Category Archives: Healthy Diet

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!

The organic food movement

MarketSuperstore Whole Foods may have had to answer to some controversies in the recent years, but their multi-billion increase in sales in the second quarter indicates that the company continues to thrive. As a matter of fact, Whole Foods is slated to open more stores in 2016, and to introduce 365 by Whole Foods. The 365 by Whole Foods brand will cater to the same market, but will sell most organic products at cheaper prices.

Foodfacts.com is pleased to say that the success of Whole Foods is attributed to the growing mindfulness of the public on the importance and benefits of healthy eating. Rainbow-colored bagels and vibrant vodka+grenadine aquarium bowls may be popular in the United States (and on social media), but there is no denying that the country has also seen an undeniably significant surge in the demand for healthy food.

American consumers seem to have developed both a general awareness on nutrition as well as an appetite for organic food that cannot be sated. Proprietors have no choice but to give in to the demand. Last year, TechSci Research reported that over 20,000 food stores across the U.S., and 3 out of 4 grocery stores have sections specifically dedicated to organic products. That number is only expected to grow even more in the coming years.

Organic products are no longer limited to traditional sources. The market has ballooned up so drastically that there has spawned a number of start-ups in the sector. Despite the hurdles that small, new companies face when competing with large corporations like Whole Foods, high consumer demand has propelled them to success. One such success story is Los Angeles-based, online retailer, Thrive Market. The start-up sells specialty organic foods and beauty products. Within 17 months of its launch, it has already seen $10 million in sales. There are new organic products businesses that come up by the day, and venture capitalists and angel investors sure have their eyes set to seal deals to back them.

The food industry has always been an industry that is continuously evolving. Right now, there is an undisputable organic food movement in existence.

Happy National Drink Wine Day! Raise your glass and toast the health benefits!

Wine CorksFoodFacts.com is pretty convinced that most people understand that there are major health benefits that can be obtained from drinking wine. What we’re less convinced of is that those same people know what those health benefits actually are. We thought that in honor of National Drink Wine Day a review might be in order.

The Benefit: Promotes Longevity
The Evidence: Wine drinkers have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or spirits drinkers. Source: a Finnish study of 2,468 men over a 29-year period, published in the Journals of Gerontology, 2007.

The Benefit: Reduces Heart-Attack Risk
The Evidence: Moderate drinkers suffering from high blood pressure are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack than nondrinkers. Source: a 16-year Harvard School of Public Health study of 11,711 men, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 2007.

The Benefit: Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
The Evidence: Red-wine tannins contain procyanidins, which protect against heart disease. Wines from Sardinia and southwest France have more procyanidins than other wines. Source: a study at Queen Mary University in London, published in Nature, 2006.

The Benefit: Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
The Evidence: Moderate drinkers have 30 percent less risk than nondrinkers of developing type 2 diabetes. Source: research on 369,862 individuals studied over an average of 12 years each, at Amsterdam’s VU University Medical Center, published in Diabetes Care, 2005.

The Benefit: Lowers Risk of Stroke
The Evidence: The possibility of suffering a blood clot-related stroke drops by about 50 percent in people who consume moderate amounts of alcohol. Source: a Columbia University study of 3,176 individuals over an eight-year period, published in Stroke, 2006.

The Benefit: Cuts Risk of Cataracts
The Evidence: Moderate drinkers are 32 percent less likely to get cataracts than nondrinkers; those who consume wine are 43 percent less likely to develop cataracts than those drinking mainly beer. Source: a study of 1,379 individuals in Iceland, published in Nature, 2003.

The Benefit: Cuts Risk of Colon Cancer
The Evidence: Moderate consumption of wine (especially red) cuts the risk of colon cancer by 45 percent. Source: a Stony Brook University study of 2,291 individuals over a four-year period, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005.

The Benefit: Slows Brain Decline
The Evidence: Brain function declines at a markedly faster rate in nondrinkers than in moderate drinkers. Source: a Columbia University study of 1,416 people, published in Neuroepidemiology, 2006.

There’s no denying it … drinking wine can do a lot for your health and well-being. Raise your glass and toast the health benefits!

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/8-health-benefits-of-drinking-wine

10 aphrodisiac ingredients for your Valentine’s Day menu.

There are holidays that we immediately relate with food. Thanksgiving turkey. Easter eggs. And then there’s Valentine’s Day. FoodFacts.com isn’t surprised that we relate Valentine’s Day with many different foods … chocolate, champagne, caviar – the list goes on. Not surprisingly those foods are considered aphrodisiacs … foods that put you in the mood. We thought in honor of Valentine’s Day, we’d share the details on 10 aphrodisiac ingredients for your Valentine’s Day menu.

Oysters: Oysters are high on the list of aphrodisiacs because they are rich in zinc. The notion that oysters are an aphrodisiac dates back to the 18th-century, when Giacomo Casanova would consume dozens of oysters to spike his arousal. There’s also science to back it up: American and Italian researchers found that oysters have rare amino acids (D-aspartic acid and N-methyl-D-aspartate) that triggers a spike in hormones.

Avocado: The pear shaped fruit was considered to be an aphrodisiac by the Aztecs, as the fruit hangs from trees in pairs, similar to testicles. There could be some science behind this notion, as the fruit has high levels of vitamin E which helps keep your energy level high.

Chili Peppers: If you have a penchant for spicy food, then know that chili peppers are an aphrodisiac since they mimic the feelings of arousal by stimulating endorphins (the feel good chemicals in your brain), speeding up your heart rate, and making you sweat.

Honey: Honey contains boron, a chemical element that regulates hormone levels and boosts your energy naturally.

Coffee: A study published in the journal Pharmocology, Biochemistry, and Behavior found that the caffeine found in coffee stimulates your heart rate and makes your blood flow.

Arugula: While arugula doesn’t sound like a likely aphrodisiac, its abilities have reportedly been noted since the first century A.D. The leafy vegetable has minerals and antioxidants that block contaminants that would harm your libido.

Olive Oil: Filled with antioxidants, the oil has many other health benefits including heart health, good blood flow and a rich source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Pine nuts: Though these little nuts are expensive, it may be worth the high price for their aphrodisiac abilities.

Chocolate: Dark chocolate has been shown to cause a spike in dopamine, which induces feelings of pleasure.

Bananas: The fruit contains bromelain, an enzyme which Dr. Oz says triggers testosterone production, and the fruit’s potassium and vitamin B elevate energy levels.

The holiday of love deserves the food (or foods) of love. So when you plan your Valentine’s Day menu, make sure you include a few aphrodisiac ingredients. You’ll make your meal more authentic to the holiday … and make your special someone feel even more special!

http://www.latintimes.com/valentines-day-ideas-eat-these-10-aphrodisiac-foods-sex-your-date-369203

Is diet food healthy food? If you believe diet food brands, it is!

diet food collageIf you’ve been part of the FoodFacts.com community for a few years or more, you’re familiar with our stance on branded diet foods. We’re not fans. We truly believe that dieting done right requires adapting a healthy lifestyle – one which embraces fresh, healthy foods, exercise and the avoidance of ingredients that are distinctly unhealthy. If you’ve ever taken a look at the ingredient labels of any of the diet branded foods, you know they don’t fit that bill. It’s become obvious that many consumers agree with our approach as the sales of those foods are in decline. So, like any skilled and savvy manufacturer those diet brands have set out to reinvent themselves. Is diet food healthy food? If you believe diet food brands, it is!

For years, Americans cycled through one brand-name diet after another, each promising a sure method to lose weight. Along the way, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine made fortunes off their low-calorie, low-fat diet programs and products.

But it seems those days are over, according to industry analysts and nutritionists. “Dieting is not a fashionable word these days,” says Susan Roberts, a professor of nutrition and psychiatry at Tufts University. “[Consumers] equate the word diet with deprivation, and they know deprivation doesn’t work.”

According to Mintel, a market research firm, few people are purchasing diet products anymore. A survey of 2,000 people released by the firm in October found that 94 percent of respondents no longer saw themselves as dieters. They were also disillusioned with the industry: 77 percent of the consumers surveyed said that diet products are not as healthy as they claim to be, and 61 percent said most diets are not actually healthy.

“Consumers are not dieting in the traditional sense anymore – being on programs or buying foods specific to programs,” says Marissa Gilbert, an analyst from Mintel who worked on the report. “And there’s greater societal acceptance of different body sizes.”

That’s really hurt the dieting industry, Gilbert says. From summer 2014 to summer 2015, Lean Cuisine’s frozen meal sales dropped from around $700 million to about $600 million, or about 15 percent. Weight Watchers, Medifast and Jenny Craig have also seen revenues wither over the past few years. Sales of diet pills have dropped 20 percent in the last year, according to the Mintel report.

Roberts says it’s likely because many people who wanted to lose weight tried these diets and programs but weren’t successful. “They’ve tried Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig and books and things of their own design,” she says. “It didn’t work.”

As Jean Fain, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist and author, has noted, programs like Weight Watchers typically are just “a short-term fix and conditional support for long-standing eating issues” and can even exacerbate them.

With each subsequent failure, people become more skeptical about the products. Some give up on losing weight altogether, Roberts adds.

But many people do still want to lose weight, and increasingly they’re hoping good nutrition and “healthy eating” will get them there, says R.J. Hottovy, a senior equity analyst with market research firm Morningstar. “Consumers are looking for a more holistic, more health and wellness approach,” he says. “The shift in food trends is toward fresher and more natural ingredients.”

The problem is there’s a lot of disagreement over what a healthy, well-balanced meal looks like. Half of the people in Mintel’s survey said they didn’t know what to think about nutrition and wellness information.
As we’ve reported, even the federal government isn’t sure what “natural” means. And increasingly consumers have to contend with terms like gluten-free, vegan and non-GMO in the grocery store. These and other restrictive notions of eating have been quick to catch on, but often don’t have consistent scientific evidence backing them up as healthful or effective for weight loss.

Roberts, who also founded a weight loss start-up called iDiet but says she doesn’t currently make money from it, observes that food companies are taking advantage of the chaos. “Companies are bombarding [consumers] with gluten-free, sugar-free, cholesterol-free, and it’s got us to a very bad place because people don’t know what to think anymore,” she says. “I think what [consumers] want to do is lose weight by eating sensibly. That’s the holy grail of weight loss, and the companies say, ‘We’ll lock into that.’ ”

And while Weight Watchers’ point system emphasizes “natural” fare and home-cooked meals, it’s still manufacturing processed, high-sodium, low-fiber products.

According to Julie Lehman, marketing director for Lean Cuisine, the company, which is owned by Nestle, has put new labels on products that were already cholesterol-free or gluten-free without changing their formulations. “Lean Cuisine is an emblem of the diet culture that we’ve all grown up with. We know that and we want to walk away from that and focus on eating well and eating healthy,” she says. The brand has added “No Preservatives” and “Gluten-Free” and “Non-GMO” labels and a new line of frozen meals, certified organic by the nonprofit Oregon Tilth. “Consumers are demanding some of these things, and we want to offer it to them,” Lehman says.

Roberts is unconvinced. She doesn’t see the products getting any healthier. “They can relabel them, but the meals are not any different. If you open a box of Lean Cuisine or something like that, you’ll see about a quarter cup of veggies in there. Is that an outstandingly healthy meal? By my standards, it’s not.”

People will still be hungry and still feel deprived, and may ultimately not meet weight loss goals, she says. “They’ll give healthy eating a bad name just as they gave dieting a bad name.”

Healthy food is real food. You can easily determine how healthy your diet is by determining the contents of your grocery shopping. Are you purchasing meals with ingredient, or ingredients for meals? If you’re doing the latter, you’re on the right track!

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/20/462691546/as-diet-foods-tank-confusing-health-labels-replace-them

Where exactly is the government showing us we should drink more water?

nutrition infographicTo accompany the government’s latest set of guidelines, they’ve updated an infographic tip sheet. FoodFacts.com loves infographics as they are quick and easy visual reads that can’t be mistaken or assigned incorrect interpretations by those for which they are intended. One of the government’s biggest messages this year is to drink water instead of sugary drinks. It’s a simple, but important message that Americans need to be reminded of over and over and over again. Unfortunately we don’t know that this infographic does its job as well as it could. Take a close look. Where exactly is the government showing us we should drink more water?

Tucked inside the U.S. government’s latest update to its official eating advice is this recommendation: “Drink water instead of sugary drinks” — aka soda.

The bluntness of this statement is remarkable, in part, because the Dietary Guidelines released Thursday are, in other ways, anything but direct. For instance, as we’ve reported, instead of explicitly telling Americans to cut their intake of red and processed meats, as an advisory panel of nutrition experts had recommended, the final guidelines hint at meat reduction in subtle terms. That change in messaging may have been linked to pressure from the meat industry.

By contrast, the government’s language on choosing water over sugary drinks is as clear as a glass of H2O. It is not, however, all that easy to find. We spotted it inside this MyPlate, My Wins tip sheet, part of a new campaign the U.S. Department of Agriculture also launched Thursday.

MyPlate, if you recall, is the icon of a dinner plate divided into portions of fruits and vegetables, grains and proteins that replaced the food pyramid in 2011. Unlike the Dietary Guidelines, which are written for nutrition professionals, policymakers and the food industry, MyPlate is for the general public. It’s an image that ends up in nutrition education materials in doctor’s offices, textbooks, school cafeterias and lots of other places.

Last year, as we reported, a coalition of nutrition scientists and public health advocates called on the government to add water to the ubiquitous MyPlate icon. Numerous studies have linked sugary drinks like soda to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Adding some sort of water symbol to the MyPlate icon would really bring home the message that water, not soda, should be the beverage of choice, advocates argued.
That didn’t happen, and, in fact, the USDA says it has no plans to alter the MyPlate icon, which the agency says will remain the visual centerpiece of its healthy eating messaging.

Instead, we got the infographic above — what the USDA says is the first of several new tip sheets to be released.

As you can see, the message to drink water, not sugary drinks, shows up there — in the very bottom, right-hand corner. While the language is clear, the visuals around it are hardly compelling.

“Ideally, [the water symbol] would be part of the main MyPlate image. That’s the thing that’s going to get the most publicity,” says Michael Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Science in The Public Interest, who was among those who signed the letter calling for stronger language on water in the Dietary Guidelines.

It’s also worth noting that, while 100 percent fruit juices also pack a sugary wallop, the MyPlate, MyWins tip sheet lists them as an acceptable form of getting your daily fruit intake. (The actual guidelines add more nuance, advising that people get at least half their recommended fruit intake from whole fruits.) For the record, William Dermody of the American Beverage Association tells us that “moderation of beverages is something we’re in line with as well.”

Overall, the new tip sheet’s messaging is confusing, says New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle, a noted critic of the influence industry exerts on government food policy. “It’s ugly and it’s hard to read,” she tells us.

In general, she wishes the government’s visual messaging on what Americans should and shouldn’t eat was much more explicit. Nestle points to guidelines from Brazil and Sweden (see below), which — as Julia Belluz has pointed out over at Vox — are breathtakingly easy to understand. Their virtue? Instead of talking about nutrients, they focus on what people really put in their mouths. “They’re about real food,” Nestle says.

With just a few simple changes this tip sheet can accomplish a whole lot more of the government’s goals … and a whole lot more for the population. Drink water. Eat real food. We’re getting there.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/08/462289710/uncle-sam-just-told-us-to-drink-water-not-soda-you-mightve-missed-it

How are you celebrating Big Block of Cheese Day?

ObamaFoodFacts.com would like to call your attention to one of the lesser-known American holidays – Big Block of Cheese Day! And yes, we’re serious. It’s a White House holiday and it’s been going on there for the last three years. So … How are you celebrating Big Block of Cheese Day? How about you take your turn chipping away at our current Big Cheeses in Washington?

Following President Obama’s last State of the Union, the White House will host a day-long question and answer session Wednesday online.

Americans will have the opportunity to chat with White House staff, members of Congress and senior cabinet members during the White House’s third annual Big Block of Cheese Day. Throughout the day, the White House invites users to ask questions using the hashtag #BigBlockOfCheeseDay on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.

Answers will be provided by First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and many more in a list that includes over 40 names.

In its third year, Big Block of Cheese Day is a clever riff on an open house Andrew Jackson hosted in 1837 at the White House, featuring a 1,400-pound block of cheese that he invited participants to chip away at. It also pokes fun at a tradition from the fictional White House drama The West Wing, where staffers hosted an annual open house to allow lesser heard groups to voice their opinions.

You can find the full list of participants at the White House site, as well as instructions on how to participate in Big Block Cheese Day.

And while you’re participating in this truly fun interpretation of an old-fashioned idea, you might want to keep a few things in mind about cheese.

Cheese contains a host of nutrients like calcium, protein, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B12. Calcium is one of the nutrients most likely to be lacking in the American diet. According to government statistics, nine out of 10 women and six out of 10 men fall short of calcium recommendations. The high-quality protein in cheese provides the body with essential building blocks for strong muscles. For a complete listing of the nutrients in cheese, see the table below.

If you are lactose intolerant, many cheeses, particularly aged cheeses such as Cheddar and Swiss, contain little or no lactose and are often well tolerated.

For the past 30 years or so, saturated fat—found in meats, eggs, cheese, butter, whole milk, lard and some oils—was considered a primary cause of heart disease. New research, however, is showing that saturated fat has a minimal impact on heart disease risk, which is changing the “saturated fat is bad” paradigm and allowing people to enjoy more cheese and other favorite foods. Further research is needed showing significant scientific agreement.

Think cheese today … our American Big Cheeses in D.C. and the smaller cheeses we can put on our plate that deliver some serious health benefits!!!

http://www.healthyeating.org/Milk-Dairy/Nutrients-in-Milk-Cheese-Yogurt/Nutrients-in-Cheese.aspx

http://time.com/4177369/white-house-big-block-cheese-day/

New dietary guidelines advise on sugar but not red meat

dga-2015Every five years, the U.S. government updates Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines evolve over time as they take into consideration the latest research and findings in nutrition science. Last month, the Obama administration released its much anticipated update. Some of it was expected. The government’s official advice on what to eat (and not eat) included sugar limitations (sugar was in the news a lot last year, so FoodFacts.com wasn’t surprised). What the official advice left out, though, was a surprise. Our new dietary guidelines advise on sugar but not red meat.

Many Americans consume up to 22 teaspoons a day. To meet the new 10 percent target, they’d need to cut their sugar intake by nearly half — to no more than 12 teaspoons a day on a 2,000-calorie daily diet.

Over the past five years, a growing body of evidence has linked high levels of sugar consumption to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, even among Americans who are not overweight or obese.

Much of the dietary advice included in the new guidelines will sound very familiar and remains unchanged from 2010. For instance, there’s a focus on consuming more fruits and vegetables, more fiber and whole grains, and less salt.

Top administration officials within the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, who were tasked with writing the guidelines, decided not to include some of the recommendations made by a Dietary Guidelines advisory panel that reviewed the latest nutrition science.

For instance, the advisory committee had recommended including sustainability as a factor in making food choices. But administration officials nixed that idea.

The committee had also advised telling Americans to cut back on red and processed meats. But that recommendation sparked a vigorous challenge from the meat industry, and the final dietary guidelines do not include any specific advice to cut back on these sources of protein.

The recommendation “was certainly controversial,” says Tom Brenna, a nutrition professor at Cornell University and member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

“The red and processed meat recommendation, I think, has morphed a bit into a different kind of message,” Brenna tells us. “A little bit like turning a coin over, in a sense, where if you eat less red meat, one is eating more of other protein foods.”

Instead, the guidelines emphasize a “shift towards other protein foods” — including more nuts and seeds and about 8 ounces of seafood per week, based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.

The suggestion to limit meat intake comes in more subtle form. For instance, the guidelines point out that many teen boys and adult men consume more than the recommended 26 ounces a week of protein from animal sources, so they should “reduce overall intake of protein foods by decreasing intakes of meat, poultry, and eggs.”

There’s also an overall recommendation — unchanged from 2010 — to reduce saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of daily diet, a shift that could, in practice, require limiting intake of red meat.

“The message to eat more seafood, legumes and other protein foods really does mean substitute those for red meat,” Brenna says. “So I think the message is more or less there, it’s just not as clear.”

That message to cut the red meat should have been stated more directly, says Barry Popkin, a nutrition researcher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “I am disappointed that the USDA once again is cutting out recommendations to truly limit red meat intake,” he tells us in an email.

The other major change to the government’s nutrition advice: dietary cholesterol. The new guidelines drop a longstanding recommendation to limit cholesterol from foods to 300 milligrams a day.

As Alice Lichtenstein, vice chairwoman of the expert panel that advised the government on the guidelines, told us last February, there isn’t strong evidence that limiting cholesterol-rich foods lowers the amount of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol that ends up in the blood.

The guidelines also call on Americans to cut sodium to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. Most of us consume far more — about 3,440 milligrams daily on average — much of it in the form of foods like pizzas, soups, breads and cured meats.

The Dietary Guidelines have clear implications for federal nutrition policy, influencing everything from the national school lunch program to the advice you get at the doctor’s office. But they are written for nutrition professionals, not the general public.

Perhaps the new guidelines DO reference limiting red meat consumption – by emphasizing the consumption of other proteins. But we know there have been several specific studies in the last year or so that speak directly to the adverse effects of red and processed meats in American diets. Food industry influence – or broader, more effective statements? More transparent, straight forward statements leave less room for guesswork on the part of the consumers relying on the guidelines. A little food for thought.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/07/462160303/new-dietary-guidelines-crack-down-on-sugar-but-red-meat-gets-a-pass

Could there be a link between processed foods and autoimmune diseases?

Processed foodsFoodFacts.com is well aware that there are diseases and conditions that weren’t as prevalent in our population as they were some decades back. Autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and multiple sclerosis weren’t as high up on our radar screens simply because we didn’t always hear about them. Unfortunately for those who suffer from autoimmune disorders, that’s no longer true. We’re all more aware of the conditions because more and more people have been affected by them. How did that happen, exactly? In just a few decades instances of autoimmune conditions have increased dramatically. It certainly makes FoodFacts.com step back and consider the possibilities. Could there be a link between processed foods and autoimmune diseases?

After a hard day at work, it is tempting to reach for foods that are quick and easy to prepare. For many of us, this means turning to processed foods, such as microwave meals, which are usually high in fat, salt, sugar and other additives.

Processed foods are defined by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as “any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing,dehydration or milling.”

This means that it is not only microwave meals that meet the “processed” definition; cheese, breakfast cereals, canned fruits and vegetables, bread, savory snacks and meats such as bacon and sausages are also examples of foods that have been subject to some form of processing.

A number of studies have reported the negative health effects of consuming some processed foods, including increased risk of weight gain and heart disease. And last October, the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that eating processed meats can cause colorectal cancer.

Now, Prof. Aaron Lerner, of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, and Dr. Torsten Matthias, of the Aesku-Kipp Institute in Germany, suggest the consumption of processed foods may be associated with development of autoimmune diseases.

An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body, mistaking them for foreign invaders. This can lead to destruction of body tissue and abnormal organ growth and function.

There are more than 100 types of autoimmune disorders. Some of the more common forms include celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis(MS), Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Prof. Lerner and Dr. Matthias note that there has been a rise in both the prevalence of autoimmune diseases and consumption of processed foods in recent years. For their study, they set out to determine whether there is a link between the two.

Specifically, the researchers looked at how certain additives in processed foods – used to improve the taste, texture, smell and shelf life – affect the intestines and the development of autoimmune diseases.

The team explains that many autoimmune diseases are triggered by dysfunction of “tight junctions” in the intestine, which are sealants between epithelial cells that protect the mucosa – the lining of the gastrointestinal tract that helps food pass through.

Normal-functioning tight junctions help protect the immune system from bacteria and other foreign bodies, but any damage to the tight junctions can lead to what is called “leaky gut” – in which toxins can enter the bloodstream, potentially leading to the development of autoimmune diseases.

In their study, the researchers identified at least seven common food additives – including glucose, gluten, sodium, fat solvents, organic acids, nanometric particles and microbial transglutaminase (an enzyme used as a food protein “glue”) – that weakened tight junctions in the intestine.

Based on their findings, the researchers suggest that consumption of processed foods may increase the risk for autoimmune diseases. They note that the food additive market is not highly regulated, making such findings a cause for concern.

Prof. Lerner says:

“Control and enforcement agencies such as the FDA stringently supervise the pharmaceutical industry, but the food additive market remains unsupervised enough. We hope this study and similar studies increase awareness about the dangers inherent in industrial food additives, and raise awareness about the need for control over them.”
In June of last year, the FDA revealed they are banning a key source of artificial trans fats in processed foods called partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), with the hope that doing so will reduce Americans’ risk of heart attack and heart disease.

We’re happy to see attention being paid to the controversial food additives that have no place in our food supply. The ban on trans fats in our foods should only be the beginning of much needed changes to the ingredient lists in our grocery stores. Until that day comes, FoodFacts.com wants to urge everyone to shop for ingredients for meals instead of meals with ingredients. Let’s concentrate on clean eating in the new year!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/304645.php

Vegetables take center stage on dinner plates across America in 2016

salad barVegetables are trending this New Year. As consumers become more aware and educated they’re making some serious changes to their diet and lifestyle. Part of those changes is the reframing of the main course of a meal. In years past, FoodFacts.com the main course of an American meal focused on the protein – whether that protein was meat, poultry or fish, the protein was the star of the show. The times are changing though. Vegetables take center stage on dinner plates across America in 2016. Consumers everywhere are assigning new value to the vegetable component of the meal.

About a decade ago, food writer Michael Pollan issued a call to action: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. As 2016 opens, it looks like many American cooks and diners are heeding that call.

Vegetables have moved from the side to the center of the plate. And as another year begins, it appears that plants are the new meat.

Bon Appetit magazine named AL’s Place in San Francisco the best new restaurant of 2015. Meats at AL’s Place are listed under “sides.” The rest of the menu features vegetable-centric dishes sometimes featuring animal protein as an ingredient – pear curry, black lime yellowtail, persimmon, blistered squash. The hanger steak (with smoked salmon butter), however, is a side dish.

This and other restaurants are also using the whole vegetable. What used to go in the compost heap is now fermented, roasted or smoked and used in other dishes. The stem-to-leaf approach follows the example of nose-to-tail eating.

WastED is a project that brings together chefs, farmers, fishermen and food purveyors to “reconceive waste” in the food chain, according to the group’s website.

The WastED salad has been available at Sweetgreen restaurants, making use of the restaurants scraps – broccoli leaves, carrot ribbons, roasted kale stems, romaine hearts, roasted cabbage cores, roasted broccoli stalks and roasted bread butts all mixed with arugula, Parmesan, spicy sunflower seeds and pesto vinaigrette.

Food waste has become a concern to the U.S. government as well as chefs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have set a goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030, calling in a joint statement to “feed people not landfills.” The statement says that food loss and waste account for about 31 percent (133 billion pounds) of the nation’s food supply.

The ascendance of vegetables has added a new word to the food lexicon: spiralizing. Piles of spiralized vegetables – produced with, yes, a spiralizer – are replacing pasta in some home and restaurant kitchens. Cookbooks, blogs and tools are available to help.

Eaters in 2016 also are likely to see more dried beans, peas and lentils on their plates. The United Nations has declared this the International Year of Pulses to raise consumer awareness of the nutritional and environmental benefits of the edible dry seeds. Chickpeas seems to be the rising star of the pulse world. They’re not just for hummus anymore.

The rise of vegetables and focus on food waste are the culmination of more than a decade’s worth of government, consumer and food and environmental activists’ concerns that have finally trickled into the mainstream. Sustainability issues are becoming particularly visible in the fish we’re eating. More overlooked fish and some invasive species are being offered to diners.
So-called “clean labels” are another expression of these concerns. Both consumers and food purveyors are focused on removing GMOs, artificial ingredients, preservatives, antibiotics and growth hormones from food. Even fast-food outlets are using more eggs from cage-free chickens and dumping ingredients that have been genetically modified.

There are generational shifts, too, in the way we eat.

Millenials – now more numerous than Baby Boomers – have a huge impact. The corporate food world is keenly interested in how and what this large group of consumers eats. And they do buy and eat differently than older generations. They order ingredients online, learn to cook from You Tube as well as cookbooks and websites. They care about the environment, ethical treatment of animals and community. They frequently use food delivery services rather than going to the supermarket, and order meal kits that deliver prepared ingredients.

Whatever your age, expect 2016 to be the year not only of the vegetable, but of more awareness of what we spear with our forks.

FoodFacts.com is looking forward to a new take on the dinner plate. We’ll be following this important trend closer as we get further into the new year!

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/01/461704287/vegetables-likely-to-take-more-of-your-plate-in-2016