Panera Bread celebrates Breast Cancer Awareness Month with the Pink Ribbon Bagel

bagels[1]RightSideOctober is the month for pink ribbons and at FoodFacts.com we do want to celebrate that. In a relatively short span of time, through the efforts of medicine, research and women, breast cancer can actually be a curable disease for many. There’s still a long way to go and awareness certainly play a tremendous role in the advancements that have been made. We’re all working together on this. So Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a valuable time for everyone. And we’re happy to see so many people, companies and brands getting involved. We only wish that when they choose to become involved, they’re careful about their choices.

So for a limited time, you can “enjoy” the Pink Ribbon Bagel at Panera Bread. This is their acknowledgement of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And, while we’re happy that they participate, we’re not exactly sure that this bagel was the way to go.

The nutrition facts for the Panera Bread Pink Ribbon bagel are a bit different than other comparable items. Take a look:

Calories              370
Fat                      7 grams
Sodium              430 mg

While these numbers aren’t horrible, a regular cinnamon raisin bagel has similar nutrition facts — a bit lower in calories and definitely higher in fat. It’s the ingredients here that we should really pay attention to:

Unbleached enriched wheat flour (flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, cherry flavored chunk (sugar, palm kernel and palm oil, whole milk powder, cherry powder, natural flavor, soy lecithin [emulsifier], salt), cherry flavor infused cranberries (cranberries, sugar, cherry juice concentrate, citric acid, natural cherry flavor with other natural flavors, elderberry juice concentrate, sunflower oil), sweetened dried cherries (dried red tart cherries, sugar, rice flour, sunflower oil), bagel base (sugar, salt, malted barley flour, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, molasses powder [molasses, wheat starch], yeast, soybean oil, ascorbic acid, enzymes [wheat]), brown sugar, honey, vanilla flavor (water, propylene glycol, alcohol, artificial flavors, caramel color), yeast (yeast, sorbitan monostearate, ascorbic acid), palm oil shortening.

We’re not particularly thrilled with this. Multiple instances of natural flavors, propylene glycol, artificial flavors, caramel color doesn’t exactly add up to our idea of a an ode to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Maybe it’s just us, but we do think that any food introduction that’s meant to honor this important month would be better with a clean ingredient list … especially with the recent research regarding certain ingredients and cancers (not to mention nutrition and cancers). Ingredients aside, it IS important to mention that a portion of the proceeds from the sales of Pink Ribbon Bagels will go to breast cancer research. And, regardless of the ingredients, we ARE a big fan of that. We’re just going to donate to the cause, without eating the bagel. Sorry, Panera Bread.

https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/menu-categories/bagels-and-spreads.html#pink-ribbon-bagel

Obesity link in cancer

Cancer &-fatOctober is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so we want to spend time spotlighting new research illustrating possible nutritional links with cancer that can be of help to the FoodFacts.com community. Knowledge is power — especially when it comes to helping us avoid health conditions and disease. So let’s look at some new research that can make us more powerful in the fight against cancer.

You likely know that being overweight increases your risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. But did you know it also increases your risk for cancer?

If you didn’t, you’re not alone. While around 90% of Americans know that smoking is linked to higher rates of cancer, Dr. Clifford Hudis says, the inverse is true for obesity and cancer; less than 10% of us realize how fat is related to this chronic disease.

“Obesity is a major, under-recognized contributor to the nation’s cancer toll and is quickly overtaking tobacco as the leading preventable cause of cancer,” Hudis and his colleagues at the American Society of Clinical Oncology write in a new position paper.

In fact, as many as 84,000 cancer diagnoses each year are linked to obesity, according to the National Cancer Institute. Excess fat also affects how cancer treatments work and may increase a cancer patient’s risk of death, either from cancer or from other related causes.
The key word, Hudis says, is preventable. While we can’t change the fact that we’re all getting older (incidence rates for most cancers increase as patients age), we can change our weight through diet, exercise, sleep and stress management.

In 2003, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a study that included more than 900,000 American adults. Researchers followed the healthy study participants for 16 years, and found the heaviest participants were more likely to develop and die from cancer than participants who were at a healthy weight.

After their analysis, the study authors concluded that excess fat “could account for 14% of all deaths from cancer in men and 20% of those in women.”

Since then, research has simply strengthened the link between obesity and cancer. Studies have found a relationship between weight and the risk of as many as 12 cancers, says Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, including endometrial, colorectal, esophageal, kidney and pancreatic cancers.

A recent report published in the American Association for Cancer Research’s journal predicted the top cancer killers in the United States by 2030 will be lung, pancreas and liver — in part because of rising obesity rates.

“It’s not enough to say there’s an association between obesity and cancer. We need to know why,” Hudis says. “With the why, we can do something about it.”

Scientists are exploring several hypotheses on how excess fat increases a person’s risk for cancer. The answer may be slightly different for each type of cancer, but the encompassing explanation seems to be that obesity triggers changes in how the body operates, which can cause harmful cell growth and cell division.

Many of these changes may be linked to inflammation. In general, inflammation occurs when your body is reacting to something out of the norm — say a virus or a splinter in your foot. Obesity seems to cause chronic inflammation, which in turn may promote cancer development.

Take for example, Hudis says, hormone-sensitive breast cancers. Chemicals in the body meant to regulate inflammation also increase production of the hormone estrogen. And studies have shown excess estrogen can cause breast cancer tumors.

Fat tissue also produces hormones called adipokines, which can stimulate or inhibit cell growth, according to a fact sheet from the oncology society. If these hormones are out of balance, the body may not be able to properly fight cell damage.

Obesity can affect a cancer patient’s outcome from diagnosis to remission, Hudis says.
Obesity-related pain or unbalanced hormone levels may distract patients from the early warning signs of some cancers. Fatty tissue can also make it difficult for doctors to see tumors on imaging scans. And a late diagnosis often means a lower chance for survival.
The relationship between cancer and obesity also matters after diagnosis. Cancer treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, may be hindered by a patient’s size. If the patient needs surgery, studies show excess fat puts them at a higher risk of complications, infections and death.

A recent study of 80,000 breast cancer patients found that pre-menopausal women with a BMI over 30 had a 21.5% chance of dying, compared to women with an average BMI who had a 16.6% chance of death.

Remaining obese as a survivor can also increase your risk of developing what’s called a secondary cancer, the authors of this new position paper say.

In general, “people should be aware that overweight and obesity, as common as they are in our population, have serious consequences,” Hudis says. “Cancer is really just another one.”

Start reducing your risk now: Stay active. Eat nutritious foods that are low in calories. Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Manage your stress levels. All these behaviors will help you reach a healthy weight.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology is recommending more research be done on weight loss in the cancer survivor population to determine the best intervention method — and whether losing weight after a diagnosis improves patient outcomes. The results of these future studies could help persuade insurance providers to reimburse patients for weight management programs.

There’s so much great information here that gives us all significant reasons to continue our commitment to a healthy lifestyle. So many contributing risk factors for cancer are within our own control. We do have power here and can work to make the decisions that will ultimately improve our health and well being.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/01/health/obesity-cancer-asco/

Snack spending outpaces spending on actual food here in America

junkfood on plateHere at FoodFacts.com we spend a lot of time talking about the nutritional value of food. We’re always stressing the health benefits of real, fresh foods and pointing out foods that are nutritionally vacant. Our mission is to educate consumers, encouraging nutritional awareness. New data coming out of Nielsen, however, points directly to the idea that not enough Americans are sufficiently cognizant of nutritional value.

Nielsen has revealed that Americans are spending more on snack foods – things like protein bars, chips and beef jerky, at the same time that our spending on groceries has remained almost flat.

While are overall grocery spending increased by only 1.8%, salty snack spending (chips, crackers and pretzels) increased by 4.9%, nutrition bar sales grew by 7.8%, meat snacks (like beef jerky) rose 11.2% and sales of Greek yogurt increased by 16.6%.

Nielsen polled the 490 Americans included in their research and found that these consumers said they “enjoyed” eating all the time. That could be referred to as “grazing.” The second most common reason given for eating (enjoyment was the first reason cited), these consumers said they ate to satisfy hunger between meals.

Our need to snack has even changed the way we view certain foods, said James Russo, a senior vice president of consumer insights at Nielsen. Take breakfast cereal. Instead of eating it just for breakfast, we now see items like Kix as more of a snack food. While sales of breakfast cereal are declining overall, an increasing number of us are eating Cheerios throughout the day. Forty-four percent of Americans said they ate cereal outside a meal in the past 30 days, compared to just 19 percent who said they ate a nutrition bar during that time period, according to Nielsen.

“One of the big stories here is the blurring of what is a snack and what is a meal,” Russo said.

And the number of snacks we eat at mealtimes is expected to grow by 5 percent over the next five years. That means that in 2018, Americans will be eating snacks as meals 86.4 billion times a year, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm.

NPD predicts most of that growth will come from healthier snacks, but that doesn’t mean we’re over chocolate and chips. Instead, because we’re snacking constantly, we want snacks to be available in both decadent and healthy forms. Pepsi’s recent patent for a granola bar with Pop Rocks is one food that combines these desires, but for the most part we’re looking to eat carrots and hummus around lunchtime and then grab some candy a few hours later.

Russo pointed to Americans’ contradictory feelings toward salt as an example of this dynamic. While the top snack in North America over the past 30 days was chips or crisps, the third-highest health priority for respondents was low salt/sodium, Nielsen found.

“We want indulgent snacks but we also want healthy options for a snack,” Russo said. “We’re increasingly using all these different food products to satisfy our hunger.”

So it would appear that our health perception of certain foods has helped us to identify them as actual food, instead of snacks. For instance, some people are grabbing a nutrition bar as a meal — not as a snack. And it also appears that while health and nutrition news and research is making an impression on us, that impression doesn’t seem to be strong enough to affect our spending and consumption. We know that lowering our sodium intake is important, but we’re still purchasing (and presumably consuming) salty snacks.

Someday, we are are hopeful that we’ll get a report that sales of fruit have risen more than the sale of nutrition bars. Or that sales of produce are outpacing the sales of Greek yogurt. And as far as the polling goes, we’d prefer hearing that folks are preparing an actual lunch meal than calling a snack a meal simply because the manufacturer has gone out of their way to shape their perception of a snack. Until these things become a reality, though, we’ll just continue stressing the significant nutritional differences between real foods and snacks. We might be at this for quite a while …

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/02/snack-meal-spending_n_5913166.html

Because breakfast wasn’t bad enough … introducing the Jimmy Dean for lunch

Jimmy-Dean-Macaroni-and-CheeseWe get it. Brands need to keep growing. They need to break into new markets. Develop increased market share. Find new customers. FoodFacts.com understands this applies to every brand … not simply the ones that offer consumers healthier options. But we have to confess that seeing Jimmy Dean branch outside of the breakfast food arena might have been a bit too much for us.

Jimmy Dean isn’t our idea of a healthy brand. The ingredient lists for the majority of their breakfast sandwiches are far too long and far from healthy. Needless to say we really couldn’t get excited about their new lunch options.

We decided to look a little further and picked the Smoked Bacon Mac and Cheese Bowl as our subject. There are plenty of other options but we went with this one because honestly it’s one of the better offerings in the new lunch line.

First let’s look at the nutrition facts:

Calories:                         440
Fat:                                 15 grams
Saturated Fat:                8 grams
Cholesterol:                   45 mg
Sodium:                         1020 mg

O.k., it isn’t a burger — but that doesn’t make it good. And we’re really not happy about the sodium level in this lunch option. Let’s make a loose comparison. You can have a cup of Betty Crocker Cheese Pizza Macaroni and Cheese (about 236 grams as opposed to the 255 gram serving size for the Smoked Bacon Macaroni and Cheese Bowl) for 80 less calories, 13 less grams of fat, no saturated fat at all, and 530 mg less sodium. We should point out that there’s no bacon in that one. But there’s still a big difference between the fat and sodium content of the two products.

The ingredient list follows:

Ingredients: Elbow Macaroni (Water, Durum Wheat Semolina, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, and Folic Acid), White Three Cheese Sauce (Water, Skim Milk, Cheddar/Parmesan, Mozzarella Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Cream, Corn Starch, Whey, Natural Flavors, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Xanthan Gum, Spice and Yeast Extract), Shredded Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto Color), Bacon (Cured with Water, Salt, Sugar, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite, Smoke Flavoring)

Like we said, this is one of the better Jimmy Dean lunch products. We’re still not thrilled with the list and believe that it could be a lot better.

But if you’ve ever taken a good look at the ingredient lists for the Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches, the Smoked Bacon Mac and Cheese Lunch Bowl is actually an improvement, albeit a slight one.

The next time we’re craving macaroni and cheese, we’re making it from scratch with our own choice of ingredients. Yes, it’s certainly an indulgence, but FoodFacts.com is much more comfortable with an occassional indulgence with better ingredients than we are with Jimmy Dean for lunch!

http://www.jimmydean.com/products/bowls/smoked-bacon-mac-cheese-bowl#nutritional_info

Under the Bun: Wendy’s Pulled Pork Cheeseburger … can you say overkill?

pulled-pork-cheeseburger-carls-jr-hardeesSometimes FoodFacts.com tries to imagine how fast food chains comes up with their new and “different” ideas. For instance, how did Taco Bell arrive at the Waffle Taco for their breakfast menu. It isn’t exactly a natural concept to use a waffle as you would a taco shell — and while we have to admit that it might get points for creativity, texturally we just don’t see a match there. That Waffle Taco, for us, also falls into the overkill category. Too much going on to be a hand-held breakfast. We do find that many of the new fast food introductions are just “too much” — and we think the length of the ingredient lists certainly substantiate our opinion.

Wendy’s newest introduction does appear to fall into the overkill category. The Pulled Pork Cheeseburger brings together elements that we just don’t think belong in a sandwich together. We can’t help but wonder who thought of this one. It’s sort of a reach.

Let’s go under the bun and find out what’s really in the Pulled Pork Cheeseburger. First you should know what you’ll find under that brioche bun — a stack of a cheeseburger, broccoli slaw and pulled pork. The nutrition facts here just can’t be good. Let’s take a look:

Calories                                 640
Fat                                         33 grams
Saturated Fat                       13 grams
Trans Fat                              1.5 grams
Cholesterol                           130 mg
Sodium 1                              260 mg

There’s just too much of everything going on in here and none of it’s good. The nutrition facts for this sandwich are what gives fast food a bad name.

Let’s not forget to detail the ingredient list:

Brioche Bun: Enriched Wheat Flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Water, Sugar, Yeast, Buttermilk Powder (whey solids, enzyme-modified butter, maltodextrin, salt, guar gum, annatto and turmeric [color]), Egg Yolks, Butter, Salt, Dough Conditioner (wheat flour, DATEM, contains 2% or less of: silicon dioxide [flow aid], soybean oil, enzymes [wheat], calcium sulfate, salt), Dry Malt, Calcium Propionate, Dough Conditioner (degermed yellow corn flour, turmeric and paprika [color], contains 2% or less of: natural flavor), Egg Wash (eggs, water). CONTAINS: WHEAT, EGG, MILK, 1/4 lb Hamburger Patty: Ground Beef. Seasoned with Salt, Cheddar Cheese Slice: Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto Color. CONTAINS: MILK. Broccoli Slaw: Broccoli, Carrots, Red cabbage, Broccoli Slaw Sauce (soybean oil, water, white wine vinegar, sugar, egg yolk, distilled vinegar, mustard seed, salt, white wine, onion [dehydrated], xanthan gum, spice, garlic [dehydrated], citric acid, tartaric acid. CONTAINS: EGG, Smoky BBQ Sauce: Water, Tomato Paste, Sugar, Distilled Vinegar, Brown Sugar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Modified Cornstarch, Chili Peppers, Natural Flavor Including Smoke Flavor, Caramel Color, Onion (dehydrated), Garlic (dehydrated), Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (preservatives), Chipotle Peppers, Molasses, Spices Including Mustard Seed, Jalapeno Pepper (dehydrated), Tamarind, Soybean Oil. Pulled Pork: Pork, Water, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Sodium Phosphate.

That’s about 86 ingredients with more than a few sources of hidden MSG and six controversial ingredients. That is definitely what we consider overkill. While we know there will be an audience for the Wendy’s Pulled Pork Bacon Cheeseburger, we’ll be sitting this one out. Even before we got to the bad nutrition facts and ridiculously long ingredient list, we couldn’t figure out why we’d want to eat a cheeseburger, broccoli slaw and pulled pork piled inside the same bun. Maybe it’s just us …

https://www.wendys.com/en-us/nutrition-info

Possible link between autism in children and inadequate iron supplementation during pregnancy

image_mediumMost people are aware of the many different efforts being made by researchers to understand the cause of autism. Suspected culprits have ranged from vaccinations containing the preservative thimerosal, to mercury, lead, pesticides and genetics. These links have been creating controversial debate for years. New research, however, is pointing in a new and different direction

Mothers of children with autism are significantly less likely to report taking iron supplements before and during their pregnancies than the mothers of children who are developing normally, a study by researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute has found.

Low iron intake was associated with a five-fold greater risk of autism in the child if the mother was 35 or older at the time of the child’s birth or if she suffered from metabolic conditions such as obesity hypertension or diabetes.

The research is the first to examine the relationship between maternal iron intake and having a child with autism spectrum disorder, the authors said. The study, “Maternal intake of supplemental iron and risk for autism spectrum disorders,” is published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“The association between lower maternal iron intake and increased ASD risk was strongest during breastfeeding, after adjustment for folic acid intake,” said Rebecca J. Schmidt, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and a researcher affiliated with the MIND Institute.

The authors of the current study in 2011 were the first to report associations between supplemental folic acid and reduced risk for autism spectrum disorder, a finding later replicated in larger scale investigations.

“Further, the risk associated with low maternal iron intake was much greater when the mother was also older and had metabolic conditions during her pregnancy.”

The study was conducted in mother-child pairs enrolled in the Northern California-based Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study between 2002 and 2009. The participants included mothers of children with autism and 346 mothers of children with typical development.

The researchers examined maternal iron intake among the study’s participants, including vitamins, other nutritional supplements, and breakfast cereals during the three months prior to through the end of the women’s pregnancies and breastfeeding. The mothers’ daily iron intake was examined, including the frequency, dosages and the brands of supplements that they consumed.

“Iron deficiency, and its resultant anemia, is the most common nutrient deficiency, especially during pregnancy, affecting 40 to 50 percent of women and their infants,” Schmidt said. “Iron is crucial to early brain development, contributing to neurotransmitter production, myelination and immune function. All three of these pathways have been associated with autism.”

“Iron deficiency is pretty common, and even more common among women with metabolic conditions,” Schmidt said. “However we want to be cautious and wait until this study has been replicated.

“In the meantime the takeaway message for women is do what your doctor recommends. Take vitamins throughout pregnancy, and take the recommended daily dosage. If there are side effects, talk to your doctor about how to address them.”

FoodFacts.com understands that most of us are related to or at least personally know a child with autism. There’s a reason for that. Incidences of autism are still on the rise. According to the CDC, one in every 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder. And that’s up from one in 88 just two short years ago. Researchers are working intensely to find some key to this growing — and often heartbreaking — disorder so that more can be done to help affected children, and to work towards the prevention of Autism.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140922091213.htm

Rogue GMO wheat making its way to U.S. farms

GMO-wheat1We’re pretty familiar with the the big five GMO crops that are permitted in U.S. farming. Corn, soy, sugar beets, cotton, and canola and products containing these ingredients are pretty much guaranteed to be genetically modified. There are still some crops, though, that have not been approved for genetic modification. Wheat would stand out in that category.

So, how did that genetically modified wheat end up in a field in Oregon? Investigators still don’t know, but now they’ve found GMO wheat in Montana, too.

Investigators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) say that they cannot figure out how genetically engineered wheat appeared, as if by magic, in a farmer’s field in eastern Oregon in the spring of 2013.

Having “exhausted all leads,” the agency has now closed the investigation. But that announcement was almost overshadowed by a new mini-bombshell: More unapproved GMO wheat was discovered this past summer at Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Research Center (SARC) in Huntley, Mont.

It was discovered when workers tried to clear a small field using the weedkiller glyphosate. Some wheat plants survived, because they carried the glyphosate-tolerance gene that Monsanto Corp. had inserted into its GM varieties.

There were field trials of such wheat at that research station from 2000 to 2003, but all the grain from those trials should have been removed or destroyed. If some unharvested GMO grain remained in the field, it could have grown unnoticed in the intervening years.

Alan Tracy, president of U.S. Wheat Associates, which represents wheat exporters, downplayed the Montana discovery. “We don’t expect any reaction” from wheat buyers, he says, because the GM wheat was found at a research station rather than a commercial field.

The 2013 discovery, on the other hand, rocked wheat markets. The genetically modified grain was never approved for sale, and it’s unwelcome in countries that buy U.S. grain. Since it was found in a commercial wheat field, foreign buyers worried that GM wheat might have contaminated the entire American harvest, just as unapproved GM rice did in 2006. Japan and South Korea stopped buying U.S. wheat for a time.

Tests relieved those worries. GM wheat was never found anywhere else — not in commercial seed, nor in shipments of grain. Normal trade resumed.

But these tests only deepened the mystery. Where had this wheat come from? Investigators from APHIS interviewed farmers and took samples of wheat seed throughout the wheat-growing areas of Oregon and Washington, looking for clues.

They also carried out genetic analysis of the wheat that was found in the farmer’s field, hoping to match it with a specific variety of wheat, and thus with a particular field trial in which that type of wheat was grown. (Monsanto carried out numerous field trials of GMO wheat until 2005, when it canceled the program.)

No clues emerged. The genetic tests showed that this GM wheat was a genetic mixture of different types of wheat. Wheat breeders create such mixtures in the course of their work, but seed companies don’t sell them or carry out field trials of them.

Monsanto’s chief technology officer, Robert Fraley, floated his own hypothesis in a teleconference with reporters last year. “The fact pattern indicates the strong possibility that someone intentionally introduced wheat seed containing [Monsanto's new gene] into his field,” he said at the time. He speculated that this could have been an act of sabotage carried out by anti-biotech activists who somehow had acquired genetically engineered seed.

USDA investigators declined to endorse that scenario. “We were not able to determine how it took place,” says Bernadette Juarez, who led the APHIS investigation.

Carol Mallory-Smith, a professor of weed science at Oregon State University, said the rogue wheat — and other cases in which genetically modified crops have wandered far afield from their designated research plots — show that APHIS needs to monitor field trials of genetically modified crops more carefully.

People also need to realize that plant genes are likely to persist in the environment once they’re planted in open fields, she says.

“Any time a new trait is put into the environment, there’s really no way of retracting that gene or bringing it back and saying, ‘We’ve changed our mind,’ ” she says.

FoodFacts.com is well aware that once genetically modified seed is planted, the environment certainly does play a role in the spread of the crop. Cross contamination is a concern for organic farmers across the country. But it GMO wheat is no longer being developed, its appearance on more than one occasion is certainly puzzling. And it is certainly cause for concern. Professor Mallory-Smith certainly summed it up. There’s no going back after introducing genetically modified crops into the environment. It’s worth keeping an eye on.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/09/26/351785294/gmo-wheat-investigation-closed-but-another-one-opens

Fruits and vegetables linked to better mental health

2012-10-10-FruitsVeggiesEating your five a day has been proven to do amazing things for health. But when we think of that, our thoughts generally turn to improved heart health, reduced risk of obesity, diabetes and even increased longevity. This new information, however, points to benefits that probably never crossed our minds.

A previous study suggested that consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables a day is the optimum amount for lowering the risk of death from any cause, which contradicts another study that suggested we should be eating seven portions of fruit and veg a day.

The researchers from this latest study, led by Dr. Saverio Stranges of the University of Warwick Medical School in the UK, used data from the Health Survey for England, which included nearly 14,000 adults over the age of 16.
This survey collected detailed information on the mental and physical health of the participants, as well as their health-related behaviors, demographics and socio-economic characteristics.

In addition, the team assessed the participants’ mental well-being using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, putting the top 15% of participants in the “high mental well-being” group, the bottom 15% in the low group, and those between 16-84% in the middle group.

‘The higher the veg and fruit intake, the lower the chance of low well-being’
Overall, the researchers found that high and low mental well-being were typically associated with the participants’ fruit and vegetable intake.
In detail, 35.5% of participants with high mental well-being ate five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who consumed less than one portion.

Additionally, 31.4% of the individuals from the high mental well-being group ate three to four fruit and veg portions per day, and 28.4% ate one to two.
“The data suggest that [the] higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake, the lower the chance of their having low mental well-being,” says Dr. Stranges.

The researchers also considered other health-related behaviors – such as smoking, alcohol intake and obesity – and found that only smoking and fruit and vegetable intake were consistently associated with mental well-being.

Dr. Stranges explains:
“Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental well-being. These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental well-being in the general population.”

Alcohol intake and obesity were associated with low, but not high mental well-being, the researchers add.

According to the team, high mental well-being is more than simply the absence of symptoms or illness – it is the condition of feeling good and functioning well. They add that optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships are also part of this mode of being.

According to co-author Prof. Sarah Stewart-Brown, mental illness “is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental well-being underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health.”

She says enabling people to maintain good well-being is important from a research perspective.

“Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to enhance their mental well-being at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer,” she adds.

When asked about whether the study accounted for physical activity, Dr. Stranges told Medical News Today that one of the limitations of the study was that such data “was not available in the Health Survey for England,” leaving room for further study.

What a great reason to strive to eat your five a day! FoodFacts.com believes this information gives us all a new perspective on fruit and vegetable consumption — and more great reasons to tell ourselves and all our loved ones (not just our kids) “Eat your vegetables, they’re good for you!”

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282972.php

Forget about dunking … Nesquik wants you to drink your milk and cookies

B1G1-Nesquik-Milk-CouponEvery day in millions of homes across America, kids come home from school to the snack they’ve been waiting for all day — a glass of milk with cookies that they will dunk into that glass. When the cookies are gone, most of those children will happily drink the milk that’s full of soaked cookie crumbs. It’s almost a tradition. Throw some Girl Scout Cookies in the mix, and you’ve got some pretty happy kids!

Here at FoodFacts.com, we’ve had our share of problems with Girl Scout Cookies. Most varieties contain ingredients that no one needs to consume — most especially kids. We know everyone has their guilty pleasures, but there really are better cookie choices out there.

So we were surprised to find that not only has Nesquik attempted to reinvent milk and cookies — but has decided to do that with two popular Girl Scout Cookie flavors. We’ll admit it, we didn’t expect these “innovations” to be acceptable even before we started investigating.

What did we find?

Caramel Coconut Milk is inspired by the Samoa Girl Scout Cookie. Unfortunately this particular Girl Scout Cookie is one of the line’s biggest ingredient offenders. The Nesquik Caramel Coconut Milk doesn’t offer much of an improvement over the cookie. And the nutrition facts certainly leave much to be desired.

Remember that there are “about two” servings in the Nesquik milk container. We’re going to list the facts from the label — and then the facts on the label doubled, just in case your child actually drinks (gasp) the whole container.

Single Serving                              Whole Container
Calories                                                        160                                                  320
Fat                                                                 2.5 grams                                       5 grams
Sugar                                                            24 grams                                        48 grams

6 teaspoons of sugar in half the container. 12 teaspoons of sugar in the whole container. We don’t know anyone — adult or child — that needs to consume 12 teaspoons of sugar in their milk.

Ingredients: Low Fat milk with Vitamin A Palmitate and Vitamin D3 added, Sugar, Less Than 2% of Natural and Artificial Flavors, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Calcium Carbonate, Cellulose Gel, Salt, Carrageenan, Cellulose Gum.

The Samoa cookie is a coconut cookie and does contain actual coconut. The milk contains natural and artificial flavor — and that’s where the coconut is coming from. The flavor concept doesn’t seem to be much of an innovation to begin with. Coconut milk with chocolate syrup and vanilla syrup would probably do the trick here and depending on your product choices, you could easily leave out the questionable ingredients featured in this product.

How about the Thin Mints flavored milk?

To be perfectly honest, we didn’t agree with the flavor choice. Minty milk didn’t ring any bells for anyone here. And if it did, we could mix this one up ourselves too. Peppermint oil and chocolate syrup would do the trick.

Rinse and repeat the nutrition facts from the Caramel Coconut milk for the Thin Mints milk. They’re exactly the same.

Disturbingly, the ingredient list for the Thin Mints milk is also EXACTLY THE SAME as the Caramel Coconut milk. So where there should be peppermint in the list somewhere, you’ll find natural and artificial flavors taking their place. Same recipe, different chemical concoctions mimicking the real flavors that define the product.

We’re hoping that the real milk and cookies tradition wins out over these poor excuses for the real thing. We’re fairly positive that even if the taste comes close, there’s something irreplaceable about leftover, soaked cookie crumbs settled on the bottom of a glass of fresh, cold milk. At least, we hope so!

https://www.nesquik.com/adults/products/nesquikreadytodrink/caramel-coconut.aspx#

Can Annie’s Homegrown survive General Mills’ ownership in tact?

general-mills-largeFoodFacts.com was quite surprised to hear the news that Annie’s Homegrown has been purchased and incorporated into the General Mills’ family of products. We were immediately reminded of Kashi and the Kellogg Company. While Kashi has been able to maintain some of its previous commitment to food quality, we do have to think about a long list of difficulties that have included lawsuits regarding unsubstantiated “natural” claims for many of its products. That wouldn’t have happened prior to its mainstream ownership. So what will happen to Annie’s Homegrown and can we anticipate the same sort of problems occurring with this much-loved brand?

Annie’s Homegrown specializes in good-for-your versions of guilty foods like Hamburger Helper. Now it has been bought by the company that actually makes Hamburger Helper. In mid-September, Annie’s became the sister of Betty Crocker and dozens of other non-natural brands that make up the food conglomerate General Mills.

Does this mean that Annie’s Cheeseburger Skillet meal, made from organic pasta and non-GMO ingredients, will soon become an unhealthy stew of trans fats, MSG, and the artificial flavors found in Hamburger Helper’s Cheeseburger Macaroni? Will future versions of Annie’s cute little cheddar bunny crackers contain Franken-ingredients like the de-germed yellow corn meal found in GM’s Chex Mix?

Probably not. GM may be the home of Lucky Charms and Totino’s Pizza Rolls, but it also owns the organic and natural brands Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, and Larabar. Food experts say there’s no reason GM would pay millions of dollars for these trusted brands just to destroy them. Of course, GM could make subtle ingredient changes that would slowly de-healthify its natural and organic brands to save money.

But retailers believe that, so far, this hasn’t been the case. David Clark, COO of online grocer Door to Door Organics, says despite being owned by General Mills for 15 years, Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen products still meet Door to Door’s standards, which include having no trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, growth hormones, or artificial flavors or colors. He hopes the same will hold true for Annie’s.

We hope they’re right. Even we have to admit that the General Mills’ brand family DOES in fact include natural and organic brands. The problem with that, though, is that there are many consumers who think twice before picking up a Cascadian Farm organic product BECAUSE of its General Mills’ ownership. We know that there are countless families who depend on Annie’s products for their children. They choose Cheddar Bunnies instead of Goldfish, Cheeseburger Skillet Meal instead of Hamburger Helper, Mac and Cheese with real ingredients. Annie’s Homegrown plays an important role in the lives of nutritionally aware families. It’s a role we hope continues regardless of their ownership.

http://www.prevention.com/food/smart-shopping/will-general-mills-ruin-annies-homegrown