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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.

Is An Apple a Day Overdoing It?

22 Sep

Is An Apple a Day Overdoing It?

When it comes to fiber, fruit is your friend. Fruit generally has 3 or more grams of fiber per serving – not to mention it comes bundled with a bevy of other important nutrients.

But are we under sampling seasonal offerings of fruits? According to a study recently published in Pediatrics, American kids are agog for apples…and that’s about it.

Apples account for 20% of all fruit consumed by US kids and young people. If you pair that with apple juice, the number rises to 30%.

Not that anything is wrong with apples – but only 40% of US kids meet the USDA recommendations for 1-2 cups of fruit per day.

Could it be that a lack of variety is lessening our ability to meet fruit intake recommendations? If so, here are a few tips for firming up your fruit findings:

  • Check out seasonal availability of produce calendars like this one from CUESA.org
  • Explore what constitutes a serving of fruit at ChooseMyPlate.gov and add 1-2 new options per week to your routine
  • Eat the rainbow: make a concerted effort to add more colorful fruits (and vegetables) to grace your plate
  • If you have kids or feed kids, set a snacking example by making fruit your go-to snack, aiming for 2-3 serving of fresh fruit between meals if you’re not getting that at meal time
  • Eat your fruit, don’t drink it: whole, intact fruit is your best bet for fiber and calorie control; watch out for dried fruits that can have added sugar and high calorie juices without the fiber benefits.

To find out how many servings of fruit per day you should be consuming based on your age and gender, check out ChooseMyPlate.gov’s “Daily Fruit Chart” in the All About the Fruit Group page.

And if you’re fearful of fruit…forget that! Americans are often misguided about fruit – although fruit does have sugar (naturally occurring fruit sugar called fructose), it’s a great, low calorie source of other vitamins, minerals and fibers – making fruit definitely worth your while.

Beans & Beef Tie in Satiety Showdown

21 Sep

Beans & Beef Tie in Satiety Showdown

Satiety is a big buzzword when it comes to selling foods these days.

Satiety – which refers to the feeling of fullness – is the opposite of hunger; and don’t we all want to feel un-hungry?

In nutrition science, it is generally well established that protein, fat and fiber all contribute to satiety. Although proving as much has been difficult.

A recent study just published in the Journal of Food Science found that beans may be as satiating as beef – but consumers don’t expect it to be.

In this study, researchers from the University of Minnesota served subjects 1 of 2 different types of loafs:

  • A meatloaf containing 26 g protein and 3 g fiber
  • A bean loaf containing 7 g protein and 12 g fiber

Turns out, whether subjects were served the bean or the meatloaf had no impact on the amount of food and snacks ate later in the day – indicating similar satiety levels.

Now, when researchers ASKED the subjects about feeling full, when they knew they were getting the bean loaf, they reported feeling less full vs. the meatloaf. This indicated that the subjects were not expecting to feel as full from eating beans vs. fiber.

The authors suggest that this discrepancy in actual vs. perceived satiety can be described as “food neophobia” – and like most things in the satiety stratosphere, probably needs to be studied more.

Although this particular study is small, it contributes to a growing pool of evidence supporting the move towards a more plant-based diet and away from animals. Plant-based protein appears good for the planet, and perhaps for your appetite as well.

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.

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!