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    (Really) South of the Border

    My week in Buenos Aires revealed several interesting tidbits on how nutrition and dieting are perceived in Argentina.

    I’ll begin with similarities I observed between the land of tango and the nation of apple pie.

    The absence of trans fats in a given food product is heavily advertised on packaging.

    Supersizing is not limited to the United States. Alfajores – a popular Argentine treat consisting of dulce de leche filling between two chocolate-coated cookies – have recently started to become available in triple-sizes! This extra cookie – and additional layer of dulce de leche – increases the caloric content by 75 percent.

    Vegetarian items are becoming more mainstream at supermarkets. From soy burgers to soy milanesas (a traditional food, basically breaded beef or chicken cutlets), going meat-free in the world’s beef capital is becoming a little easier. Soymilk is unheard of for all intents and purposes, though, as are seitan and tempeh.

    Fiber consumption is well below recommendations. Very few restaurants offer high-fiber vegetables as side dishes, beans and legumes are not staples, oatmeal is not a popular breakfast item, and whole grains are not consumed as often as they should be.

    Now, the differences.

    The gluten-free market is considerably larger in Argentina. Many supermarkets boast “gluten-free” sections or aisles, and popular gelaterias indicate which flavors are celiac-friendly.

    Protein is not the star nutrient it is in the United States. Unlike in the United States, you do not see any foods advertised as “high in protein” or “x grams of protein per serving!” Protein shakes and supplements are not popular.

    Nuts, seeds, and legumes are not heavily consumed. Not only are they expensive for the average Argentine, they are also not culturally significant.

    Despite being one of the world’s leading blueberry exporters, Argentines do not traditionally snack on this wonderful fruit.

    When it comes to fighting the common cold, zinc lozenges are not advertised (or even sold, really).

    For some odd reason, Omega-9 fatty acids are heavily advertised on foods containing them. I find this strange because Omega 9 is not essential (since our bodies are able to produce it). It is Omega 3 and 6 that we must obtain from the diet (although, as I have explained in the past, our Omega 3 to 6 ratio is scarily disproportionate).

    I’ll expand on some of these points over the next week. Also, look for a “Shame on You” post on Argentina’s latest hotshot weight-loss doctor soon.

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    One Comment

    1. martalaura said on January 4th, 2008

      Very interesting comparison. I thought that Argentina would be very high in meat consumption. I found that the US is the highest consumer of meat according to
      http://www.worldwatch.org/node/1626

      USA 123 kg per person per year ranking at number one
      Argentina 80 kg per person per year ranking at number 4 below, Germany and Italy.

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