Category Archives: Heart-Healthy

Cut the Cocoa, Add Jackfruit Flour, Result: Pretty Much the Same

jackfruit-growing

The bad news: Persistently low and volatile prices are raising fears that world demand for cocoa, the principal ingredient in the much-loved confectionery known as chocolate, could soon exceed availability. Aside from something called swollen shoot virus disease, the problem is, given the money, solvable: A shortage of warehouse storage capacity in the major cocao productions of West Africa, South America and Asia could relatively easily be overcome by, duh, building more facilities. But the funds to do so are lacking, so the risk of shortages is a real one.

The good news: Researchers in the UK and Brazil have found people identify a chocolate-like aroma in flour made from roasted jackfruit seeds, according to Food Navigator. Their studies hold promise for jackfruit’s ability to mimic the aroma of chocolate, making jackfruit, which has many of the same characteristics as cocoa, a potential stand-in for the real thing, providing consumers a taste and feel they like like in chocolate-like products.

The even better news: A study at the University of Malaysia has found that substituting a proportion of jackfruit flour for wheat flour in cake-making can result in a caloric reduction of more than 30% in the end product.

Food Dive reports that, “The International Cocoa Organization said about 4.7 million tons of cocoa are currently being produced worldwide, with total production expected to rise about 18% from 2016.

It’s still early as far as the jackfruit being used as a substitute for cocoa. Even if the fruit has many of the same characteristics as cocoa, if it does not mirror the taste or texture, it could instantly turn off consumers. It’s also uncertain how well the flour made from roasted jackfruit seeds would work with other ingredients used to make chocolate, or how much it would cost to produce the cocoa-like substitute. Figuring out these answers will go a long way toward determining whether it can displace cocoa in even a small amount of foods.

Developing additional U.S. markets for the popular jackfruit — now used in ice cream, smoothies, soups and side dishes — could stimulate new income streams, along with adding value and reducing widespread waste in places where it grows.

Jackfruit is the world’s largest tree-borne fruit, capable of reaching sizes of more than 80 pounds, growing both on branches and the trunks of trees native to South and East Asia. It’s botanically related to figs, mulberries and breadfruit.

It also has a dual identity. If it’s left to ripen, it becomes amazingly fruity and has been rumored to be the inspiration for the flavor of Juicy Fruit gum.

The fruit is increasingly popular with U.S. consumers. Pinterest named jackfruit as the top food item people will be trying in 2017 based on a 420% increase in interest among users of the social media platform. Vegetarians and vegans are driving some of this interest because of jackfruit’s evolving role as a meat substitute, despite its relative lack of protein.

Jackfruit delivers a powerful nutritional package as a significant source of vitamin A, C and the B-complex vitamins, dietary fiber and several important minerals, particularly potassium, magnesium, manganese and iron. Among its other assets, jackfruit contains no cholesterol and virtually no fat.

Please check out our other blog, YouSawWHAT.info.

(Between them, these blogs have been view in 90 countries!)

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What’s In A Name? Trouble, Where “Fructose” Is Concerned

fructose_artThe following information is not confirmed, as of June 5, 2017, on an FDA website. The information below was provided by a company that offers nutritional supplements. Take the advice with a grain of salt – but no more than that, because excess salt is as serious a problem as is too much sugar!

I’m just writing to tip you off that the FDA is currently allowing food manufacturers to rename high-fructose corn syrup on ingredient labels.
And the big food companies are THRILLED about this. After all, this toxic ingredient has taken a beating in the press lately for being so unhealthy.
In fact, it got to the point where having high-fructose corn syrup” on ingredient lists was hurting sales.
That’s why the powerful food industry pushed for a new name… and as usual, they got their way.
The new name is simply “fructose” or “fructose syrup.”
Now, if you’ve read my blog on sugar, you already know fructose is one of the most dangerous things for your body. It skyrockets your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease.
And yet… food manufacturers put it in nearly everything. After all, it’s sweet and addictive — and it makes you eat more of their food.
Most people don’t know this, though. They know high-fructose corn syrup is bad. And some even know sugar is bad, too. But they don’t know it’s all because of the fructose.
And this name change is tricking many people into thinking dangerous, body-damaging food is okay.
That’s why I want you to be on the lookout for your enemy’s new name on ingredient labels:
The new name for high-fructose corn syrup is simply “fructose” or “fructose syrup.”
Make sure to spread the word to your friends and family, too.

Yes, do that. And for your own good, become a serious label reader, particularly if you are diabetic or, like me, a chronic kidney disease (CKD) sufferer. If you are dietarily sensitive to salt, potassium or something else, get religious about controlling your intake. It’s not hard to do, if you’re careful.

 

Consumers Want ‘Clean’ Food Labels; Now Professionals’ Tool Helps Them Define What Is, Isn’t, ‘Clean’

 

Every so often (every fifteen minutes or so, it sometimes seems!), a new food-related ‘buzz word’ catches the ear of consumers – sometimes almost at the same time it attracts the attention of food industry professionals. Not long ago, the ‘new’ word, or phrase, was ‘clean labels‘ – meaning, among other things, labels free of multi-syllable, unpronounceable words naming ingredients no one without a science degree can understand.

Consumers want ‘clean’ labels – and the products behind them to be healthier, less likely to initiate or compound health issues, than too many existing products are, or appear to be.

Complex additives are put into food products for an assortment of reasons, including flavor enhancement (salt and other spices being good examples), an ability to hold various ingredients in a liquid, semi-liquid or solid formula (emulsifiers and stabilizers), and shelf life-extending (salt again, as well as other things). Some of these reasons have seemed to make sense to product producers, but increasingly, they make less if any sense to consumers. That, and the fact that consumers are increasingly demanding healthier, ‘greener’ foods, are leading causes of the clean label movement.

The tool at https://gocleanlabel.com/about/ was created by a professional for professionals, but consumers, too, can use it to learn more about the clean label movement and, more specifically, to answer questions they have about specific ingredients. Questions such as ‘what is this’ and ‘what is it meant to do’. You also can use it to identify still-being-used materials that are, or aren’t, ‘clean’.

Both food processors and retailers are making strong steps to ensure fewer potentially harmful (or simply unnecessary) chemicals are added to foodstuffs. Undoubtedly, there are people who feel the industry isn’t moving fast enough – people who would, in effect, throw the baby out with the bathwater: Good chems out with not-so-good (or absolutely bad!) ones.

Ultimately, members of the consuming public need to take a greater interest in educating themselves about food additives, and learn how to make reasoned decisions about what they’re OK with putting in their bodies, and what they’re not.

I am working on a feature (for fooddive.com) about the new nutrition label that has been developed by the FDA. It is tentatively scheduled to become mandatory on a majority of food products (all except those produced in relatively small volumes) in 2018. But there’s already some push-back from at least one organization, and you can expect more push-back as a result of what we can only imagine will be dramatic, drastic changes of direction by the incoming presidential administration.

The thrust of my piece concerns the fact that changes to the nutrition label, while very much a separate issue from the overall additives one, reflect the fact that both industry, which had a hand in shaping the proposed label, and government are struggling – and that is not too strong a word – to deal with increasing scientific knowledge about foods and with changing consumer expectations.

As a courtesy to the readers of this blog, I will post a short note when my fooddive.com feature on that topic is published. (FYI, I write regularly on ingredients for fooddive.com. And as I’ve done for most of the past 40 years, I also regularly scan food trade publications – and now, web sites, too – around the world for both industry trends and consumer attitude shifts for this blog, which originated in the mid 1970’s as a column for trade publications in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.)

(By the way, between them, this blog and my other one, YouSayWHAT.info, have been read in no fewer than 80 countries in the last year!)

Veggies A Growing Trend in Fast and Medium-Speed Eateries

veggies

The good news is, fast- and medium-speed feeders are flocking to veggies and giving less emphasis to their traditional greasy, not-very-healthy mainstays. The not-so-good news is, unless restaurant operators pay a lot of attention to what they’re doing, they risk losing a higher-than-they’re-used-to amount to spoilage and/or expose their customers to veggie-borne illnesses, often spread through improper washing at or very near the point-of-preparation.

“We’re going to see more vegetables,” Panera’s head chef Dan Kish told Business Insider a few days ago.

“We’re going to see culinary treatments of those vegetables in ways that bring out their flavors without adding a lot of other things to it — so keeping things as natural as possible. Upping the percentage of vegetables in your diet — [it] is part of our job to help you with that.”

Ironically enough, Kish brought up the rise of vegetables at an event promoting the launch of the chain’s new and improved bacon. However, in the modern chain-restaurant landscape, meat and vegetables are increasingly living in harmony on menus.

While Panera isn’t ditching meat, it is working to add more vegetables across the menu.

Kish says that Panera is aiming to balance meat-centric options, like a bacon-turkey sandwich, by packing more vegetables into the dish.

On the other hand, Taco Bell, a chain hardly known for sustainability and nutrition in the way that Panera is, has a slightly different approach that’s similarly packed with vegetables. The Mexican chain emphasizes customization, and customers’ ability to make almost any dish meat-free.  Last year, Taco Bell debuted a vegetarian menu certified by the American Vegetarian Association, which allows customers to substitute beans and rice for meat in most menu offerings.

“Vegetarian has been really big for us recently,” because of its relevance to millennials, Taco Bell’s dietitian and product developer, Missy Nelson, told Business Insider earlier this year.

Even less vegetarian-friendly chains are realizing that vegetables may be key to success. While once iceberg lettuce and tired tomatoes were accepted as a forgettable garnish at chain restaurants, meat-centric chains are doubling down on veggie quality.

Both Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s have ditched iceberg lettuce in recent years. Instead, the chains are testing vegetables such as kale and broccolini.

“They didn’t feel iceberg lettuce was a nutritious green, and they didn’t feel good about eating it in a salad,” McDonald’s corporate chef Jessica Foust told Business Insider in July.

Why are fast-food chains investing in vegetables, something that has long been seen as antithetical to their existence?

Part of the reason is customer demand: While only about 3% of Americans identify as vegetarian or vegan, an increasing number of people are cutting meat from their diets. According to a 2015 study, 26% to 41% of Americans report that they cut down on the amount of meat they ate in the past year.

Adding more vegetables to the menu is a great way to appeal to the average American, who may not be committed to a 100%-meat-free lifestyle, but wants to dabble in more veggie-friendly diet.

However, there is also a hidden financial bonus to focusing on beefing up vegetables offerings. Vegetables typically cost less than meat, meaning that adding more vegetables to a dish can provide a cheaper way to fill up customers.

Chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson have made headlines with the concept Loco’l, where they’re doing a lot of experimenting with veggie burgers. The concept provides healthy meals at fast-food prices by cutting costs by doing things such as adding more grains and vegetables to chain standards like burgers. Customers fill up faster, and the company is able to save money while also providing a healthier meal.

As old-school chains explore their vegetarian options, Loco’l isn’t the only new concept banking on vegetables.

By Chloe aims to offer unexpected vegetable options that nonvegans will enjoy. 

By Chloe, a new 100%-vegan chain, only opened its first location a year ago, in New York City.

Now the chain has a location in Los Angeles opened in partnership with Whole Foods 365, a recently opened sweets shop, and several more new locations in development. On Friday, the chain announced it was adding two new vegan contributing chefs to the organization, Jenné Claiborne and Lauren Kretzer.

By Chloe doesn’t offer any meat or meat-byproducts on the menu. However, the vegan chain has some surprising similarities to fast-food chain in its approach to vegetables.

According to the company, more than 80% of customers are not even vegetarian. In fact, a number of customers don’t even realize that the concept is vegan when they order their food.

This notion, that vegetable-based food is appealing to nonvegetarians, is the very same idea responsible for the rise of vegetables in fast food. In 2016, veggies aren’t just for vegetarians — they’re also for all types fast-food lovers.

But veggies do require different, and sometimes greater, care and attention than tried-and-true (but losing favor with consumers) traditional meat-based menu items. Where the latter can be taken in and held frozen until just before they’re needed, veggies don’t often deal well with extreme cold, and some don’t hold up for long enough periods of time in kitchen levels of heat.

Sure, new veggie based menu items offer opportunities to please customers in different ways. But they present challenges, too.

 

Critics Slam McD’s Ad, Say They’re NOT Loving It

mcdonald-s-mcnuggets-commercial-ad

 

It’s one thing – a nice thing, in fact – for McDonald’s to have eliminated artificial preservatives from its Chicken McNuggets, but it’s quite something else, critics say, for the company to imply, as a current TV campaign does, that Mickey D focuses on serving, what “we all want – what’s best for our kids!”

Adding that line to a commercial selling McNuggets has some health advocates crying foul.

“That’s the defining line that sets up the whole ad,” says Emily Mardell, a registered dietitian in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. That and the whole concept of the ad, she says, “is incredibly misleading.”

Using even stronger language, the executive director of Ottawa (Canada)’s Centre for Health Science and Law calls that marketing approach “grossly misleading. Bill Jeffery argues preservatives or no preservatives, deep-fried and salted Chicken McNuggets “simply aren’t a healthy choice for children,” according to a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) report. “What they’re advocating is so far removed from good nutrition, it’s almost kind of laughable,” Jeffery declared.

Still, McDonald’s, says the company is very serious about its campaign to promote its preservative-free McNuggets, which already have no artificial flavors or colors.

The chain started offering its reformed finger food at U.S. and Canadian locations in August.

The move is part of a bigger mission to offer menu items that better “reflect the cares and concerns of the modern day guest,” McDonald’s Canada spokesman Adam Grachnik said in an email to CBC News.

“We are on a journey to be better.”

The journey includes dropping some reportedly questionable ingredients from McNuggets like TBHQ — a preservative used for vegetable oils.

Besides the line, “We all want what’s best for our kids,” the company also promotes the menu item online with the phrase, “Because your family matters.”

But health advocates say eliminating a preservative or two doesn’t change the overall health concerns with fast food.

“It’s not a categorical shift,” says Mardell.

“These are still foods that are high in fat, high in sodium. They’re not the types of foods that you want in the everyday or even in routine intake for children.”

According to McDonald’s own numbers, just four McNuggets contain nine grams of fat and 300 milligrams of sodium — one-quarter of the recommended daily sodium requirement for kids ages four to eight.

McDonald’s serves up its Chicken McNuggets with its own dipping sauces that contain preservatives. And the above-cited sodium numbers don’t include the accompanying dipping sauce, one of which, the barbecue, option has the highest sodium count at 300 milligrams — as much as four McNuggets.

And the fact the company’s commercials don’t mention that the dipping sauces still contain preservatives prompted the CEO of a major U.S. restaurant chain, Panera Bread, to also suggest McDonald’s is misleading customers.

“I was offended watching this commercial,” CEO Ron Shaich told Business Insider. “I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ Sure, you’ve got McNuggets that are preservative-free, but what are you dipping them in? Sauces that are filled with that stuff!”

McDonald’s Grachnik also listed an improvement the company made last spring: adding leafy green vegetables like kale to its salads. But in February, CBC News revealed McDonald’s crispy chicken caesar kale salad entree with dressing has more calories, fat and sodium than a Double Big Mac. At 1,400 milligrams, the sodium amount nearly meets an adult’s daily recommended intake.

“Putting kale into the menu doesn’t mean you’re getting a healthy choice,” Toronto registered dietitian Shauna Lindzon told CBC News at the time.

When you add the accompanying dressing to the crispy chicken caesar salad with kale, it has more calories, salt and fat than a Double Big Mac.

mcdonald-s-burger-kale-salad

When you add the accompanying dressing to the crispy chicken caesar salad with kale, it has more calories, salt and fat than a Double Big Mac.

Bill Jeffery of the Centre for Health Science and Law says it’s nice to see a big company moving towards antibiotic-free chicken. But he still finds himself underwhelmed by McDonald’s changes.

“This isn’t about improving the health of their customers,” he concludes. “They’re just going to try to appeal to people’s emotions about health.”

Despite all the criticisms, McDonald’s is standing by its message of making positive changes to its menu. “We are proud of these big changes, even as we seek to do more and make the food people truly love to eat at McDonald’s even better,” said Grachnik.

No Locally-Available Fruits and Veggies Increases Risk of Early Heart Disease Signs

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The just-cancelled ‘Nightly Show’ starring Larry Wilmore had a segment last March about ‘food deserts.’ The show’s reporter interviewed Esther Fuchs, of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia. She commented on a report that “some 23 and a half million people in America, including some six and a half million children,” live in “food deserts” – places, often in major cities, where fresh fruits and vegetables simply aren’t available. Those people, Fuchs said, “live in areas more than one mile from a supermarket selling fruits and vegetables.”

To check this out, Reporter Jordan Carlos went to Camden, New Jersey, right across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fifth-largest city in the U.S. He started walking in a poor-looking neighborhood, searching for a store selling fruits and vegetables. He had to travel five miles before he encountered one!

Given that part of his trek was along a rail line, you can assume his ‘finding’ was slightly exaggerated – but only slightly. I live in a far-from-poor small town, and I’m well over a mile from the nearest “supermarket selling fruits and vegetables”. There is a small food store roughly half a mile from me. But its produce selection is so poor it seems to be oriented toward the town’s least-discriminating food shoppers.

And that’s a shame, for several reasons. Key among them is the fact – as reported August 15 in the journal Circulation (paywall) – that people who can’t shop locally for fresh produce are more likely to have early signs of heart disease. Michigan-based researchers (from, among others, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Grand Valley State University) studied data from nearly 6,000 adults who had an initial heart CT scan and several follow-up scans over 12 years. The availability of fresh food near their homes was key to the condition of their arteries, their study declared.

“We found that healthy food stores within one mile of their home was the only significant factor that reduced or slowed the progression of calcium buildup in coronary arteries,” co-lead author Ella August said in a journal news release. She is a clinical assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“Our results point to a need for greater awareness of the potential health threat posed by the scarcity of healthy grocery options in certain neighborhoods,” August added.

Co-lead author Jeffrey Wing said, “The thought is that greater access to healthier foods may have promoted healthier diets and, in turn, less coronary plaque formation.” Wing is an assistant professor of public health at Grand Valley State University.

The American Heart Association recommends a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy, skinless poultry and fish. It also advises people to eat foods low in saturated and trans-fats and sodium, and to limit their intake of added sugars and red meats.

 

‘Free-From’ Beats GMO, Labeling Changers With A MUCH Clearer Message

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A ‘Free-From’ event exhibitor

While the U.S. struggles with issues related to GMO labeling, gluten- dairy- and wheat-free issues, the U.K. and at least a couple of continental European countries are merrily moving along with a movement called, simply, ‘free-from’. It encompasses all of the above, and might extend to other ‘freedoms’ currently relevant or potentially relevant to food growing and onward up the food chain.

Meanwhile, the U.S. congress passes, and sends to the president for his signature – ordinarily done with a handful of pens as ‘give-aways’ to selected recipients – a bill that, for all intents and purposes, does next to nothing to ensure products offered to the public are free of genetically modified ingredients.

I know, I touched on the GMO issue a couple of days ago. But this is, oddly, a view few American organizations or individual companies have addressed – and it’s one that’s taking off, elsewhere.

What has been said about the about-to-be-signed GMO bill is the fact that, as one observer said, “the devil is in the details,” and speculation is that it will take “years” for those details to be worked out. In other words, no one should have high hope that this bill will move the ball very far soon – maybe not even before the next – hopefully one-term – president is replaced.

(While this blog tends to avoid issues of a political nature, it is worth noting, about now, with one of the two major political parties having its election year convention as we speak, with the other’s conclave due within a couple of weeks, that whichever of the hardly-lesser ‘evils’ is elected is more than likely to have serious impacts on food-related policies.

(Trump has promised to disrupt treaties that affect how, and from where, food enters this country.

(A Clinton campaign pledge has her “increase[ing] funding to support the next generation of farmers and ranchers in local food markets and regional food systems; And she’ll create a focused safety net to help family farms get through challenging times.”

(But campaign statements and promises too often give way to different concepts once a politician [at whatever level] is in office. Time will tell how these two’s promises bear up.

(But you can be sure that, one way or another, either would in one, two or another way, disrupt ‘business’ as usual as its being done in the food trade these days.