FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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More Reasons for Eating Plants

Berries and more

What will it take to get people on the bandwagon of eating more colorful fruits and vegetables? As we learn more about the effects of these plant chemicals, e.g. anthocyanins, we can supply better information on their healthy benefits. In this article, it is lung function. Yes, there are purple potatoes!

CLICK HERE.

 

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Organic Foods: A Continuing Debate

Conventional food producers often declare that organic farmers use more pesticides than most people think and that some are relatively toxic. Organic farmers deny this claim; as a result, there are obvious biases on both sides of the debate.

Organic foods do not appear to be healthier than their conventional counterparts; however they are gaining in popularity with consumers primarily due to food safety and environmental issues. In my opinion, choosing organic food is a personal choice.

Here is what we know. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, antibiotics, or growth hormones. The USDA’s National Organic Program has developed standards such as what or what not the food product contains. For  example, an organic food may not include ingredients that are treated with irradiation,  produced by genetic modification, or grown using sewage sludge. Certain natural pesticides and some manufactured agents are permitted. Farming and processing operations that produce and handle foods labeled as organic must be certified by the USDA.  Three definitions have been established:

  • 100 % organic = 100% organically produced  raw or processed ingredients
  • Organic = contains at least 95% organically produced raw or processed ingredients
  • Made with organic ingredients = contains at least 70% organically produced ingredients

The following article attempts to further clarify how pesticide use in the organic food industry is regulated.

CLICK HERE.


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From Fact to Fiction: Diet Supplements?

 

So many times when a particular nutrient shows promise with disease prevention, the diet supplement industry goes into  full swing on hyping its benefits in the  form of a pill, aka a  diet supplement. The claims are often exaggerated and when put to the test (if ever) they fail to meet expectations.

What are the actual facts about these supplements?  Do they really meet the claims that are promised? That is why nutrition research becomes important in order to sort out the facts from the fiction.

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Coconut Oil: Is It Healthy or Not?

The benefits of coconut oil have been debated for quite some time. A new study came with some surprises! Read about the study HERE. For a fair assessment from Harvard Medical School about some benefits of coconut oil click HERE.

Bottom Line:

As with most nutrition news, premature conclusions can be reached and headlines can be misleading. For coconut oil adherents, the most recent study is good news; however, coconut oil is a highly saturated fat oil unlike most vegetable oils, and in my opinion should be used sparingly until further research sorts out this debate and reaches some kind of consensus. In the meantime, it’s great for moisturizing your skin and smells good, too.

 


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Fabulous Fiber

The debate over the benefits of dietary fiber has lingered for many decades.  By itself, it doesn’t provide any vitamins and minerals and is not broken down or absorbed in the digestive tract as are  other nutrients.  However, fiber is found in foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans (legumes) and grains that do provide us with the essential nutrients we need. So it rides along with these nutrients.

Fiber is classified as soluble and insoluble  but most foods contain a mixture of both types.

Good sources of soluble fiber: legumes, prunes,  apricots, raisins, oranges, bananas, oats, apples, eggplant, flax seed

Good sources of insoluble fiber: wheat bran, whole-wheat bread, broccoli, corn, eggplant, apple skins, nuts and seeds

How much do we need?  For young men the recommendation is 38 grams/day and for young women, 25 grams a day. Consider this example:

“Eating a bowl of Raisin Bran with a 1/2 cup of strawberries for breakfast, a sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce and tomatoes and an apple for lunch, eggplant Parmesan for dinner, and popcorn for a snack will provide about 25 grams.” Smolin and Grosvenor, Nutrition, Science and Applications, Third Edition.

Based on diet analyses I have seen, the average daily intake is only about 9-11 grams a day.

So you can see that it is not easy to get enough fiber that is best explained in the linked article below.

What does it actually do for us?

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Are Probiotics Ready for Prime Time?

 

A Bacterial Superbug

The microbiome is all over the nutrition news with studies pouring in on how just about every aspect of our physiology or pathophysiology is dependent on some degree on the kinds of bacteria that make up our collective species found there. As with any supplement, there are pros and cons.

A lot of these studies are done with animals or small samples in human studies.Even though this research shows promise, there are always precautions when taking any supplement since they are not regulated by the FDA. The following article was updated in 2014 and after checking more recent research, I found the same problems exist – inconsistent results, small sample sizes, study flaws, etc. etc. common in nutrition research.

The most common species of bacteria used in probiotics (among a potential 3,000 or more) are species of Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium.  You’ll want a product that explicitly states a “sell-by” date. Once you have identified the right strain or strains (which at this point seems next to impossible), it’s important to find a product that is labeled correctly in terms of the number of bacteria in each dose. Tests from ConsumerLab.com found that some probiotic supplements did not contain the amount of organisms claimed on the label. The organisms must survive stomach acid and therefore should contain an enteric coating to enhance their survival.

The best advice is to talk to your  doctor before taking probiotics as well as any supplement. People who have an immune deficiency or cancer should not use probiotics without a doctor’s okay.

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