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Hot Dogs Take a Hit: Processed Meat & Cancer Risk

26 Oct

Hot Dogs Take a Hit: Processed Meat & Cancer Risk

In an article published in the journal The Lancet, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) deemed processed meat to be “carcinogenic to humans” based on sufficient evidence for colorectal cancer.

The working group of 22 experts from 10 countries assessed more than 800 epidemiological studies exploring the link between diet and cancer.

Processed meat is defined as “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.” Think bacon, hot dogs, jerkies and sausages.

While there has long-been an association between a plant-based diet and lower rates of certain types of cancer (and on the flip-side: a high meat intake and higher rates of certain types of cancer), this report firmly places processed meat in the Group 1 category – indicating “sufficient evidence” it can cause cancer.

Other substances in this prestigious “Group 1″ include tobacco, alcohol and asbestos. Although there is some risk associated with red meat and processed meat intake, the panel concluded that it is certainly less than smoking or alcohol.

But your processed meat intake does matter, and each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

For perspective, a typical hot dog link is about 75 grams. So your one-a-day frankfurter fetish could be putting you at elevated risk.

Now, to be fair, the relative risk of cancer from processed meats is still small: smoking can increase death of cancer by 20-fold – significantly more than processed meat ever likely will.

Additional information in the report about red meat classified it as “probably” carcinogenic based on “limited evidence”. With red meat, the cancer risk is more related to its cooking method than to the processing. Cooking red meats at very high temperatures can create potential carcinogens, among which are heterocyclic aromatic amines.

The takeaway message is: if you’ve been looking for more reasons to shift your plate to a plant-based diet, this added piece of data can help you make the push off of animals and towards your more friendly plant-based proteins.

All Things Avocado: Peak Season Produce

3 Jun

All Things Avocado: Peak Season Produce

California Avocado season is in full swing! California produces more than 90% of the US avocado crop, and more than half of that is grown right here in sunny San Diego.

As a nutrition spokesperson for the California Avocado Commission, I love talking about (and eating) the delicious and nutritious fruit that is the avocado.

Here’s a few of my favorite avo tips:

How to Pick the Perfect Avocado

  • The best way to tell if a California avocado is ripe and ready for immediate use is to gently squeeze the fruit in the palm of your hand
  • Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit will be firm but still yield to gentle pressure
  • To expedite ripening, place the avocado in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana; the ethylene gas from the fruits speeds up the ripening process

 Avocado Nutrition Knowhow

  • Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients and act as a “nutrient booster” by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients in foods that eaten with the fruit
  • Use the nick & peel method as the safest and most effective way to cut an avocado
  • Be sure to peel your avocado carefully as the greatest concentration of beneficial phytonutrients is found in the flesh closest to the peel

Going Beyond Guacamole

  • Avocados make a great addition to any meal or snack and you can also use avocado as a 1:1 fat replacer in baking
  • For breakfast, add avocados to egg dishes, bake into bran muffins, or power up your morning meal with a healthy dose of avocado’s good fat in your smoothie
  • Find some really unique ways to use avocados in meals, snacks, and desserts at

For more info about California Avocados, check out my segment on San Diego Living for All Things Avocado.

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Cereal Fiber Beats Back Diabetes Risk

2 Jun

Cereal Fiber Beats Back Diabetes Risk

If you need yet another reason to get your fiber on – a new study shows cereal fiber can help keep diabetes at bay.

A study published last week in the journal Diabetologia showed that not only does dietary fiber help fight type 2 diabetes risk, but it also helps lower Body  Mass Index (BMI) and keeps weight down.

The study was a meta-analysis which looked at data from over 350,000 subjects from 18 countries followed for over 10 years. Results showed that participants who ate 26 grams of fiber per day were 18 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who ate 19 or less grams of fiber per day.

To put that in perspective, the typical American only eats 16 grams of fiber per day, so 26 grams is a pretty fierce fiber bump.

In this particular study, cereal fiber was shown to be particularly effective, more so than fruit or vegetable fiber.

One of the best ways to get cereal fiber is to consume whole grains.

And while you’re at it, focus on your ABC’s: amaranth, buckwheat or barley, and corn – some great whole grain options that can easily work their way into your morning meal.

For more tips on getting your whole grains, check out these recipes from the Whole Grain Council.

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.


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.


Why Massaging Kale is a Must

10 Feb

Why Massaging Kale is a Must

When it comes to love for leafy greens, kale does not want for admirers.

Long touted as a super food, kale is a nutritional powerhouse that packs:

  • 4 grams of fiber in just 50 calories (about 6 cups loosely packed)
  • 1/3 daily value for vitamin A & double your daily need for vitamin C
  • 150 mg calcium (about half the amount in a cup of milk)

Sure kale tastes great if you cook it. But when consumed raw, the bitter kale leaves can be a bit off-putting.

Enter the kale massage. Massaging your kale mellows its flavor and softens up the brittle green.

Here’s how to master the mighty kale massage:

  • Strip the kale leaves away from the center vein and discard vein
  • Chiffonade or very thinly slice remaining kale leaves
  • Transfer to a bowl, grab bunches of kale in both hands, add a little olive oil if you want, and go to town
  • After a few minutes of massaging, the kale leaves’ texture will visibly change and shrink in size

Although the massage yields a darker-colored kale, there is no data to suggest that massaging kale alters its nutrient profile.

But if a kale massage is all it takes you to get more of this fiber friendly food…then clearly, massaging kale is a must!