Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Home Cooking?


If you believe the marketing of the newer fast casual restaurants like Panera Bread or Chipolte, you are eating healthier food than if you go to the traditional  fast food places, aka McDonald’s, etc. A new study begs to differ at least with the calorie count.

Restaurant sales are on the downward trend.  An alternative may be to try the new trend of ordering dinner via the Internet from companies like Blue Apron or Home Chef that deliver to you the fresh ingredients and you do the preparation. This approach offers convenience and saves you a lot of time. You control the calories and are spared the often dreaded trip to the supermarket where you spend so much on “stuff” you really may not need.  You also are not tempted by the snack aisles or the endless display of junk foods and ultra-processed foods.

I personally have never tried these companies but will and blog about the experience soon.


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The Confusing World of Whole Grains


Recent research tells us that fiber-rich diets lowers the risk of diabetes and heart disease. This message is hyped by almost every health agency as well as the grain food industry. Although this advice is not inherently wrong, it may contain some caveats for some people.

What is a Whole Grain?

A whole grain in its pure intact, unprocessed form, it is a seed that has three major components – the outer bran (a fiber-rich coating), the inner endosperm (mainly containing starch) and the germ (a reproductive kernel).

What is a Refined Grain?

Refined grains usually only contain the endosperm as the germ and the bran is stripped away during processing. If it is enriched, some but not all nutrients are put back – thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, iron and folate.

Does a product always contain 100% whole grains?

A new definition adopted by the FDA in 2006, states “whole grain” refers to any product containing 51% by weight of a mixture of bran, endosperm and germ in the proportions one would expect to see in an intact grain can be considered a whole grain.

What are the Whole Gain Council Stamps?

A label can say “whole grain” but that does not guarantee it is all whole grain. You should look for Stamps on the front of the package.

If it bears the 100% Stamp, all of its grain ingredients are whole. These brands also contain at least 16 grams (one full serving) of whole grain per serving, according to the Whole Grain Council. If it bears the Basic Stamp, it contains at least 8 grams (a half serving) of whole grains per serving, but may also fit the FDA definition –  some refined grain or less than 51% of whole grains by weight.

What are the Health Benefits of Whole Grains?

Since products only have to contain only 51% of the separated whole grain components, they may have less fiber and lower nutrient levels so the claimed benefits may not apply to these products.

For example, for a product meeting the new definition, a person would have to eat 10 bowls of Multigrain Cheerios, 16 slices of whole wheat bread or nine cups of brown rice to get the recommended fiber intake for one day.

What Do the Critics of Whole Grains Say?

Critics say that most grains cannot be eaten in their natural state, i.e, they must be milled and ground to some degree so all grains undergo some processing. They also say that grains contain what is referred to “anti-nutrients” like phytates that can interfere with the absorption and assimilation of minerals. Oatmeal is an exception. Oats are different from wheat, rye and barley .Oats are minimally processed and retain their bran and germ that give us all the true benefits of whole, intact grains. (unless they are the instant kinds).

What About the Fiber?

As far as fiber goes, many grains are not much better than refined grains. Look at the cereals and you will find it hard to find a serving of cereal grains that provide more than 1 or 2 grams of fiber unless intact whole grains like oats or bran is present.

What are Fiber Rich Foods?

The power-house foods loaded with fiber are avocado (11 grams) or a serving of beans with 11-7 grams as well as fruits, vegetables and legumes. The endosperm of grains is starch-rich (chains of glucose) that can raise blood sugar levels very quickly, especially in diabetics.

What About Gluten?

Then there are the gluten issues found in wheat, rye, and barley. There has been an increase in the number of celiac sufferers and now there is evidence that some people may be non-celiac gluten sensitive. Wheat is also heavy in fructans that are chains of carbohydrates that may trigger symptoms in irritable bowel patients.

Should You Give Up on Whole Grains?

Of course, not – whole grains are an excellent source of calories and nutrients. However, most of these nutrients and calories are also found in other foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products. There is a slight edge in eating whole grains instead of refined grains – all the nutrients lost in processing are not put back, just the five previously mentioned that are required by law.

What If I Have Digestive Problems with Grains?

If you like them and they do not cause undesirable symptoms, eat them.  The benefits are there when the whole intact grain is present. However, most grain products- cookies, biscuits, cereals, do not contain the whole intact grain. They are not the best bet since many of them can also be high in sugar and fat.

What to Do

Read the labels carefully, especially the ingredient labels

Find an excellent guide HERE. 



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What is “Real Food”?

Strawberries provide lots of good nutrition and can be cancer fighters.

Strawberries provide lots of good nutrition and can be cancer fighters.

What exactly is “real food”?   The following article brings up some good definitions. In my opinion, it is food that is not highly processed. The fewer ingredients, the better. All foods contain unpronounceable chemicals, but ultra processing requires the addition of many chemicals we may not need for nourishment.


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Got Milk?

dairy_3_a_day_rThe National Dairy Council has been guilty for years of funding research to promote their own interests and teaming up with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, thus offering nutrition education programs for registered dietitians. They have attempted  and succeeded to influence the Dietary Guidelines for Americans ever since  their inception. Check out some PROS AND CONS about milk.


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The Blue Zone Solution

Strawberries provide lots of good nutrition and can be cancer fighters.

Strawberries provide lots of good nutrition and can be cancer fighters.

This is a great book. It is so much more than just a diet book. The people of these five global areas generally are some of the longest-living and healthiest seniors on the planet. The book, The Blue Zone Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People by Dan Buettner has four parts:


  1. Discovering the Blue Zones
  2. Making an American Blue Zone
  3. Building Your Own Blue Zone
  4. Blue Zone Recipes


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Low Carbohydrate and Real Food?

farmersmarketsign_tnWhen people “go on a diet” like low carbohydrate, the Paleo Diet,  gluten-free,  or wheat-free , they may lose weight but often say they say they “feel better.”  What do these diets have in common?   Most of these diets discourage the use of highly processed foods that are notoriously loaded with salt, fat, and sugar. Lately, there has been a lot of discussion on how the food industry contributes to the obesity problem and how  sugar affects our health. I  propose another diet approach – the “low processed food diet.”  This diet would help control our weight as well  contribute to the subtle effects of our overall sense of well being.

Observational studies of populations with low rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease either traditionally or presently consume diets low in refined  carbohydrates and ultra-processed foods.  Not all carbohydrates are equal. It’s important to understand that there are “good” carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – real foods, in other words. Perhaps it’s not just the amount of food,  its the type that counts. How do the  endless lists of ingredients on ultra-processed foods affect our general health?  The following article addresses this approach in the management of diabetes.