Category Archives: Healthy Eating

Ultra-Processed Foods Are Killing Us!

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A newly-reported on study says that more than 50% of American’s calories come from ultra-processed foods, which collectively contain more than 90% of the excess sugar calories in a typical American’s diet. The fortunate exceptions to the rule – people who don’t consume such high volumes of ultra-processed foods or huge excesses of sugar – include vegetarians and vegans. Also consistently outside the crowd of consumers of especially unhealthy foods are those who, like me, have medical conditions (mine is Chronic Kidney Disease) that require close monitoring of what and how much is eaten. By the nature of this kind of diet, ultra- and even highly-processed foods are pretty much off the (dinner) table.

Ultra-processed foods contain high volumes of such things as salt, sugar, oils and fats, plus an assortment of flavorings, emulsifiers and other additives designed to mimic real foods, the researchers quoted by HealthDay said.

Ultra-processed foods include foods include sodas, sweet or savory packaged snacks, candy and desserts, packaged baked goods, instant noodles and soups, and reconstituted meat products, such as chicken and fish nuggets.

By comparison, “processed” foods, which also contain added salt, sugar and other substances including preservatives, use those added ingredients in far smaller quantities than ultra-processed foods serve up.

Excess sugar in the diet boosts your risk for weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay, said lead researcher Euridice Martinez Steele, from the department of nutrition in the School of Public Health at Brazil’s University of Sao Paulo.

Too much sodium (salt) also increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks and other negative medical conditions.

“Decreasing the consumption of ultra-processed foods may be an effective way of reducing the excessive added sugar [and sodium] intake in the U.S.,” Steele says.

She notes that people should avoid processed products that require little or no preparation – things such as packaged soups, instant noodles, prepared frozen dishes and sandwiches, cold cuts and sausages, ready-to-eat sauces and cake mixes.

She’s a strong advocate of drinking water, pasteurized fresh milk and freshly squeezed fruit juices, and, avoiding soft drinks, sweetened milk drinks and reconstituted, flavored fruit juices.

The report was published online March 9 in the journal BMJ Open.

The researchers reviewed information from more than 9,000 people. They all took part in the 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Study volunteers provided information about their diets.

The researchers found that added sugars make up more than one in five calories in the average ultra-processed food product. That’s as much as eight times higher than the calories from added sugars found in other foods, Steele said.

The recommended upper limit of calories from sugar is 10 percent of daily calories, the researchers noted. In people who ate the most ultra-processed food, more than 80 percent exceeded the upper limit of sugar.

Only people who ate the least ultra-processed foods had below the recommended levels of sugar, the researchers said.

“What many consumers do not realize is that added sugars come in many forms in many highly processed foods that include desserts and sweets, but that also include foods like sausages, cereal bars, ketchup, French fries, salad dressings and frozen pizzas,” said Samantha Heller. She’s a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City.

This survey highlights the extraordinary amount of ultra-processed foods in the American diet, and the over-the-top amounts of sugar and salt and fat found in these foods, she said.

One serving of a frozen French bread pizza contains 830 milligrams of salt, four different kinds of added sugars, trans fats and 21 grams of total fat, Heller pointed out.

“Another, more nefarious and insidious problem lurks in these foods as well,” she said. “Ultra-processed foods are chemically designed by the food companies to induce cravings for those foods, and sugar, fat and sodium are a big part of those formulas.”

The only way to break the chemical food cravings, and slash the intake of chemicals, calories, added sugars, fat and sodium, is to make more food at home from scratch, Heller said.

‘Want To Be Smarter? Eat Chocolate!

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Chocolate consumption can make you smarter? A new study says ‘yes’. (Photo: ALAMAY)

A recently published study showing that chocolate consumption can make you smarter – yes, make you smarter! – revealed a ‘who woulda thunk it’ fact: Women — those in this study, anyway — eat more chocolate than men; At least the ones in this sample did!

That chocolate can enhance your mental and cognitive abilities – including math skillsis surprising. That women tend to eat more chocolate than men is sort of like saying men are more likely than women to urinate standing up!

The study described recently in the journal Appetite, was done in the U.S. between 2001 and 2006. It was an isolated and carefully calibrated sub-set of a study that began in the 1970’s to examine the cognitive abilities of close to 1,000 people, who were followed over a significant number of years.

The chocolate-related part of the study was done at the urging of  Georgina Crichton, a nutrition researcher at the University of South Australia. She recognized that the so-called Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) presented a unique opportunity to examine the effects of chocolate on the brain because of its large sample, of slightly fewer than 1,000 individuals spanning a broad age spectrum.

Researchers have long known that chocolate consumption can help reduce one’s risk of strokes, reduces ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol levels while boosting ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol levels, can protect your skin against sun damage, can help you lose weight, reduces stress in mothers-to-be, reduces blood pressure,  and even help prevent diabetes. But Ms. Crichton’s research provided an exciting new reason to enjoy one of the world’s favorite sweets.

In 2009, 7.2 million tons of chocolate were consumed worldwide (Statista, 2015). Commonly associated with pleasure and enjoyment, chocolate is a frequently ‘craved’ food, possibly due to its rich natural complexity that provides a sweet taste. Its high carbohydrate and fat content and highly palatable orosensory qualities, obtained from its specific constituents, may all contribute to its appeal as a ‘comfort’ food, various sources say. (See above-cited sources.)

It’s a good bet that sectors of the food industry will do what they can to exploit the MSLS and even statistics cited here to further promote chocolate-based products. And why wouldn’t they?

A New Shelf-stable Probiotic May Benefit Many Food Products, and People

 

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It’s called LactoSpore, and a study recently published in the International Journal of Food Science & Technology says it is “significantly stable during processing and in respective storage conditions of baked food, beverages, vegetable oil, concentrated glucose syrup and in brewed coffee,”NutraceuticalsWorld.com reported earlier this month (February).

The study was called ““Evaluation of the stability of Bacillus coagulans MTCC 5856 during processing and storage of functional foods.” It was published online on January 20 by the food science and technology journal.

The authors found:

  • B. coagulans MTCC 5856 was found to be stable during processing and storage of baked food.
  • B. coagulans MTCC 5856 retained 87% viability during coffee brewing.
  • B. coagulans MTCC 5856 retained 99% viability in apple juice up to 6 months at 4°C (39.2F) and had over 90% viability in glucose syrup up to 24 months at 40°C (104F).

“The most crucial property that a probiotic can have, to confer health benefits, is demonstrated stability,” said Shaheen Majeed, marketing director, Sabinsa and one of the authors of the paper. “In this publication, our studies on LactoSpore prove beyond a doubt that our room temperature shelf-stable probiotic can be incorporated in everyday types of formulations.

“We’re creating more opportunities for our customers with different kinds of probiotic formulations using LactoSpore, which ultimately benefits the consumer.”

WebMD says this about probiotics:

“Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.

“Probiotics are naturally found in your body. You can also find them in some foods and supplements.

It’s only been since about the mid-1990s that people have wanted to know more about probiotics and their health benefits. Doctors often suggest them to help with digestive problems. And because of their newfound fame, you can find them in everything from yogurt to chocolate.”

Millennials Don’t Shop, Eat Like Earlier Generations, Reports Say

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Photo: Nutraceuticals World

It was, of course, inevitable: Millennials, like generations that preceded them, are having impacts on buying patterns in food stores. A big shift with the age group born between 1982 and 1994 – which is, according to the Urban Dictionary definition of ‘Millennials’, “something special, cause mom and dad and their 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Winotsky, told them so” – is in who’s doing the grocery shopping and what they’re buying.

More often than in the past, says a survey cited recently in Nutraceuticals World magazine, shoppers are male, and their choices are healthier ones.
The 12th iteration of Agosta Inc.’s twice-annual “The Why Behind the Buy” says, “Shoppers are shopping more consciously, and [are] willing to spend slightly more money and time in an effort to make healthy meals. With less stocking of the pantry and greater focus on cooking at home, more shoppers are prioritizing healthy, homemade meals, especially when it comes to feeding their families.”

An estimated 86% of surveyed shoppers reported eating dinner at home four or more days in the past week, with 37% eating dinner at home all seven days in the preceding week. And they’re increasingly opting for natural and organic foods as well as locally sourced products, the survey data showed.

Parents are especially thoughtful about their food choices. For example, 51% agreed with the statement: “We eat healthy foods even though they are more expensive.” Interest in local products across a range of consumer demographics is exemplified by growth in farmers markets across the U.S. According to the USDA, the number of farmers markets grew more than 350% from 1994 to 2014.

However, even as they express a preference for locally-sourced food, a sizable share of surveyed Millennials also take advantage of online shopping opportunities “to help support their busy, mobile lifestyles,” the report says. It notes that 41% of parents with kids use online grocery ordering, either for delivery or pick-up at the retailer, at least once a month, compared to 29% of total U.S. shoppers.

Some of these findings are, of course, dependent on where surveyed individuals live. For example, the small town I live in appears to have a relatively small population of Millennials – judging from my personal observations as I’m out and about and shopping and dining locally. And none of the town’s food stores – there are three: A Walmart, a Food Lion and a locally-owned smaller-than-super market – offer online food shopping opportunities.

I would venture to guess that most comparably-sized towns (pop. roughly 3,500) offer comparable shopping amenities and online food shopping opportunities – which is to say, a fraction of what you’d expect to find in an urban area or city.

That’s not meant to downplay the importance of  Agosta’s study. But it and similar research, such as was reported recently by Mintel, suggests Americans in general are taking healthier approaches to what they eat and how much they exercise. In so doing, they are encouraging both restaurants and supermarkets to focus more on fresher, healthier foods, and more produced within 50 miles or so of where they’re sold.

Local sourcing is stressed by all three of the local food markets, particularly in the produce section. And the locally-owned store is well recognized as the go-to place for top-grade meat offerings.

Citing the Agosta report, Nutraceuticals World said men, especially dads, are shopping more and having more impact on buying patterns than ever before. “Due in part to generational differences and economic factors, more U.S. males are spending time grocery shopping. Men suffered the most job losses during the recession, and data indicates that the number of stay-at-home dads continues to grow. Couple that with Millennials (and their modern perspective on hands-on parenting) now starting families of their own, and the result is dramatic shifts in the number, frequency and attitude of male grocery shoppers. These guys like to food shop.”

Millennial dads in particular, often having waited longer to get married and have children, are approaching fatherhood without the gender role norms of older generations.

“These dads are proactively engaged in child rearing and taking on more household tasks, including grocery shopping,” Acosta said. “In fact, Mintel reports that 80% of millennial dads claim primary or shared grocery shopping responsibility.” Dads typically spend more, particularly on organic products, and shop more frequently. Mintel also noted that dads are doing more of the food shopping these days, and it recommends every possible effort should be made to market to them.

 

Many Hospitals Lack Taste In Food Service Offerings

 

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The symbol for the Food Services and Nutrition Department at J.C. Blair Hospital, Huntingdon PA, where the mission is to serve “tasty, appealing and nutritious meals.” Sadly, many hospitals’ food service operations don’t share this mission statement.

Who better than the non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to evaluate the healthiness or lack thereof in hospital food service?

The Committee, which has 12,000 physician members, recently obtained and closely analyzed patient menus and the types of foods offered to hospital staff and visitors from 24 hospitals across the U.S. They were a representative sampling of 262 hospitals surveyed by the Committee, including the country’s 50 largest public hospitals and at least one facility in every state.

Some of what they discovered was, in a word, shocking! An incredible number of hospitals not only have contracts with fast feeders such as Wendy’s and Chic-fil-A, many also encourage or acquiesce to demands that they do all they can to boost the sales of ordinarily-seen-as-unhealthy foods to boost either the fast food company’s or the hospital’s profits.

Such contracts fly in the face of Harvard research presented at an American Heart Association meeting last year that found study participants who ate fried foods up to three times a week saw an 18 percent increased risk for heart disease. The risk increased with the frequency of fried food consumption, with about a 25 percent increased risk if eaten four to six times a week and up to 68 percent if eaten seven times or more a week. This information is, of course, readily available to hospital administrators – and actively ignored by many of them.

One of the most surprising and hard-to-believe un-noted findings of the Committee’s study was the apparent unconcern that hospital staff, presumably including a fair number of doctors, exhibit about the food offerings of the facilities where they work. Not only does hospital staff seemingly accept without question the quality of food offered to them, they also seem to be less than acceptably concerned about what’s fed to their patients. The latter, of course, rightfully anticipate their health is the primary concern of those treating them and the institution itself.

These days, one doesn’t have to have intimate knowledge of health issues related to the consumption of too much fat, etc., to appreciate that putting profit before nutrition is something hospitals should not be doing. And the PCRM is fighting back, with the likes of a hard-hitting campaign against the 20 U.S. hospitals, including four in Texas, that feature Chick-fil-A outlets and the not-very-healthy foods they offer. This advertising campaign, which started January 25, includes billboards, street kiosks and other sites where Chick-fil-A’s advertising is mocked with a photo of three white-coated doctors holding signs saying “Eat More Chickpeas.” The ads encourage viewers to “Ask your local hospital to go #FastFoodFree!” A website,www.EatMoreChickpeas.org, lists Twitter handles and other contact information for hospitals that host Chick-fil-As. Additionally, large bus shelter ads are positioned near Chick-fil-A headquarters in Atlanta.

“Many of the hospitals that host Chick-fil-As are in states with high rates of diet-related diseases, making hospitals part of the overall toxic food environment,” says Angie Eakin, M.D., M.S., one of the doctors who appears in the advertisements. “Hospitals should be fast-food-free, and patients should eat more chickpeas, vegetables, fruits, and other foods that can promote healing and prevent disease.”

Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta has a “percentage rent” agreement with McDonald’s, meaning the more artery-clogging burgers and shakes sold to patients, the more money the hospital makes. When Grady’s McDonald’s contract expires in June 2016, it should consider expanding the healthful options in its cafeteria.

Several hospitals named in the Physicians Committee’s previous reports have recently improved their food environments by closing McDonald’s restaurants. These include Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Texas, Memorial Regional Hospital in Florida, Riley Children’s Hospital in Indiana and the Cleveland Clinic. Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minnesota has announced it will soon close its McDonald’s, ending its contract early.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS and others that host fast-food restaurants earned lower scores in the 2016 report.

The Chick-fil-A contract with the University of Mississippi Medical Center asks the medical center to “make every reasonable effort to increase the sales and business and maximize the Gross Receipts.” This means the hospital is promoting fried chicken and other foods tied to serious chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes.

“Hospitals that are fast-food-free and instead have rooftop gardens earn the highest scores,” says Karen Smith, R.D., senior dietitian for the Physicians Committee. “Hospital gardens provide fresh vegetables for hot soup and other plant-based patient meals that can prevent or reverse diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.”
Hospitals earning the highest Patient Food Scores include Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island (NY), which has a rooftop garden, Aspen Valley Hospital in Aspen, CO., C.S. Mott children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI, and Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, NY.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Are You SURE You Want To Eat That Chicken/Pork Chop/Sausage? (How About Those Eggs?)

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It’s widely known that many factory farms horribly mistreat some of the animals they take in, raise, kill and process into food for humans (and sometimes for human’s pets). It’s also common knowledge that much of what goes on in facilities that – let’s be honest – are parts of big businesses, businesses in business to provide humans (and their pets) with a form of nourishment. Fortunately, as people seek fresher, healthier food, a lot of what those facilities produce is falling out of favor with a growing segment of the population. People particularly concerned about their cholesterol and/or fat intake – not to mention their concern about the way farmed and even supposedly ‘free-range’ animals are dealt with by food processors are, sometimes at the suggestion of their primary care physician, reducing their red meat intake. Others, because of the widely-reported abuses of chickens in facilities where they are raised and, eventually, killed, steer clear of that branch of the poultry family, too.

Consider these facts: [1] pigs often are grossly mistreated – dragged, alive, across floors with a hook, have their throats cut when they’re still alive (in total violation of Federal law), and all that after being made to live in and be coated with their own waste; [2] chickens are so tightly confined – whether they’re intended for eggs or food – that they can’t even turn around, and they’re fed antibiotics (that humans eventually consume) and other substances to increase their growth rate, to twice the normal amount in a six-week period, after which the meat-oriented ones are killed; The egg-producers carry on for as long as two years, until they can no longer produce eggs; Then they become, more than likely, the prime ingredient of chicken broth or soup; [3] cattle, which used to roam free and eat grass, now are made to grow far faster than nature intended thanks to combinations of antibiotics and other ‘stuff’ (plus a bit of real nutrients) that, slowly but surely, is contributing to humans’ inability to benefit from some antibiotics because of the immunity they acquire from animal-meat consumption.

The fact that all that happens is bad enough: What’s worth is that ‘big ag’, which mass-farms much of the meat and eggs we eat, is increasingly winning state legislatures over – through, of course, their massive lobbying might – to enact what at known as ‘ag-gag’ laws. They are designed to make it illegal for anyone to secretly record or even verbally report to a reporter, or a legislator, that this farm or that one is conducting its business in an inhumane way. The penalties for violating those laws can run to fines of up to $5000 per day a ‘whistle’blower’s’ message has been ‘out there’.

There are people running for president today who are all for reducing the impact of government on American citizens. There’s a congress in place that has, for years, refused to fund the Department of Agriculture or any other agency to a point where it can monitor and deal with abusive issues in the production of the animals we eat.

Meanwhile, the American public is spending, not entirely voluntarily, tens of millions of dollars on a space program – aimed at sending people to unreasonably-far-distant planets and at working, through land- and space-based telescopes, to answer unanswerable – and totally pointless – questions, such as what does it all mean?, where did we come from?, Why are we here?

When all is said and done, who gives a flying frankfurter when there are starving, jobless people in this country (and in others with similarly pointless pursuits).

There are plenty of idealists, and dreamers, and other odd types who things something as abstract as space exploration makes sense. They, each of them, need to do a __/__/____ check  — on their birthday.

If they’re over 50, it’s unlikely that in their lifetime we will be dis-engaged from Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Syria. Or that Israelis will get to grip with reality and allow the Palestinians a ‘state’ of their own.

If you want to do something worthwhile this year, lobby your congressman, senators and state-level representatives to block ag-gag laws. We need more – not less insight – into how our protein food is produced and processed. And we, as people, need to be more concerned, and vocal, about the abuses going on ‘factory farming’.

You might also think about contributing to Farm Forward, the only national organization dedicated to stopping factory farming. Their web site contains a wealth of information both about the issue and what they are doing about it.

 

More Leafy Greens Consumption Reduces Risks of Glaucoma: Study

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Regular consumption of leafy greens  such as lettuce, kale spinach and chard could reduce ones risk of developing open-angle glaucoma, according to results of a study published January 14 in JAMA Opthalmology. The lead researcher was Jae H. Kang, ScD, of Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

An analysis by Dr. Kang and her colleagues found nitrate-rich foods such as leafy greens can cut risks of regular glaucoma by 20-30% for most people and by as much as 40-50% for individuals with early paracentral (central) visual field loss.

Their study followed earlier research that indicated Nitric oxide (NO) is involved with both glaucoma and ocular blood circulation. Nearly 80% of NO is obtained by the body from leafy greens, the authors of this study declared.

Two groups were studied – 121,700 females in the Nurses’ Health Study, between 1984-2012, from when the women were 30-35 years of age, and 51,529 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which ran between 1986 and 2012, starting when the subjects were between 40-75 years of age. More than 85% of the participants were monitored every 2 to 4 years through mailed questionnaires that explored their health, diet and disease status. The women’s questionnaire consisted of 126 queries; The men’s contained 131.

In preparing to do the analysis, the researchers eliminated participants affected by diseases that could cause them to alter their diet, as well as individuals younger than 40 – the age at which one’s risk for developing glaucoma noticeably increases. The records of 63,893 women and 41,094 men were included in the analysis, which represented 1,678,713 person-years of follow-ups.

In the nearly 105,000 analysis subjects, 433 were found during the analysis to have early paracentral vision field loss, and 835 suffered from peripheral vision field loss.

Sub groups had consumer greater or lesser amounts of leafy greens, and the detailed break-down of the analysis indicated that “higher dietary nitrate and green leafy vegetable intake was associated with a lower POAG (primary open-angle glaucoma) risk, particularly with early paracentral vision field loss as a diagnosis.”