Out Health to the Highest Bidder

    When it comes to heart health, there are specific nutrients to encourage (monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber — both soluble and insoluble) and limit (sodium, added sugar, trans fats, oils high in omega-6 fatty acids [corn, cottonseed, soybean], and refined grains).

    It has also been well established in the scientific literature that certain phytonutrients — naturally occurring substances in plant foods that confer their own health benefits —  offer cardiovascular protection.  Some examples include quercetin (in apple skins, red onion, and broccoli), ellagic acid (in strawberries and grapes), and lignans (in flax seed, sesame seeds, and barley).

    Alas, most of the products in your local supermarket that feature the American Heart Association’s stamp of approval (officially known as the “heart-check mark”), don’t prioritize heart-healthy nutrients and compounds.  In fact, they condone foods high in nutrients that are damaging to our cardiovascular health.

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    “Men’s Health” Stamp of Approval: First It Was Chocolate Milk, Now It’s Fast Food Burgers with Trans Fats

    How much stock would you put in a nutrition expert who suggested you drink chocolate milk and eat fast food burgers?  What if I told you this expert was nationally renowned as a trusted source of nutrition information, often appearing on television and radio as someone worth listening to?  Sadly, this is not just a hypothetical situation.

    Last week, I was flabbergasted when I came across a hyperbolic article by Men’s Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko’s that painted chocolate milk as one of the absolute best things you can drink for your health, weight, and muscle mass.  This past weekend, I had another “you have GOT to be joking!” moment, thanks to a question tweeted to me by @matchmia.  The question: “what do you think of Hardee’s new turkey burger endorsed by Men’s Health?”.  Wait — what!?!

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    Why “Zero Grams of Trans Fat” Isn’t Necessarily Great News

    It is very likely that, twenty years from now, halfway through sharing a plate of French fries with a friend, you’ll reminisce, chuckle, and ask, “Hey, remember trans fats?”

    No matter how unaware you may be about the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber or why vegetarians who wish to optimize iron absorption from food should refrain from drinking tea or coffee with a meal, you surely know about trans fats. Or, at the very least, you know you should avoid them. How could you not? Popular snacks and fast food chains love to boast that their products are now “free of trans fats”.

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    Burger King’s New Breakfast…. Is More Of The Same

    bk-new-breakfast-menu-items-590Hyperbolic press releases, pricey media campaigns, and plenty of advertising fanfare accompanied the recent unveiling of Burger King’s new breakfast menu.  Higher-ups were quick to point out that the addition of these items to the Burger King breakfast lineup  were the company’s “largest menu expansion ever”.  Like, OMG!

    According to Mike Kapitt, the chain’s chief marketing officer for North America, this menu was designed to “compete to be America’s wake-up call”, and he had no doubt the “quality, variety, and value” on the menu would make Burger King the “breakfast destination”.

    If these new items are America’s wake-up call, then the U.S. of A should smash its alarm clock against the wall and keep snoozing.  Let’s dissect the nutritional bombs unveiled by Burger King, from least to most explosive:

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    You Ask, I Answer: Protein Bar Guidelines

    zero impact barWhat things should I look for in a protein bar?  I use them when I’m on the go at times when I know I will need something, but don’t want to do fast food.

    — Tammy Edwards
    (Via Facebook)

    Wonderful questions.  When it comes to protein bars, I am “on the fence”.  Allow me to explain.

    On the one hand, I don’t think they are terrible and should be shunned.  Sure, there are some horrific protein bars out there (and, in a little bit, I will give you specific parameters to help you choose the better ones), but a smart choice can make for a great snack or meal replacement in a pinch.

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    Health Hype on Aisle 5!

    gogurtAh, that ubiquitous marketing tactic known as the “health halo” appears to be multiplying.

    You know the drill.  Take minimally nutritious food, sprinkle one fiftieth of a pinch of “something healthy”, and market the living *bleep* out of said ingredient on the product’s packaging.

    Consider these recently-spotted offenders:

    • Cinnamon Chex.  “With a touch of real cinnamon,” no less.  Cinnamon offers fiber, manganese, and heart-healthy phytonutrients and antioxidants.  Alas, this cereal contains more sugar, oil, and salt than it does the sweet spice.
    • Betty Crocker Quick Banana Bread Mix.  “With real bananas,” the box touts.  The bananas are in there, alright.  As dried flakes.  Right after white flour, sugar, and partially hydrogenated oils.  PS: Each of the finished product’s twelve servings offers up an entire gram of trans fat.
    • Yoplait Go-Gurt Strawberry Splash & Berry Blue Blast portable yogurt flavor-combination packs. There isn’t a single strawberry or blueberry in either yogurt, not even in dehydrated or powdered form.  Instead, we get artificial dyes (the same ones banned by the European Union) and flavors.
    • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Sub Sandwich, Turkey and Cheddar.  This is described as “more wholesome” than previous varieties.  Does this ingredient list scream “wholesome” to you?

    Thank you to Small Bites intern Laura Smith for valuable assistance with this post.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    20080416_frenchfries_33A 2006 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that “a 2 percent increase in trans fat [consumption] increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 23 percent.

    Yet another reason to emulate Denmark and Switzerland and remove trans fats from the food supply.

    As I have noted in the past, consumers do not notice changes in flavor or texture when partially hydrogenated oils are replaced with oils that do not produce trans fats.

    Trans fat bans in fast food chains have gone into effect in many cities, counties, and states in the United States, and I have yet to hear of any consumer complaints.

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    Numbers Game: Trans Fat Terror

    whats_wrongA 2006 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that “a 2 percent increase in trans fat [consumption] increased the risk of coronary heart disease by _____ percent.”

    a) 15
    b) 23
    c) 31
    d) 9

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Thursday for the answer!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Sugar in Peanut Butter

    smuckers_natural_pbI have noticed in perusing the plain old peanut butter jar labels that many have sugar (in the form of dextrose, I think), or oils like cottonseed oil. What’s up with that?

    It took a lot of label reading to find peanuts that had simply peanuts and salt listed as ingredients.

    — Susan (last name unknown)
    (Location Unknown)

    You can chalk that up to a term food companies love — “shelf stability”.

    If you can create a product that can sit on store and pantry shelves for months, you have an advantage in the market.

    Consumers love shelf stability because they don’t have to worry about a food product spoiling, and can also be transported at room temperature with minimal issues.

    Another important reason?  Texture.

    The oils added to peanut butter are partially — or, more recently, fully — hydrogenated, creating that familiarly uniform and spreadable texture.

    I always recommend “natural” nut butters, which simply contain the ground up nut and, in some cases, a pinch of salt.

    Since the naturally-occurring oil in these varieties separates, you need to stir the contents of the jar first, and then refrigerate for optimal storage and freshness.

    Although conventional peanut butter brands often get slammed for containing added sugar, their sugar content isn’t that high.  A standard two-tablespoon serving only offers 2 grams (a half teaspoon) of added sugar.

    I’m more concerned about the partially hydrogenated oils, especially since the oils used are ones with awful omega 6 to omega 3 ratios.

    Here in New York City, even conventional supermarkets carry one or two “natural” brands, mainly Smuckers and the generic White Rose label.

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    The FDA Cracks Down on Food Labels, and I’m Left Cold

    51HAY3WT6BLThe nutrition blogosphere is abuzz with kudos, thumbs ups, and “You’re my Hero!” banners for the Food & Drug Administration now that they have gone after 18 companies (thank you, Marion Nestle, for that link) for front-of-package violations referring to nutrition claims.

    When I first found out of this development, I was eager to learn what companies had been busted.  After all, on a stroll through any supermarket aisle I usually find a handful of products that make exaggerated claims or make reference to healthful ingredients that, as revealed by the ingredient list, are found in miniscule amounts.

    Instead, the majority of the FDA’s list focuses on products that I consider mostly inoffensive.

    Here’s one example.  Spectrum’s Organics (pictured, right) is “busted” because their organic all-vegetable shortening has a banner on the front of the package advertising “0 grams of trans fat”, without also stating the product contains significant levels of total fat and saturated fat.

    So what?  Spectrum’s Organics is not advertising their product as “low fat”.  They are simply making a statement about trans fat.  What’s so misleading?

    The back of the container, meanwhile, accurately states that this shortening has less saturated fat than butter (one tablespoon of this shortening provides 6 grams of saturated fat, versus butter’s 7.3 grams per tablespoon.)

    According to the FDA, this claim does not meet a legal requirement.

    Spectrum’s Organics also correctly states that their all-vegetable shortening is “cholesterol-free”.  The FDA also has a problem with this from a legal standpoint, even though it is a true statement (no plant foods contain cholesterol).

    While I was certainly glad to see more misleading products — such as a green tea by Redco Foods that claims to help cure, prevent, or treat Alzheimer’s and cancer and POM Wonderful’s many hyped up  health claims for its pomegranate juices– called to the mat, I was mostly underwhelmed.

    Why doesn’t the FDA turn its attention to truly misleading health claims, like the “x grams of whole grains per serving” statements, which mean little and confuse lots?

    When Teddy Grahams that consist largely of white flour and offer a mere dusting of whole wheat flour advertise their “grams of whole grains per serving”, I think back to the amount of consumers I spoke with who thought that statement was in reference to grams of fiber per serving!

    At the very least, those statements should be accompanied by a “not a whole grain food” disclaimer!

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    fruit_vegAccording to figures from the National Cancer Institute, thirty percent of all cancer cases can be attributed to tobacco, while 35 percent are caused by dietary factors.

    While it is true that one explanation for increased cancer rates over the past 100 years is the mere fact that we are living longer, it is also abundantly clear that as diets have become hypercaloric and largely composed of highly processed and refined foods, our cancer risk has significantly increased.

    The thousands of clinical studies that have looked into the effects of diet on cancer point to these factors being most important for cancer risk reduction:

    • Maintaining a healthy weight
    • Consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables
    • Prioritizing monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids
    • Strictly limiting added sugars and trans fats
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    Weekend Fun: What Would The Holidays Be Without… Burger King?

    burgerking suicide-thumb-450x347Burger King addicts, rejoice?

    Erik Trinidad, creator of The Fancy Fast Food blog, has come up with a holiday ham recipe made solely from… Burger King items.

    You can see the ingredient list — and instructional photographs, which I recommend seeing well after you’ve eaten — here.

    Only Small Bites, however, breaks down the nutritional facts for you.

    There is no indication of how many people this is supposed to serve, but I calculated this for twelve servings.  In that case:

    888 calories
    23 grams (more than a day’s worth) of saturated fat
    1.8 grams trans fat
    1,901 milligrams sodium (more than 3/4 of a day’s worth!)

    Want to know the most disturbing part?  There are individual burgers (not combos that come with fries and a drink; just burgers) at Burger King with even worse nutritional profiles!

    PS: The accompanying photo shows what a Burger King Triple Stack hamburger looks like in real life, without camera tricks.

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