Grain Bashing Takes a Back Seat

20 Apr

Grain Bashing Takes a Back Seat

Carbs are destroying your brain,” crows the Grain Brain diet book.  While “Wheat is why you’re sick,” screams the Wheat Belly diet book.

Despite a recent spate of grain bashing, new research indicates that eating grains has a more positive health impact than refraining from them.

The Grain Foods Foundation (who, granted, is in the business of getting you to buy grains) partnered with nutrition consulting firm Nutrition Impact to assess grain foods consumption and health and presented their findings recently at the annual Experimental Biology conference.

The research looked at existing government data sets: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), USDA’s What We Eat in America, and the USDA food categories.

Researchers found:

  • Adults who eat yeast breads and rolls have lower total sugar intake compared to adults who eat no grains
  • Adults who eat certain grain food patterns (cereals, pasta, rice, crackers, salty snacks, pancakes, waffles, and quick breads) have lower saturated fat intake and more dietary fiber in their diets
  • Even in a 2,000 calorie diet that only has 1 serving of whole grains and 5 servings of refined grains, positive health and nutrition end points can still be realized
  • Grain foods get you bang for your buck: yielding dietary fiber, protein, folate, iron, magnesium, calcium, niacin and thiamin for relatively low cost

While grain foods may be associated with better health in this particular analysis, too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Eating too many grains – regardless of where they come from – can lead to excess calorie intake and unwanted weight gain.

At the end of the day though, grains are probably not the evil food group sensational diet books make them out to be. It may, in fact, be finally time to give the grain bashing a break.

Frankenfiber: Coming Your Way

15 Apr

Frankenfiber: Coming Your Way

The hot topic is getting hotter. Genetically engineered foods have been in the US food supply since 1996, but public interest seems to finally be reaching fever pitch.

Although some surveys suggest that more than 90 percent of American support labeling of GE ingredients, public interest still belies what is already happening – or has happened – in our food supply.

Despite 70 bills introduced in more than 30 states to require GE labeling or prohibiting genetically engineered foods, only 3 states have enacted legislation to do so (Maine, Connecticut, and Vermont).

While a vocal core of activists remain skeptical about the safety of GE foods for both our bodies and the environment, many run-of-the-mill Americans may be surprised to learn just how prolific these foods already are. According to the USDA, today, in the US:

  • 89% of corn is genetically engineered
  • 94% of soybean is genetically engineered
  • 91% of cotton is genetically engineered

If you don’t eat corn, soybean, or cotton, does it matter? It does matter, because you are most certainly eating those foods!

The pro-GE labeling group Just Label It maintains that 9 GE crops can be found in more than 80% of processed food in the US: corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa, yellow squash, zucchini, Hawaiian papaya, and cotton.

GMO

I’m still not sold on how much GE zucchini, yellow squash or papaya is really showing up in processed food – but I was surprised to hear the FDA give the GE green light to 2 pretty popular foods last month: Arctic Apples and Innate Potatoes.

Arctic Apples” are the trade name given to the company Okanagan’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties of apples. These arctic apples are genetically engineered to resist browning that occurs when the flesh is exposed to oxygen (also called oxidation).

Innate Potatoes” are the trade name given to the company Simplot’s varieties of Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank, and Atlantic potatoes that are genetically engineered to lessen black spot bruising by lowering levels of those enzymes in the potatoes.

The Innate Potatoes also produce less acrylamide, a cancer-causing agent that forms when foods are cooked at very high temperatures, as in frying (which is the primary way that Americans eat potatoes: as French fries and potato chips!)

While advances in biotechnology can certainly be exciting, in the case of brown and bruised-looking apples and potatoes, I’m doing perfectly fine with the old-fashioned home remedy: vitamin C or water.

Rubbing a little citrus juice on your cut apples (and pears) prevents browning, and with a lot less fanfare than genetically engineering the fruit. The vitamin C in citrus exhibits its antioxidant properties and stops oxidation, or browning.

For potatoes, covering cut potatoes in water does the trick by blocking exposure to oxygen and preventing oxidation.

If you are unswayed by the safety claims about GE foods, the only way to ensure you are eating completely GE-free is to go organic. 100% organic – all the time.

Or you could move to Europe – where if a food contains a GE ingredient, it must be labeled as such.

 

Snack Hacks to Avoid the Fat Trap

14 Apr

Snack Hacks to Avoid the Fat Trap

More than half of all Americans now snack 3 or more times per day. And about 25% of our daily calories are now coming from snacks instead of meals.

But is your snack making you fat? Here are 3 snack hacks to help you avoid the fat trap!

Thin is In!

Have you noticed the proliferation of thinned-out foods? There’s thin bagels, thin breads and now even thin crackers.

While the ship has sailed on the paltry 100-calorie packs, I recently sampled Nonni’s Mango Coconut Almond Thins. Their generous serving of seriously delicious real fruit and California almond-laden crackers comes in individual serving sizes which are great for snacking on the go.

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Get Serious About Seaweed

The tide is turning in snack foods and seaweed is rising to the top!

Annie Chun’s makes a delicious roasted seaweed snack that comes in 4 great flavors. At just 50 calories per package and 25% of your daily value of vitamin C, these seaweed snacks go a long way to fueling you between meals!

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Make a Mini Meal

Snacks don’t have to be elaborate undertakings. In fact, some of the best snacks are just mini meals.

I’m a big fan of KIND Healthy Snacks and love their KIND Maple Quinoa Clusters with Chia Seeds. Pair this gluten free, hearty granola (packing 4 grams of fiber) with some nonfat plain, Greek yogurt and fresh berries, and you’re good to go on the mini meal fiber front.

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For more tips on hacking your snacks, check out my segment on NBC 7 San Diego Mid Day.

Sponsored Post Disclosure: I was compensated for product mention in this post & TV segment – thoughts & opinions are my own.

Fiber Report Card: A Big Fat “F”

8 Apr

Fiber Report Card: A Big Fat “F”

Americans are failing when it comes to fiber intake.

The USDA’s “What We Eat in America” survey data shows that the national average daily fiber intake is just 16 grams per day.

The problem is, we need closer to 30 grams of fiber per day (or to be specific: 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day if you follow the Dietary Reference Intake Adequate Intake recommended levels.)

When you get right down to it, most of us are eating just about half of one of the most beneficial nutrients known to man.

A diet high in fiber has been shown to:

  • Help control hunger by promoting satiety and preventing overeating, which aids in weight management
  • Slow down digestion which helps taper blood sugar elevations, a useful benefit in diabetes management
  • Aid in the increased excretion of bile acids which can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, ideal for heart disease management
  • Decrease the risk of GI problems like constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticular disease
  • Play a role in the prevention of certain type of cancer

And despite all of these fiber-friendly health benefits, there’s no reason NOT to eat more fiber.

One of the easiest ways to bump yourself closer to the 30 gram per day level is to eat more fruit. Aim for 3 servings of fresh fruit per day and make fruit your go-to in between meal snack.

An average serving of fruit has 4-5 grams of fiber. Do that 3 times per day, and you’re halfway there. Combine your fruit fiber with other whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, and you’ll quickly see your fiber grade go from failing to flawless!

Favism: The Freaky Side of Fava Beans

19 Mar

Favism: The Freaky Side of Fava Beans

It’s no surprise that fava beans are full of fiber.  As a legume, the fava bean boasts 5 grams of fiber in a 90 calorie half-cup serving.

But favas have a more sinister side: they are a trigger food for favism.

According to an article published in The Lancet, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD deficiency) – also known as favism – is the most common human enzyme defect.

People with favism have low levels of the G6PD enzyme that is important for red blood cell health. Sufferers are genetically predisposed to hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells) and jaundice. Those at greatest risk for favism include people of African and Mediterranean ancestry, and men are 3 times as likely to have it than women.

An individual with favism who eats the legume – or even comes in to contact with its pollen – risks a hemolytic crisis, and possibly death.

The only way to treat the condition is to avoid known triggers. Triggers for favism include all legumes, a comprehensive list of which can be found here.

One final favism fact: Pythagoras and adherents to the Pythagorean code banned the consumption of fava beans. Speculation suggests that Big P had early knowledge of the link between the bean and its blood-rupturing potential.

Legend has it that after Pythagoras’ enemies set fire to his house, he ran into a field filled with the bean and proclaimed he would rather die than progress through the land laden with the legume. At which point, his suitors promptly slit his throat.

So buyer beware…that fiber may come a pretty morbid price.