Category Archives: FoodFacts.com

The challenges of living with celiac disease

bread-1369207Living with celiac disease couldn’t possibly be a walk in the park. Despite having a month dedicated to its awareness, and the collective efforts of the medical community, advocates and celiacs themselves, many people are still in the dark as to what it really is. Or, quite simply, people just couldn’t comprehend the day-to-day struggles of those afflicted with the disease. FoodFacts.com shares a few of the the challenges that celiacs often face.

Cut-and-try testing

As previously mentioned, it takes six to eight years for celiac disease to be diagnosed correctly. Many people who manifest symptoms of the illness are, more often than not, diagnosed with other conditions, which may not at all be connected to celiac disease. For instance, a celiac could have vomiting symptoms whenever he or she ingests gluten, and then gets diagnosed with and treated for some form of eating disorder. In many cases, a person undergoes a number of other tests and gets misdiagnosed and treated incorrectly. The truth is, there are many people who do not have the resources to be passed on from specialist to specialist, let alone go through various expensive tests. Needless to say, this is an exhausting cycle for anyone to endure.

Being misunderstood

For unknowing celiacs, the scorn is on the “lapses” in their behavior. People who suffer with celiac disease may appear tired after having eaten a small piece of food that contains gluten. Others usually perceive the fatigue as laziness and lack of interest or commitment. And, in the example mentioned above, a celiac who throws up after his or her meal are frequently mistaken for being calorie-obsessed and figure-conscious.

Healing process

The suffering doesn’t end when celiacs are finally correctly diagnosed. It is never easy for anyone to give up their favorite foods, no matter how sick they get after eating them. Also, change doesn’t happen overnight. A newly diagnosed celiac may go gluten-free immediately, but it may take months or years for his or her body to fully heal.

Persistent challenges

There is a widely believed misconception that gluten-free diet actually means eating healthier. Unfortunately, the popularity of this food trend has inadvertently made celiac disease some sort of a joke. From late night shows to grocery stores and restaurants, many celiacs find themselves regarded as – and ridiculed for – being hypochondriacs riding on the gluten-free fad.

As with any health condition, celiac disease is not something one would hope to live with. However, it is a delight to see how many people who have this illness power through their everyday lives. As Celiac Disease Awareness Month comes to a close, bear in mind that gluten-free is not just a multi-million dollar trend with a 44-million-strong market. There’s actually a large number of that market who consume it as a health necessity.

Tip: It’s convenient to head over the grocery aisle that holds processed, ready-made gluten-free foods. However, these products may not necessarily be the healthy way to nourish your body, especially when it has suffered years of damage. It’s always best to seek out natural, gluten-free ingredients and prepare your meals yourself. Use the all my food facts app to find products that are safe for you to eat. 

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Know your ingredients with All My FoodFacts app: Madhava Agave Nectar Amber

Agave nectarAgave nectar is a product of blue agave plant that typically thrives in Southern Mexico. The agave plant is fairly low on the glycemic load chart, and larger amount of sweetness than refined sugar. This means that a small amount of agave nectar goes a long way. According to the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the agave plant contains phytochemicals that are beneficial in strengthening the immune system.

Agave nectar comes in light, dark, amber and raw varieties. The amber variety has a medium-intensity caramel flavor. It is commonly used for savory dishes and sauces, healthy fruit drinks and most especially desserts. The amber agave nectar can also be consumed directly from the bottle as a topping for pancakes and French toast.

Agave nectar is sometimes called agave syrup or agave sweetener. It is similar to honey, and is therefore widely used by vegans as a substitute because it is not derived from animals. This week, FoodFacts.com took a look at Madhava Agave Nectar Amber with the All My FoodFacts app, and here’s what we found.

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Note: The product information shown above is only a general overview of Madhava Agave Nectar Amber. Sign up on our website for personalized specifications on which products are good for you and which you should avoid based on your dietary data, or you can get the All My FoodFacts app on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon!

Know your ingredients with All My FoodFacts app: McCormick Gourmet Anise Seed


AAniset FoodFacts.com, we are committed to informing you of the nutrition found in the food that you are consuming. We have decided to start a new series on the FoodFacts.com blog, which will feature a product and its ingredient data to be published every Friday.

In our previous blog post, we shared the most commonly used spices that can cause allergic reactions, and anise is one of them. Anise is an aromatic plant used as an herb for centuries for cooking and medicinal purposes. It is similar in taste to tarragon and fennel. Typically, anise leaves are only used only for additional flavoring, and the seeds are used as a spice ingredient added to a recipe.

If you’ve been using McCormick Gourmet Anise Seed to season your dishes, then we have good news for you! Using the All My FoodFacts app, we found that this product scored an A on our healthgrade score based on its ingredient data!

Anise1 Anise2

Note: The product information shown above is a general overview of McCormick Gourmet Anise Seed. Sign up on our website for personalized specifications on which products are good for you and which you should avoid based on your dietary data, or you can get the All My FoodFacts app on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon!

Turmeric, the golden spice

indian-spices-829198In the beginning of the year, McCormick released its Flavor Forecast report for the top foods in 2016, and there is nothing that pleases us at Foodfacts.com more than to see healthy foods getting much-deserved attention. Thanks to the growing organic food movement, not only did healthy, functional superfoods made the list, they dominated it! Among the superfoods predicted to be popular this year is turmeric. Nearly halfway through the year, physical grocery stores and online food merchants, like GrubHub, have seen an increase in sales of turmeric and turmeric-based products.

What exactly is turmeric?

Turmeric, aptly called the golden spice, is that thing on the spices shelf with the yellow-orange hue. It is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that comes from the curcuma longa or curcuma domestica plant, which is native to South Asia. Turmeric is generally used in the region for cooking and formerly as a fabric dye, but most importantly, has been widely used for centuries to treat a myriad of illnesses.

The basic nutritional aspects of turmeric include a 26% daily value in manganese and 16% in iron. It is also a great source of fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, and healthy amounts of vitamin C and magnesium. The ideal serving to get all those nutritional aspects is an ounce, but it would be impossible for a person to ingest that kind of amount in one seating. The good thing is that incorporating even just a tablespoon in your meal already allows you to reap the benefits of this wonder spice!

Health benefits

Purported to cure everything from depression to cancer, turmeric offers plenty of benefits. Aside from the nutritional value mentioned above, a study on turmeric and curcumin (turmeric powder is 3.14% curcumin) reveals that curcumin have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and immune modulating activities.

Among the health benefits of turmeric include pain relief, reducing gas and bloating, an improved ability to digest fats, and improved skin conditions from psoriasis to acne. In addition, turmeric reportedly also has artery-clearing effects that decreases congestion, and can reduce levels of bad cholesterol within weeks of use. Other reports, though further studies are required, say that turmeric is also good for improved eye health.

Search our website for the highest graded turmeric-based products!

Healthy meals to prepare for Mother’s Day

Mom’s cooking is the best, alright, but this Mother’s Day, give your favorite resident chef a break! Spoil mom with these delicious and healthy meals to show her how much you love and appreciate her.

Whether you’re making breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a little snack for mom, Foodfacts.com has got you covered!

Breakfast: Organic buttermilk blueberry pancakes

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Wake mom up with the smell of freshly-cooked pancakes delivered to her bed. These organic buttermilk blueberry pancakes are sure to get her ready to start the day!

Get the recipe: Buttermilk blueberry pancakes

Foodfacts.com recommended ingredient: Maple Grove Farms of Vermont Organic Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mixes

Lunch: Grilled pork chops and peaches

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This seared-on-the-grill, caramelized, charred pork chops-and-peaches combo is guaranteed to be a hit! Add in some kale, and you’ve got the perfect lunch!

Get the recipe: Grilled pork chops and peaches

Foodfacts.com recommended ingredient: Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce

Dinner: Sun-dried tomato and feta stuffed artichokes

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End the day with this light, scrumptious and nutritious dinner. The burst of flavors these tasty sun-dried tomatoes and tangy feta cheese stuffed in hearty artichokes is sure to be a party in her mouth!

Get the recipe: Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Stuffed Artichokes

Foodfacts.com recommended ingredient: Wegmans Traditional, Feta Cheese in Brine, Fat Free

Dessert: Chickpea Cookie Dough

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Of course, mom gets to have some dessert. Treat mom with these sweets, minus the guilt!

Bonus: It makes for a great opportunity for quality time to make them together with mom, too!

Get the recipe: Chickpea Cookie Dough

Foodfacts.com recommended ingredient: Nature’s Agave Premium Raw Agave Nectar

 

Note: Though some of these meals require some level of kitchen experience, don’t worry about messing them up. It’s practically impossible for mom to get disappointed at any gesture on Mother’s Day. You could get all the recipes all wrong, but she’ll still love them anyway — and you even more!

Mars, Inc. to phase out artificial colors over a 5 year period.

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FoodFacts.com truly believes in everything in moderation. But along with said moderation, we really want people to think about what they are putting in their bodies and we’ve been trying to show people this for over a decade. Mars, Inc. is yet another company that is starting to realize that the ingredients that go into their products need to be re-examined. But is this really for our general health or because they need to fall in line to consumer demands? They announced this week that they will start to phase out the artificial coloring in their products in the next five year period.

“Artificial colors pose no known risks to human health or safety, but consumers today are calling on food manufacturers to use more natural ingredients in their products,” Mars said Friday.

While it makes us elated that large companies like Kraft Foods Group, Inc., Nestle, SA, General Mills, Inc, and now Mars, Inc. are feeling the pressure to remove all their artificial ingredients (for safer, more healthier ingredients) we can’t seem to understand why they keep coming out with statements like the one above. Even though Red 40 is approved by the FDA, there has been extensive research to come out saying it has caused tumors in laboratory animals (https://cspinet.org/new/pdf/food-dyes-rainbow-of-risks.pdf), and has come under serious fire by consumer and research advocacy groups.  It is also banned in several European countries. It has to make you wonder…why is the United States perfectly acceptable in allowing it in our foods?

Tom Colicchio is revolutionizing the food industry, one Food Action Policy at a time.

Many of us at FoodFacts.com have been fans of Tom Colicchio for years. From dining at one of his innovative restaurants (the farm at Riverpark is one of the most amazing urban gems you will see at a restaurant in midtown Manhattan) to watching his smart and calm culinary demeanor as he guides somewhat egocentric chefs on Bravo Tv’s “Top Chef,” you know that his passion for food is more than just a career choice, it literally fuels him.

It’s no surprise that he added food activism to his resume when he co-founded Food Policy Action in 2012. Their mission is to make food policies even more substantial while upholding the rights of farmers and food workers and make healthier food more accessible for all. In recent months, Mr. Colicchio took Capitol Hill by storm with 30 other chefs to discuss the Childhood Nutrition Act (which needs to be reauthorized every 5 years). Since new nutritional guidelines have been introduced in recent years for school cafeterias, it’s now more important than ever that every state adopts these paths to make sure our children are educated on eating healthy and proper meals.

To say we are impressed with this Top Chef is an understatement. Most of the celebrity chefs we see in mainstream media are more concerned with hawking products and selling themselves as a brand than educating people on what they are eating. Mr. Colicchio has now opened up the conversation and garnered media attention…exactly what people like us need that are trying to fight the good food fight.

So Mr. Colicchio, we’d like to know how we can partner up?! If you take a look at FoodFacts.com you will see that knowing what you are eating is all that we are about. Our mission is so similar to the one that you have cultivated yourself. Our passion is educating people on what’s really in the foods they are eating…the less ingredients the better! Our all my foodfacts app focuses on showing people all the ingredients they are consuming in the processed foods they are eating and how it affects them. We truly believe that everyone should be entitled to affordable, healthy food to consume and that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients in a package, you probably shouldn’t be eating it! So please, tweet us, write us, anything. We’d love to work with you!

Happy New Year … a look at 2015 in food

foodcollageHappy New Year! As FoodFacts.com looks forward to a healthy, educational 2016 in a world with fewer unhealthy ingredients, and more nutritionally aware consumers, we’re looking back at 2015 to see what we can find in terms of trends and important food issues that came to the forefront this year. Here’s a look at 2015 in food.

Cage-free, antibiotic-free, artificial-free. Sound familiar?

Many of the world’s biggest food companies announced major changes this year — in what they purchase and how they manufacture their food.

Many of the big moves we saw came from companies striving to bring more transparency to their supply chain. McDonald’s pledged to source chickens raised without antibiotics. Dunkin’ Donuts and Costco are switching to cage-free eggs.

Some companies signaled to customers that they were “cleaning up” and simplifying their ingredient lists. Panera ditched dozens of additives. Even Lucky Charms and Butterfingers are getting minor makeovers: General Mills and Nestle said they’re removing artificial colors and flavors from their products.
“Big Food is definitely feeling the pressure,” Scott Allmendinger, who consults with food companies for the Culinary Institute of America, told us. Packaged-food companies lost $4 billion in market share last year, according to a Fortune analysis.

A 2015 Nielsen survey found an increasing number of consumers say they’re willing to pay a premium for “all natural,” “clean” and minimally processed foods. (As we’ve reported, it’s hard to know what any of these terms actually mean. The federal government is soliciting input for how to define “natural.”) And, it seems, these foods marketed as cleaner and more natural are blending into mainstream grocery stores. One example: the success of Kroger’s Simple Truth line of products, which focus on “simpler” and organic ingredients.

“Consumers are slowly migrating away” from the center aisle of the grocery store that’s filled with processed baked goods and canned foods, says Jack Russo, an analyst with Edward Jones, a financial advisory firm.
At the same time, the sales of foods marketed as “local” have surged to $11 billion a year. The organic and natural sector, including GMO-free and gluten-free, is growing at about 8 to 10 percent a year, says Russo.
Russo sees this trend continuing, with growth continuing in the 6 to 8 percent range for the next few years, he says.

Food Waste
Another issue that gained traction this year: the 133 billion pounds of food wasted in the U.S. annually.

To put a visual to this estimate, imagine filling a huge skyscraper such as the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) 44 times.

That’s the image that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack used when he announced in October a new national goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030.

Everyone who eats could play a role in reducing waste. And we have plenty of moral imperatives to do it. As Pope Francis once said, some food waste is akin to “stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.” The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that the typical American family tosses out about $1,600 a year in groceries.

There’s plenty wasted on farms, too, some of which is entirely unavoidable. But as we documented in this story, a lot of food isn’t harvested simply because it’s not quite up to our cosmetic standards. Often, bags of salad and plenty of other edible food items end up in landfills because they won’t stay fresh long enough to be shipped across the country. A number of NGOs and startups are trying to figure out how to get more of it into the hands of the hungry and the people happy to pay less for imperfect produce.

The environmental footprint of food waste is significant. As we’ve reported, all that food we toss out is creating billions of tons of greenhouse gases, and costing us precious water and land.

Foodborne Illness
This year also brought some high-profile outbreaks of foodborne illness. If you’re a Chipotle stockholder, you’re probably well aware of the fallout.

As we’ve reported, Chipotle Mexican Grill is linked to two separate outbreaks of E. coliinfections. The first outbreak sickened 53 people in nine states and prompted the temporary closure of many Chipotle locations in Washington and Oregon.

Then, in early December an outbreak of norovirus sickened at least 120 people in Boston, mostly students at Boston College. Most of the sick students reported eating at a nearby Chipotle.

As our colleague Dan Charles reported, city health inspectors cited Chipotle for allowing a sick employee to work his shift. In the violation report, the inspectors specified that the restaurant should follow its employee illness policy.

Though the Chipotle outbreak got a lot of attention, there are thousands of outbreaks of norovirus each year.

The CDC says norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne disease in the U.S. It’s estimated that about 20 million people a year get sick with it.

The vast majority of outbreaks are caused by infected workers. So, hopefully, the lesson learned in 2015 is this: Restaurants need to keep sick workers off the job.

The CDC estimates that 1 in 5 food service workers has gone to work while sick with vomiting or diarrhea. “It is vital that food service workers stay home if they are sick,” says the CDC’s Aron Hall. He says businesses should consider measures such as paid sick days.

Innovation And Investment In Food And Agriculture
While Big Food is hustling to keep up with changing consumer tastes and values, hundreds of new and nimble companies are entering the marketplace to compete with them. A report by the Dutch banking group Rabobank found that investment in food and agriculture is set to surpass $4 billion by the end of the year.

Rabobank thinks we’re headed toward a “smarter food system.” And plenty of companies and investors want to help us get there. How? Mainly, with technology and (big) data tools for both consumers and farmers.

Venture capitalists are excited about food and agriculture, too, and are pouring money into startups. Entrepreneur reported earlier this year that “startups all along the food chain — from farmers and tech companies to home cooks — are reaping huge rewards [from venture firms]: $2.06 billion invested in the first half of 2015 … nearly as much as the $2.36 billion total for 2014.”

FoodFacts.com likes the direction in which we’re headed. We’re excited to see consumer trends following a healthier, more natural path. And we couldn’t be more pleased about how food manufacturers are reacting to that consumer path. We’re expecting to see more of the same in 2016 and beyond!

Happy New Year!

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/12/29/460589462/the-year-in-food-artificial-out-innovation-in-and-2-more-trends

FDA Offers Grilling Tips

 

Photo from U.S. FDA

FoodFacts.com would like to discuss grilling season.

With grilling season just around the corner, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month released a pamphlet with grilling tips for the safe preparation of foods.

E-coli and salmonella are two of the most well-known and common food-borne illnesses in existent, and both illnesses are often contracted through the incorrect preparation of foods. This is especially common in the summer, when grilling is a common means of cooking and the heat outside is high, resulting in a higher chance of bacteria growing within food.

So how can you keep you and your family safe during this fun, but risky, time?

It all begins before you even begin cooking, with proper cleanup and preparation of your work area. Cleaning your food items is also a must, specifically fresh fruits and vegetables.

The means in which you transport your food is also important, and transporting foods in an organized manner could be beneficial. Keeping your cold foods cold, specifically in a cooler with the temperature at 40°F or below, is necessary for preventing bacteria growth. Keep the coolers closed, and don’t cross-contaminate foods such as poultry, seafood and raw meat.

What about the actual grilling process, though? How do you keep your foods safe?

When grilling, it is important to marinate your food safely – keep it in the refrigerator, rather than the counters or outside. Keep already grilled food hot until it is served. Also, and this is very important – cook food thoroughly. To find out proper cooking temperatures, please refer to the FDA link at the bottom of this blog. Finally, when cooking, keep utensils separate to prevent cross-contamination. It might be a good idea to wash utensils after each use to be extra safe.

So, folks, there you have it. Separation, refrigeration, and proper cooking temperatures are the basics.

With that said, we’re wishing you a happy and healthy grilling season from FoodFacts.com!

FDA: http://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/Consumers/ucm109899.htm

Added Sugar All Around

 

Photo from Forbes

FoodFacts.com would like to explore added sugar today.

Last week, on our Facebook page, we highlighted clever marketing ploys employed by companies to sell food. One of the most common things we found in those products, however, was added sugar. So while people may think they’re buying healthy when purchasing foods they find have no sugar in it, they might not be purchasing products that are as healthy as they might think.

The fact of the matter is that added sugars can be very hard to spot in food labels, so consumers may not actually know they are purchasing products with added sugar.

While manufacturers are required to state the total amount of sugar per serving on all products in the Nutrition Facts Panel, they are not required to state how much of that sugar is in fact added sugar. Quite the loophole, isn’t it?

So why focus on added sugar? Well, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people cut back on added sugar, due to the increase in obesity and heart disease. The AHA suggests no more than 100 calories per day (roughly 6 teaspoons or 24 grams) of added sugar for most women, and 150 calories (9 teaspoons of 36 grams) for most men. All added sugars are all a source of extra calories, no matter what name they go by. According to the Mayo Clinic website, Americans typically consume about 355 calories of added sugar per day. That’s about three times the recommended amount!

Some names of added sugars are common and well-known, such as high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, honey and molasses. But others are not… Here’s a list of some of the names for added sugar that you might just see on the food labels of your favorite foods.

-         Agave necter

-         Cane crystals

-         Cane sugar

-         Corn sweetener

-         Corn syrup

-         Crystalline fructose

-         Dextrose

-         Evaporated cane juice

-         Fructose

-         Fruit juice concentrates

-         Glucose

-         Invert Sugar

-         Lactose

-         Maltose

-         Malt syrup

-         Raw sugar

-         Sucrose

-         Sugar

-         Syrup

Did you know about these? How much of it surprises you?

Have a happy and healthy weekend, from FoodFacts.com!