Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Websites: How reliable are they?


The article provides good advice for any website, but especially medical or nutrition websites.  They often seem to promote misinformation that sometimes borders on the absurd or at the least,  unsubstantiated by sound research.

Who can you believe? The term “nutritionist” is not legally defined and is used by a wide variety of people from those who seek a PhD from a non-accredited school to health food store representatives with no formal training. Registered Dietitians (RD) are nutritional professionals who have completed a a four year college degree and additionally  have met established criteria to certify them to provide nutrition counseling. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Medical Association and the American Institute for Cancer Research are non -profit organizations that provide reliable sources of nutrition information.


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Turmeric: The Facts

Turmeric originated in India or nearby Southeast Asia For 400,000 years it has had a wide range of medicinal, religious and culinary applications especially in South Asian cultures. Medically it has been used as an antiseptic or antibacterial agent. Turmeric contains iron, vitamin B6, fiber (1.4 g), and potassium. It also contains the polyphenol, curcumin.

The claims may be exaggerated  but what actually are the health benefits of this often talked about spice?


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Food Fads or Scams?


Where is the Federal Trade Commission when you need  them? By definition one of its major goals is:

“the nation’s consumer protection agency and one of the government agencies responsible for keeping competition among businesses strong. Its job is to make sure companies compete fairly and don’t mislead or trick people about their products and services.”


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Food Trends 2016


Recently, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics held their annual meeting called the 2016 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Boston, MA.

I did not attend, but some former colleagues and friends did attend and gathered information for new trends in foods coming soon to your local supermarket or on the Internet. Here are some of the highlights they passed on to me.

Snacks Rule at the Expo

My first thought was “Do we need any more snack foods?”  Some foods even though processed can be nutritious and beneficial to our health. Many of the new food trends fortunately are tending to lean in that direction.

The trend of Ultra-processed foods as defined as “food products containing several ingredients that are not traditionally used in cooking” were predominant. They are used to imitate sensory qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods”  appeared to be in abundance at the conference. “Natural” and organic are still a big draw with many food companies committing themselves to sustainability and responsible attention to the environment.


Digestive issues and the gastrointestinal tract have arrived and it’s about time. Food intolerances have been ignored in the medical field and treated as minor nuisances, in my opinion. The “Healthy Gut” is now displayed as having a “healthy microbiome” Check out my previous post on the microbiome HERE,

Check out my previous post on the FODMAP diet HERE. As I suspected, the low FODMAP diet may become the next gluten-free fad. I have already discovered one marinara sauce with the label showing its absence of onions and garlic with the title description from their website:

“For people who are sensitive to the flavor or the effects of onions or garlic, Rao’s developed Sensitive Formula Marinara Sauce which achieves full-bodied taste without the use of onions or garlic.

  • Formulated without onions or garlic.
  • Great for all ages! Children through Seniors
  • Lower Sodium than Rao’s Marinara sauce.
  • No added sugar

Rao’s Sensitive Formula Marinara is made with Italian tomatoes, Italian olive oil, fresh carrots, fresh celery, salt, fresh basil.”


Sounds like a good product, have tried it and it is very good!

The conference featured many new digestive  products from salsa and pasta sauce to protein bars and drinks. I would imagine they will be appearing in supermarkets soon with a certified FODMAP stamp created at Monash University in Australia. next to their certified GlutenFree stamp.

Fermented Foods

By definition, fermented foods are:

“foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Examples of fermented foods are sauerkraut, pickles, miso, kefir, and kimchi. Probiotics have also in the news for a while now and many companies are now crashing this market that previously was only limited to dietary supplements.

Food companies are beginning to promote these foods as “healthy” and offer them in various flavors. The problem with probiotics in foods is the same as with probiotic supplements: do the “helpful” bacteria survive the harsh acids in the digestion process to confer the claimed benefits? No one can truly be sure.

Plant-based meals

I think it has been fairly well established by observational studies that plant foods are more apt to keep us free from chronic diseases and increase our longevity. Many disagree, but the trend leans against meat-heavy diets.

One company under the auspices of the Mushroom Council has combined ground beef with mushrooms to cut down on saturated fat and calories. Nice idea to help meat lovers still enjoy their burgers.

The new kale fad appears to be have been replaced but not forgotten with emphasis on pulses (beans, peas, lentils). We haven’t heard that the term pulses in years.

Whole Grains

There they are again but this time with some unfamiliar names. One is sorghum. Historical records trace the sorghum plant back to Africa and Benjamin Franklin was said to have introduced it to the U.S. in the late 1700’s. Since it has many uses, it is often referred to one of the “‘4F” plants as it can used for fuel, food, forage, and feed. It is an important cereal due to its drought resistance in many developing countries in Africa and Asia.

As a food, it is gluten-free and can be used to make healthy, whole-grain breads. It is hard to find but except for some “health” food stores.

Fake pasta

Due to the recent trend of spiralized noodles from vegetables, consumers found ways to cut back on refined grains. So some companies have developed pastas and rice substitutes from lentils, chickpeas, and beans all marketed as gluten-free, high in protein and fiber.


How about beet chips, more smoothies filled with fruits and vegetables, and veggie fries from sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, chickpeas? Can french fries ever be replaced? The food companies are banking on that to occur.

There will be more salad kits with varied combinations – not just leafy greens. They may include Brussels sprouts, beet greens, chard and sliced broccoli stems – not a bad idea to try to increase our vegetable intake.


Remember our ancestors began gathering seeds and nuts but the nuts won out. Now the seeds are taking the spotlight.  There are new seed bars – pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds. There will be Mediterranean inspired seed and nut bars as well as seed butters made from watermelon, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Move over, kale chips.