Monthly Archives: January 2012

“Hidden” Chemicals In Apples

Let’s pretend there is an apple in front of you. Can you tell us how many nutrients are in it? We’ll give you a moment to think about this. How many nutrients was everyone able to come up with? 20? 100? Try nearly 400. That’s how many phytochemicals have been found in a whole, fresh, clean apple, according to the Handbook of Phytochemical Constituents of Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) Herbs. This gives new meaning to the adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Here at FoodFacts we like to stress the importance of eating whole, fresh foods. They give you proper nutrition that’s beneficial to your health. For example, studies have shown that nutrients in apples have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, brain cell damage, and certain cancers. Furthermore, according to research in the Journal of Nutrition, some nutrients in apples work better together than separately. Meaning that, while science has the capability to isolate each nutrient and turn it into 400 different supplements, eating just one apple is far better ( not to mention easier) for our health. These are just the nutrients we know about in an apple. We all know the food industry is constantly changing and emerging research will shed more light into the positive health benefits of foods we already knew were good for us, but never understood why.

As a FoodFacts reader, we are sure you have noticed front of label health claims on packaged food products. The latest over- priced product on the market may claim to have high amounts of every nutrient known to man. There may even be big, bold statements that link single nutrients to positive health benefits and so on. While those claims may have truth to them, we ask ourselves – is a product high in one nutrient good for us if it comes with the added sugar and/or manmade ingredients you struggle to pronounce the name of? Do we want to risk our health and well being by introducing items into our body that it does not recognize? Can we find all the nutrients in an apple in a s supplement, or even apple juice? We could waste time trying or we could take the simple approach and eat a delicious, good for you, nutrient packed apple. Whole foods for our whole bodies – a simple, straight forward approach that can keep us healthy for years to come.

Is that really fat free?


knows that reading (and understanding) a foods nutrition label is key to a healthy diet – whether you are counting your calories, increasing your fiber or watching fat intake. After what seems like way too long, you may have finally found your holy grail of healthy foods to replace a high fat, high calorie favorite. Low and behold, a product that is fat free! Before you rejoice, keep reading.

…The ingredients list that is. The ingredients list will give you a better picture of the nutrients in your food. So is there an item on the ingredients list that didn’t end up on the nutrition panel? If you happen to notice “mono and diglycerides” on the list – these are fats. They carry the same amount of energy per gram (9) as a triglyceride (3 fatty acids and a glycerol), yet the food item in question has “0 calories,” and “0 fat.”

Two things are at play here. Number 1 is the definition of a fat. The FDA requires fats to be listed as triglycerides, which mono and diglycerides are not. Number 2 are the labeling laws – if a product has less than 5 calories or less than 0.5g fat per serving , it can be listed as “0.” As an example, let’s say we have cooking spray X that is listed as having “0 calories” and “0 fat” per 1/3 second spray ( I’m not sure about you guys, but we don’t stop spraying at .33 seconds, nor can we operate a stop watch and spray at the same time, but that is our short coming). Further reading shows one of the first ingredients are mono and diglycerides aka oils, aka fats, that are magically fat free. Since we don’t live in a magical world where somehow fat has become fat free, let’s assume that one serving contains 5 calories of fat. That means one seconds worth of spraying has given us 15 calories and approximately 1.7 grams of fat. Let’s say you sprayed for 5 seconds. That would run you 75 calories and 8.3 grams of fat. That is, sadly, not as fat free as the nutrition panel suggests.

However, FoodFacts understands that if we are watching what we eat and we do our homework, then we have a better idea of what we are putting into our bodies. And bravo to us, since that is not always easy!

Serving sizes are about so much more than weight control

FoodFacts knows that for years consumers have been concerned with serving sizes as a way to control weight. If one serving from a package fits into someone’s caloric intake goals for the day, it can help make the decision to purchase a particular product.

But when you really look into a processed food product’s serving size, there are so many other issues besides calories to be concerned about. That’s especially true when we talk about “fun” foods. Those are the foods we usually limit in our diets because they aren’t incredibly good for us. We use them as treats … foods like ice cream, chips, cookies and cakes. FoodFacts sometimes wonders if the serving size information is a way to ease us into being comfortable with a food that might not be healthy for us.

Your average, nameless brand of peanut butter cup ice cream, for example, cites a serving size of half a cup. This weighs in at 150 calories, 10 g total fat (4 of which are saturated), 25 mg cholesterol, and 15 g carbohydrates. In order for this information to be correct, it would be necessary to physically measure out a half cup of ice cream in a measuring cup prior to consumption. In addition, it would require that you only have one serving of said ice cream. If you don’t stick to that one serving, you’ll be getting double the fat (20 g total). You might not even realize that while it’s happening.

Cookies are another of our favorite examples of the serving size dilemma. Chocolate chip cookies are probably the most popular cookies. Almost any brand of chocolate chip cookies carries a serving size of 3 cookies. Those three cookies carry a calorie count of 190, with 8 grams of fat (2.5 of which are saturated, but 0 g trans fat) and 22 g carbohydrates. If you didn’t read the ingredient list, you won’t realize that they’re made with partially hydrogenated oil. That one ingredient means that the product DOES, in fact, contain trans fat, but they can claim to be trans-fat free because there’s less than .5 g in a single serving. So, if you have 6 cookies, instead of three, you just consumed one gram of trans fat, no matter what the label said.

How about potato chips with an average serving size of 12 chips? When was the last time you ate exactly 12 potato chips? We couldn’t tell you if we had 12, or 24 or 36. It would probably depend on the desirability of the accompanying dip. And that could have elevated trans-fat consumption up to 2 grams. For that one food product.

When you realize that every food we consume has a suggested serving size and that the nutritional information listed is applicable to that serving size, you can see the opportunities we have all day long to turn foods that might not seem so bad into unhealthy items.

FoodFacts wants our community members to keep in mind how certain food items can appear innocuous on the food label, while in reality hold more serious implications for your healthy diet. It’s always about education. .5 grams of trans-fat might not make you uncomfortable. But 2 grams for two separate food items during a one day period might make you stop and think. So don’t just read the label. Understand how that food product fits into your day and your goals for diet and health.

A must read for the FoodFacts community

Recently, FoodFacts came across the book, “I’m Fat, Help Me”, written by Laura Michina. We were so excited about the straight forward, no-nonsense approach the book takes to losing weight, eating well, and improving lifestyle habits, we just had to share the information with our community.

Laura Michina’s important book is written as a handbook for those who are trying to lose weight. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese and are looking for a way out of their problems. Most, however, will turn to traditional diets for their solutions. Sadly, it’s proven that those diets, while they may have an initial effect, do nothing to alter the long-term outcome of most dieters.

This book can help those who are looking to make the changes in their diets and lifestyles that will result in weight loss and a return to better health. If you’re looking to lose 15 pounds or over a hundred, this is the book that can help you accomplish your goals. It’s honest, straight-forward and is not at all politically correct. So you’ll have to make sure that you can handle the advice. But, if you can, it will help you make the significant changes that will stay with you for a lifetime. Laura also includes in the book and cites our database information in several topic areas.

Laura has it all covered — from why diets don’t work, to making sure you exercise, to the ingredients your body doesn’t need and aren’t good for you. It’s a real and fresh approach to an age-old subject … one that you won’t find in every book on dieting written, and, more importantly, one that can truly help the committed re-establish the healthy relationship with food that can last a lifetime.

Thanks for the mentions, Laura! We’re happy to know that can help people achieve their healthy lifestyle goals.

And for anyone who’s interested, you can visit the I’m Fat, Help Me website here.

The best reason we’ve ever seen to avoid fast food completely was just reading up on a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation regarding fast food. We’ve all known for awhile that there’s absolutely nothing redeeming in the ingredient lists of fast food products. They’re just bad for you. They have too much fat, too much salt, and tons of controversial ingredients. But now on top of that, it’s been found that there’s a very real possibility they cause brain damage.

In this new study, fatty foods were found to damage the hypothalamus region of rodent brains. The hypothalamus produces the hormones that control hunger, thirst, sleep and moods. It’s thought to be the “self-regulation” center of the human brain, helping us to determine how many hours of sleep we need, when we’ve eaten enough, etc.

During this study, rats and mice were fed a high-fat diet, similar to a fast-food heavy American diet. After 24 hours, their hypothalamuses were inflamed. In about a week, the rodents’ brains activated cells to repair the damage. But after several seeks, the inflammation returned and stayed for the remaining eight months of the study. The findings show that a diet can actually re-program the structure of the brain. It’s felt that this could explain why it can be so hard to lose weight and keep it off permanently. The rodents on the high-fat diet had a 25% decline in a special kind of cell that’s devoted to regulating appetite and fat control. The findings point to the idea that when we’re consuming an unhealthy, high-fat diet, we aren’t able to control our habits because the diet has actually affected the brain.

It’s important to remember that while this is compelling, researchers have yet to determine if the damage observed in rodent brains is analogous to what happens in the human brain. However, this is the first time that a study has found actual changes in brain structure based on fat consumption. feels that this is important information for everyone in our community to note and share with others in their lives. Getting this new word out about fast food will give people another reason to stay away and recommit to preparing fresh foods at home.

Maybe beef’s not so bad after all …

FoodFacts does its best to keep our community members in the know regarding news in nutrition. Sometimes the latest news puts to rest some long held beliefs about the foods we eat. This latest information does just that.

For years now, we’ve believed that we should keep our consumption of beef low. It hasn’t been considered the best source of protein, even for nutritionally conscious folks who follow a healthy diet plan, based on its fat content. A new study published in the January 2012 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is actually taking a new stance on the subject matter. The study shows that, in fact, beef can play a role in a cholesterol-lowering diet. Every day consumption of lean beef can be effective in lowering total and “bad” cholesterol.

Conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, the study evaluated adults with moderately elevated cholesterol levels. It measured the impact of diets including varying amounts of lean beef on total and LDL cholesterol levels. Those involved in the study experienced a 10% decrease in bad cholesterol from the beginning of the study while consuming diets including between 4 and 5.4 oz of lean beef daily. The remainder of the diet was rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. It was concluded that diets including lean beef are as effective in improving heart health risk factors as other diets which emphasize plant proteins.

It is important to note that beef consumed in this study were lean cuts and 95% lean ground beef. It is also important to note the amount of beef consumed daily during the study. While this is all great news for beef lovers everywhere, we all need to be conscious of the cut, fat content and portion size of beef in order to consider it a healthy option in our diets. The good news is that the most popular cuts of beef (top sirloin steak, tenderloin, t-bone steak) do, in fact, meet government guidelines for lean beef. A 3 oz. serving of lean beef contains about 150 calories and in addition, is a great source of protein, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin and selenium.

FoodFacts is happy to share this news with you and to remind all of us that a healthy lifestyle includes real foods, in combination with one another and in moderation. It’s always a better plan than anything that comes from a box.