Monthly Archives: October 2011

HAPPY HALLOWEEN TO ALL!!!

FoodFacts.com hopes you have a great Halloween with your family! Tonight, after you’ve tucked the little ones in bed, you’ll probably engage in the tried and true parental secret tradition that’s existed since the very invention of trick-or-treating … the annual parental dig through the candy bag.

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You know you’ve done it year in and year out. Kids are picky, and most of the time their favorites and adult favorites are two very different things. So we adults go through the stash piece by piece, finding the candy that we know our kids aren’t going to eat and we make sure it doesn’t go to waste.

So, exactly how detrimental is our yearly sweet, secret tradition? And are some of our favorites worse than others? Here’s a short list of our most popular Halloween treasures with the basic information we need to figure out how much damage we’re doing.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups 230 calories, 13 g fat, 4.5 g saturated f, 20 g sugar (one large peanut butter cup)
Snickers, 280 calories, 14 g. fat, 5 g. saturated f., 30 g. sugar (regular bar)
M&M’s, 210 calories, 9 g. fat, 6 g. saturated fat, 27 g. sugar (1 ½ ou.)
Hershey’s Kisses, 230 calories, 13 g. fat, images-418 g. saturated f., 21 g. sugar (9 pieces)
Nestle Crunch, 220 calories, 11 g. fat, 7 saturated fat, 24 g. sugar (regular bar)
Three Musketeers, 260 calories, 8 g. fat, 5 g. saturated fat, 40 g. sugar (regular bar)
TWIX Caramel Cookie Bars, 280 calories, 14 g. fat, 11 g. saturated fat, 27 g. sugar (one package)

You can see pretty clearly that there really isn’t that much difference between these popular candies, although the sugar content spikes in a few of them. We do have to be careful though, just a little bit of any of these choices goes an awfully long way, and each packs a punch of calories and fat that we really don’t want to overdo. So if one isn’t enough (and it usually isn’t) it’s very easy to go overboard with calories, fats and sugar.images-21

So … remember the old rule you’ve repeated to your children so many times … sometimes more isn’t better. Enjoy your stash! And Happy Halloween!

Reduced levels of nitrites in hot dogs had no significant affect on incidence of colon cancer

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FoodFacts.com
thought our community would find this story of particular interest. Back in 1978, the United States government mandated the addition of vitamin C to hot dogs. This would reduce the amount of nitrites and would, by the popular opinion of the time, reduce the rate of colon cancer in the country.

The FDA required hot dog manufacturers to include either ascorbate or erythorbate in their products. Both of these would offset the amount of nitrites present in the meat. Nitrites are what is added to processed meats like frankfurters. They enhance flavor and color in addition to extending shelf life. Unfortunately, as the meat is cooked the nitrites mix with amines in the meat to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. The presence of vitamin C would reduce the nitrites and prevent the cancer.

Great idea.

A new study, however, has revealed that although there has been a notable drop in the number of people who die from colon cancer, there really hasn’t been much of a change in the number of people who actually get colon cancer. These findings were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting just this week. While researchers agree that the amount of nitrites in hot dogs were definitely reduced by the changes made by the government, those reductions did not decrease the risk for colon cancer in the country. Researchers feel that the results would have been evident by now.

It was agreed that the decrease in the death rate from colon cancer is most likely attributable to earlier detection and better treatments.

While the researchers agreed that reducing the nitrites in hot dogs was a beneficial move, the hot dog issue is difficult to determine. Since not everyone is a hot dog fan, and even most of those who are aren’t eating them in excess, studying the issue is clouded.

Regardless of its effect on colon cancer, it’s better for everyone that today’s hot dogs carry reduced quantities of nitrites compared to their 1970’s counterparts.

Unhappy Meal … Bad food isn’t just harmful to your body, it may be harmful to your mind too!

9227396-portrait-of-sad-woman-with-burger-over-white-background1Foodfacts.com wants to pass this information along to our community, as we feel it can really help influence your eating habits and your life.  A Spanish study published in the U.S. in early 2011 confirms that consumption of foods high in trans-fats and saturated fats increases the risk of depression.  There had been previous studies linking fast food and junk foods to the disease and this most recent study confirms them.

Importantly, researchers also showed that products like olive oil, which is high in healthy omega-9 fatty acids, can fight against the risk of mental illness.

The study followed and analyzed the diet and lifestyle of over 12,000 volunteers for over six years.  At the beginning of the study, none of the participants had been diagnosed with depression.  By the end of the study, 657 of the volunteers were new sufferers.  Those volunteers with an elevated consumption of trans-fats which are defined as fats present in artificial form in industrially-produced foods and pastries) presented up to a 48 percent increase in the risk of depression in comparison to those volunteers who did not consume these fats.  It was noted that the more trans-fats were consumed, the greater the harmful effect was produced in volunteers.

Simultaneously it was found that the impact of polyunsaturated fats which are composed of larger amounts of fish and vegetable oils, as well as olive oil, was associated with a lower risk of suffering depression.

It was noted that the test group for the study was composed of a European population that enjoys a relatively low intake of trans-fats, making up only about .4% of the total caloric intake of the volunteers studied.  Regardless of the normally low levels of trans-fat consumption of the test group, there was an increase in the risk of depression of almost 50%.   It was noted that the U.S. population derives about 2.5% of its caloric intake from these trans-fats.

Depression rates have been rising worldwide in recent years.  This important study points to the possibility that that rise may be attributable to the changes in fat sources of Western diets.   Gradually we have been substituting beneficial polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats derived from nuts, vegetables and fish for the saturated and trans-fats found in meats, butters and other mass-produced food products like fast food.

FoodFacts will continue to follow this and other similar stories and keep you updated

Fight cancer at the farmer’s market

FoodFacts.com does its best to inform our community of different foods that are beneficial in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Staying healthy has to do with many different parts of a person’s life: diet, nutrition, stress and heredity are among those things that play a role. While there are elements of our lives we just don’t have control over (like our family tree), there are things we can do to reduce our risk of disease.

Certain foods have been identified as helpful in the reduction of cancer risk. These foods are packed with nutritional content. They are typically low in calories and high in fiber.

The American Institute for Cancer research has cited weight control as a key factor in preventing some cancers. In fact, obesity is said to increase the risk of colorectal, esophageal, endometrial, pancreatic, renal and postmenopausal breast cancers.

There are food gwhat-are-cruciferous-vegetablesroups that boast especially beneficial nutritional components that will help control weight and bring countless other health benefits. Here are some food groups that can help you enjoy better health:

  • Cruciferous vegetables – Research has shown that the phytochemical, sulforaphane, found in these vegetables can stimulate enzymes in the body that are thought to detoxify carcinogens before they can damage cells. Indole 3-carbinol and crambene (compounds also found in crucierous vegetables) are also thought to activate detoxification enzymes.
  • Garlic helps protect against stomach cancer, colon cancer, esophageal, pancreatic and breast cancers. Onions, leeks and chives have all shown similar effects.
  • Berries are also high in vitamin C, fiber and ellagic acid, shown to reduce the risk of breast, lung, bladder and skin cancers. In addition, berries have been shown to slow down the growth of cancer cells.
  • Beans - Legumes like lentils, peas and any dried beans are high in saponins. Saponins are phytochemicals found in beans and herbs. They have been shown to be beneficial in reducing blood cholesterol levels, cancer risks and supporting bone health. Beans are also high in fiber.peas
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach and kale, dark lettuces) have carotenoids, which protect against cancer of the mouth, larynx and pharynx. Other research has found that the carotenoids in these vegetables also slow the growth of certain types of stomach, lung, breast and skin cancer cells.
  • Grapes and grape juice are also loaded with resveratrol. The skin of grapes contains most of its resveratrol. Red grapes carry more of the phytochemical than green grapes. Resveratrol is thought to slow the growth of cancer cells and may inhibit tumors in the liver and stomach.
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  • Tomatoes sport there beautiful red color because of the phytochemical lycopene. Lycopene is linked to the reduction of the risk of prostate cancer. Lycopene and other related anyoxidants have displayed anti-cancer benefits in varying studies with other cancer cells beyond prostate, including breast, lung and endometrial.

FoodFacts.com is excited to continually share with you the food choices that will work to keep you vital, healthy and energetic. All the foods detailed here are tasty

additions to your diet, and they offer protection against cancer, not to mention carrying many other nutrients that benefit your body in a variety of ways. Stock up and get cooking!

Fighting Back: Lobbyists and law firm to launch class action suit against General Mills in California

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The Center For Science In The Public Interest and law firm Reese Richman will be launching a class action suit against General Mills for the presentation of its Fruit Roll-ups, Fruit Gushers and Fruit by the Foot brands to consumers according to a press release issued this past Friday. The suit accuses General Mills of marketing products that are “little better than candy” as “healthful and nutritious”.

The products featured in the coming class action suit contain trans fat, large amounts of added sugars, and potentially harmful artificial food coloring. They lack significant amounts of real, natural fruit and contain virtually no dietary fiber. The complaint states that although these products are portrayed as healthy and nutritious for children and adults, they aren’t at all.

General Mills has since defended all three of these products, stating that they stand behind the accuracy of their product labeling.

Technically the food label carried by these three General Mills products is accurate. The snacks are a good source of vitamin C, they are low in calories, low in fat and do contain fruit. The CSPI, however, claims that those attributes alone don’t make the products healthy and that General Mills is, in fact, deceiving parents by marketing high-sugar foods that are little more than fruit-flavored as healthy, nutritious snacks. In other words the “good” attributes listed on the label don’t qualify Fruit Roll-ups, Fruit Gushers or Fruit by the Foot as healthy, even though they’re true.

In addition, although each of these products’ trans fat content is quite low, it still contributes to cumulative trans fat content. When you consider the trans fat, with the added sugars, and artificial colors and flavorings, it’s hard to imagine that the marketing, advertising and packaging of these products is not in violation of some very specific state laws.

General Mills has stated that they have not yet been served with this lawsuit, although the Center for Science in the Public Interest has issued a press release regarding the class action. The company has stated that it has every intention to stand by their products, marketing, advertising and packaging.

October 17, 2011 Food Recall Alert: River Ranch Fresh Foods bagged salad

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It was announced today that California-based River Ranch Fresh Foods has recalled 2,154 cases of bagged salad products because of potential Listeria contamination found after tests by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The recalled products were distributed in Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and sold in various retail supermarkets with “Best By” dates of Oct. 14, 2011. Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can cause food poisoning. There have been no reported illnesses attributed to this recall, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, Listeria has been blamed for 23 deaths in the United States due to bacteria-laden cantaloupes, and has been the cause of other recent lettuce recalls.

The recalled bagged salad products include the following:

• Farmers Market, 8 oz Shredded Iceberg UPC Number 30034-30195
• Farmers Market, 7 oz Parisian Blend UPC Number 30034-30259
• Farmers Market, 9 oz Leafy Romaine UPC Number 30034-30364
• Farmers Market, 12 oz Romaine Garden UPC Number 30034-30220
• Hy-Vee, 8 oz Shredded Iceberg UPC Number 75450-12053
• Hy-Vee, 12 oz American Blend UPC Number 75450-12047
• Hy-Vee, 12 oz Garden Supreme UPC Number 75450-12046
• Hy-Vee, 12 oz Romaine Garden UPC Number 75450-12058

Stay aware and be safe.

Five a day the easy way …

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The recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day can seem daunting to some folks. In fact, many of us can really only manage to get our vegetables on our dinner plate and a piece of fruit in between lunch and dinner as a snack. Neither of these is a bad thing, but we’re not getting up to five servings under these circumstances. So FoodFacts.com has some suggestions that will help you meet those recommendations more often and keep your diet interesting and flavorful.

Think about your breakfast
Most people think of breakfast as a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, eggs, or pancakes – the traditional breakfast foods we’re used to (especially those that we’re eating in a rush to get out the door) don’t include fruits or vegetables. Believe it or not, breakfast can be one of the easiest meals in which to include fruits or vegetables.

If you like yogurt and granola, pick up some of your favorite fruits – berries, peaches, grapes, or anything else you’re partial to and you can quickly make a great breakfast parfait by layering the yogurt, granola and fruit in a glass. This is both refreshing and filling.

When eggs are on the menu, choose omelets you can fill with spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini or any other vegetable you choose. And, if you’re rushed for breakfast, you can keep a bowl of cut-up fruit in your refrigerator to mix into vanilla yogurt to grab and go.

Use a fruit bowl
Have you ever gone to the grocery store and purchased fruits that you knew your whole family would enjoy only to find them getting softer and softer in the refrigerator day by day? Ever hear the old adage “Out of sight, out of mind?”. We think this applies directly to fruit in refrigerators. Get a pretty bowl, fill it with fruit and leave it out where your family can see it. They’ll be much more likely to help themselves to a piece from the bowl because they don’t have to remember to go looking for it in the fridge.

The art of the hidden vegetable
Here’s another old adage we like to apply to vegetables — “What you don’t know can’t hurt you”. We know how difficult it is for some people to eat vegetables. You’d be surprised how many adults have just as much of a problem with them as children do. There are ways to use vegetables that your family will never suspect … and they’ll actually really love. A few thoughts are: shredded carrots in meatloaf, chopped spinach in meatballs, and cauliflower in mashed potatoes — not to mention zucchini bread, carrot bread, and pumpkin bread.

Fruit for dessert
While we understand we’re all trying to be more conscious of our eating habits, we don’t have to give up on dessert completely. You can make an interesting and refreshing fruit salad for everyone to enjoy after dinner or anytime. It’s tasty and healthy and will leave everyone feeling satisfied that they were able to enjoy an after-dinner “treat”.

If you have any other ideas that will help us all reach the recommended five per day servings of fruits and vegetables, please let FoodFacts.com in on them and we’ll make them available to the whole community.

Start thinking about more than Halloween when you think about Pumpkins!

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It’s that time of year again and FoodFacts.com is getting ready.  In just 18 days, children everywhere will don their “scariest” costumes and ring our doorbells looking for waaay too much candy.  But before we get to that day, we embark on our traditional pumpkin carving experience.  Whether yours is scary or funny, male or female, big or small, it’s safe to say that after you’ve cleaned it, seeded it, scraped it and gotten the flesh out, you look at it and say what do I actually do with all this?

Sad to say, most of us aren’t thinking about eating it.  But before pumpkins became the jack-o-lantern tradition in millions of homes, they were just good, old-fashioned vegetables.  And as it turns out they’re vegetables we really need to be thinking about eating.  Pumpkin could actually be referred to as a super-vegetable.

Pumpkin is very low in calories.  One cup carries only about 30 calories.   Impressively, it incorporates  a long list of vitamins and minerals into that one cup serving.  Let’s take a look at some of them:

Folates                          Vitamin A                    Potassiumpumpkin-bread
Niacin                            Vitamin C                    Magnesium
Riboflavin                      Vitamin E                    Alpha-Carotene
Thiamin                         Vitamin K                    Beta-Carotene

That wonderful orange color of the ripe pumpkin tells you right away that it’s rich in carotenoids.  Both the Alpha  and Beta-Carotenes in pumpkin are converted by the body into vitamin A.  This supports healthy vision and proper immune function.  Beta-carotene is thought to reverse skin damage and also act as an anti-inflammatory.  Alpha-carotene possibly slows the aging process and is also thought to reduce the risk of cataracts.  Carotenoids are also thought to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Vitamin C reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.  Vitamin E is great for skin and may have an effect on your risk for specific cancers.    Potassium is great for bone health, energy production and blood pressure.  Magnesium also supports your immune system and bone health.  And this list doesn’t cover every nutrient that calls the pumpkin home.

pumpkin-soup-mdSo now that you know how good it is for you, you may be wondering exactly what you can use it for when cooking.  Pumpkin is surprisingly versatile and can be incorporated into many different dishes.  It has a mild, but distinctive flavor and lends itself well to a variety of preparations.  Here’s a quick list you might want to look into:

Pumpkin Ravioli                          Pumpkin Soup                Pumpkin Muffins  �
Pumpkin Bread                            Pumpkin Pudding          Pumpkin Pie                       Pumpkin Pancakes                      Pumpkin Stew               Pumpkin Lasagna �
                                       Pumpkin Mashed Potatoes         Pumpkin Quiche            Pumpkin Risotto

If you can add to this list, please do.  FoodFacts.com is always looking for new and interesting recipes to add to our collection.

In the meantime,  happy pumpkin picking and pumpkin eating!   Oh … and Happy Halloween!

Toucan Sam lives to see another day on your grocery shelf

 

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FoodFacts.com has been watching this story develop and wants to bring you the latest news. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission, the Agriculture Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention jointly wrote a series of guidelines that would set maximum levels of fat, sugars and sodium for food products. This series of guidelines also included a request to the food industry not to specifically market foods that do not adhere to those suggested guidelines to children between the ages of 2 and 17. This request encompassed advertising on television, in stores and on the internet and it also included the removal of cartoon characters from cereal boxes.

The food industry has been fighting back and has aggressively lobbied against the guidelines. They claim that adherence to the proposed guidelines would severely limit the marketing of most all food products in the country and most especially children’s food products. Although they acknowledge that the guidelines are voluntary, they fear that there could be retaliation against them for not adhering.

After hearing industry objectives, government agencies are said to have reconsidered their stance. The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection acknowledged that they will be making significant revisions to their proposal.

In answer to the government guidelines, food companies came up with their own set of guidelines. While the industry proposal does include limiting advertising on some children’s foods, they’ve adjusted the criteria. While the industry has been praised by officials, their own proposal is far more lenient than the government offering.

Most parents in America have lived through the “grocery store as toy store” effects of children’s food packaging and surprise-inside-the-box marketing tactics on our kids as they joined us at our local markets in their very young years. You can easily assume that those cartoon characters, images and photos are designed to market products to kids before they can actually read. How many times did your three-year-old tell you he or she wanted that box that carried those colorful images gracing not only the box, but the TV-screen as well? Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam and the Trix Rabbit are pretty powerful, to say the least.

FoodFacts.com just has to ask: if the food industry understands the power of these images in marketing to children, (and we know they absolutely do) why can’t they use them to promote products we’d all be happy to feed our kids? Like cereals that are low in sugar and are made from whole grains that don’t contain fake fruit and odd colors? The industry would still be selling products to children. It’s just that our kids would want us to buy what’s good for them because those appealing characters would now grace the boxes parents would rather purchase. Seems like a win-win to us. Oh … and we could all take a vacation from repeating the word “no” as we walk down supermarket aisles with our three-year-old kids as they point out their animated pals on the store shelves.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup vs. High-Maltose Corn Syrup

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One of FoodFacts.com’s Facebook friends recently asked us about high maltose corn syrup and whether or not it was as bad as high-fructose corn syrup. We thought that the FoodFacts blog would be the best place to address this and look at both sweeteners in more detail.

Once you begin researching the subject, one of the first concepts you encounter is the idea that sugar is sugar, in basically any form – and there are many different forms. For instance lactose is a sugar found in dairy products. Fructose is found in fruit and honey. Maltose is a sugar formed by glucose. Our bodies process all sugars in the same manner. High-fructose corn syrup and high-maltose corn syrup, both derived from corn, are sweeteners containing greater amounts of their respective sugars (fructose and maltose). These are processed sweeteners (read sweeteners created from corn – they do not naturally occur).

It sounds pretty simple. So what’s caused the big controversy? If our bodies metabolize all sugars the same regardless of their origins, is the fuss we’ve all heard really necessary?

The Center for Disease Control statistics show that as of 2010 over 33 percent of Americans are obese. Not only that, it relates that there is not one single state in the nation that reports less than a 20 percent obesity rate. Obesity is a problem that has the nation very concerned about the health of our population as well as our future. Out of 195 countries, the U.S. now weighs in at #9 for overweight adults. The numbers are big and they just keep growing.

Some believe that everyone in the U.S. shares a common problem that could be the root cause of our obesity epidemic – the consumption of corn products and sweeteners. Believe it or not, high-fructose corn syrup is in just about every processed food on our grocery shelves. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we are consuming an estimated annual 140 pounds of it per person. Researchers at Princeton University have discovered that the affect of adding high fructose corn syrup into the diets of lab rats points to the concept that our overly processed diets composed of significant amounts of corn sweeteners really is the root of this problem. The Princeton study compared male rats given water sweetened with high fructose corn syrup in addition to a regular diet of rat chow against their counterparts who were the fed rat chow alone. The rats consuming the high-fructose corn syrup sweetened water experienced abnormal weight gain as well as large increases in triglycerides and fat deposits. The sweetener affected both the weight and heart health of the control group.

The connection between the consumption of corn sweeteners and obesity, while compelling, is still a SUSPECTED connection . In fact there are those that charge that the Princeton study cannot be valid as the male rats in the high-fructose corn syrup test group were given the equivalent of 20 cans of soda per day.

What does this mean to you?

First of all, the differences between high fructose corn syrup and high maltose corn syrup aren’t much of a concern. They are both corn based sweeteners and they are both processed food products. While scientists point to the concept that all sugars break down in your body the same way, recent studies are, in fact, illustrating that corn sweeteners can be linked to obesity and heart problems. And while not proven, there’s some pretty compelling information available that would lead us to think that avoiding both as often as possible can’t be a bad idea.

So, from FoodFacts.com, the message remains the same: Consume less processed foods and you’ll have a better understanding of what you’re eating and how it benefits your body.