Tag Archives: cholesterol

The changing faces of the foods we eat

FoodFacts.com is constantly fascinated by the changing lenses through which particular foods are viewed. Do you remember back in the 90’s when the “no-fat” craze had us turning to completely fat-free products, thinking they were good for us. Did anyone, during that time, stop to think what was replacing the fats in fat-free cheeses or fat-free mayonnaise? Caffeine was frowned upon. And chocolate was really just candy.

It’s amazing what a difference a decade can make! Let’s take a look at a few foods whose bad reputations have turned around.

Eggs
Just a few decades ago, eating whole eggs was considered one of the unhealthiest things you could do. Products like Egg Beaters, and other egg substitutes came to the rescue for egg lovers everywhere. You could order egg white omelets at the diner; you would mix up a turkey meatloaf with egg whites and discard the yolks and angel food cake had a resurgence of popularity because whole eggs were just bad for you. The confusion over eggs stems from their cholesterol content. One large egg contains 213 mg of cholesterol, accounting for two-thirds of the recommended daily limit. When scientists learned that high blood cholesterol was associated with heart disease, foods high in cholesterol logically became suspect. But after 25 years of study, it has become evident that cholesterol in food is not the culprit — saturated fat has a much bigger effect on blood cholesterol. And one egg contains about 1.6 grams of saturated fat. In 2000, the American Heart Association (AHA) revised its dietary guidelines and gave healthy adults the green light to enjoy eggs once again. The AHA’s guidelines now allow an egg a day for healthy adults while still advising a total daily cholesterol limit of 300 mg.

Coffee
Twenty years ago, caffeine was questionable. Is it good for you? Is it bad for you? Coffee houses were becoming increasingly popular and offering up brews of varying caffeination all over. The trend was to try to avoid it. But not so much today. Recently a new study found that coffee may be linked to the prevention of basal cell carcinoma. And it was linked to the caffeine directly, as those drinking decaf coffee did not experience the same decrease in risk as those drinking caffeinated coffee.

Chocolate
While it will never be true that chocolate can be included in any of the major food groups, it’s becoming widely recognized as having important health effects for those who consume it. A few months ago, research out of Great Britain reviewed seven different studies done on the health benefits of chocolate. For heart health, the studies revealed significant benefits for chocolate. It possesses antioxidant, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic and anti-thrombotic effects. It’s certainly not advisable to overdo, but a little chocolate is actually good for you.

Things are always changing. We’re always learning more. And sciences are always advancing. The foods we eat can’t be left out of those statements. So FoodFacts.com will always try to bring out the latest information as things continue to change.

Packaging words to learn and lookout for!

Foodfacts.com understands that many consumers may often be fooled by certain terms, symbols, or words present on food packaging. This article should help to clarify any confusion regarding your foods and how the impact your health!

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1. Flavored
Both natural and artificial flavors are actually made in laboratories. But natural flavorings are isolated from a natural source, whereas artificial flavorings are not. However, natural flavors are not necessarily healthier than artificial. According to Scientific American, the natural flavor of coconut is not from an actual coconut, as one might expect, but from the bark of a tree in Malaysia. The process of extracting the bark kills the tree and drives up the price of the product when an artificial flavoring could be made more cheaply and more safely in a laboratory. That natural strawberry flavor you love? It could be made from a “natural” bacterial protein. Mmmm!

2. Drink and cocktail
The FDA requires that the amount of juice be labeled on a package when it claims to contain juice. The words drink and cocktail should have you checking the label for percentages and hidden sugars. But beware: even a product labeled 100 percent juice could be a mixture of cheaper juices, like apple juice and white grape juice.

3. Pure
100 percent pure products such as orange juice can be doctored with flavor packs for aroma and taste similar to those used by perfume companies. By now we all know about the use of flavor packs added back to fresh-squeezed orange juice like Tropicana and Minute Maid.

4. Nectar
The word nectar sounds Garden of Eden pure, but according to the FDA it’s just a fancy name for “not completely juice.” The FDA writes: “The term ‘nectar’ is generally accepted as the common or usual name in the U.S. and in international trade for a diluted juice beverage that contains fruit juice or puree, water, and may contain sweeteners.” The ingredient list of Kern’s, a popular brand of peach nectar, contains high fructose corn syrup before peach puree.

5. Spread

Anything that uses the word spread, is not 100 percent derived from its main ingredient. Skippy Reduced Fat peanut butter is a spread because it contains ingredients that make it different than traditional peanut butter. When something is called a spread, look at the ingredients to see if there is anything in there you don’t want.

6. Good source of fiber

If it doesn’t look like fiber, it may not function like fiber. Products that are pumped full of polydextrose and inulin are not proven to have the same benefits of fruits, vegetables, and beans, foods naturally high in fiber. For true fiber-based benefit add some fruit to your yogurt.

7. Cholesterol free
Any product that is not derived from an animal source is cholesterol free. Companies add this to packaging to create the illusion of health. The product is not necessarily unhealthy, but you should see if there is something they are trying to distract you from–e.g., corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils.

8. Fat free
PAM cooking spray and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray are fat free if used in the super miniscule and near impossible serving sizes recommended. PAM must be sprayed for ¼ of a second and the small I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray bottle contains over 1,000 servings! Even then it’s not fat free it’s just below the amount that the FDA requires to be identified on labels.

9. Sugar free
This designation means free of sucrose not other sugar alcohols that carry calories from carbohydrates but are not technically sugar. Sugar alcohols are not calorie free. They contain 1.5-3 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram for sugar. Also, certain sugar alcohols can cause digestion issues.

10. Trademarks

Dannon yogurt is the only company allowed to use the bacteria in yogurt called bifidus regularis because the company created its own strain of a common yogurt bacterial strain and trademarked the name. Lactobacillus acidophilus thrives in all yogurts with active cultures. Although Activa is promoted as assisting in digestion and elimination, all yogurts, and some cheeses, with this bacteria will do the same thing.

11. Health claims
Could a probiotic straw give immunity protection to a child? Are Cheerios a substitute for cholesterol-lowering drugs? The FDA doesn’t think so. Foods are not authorized to treat diseases. Be suspicious of any food label that claims to be the next wonder drug.

ConAgra’s unsuccessful attempt to promote Marie Callender’s

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As many consumers know, ConAgra has been targeted for marketing “natural” oils, which are far from natural; and producing what most people commonly refer to as “frankenfood.” In an effort to boost their publicity and promote their line of products, ConAgra hired a PR firm to setup a lavish event for well-known culinary bloggers to attend a dinner prepared by celebrity chef George Duran. However, the bloggers were not served food created by George Duran, instead they were served ConAgra’s popular frozen brand, Marie Callender’s. Apparently, they expected the bloggers to receive the joke in good terms and return home to blog about how great their meals were. Wrong reaction. The bloggers were furious with ConAgra’s actions and took to the internet to proclaim so. We understand why these bloggers would be upset, because looking closely at these frozen dinners, anyone would cringe at the awful combination of ingredients.
Marie Callender's at Foodfacts.com!

One entree choice from the Marie Callender’s product line is turkey breast with stuffing. This 380 calorie meal is equipped with about 80 ingredients, some of which are very controversial. TBHQ, BHA, BHT, various artificial flavors, “natural” flavors, MSG, carrageenan, partially hydrogenated oils, caramel coloring, high fructose corn syrup, gelatin, disodium guanylate, and many more of our worst controversial ingredients all accompany the few turkey breast medallions and small portion of what appears to say “gravy.” There is also 1,370 mg of sodium, 4 g of saturated fat, and 60 mg of cholesterol. Choose your foods wisely! This meal is unlikely to leave someone feeling good after they dig into it.

Marie Callender's at Foodfacts.com!
Marie Callender’s lasagna, which was served at the deceiving dinner party, has about 30% of the daily value for saturated fat, 31% the daily value for sodium, and 45 mg of cholesterol. Lest we forget it also contains sodium benzoate, which has been shown to be carcinogenic in the presence of vitamin C. This particular product contains 8% of vitamin C from tomatoes, and maybe a few other ingredients, which isn’t much, but who would take such a chance from a boxed dinner? Also, there are two different sources for flavoring, and partially hydrogenated oils. Overall, not a great product. I would be displeased too if this was served to me!

razzleberry pie at Foodfacts.com!
Being served a warm homemade pie isn’t quite like a microwaved razzleberry pie from a Marie Callender’s box. Though they don’t contain a very large list of ingredients in comparison to other brands, Mari Callender’s pie still contains trans fat, a hefty load of added sugars, various modified starches, and quite a bit of sodium. Also, just one slice is 360 calories. We’re pretty sure it’s not a thick slice, but more of a tiny sliver. Watch your portions if you’re daring enough to try it!

What exactly is in the McDonald’s Deluxe Breakfast?

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Foodfacts.com realizes that millions of people start out their mornings reading from the breakfast menu at a local McDonald’s. Their daily options range from oatmeal to english muffins, to sausage and egg McMuffins, to pancakes, and more. However, some may have difficulties choosing exactly which item they want, and these may be the consumers that opt for the “deluxe” breakfast; a little bit of it all.
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Scrambled Eggs: They’re yellow, fluffy, warm, and even appealing to some. However, McDonald’s scrambled eggs may be the most disturbing item found on their large menu. Filled with controversial ingredients which includes sodium benzoate, artificial colors, and partially hydrogenated oils, these scrambled eggs are far from ideal to start off the day. Although eggs have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol (to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease), these eggs are loaded with trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils which promote the bad LDL cholesterol.
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Sausage Patties: McDonald’s loves to include their famous breakfast sausage into many of their entrees. The good news, it actually contains pork; the bad news, it includes about 12 other things that could be harmful to your health. BHA and BHT are harmful additives, and The Department of Health and Human Services says BHA is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Even though BHT has been found to be less harmful, some animal studies have shown it has been linked to cancers. Yet the FDA deems it as generally safe for consumption. These patties also contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), caramel color (which also has been linked to cancer), and corn syrup solids. Many would refer to these sausage patties as “cancer patties.”
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Biscuit: Many normally prepare biscuits at home using a handful of ingredients. At McDonald’s biscuits are made with about 50 ingredients to preserve their freshness while sitting around in the restaurant during breakfast hours. Some of these ingredients include sodium aluminum phosphate, modified cellulose, partially hydrogenated oils, liquid margarine, sodium benzoate, and natural flavors. It’s a good sign that a food may not be a real food when you can’t pronounce or understand 99% of the ingredients.
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Hash browns: You can’t have a “deluxe” breakfast without some hash browns. In this case, it’s a thin potato patty which often leaves your fingers feeling slick with grease. They come in thin paper sleeves and don’t exactly taste like potatoes, but it says they are, so I guess it is then? While they do obviously contain potato, they’re also filled with preservatives, sodium, and fat which you can feel lining your arteries as you continue to digest. And lest we forget, these potato patties include TBHQ. Although deemed safe by the FDA, certain studies have shown that high doses of TBHQ are not only carcinogenic, but may also cause damage to DNA and promote growth of tumors.
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Hot Cakes: Or what we may commonly refer to as “pancakes,” McDonald’s hot cakes are the centerpiece of their deluxe meal. However, they’re not made by pan. In fact, they’re often microwaved at these restaurants after they receive large frozen shipments of these hot cakes from manufacturing centers. How they’re made, we’re not quite sure, but we do know what’s in them. High fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, TBHQ, and a load of preservatives grace the ingredients list, among other things. Of course we can’t forget, the fountain of syrup that comes along the side.

The damage of the deluxe meal:
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The Buzz on Trans-Fat

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Foodfacts.com mission is to educate consumers on making more educated and well-thought food choices. We’ve gotten many questions in the past regarding the controversy with trans-fat. We’re going to explain the background on trans-fats with tips on how to avoid them too!
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First, you have to be able to recognize trans-fat ingredients on a food label, because even though a product may lists 0g trans-fat, this may not be the case. Foods with less than 0.5g of trans fats per serving are considered by the government to be trans-fat free. However, if you eat peanut butter for instance, which normally contains a small amount of trans fat to reduce separation; chances are many won’t be eating just 1 serving. Therefore, you’ll be consuming more than just 0.5g, and this is not healthy.
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Partially Hydrogenated vs. Fully Hydrogenated

Fast food burgers, popcorn, pretzels, some sodas, breakfast cereals, and thousands of other products contain one common ingredient, partially hydrogenated oil. At first sight some may think, “well it’s only partially hydrogenated, so it can’t be that bad.” However partially hydrogenated oils are far worse than fully hydrogenated oils, because they are the culprits which contain trans-fatty acids.

When hydrogen is added to an oil (whether it be vegetable, canola, soy, etc.) the process is referred to as hydrogenation. This process changes the physical properties of the fat, often turning the product into a more semi-solid composition, such as margarine. This increases the melting point in frying foods, extends shelf-life, and produces a more appealing texture in baked goods.
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Fully hydrogenated oils have little to no remaining trans fat after the hydrogenation process. The consistency of this fat is more solid, even at room temperature. It’s physical properties make it too difficult for some to use during baking and frying methods, so it may be hard to find unlike partially hydrogenated fats. Also, this fully hydrogenated oil contains more saturated fat, often stearic acid which is normally converted in the body to oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. This makes fully hydrogenated oils less harmful than that of partially hydrogenated.

And just to be extra clear, if a label reads “hydrogenated oil,” this doesn’t it’s necessarily free of trans-fat. These fats are used interchangeable, so make good decisions and be careful to scan ingredient lists for these fats!

Breakfast on the Go

Inevitably, many of our Foodfacts.com followers frequently visit a drive-thru at a McDonald’s, Burger King, or any other fast food restaurant. Does this mean they’re bad people? No. Everyone is allowed to eat the foods that they choose. Plus, for some people it’s simply easier to stop by a fast-food window and pick up a quick meal. However, we would like to help in educating consumers to find the healthier options.

It seems that breakfast is the time of day that gets the least amount of attention by most. Many people skip breakfast all together. It’s normally those who frown upon this idea that resort to quick and accessible fast foods. Below are a few suggestions of items you could order and transform to healthier options.

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Try this:
McDonald’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal is 290 calories with 4.5g Fat, 160mg sodium, 32g sugar, and 57g of carbohydrate. Not exactly an ideal breakfast in most people’s eyes. However, the good news is you can order this oatmeal plain. Without the sugar, cream, and fruit blend you not only rid this product of most the controversial ingredients, but you also take away a hefty portion of the sugar. Instead, try adding a few nuts from home and cinnamon for taste.

Instead of this:
McDonald’s Sausage Burrito is about 300 calories, which some may choose as an appropriate calorie level for their first meal of the day. What you may not know is that this “burrito” contains about a dozen controversial ingredients. Among them are monosodium glutamate, BHA, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and more. The scrambled eggs alone in this product should divert your attention from ordering this morning item. McDonald’s scrambled eggs are known for being quite unhealthy, so try checking the nutrition facts before choosing your first meal of the day.

Try this:
The Chick-Fil-A Yogurt Parfait contains 3g fat, 10mg cholesterol, 60mg sodium, and 35g of sugar. Although the sugar is a bit high, you could order this item without the added berries, which are probably contained in a sugar mixture to add sweetness. This yogurt parfait is also 6g of protein. By adding a few nuts and fresh granola, you could boost the protein and also add healthy fats. However, only add about a handful because nuts are higher in calories.
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Instead of this:
The Chick-Fil-A breakfast chicken biscuit is 440 calories of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. About half a day’s worth of sodium is in this “morning” sandwich. Although this chicken sandwich has only a handful of controversial ingredients, compared to those with near a hundred, it may be too much sodium and fat to handle in the morning. This is the type of sandwich that will literally have you feeling gross after indulging.

Try this:
Burger King’s side salad without dressing can be a good breakfast if you have some creativity. Without the fattening dressings, these salads are good bases to add your favorite fruits like cranberries, and blueberries, and throw in some healthy nuts like walnuts and almonds. This will add the calories you need in the morning, and healthy fats to help give you energy. Also, if this isn’t filling enough, you could try the apple fries, but without the caramel sauce. There is no need for dessert toppings and high fructose corn syrup, especially in the morning.
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Instead of this:
Burger King Double Ham and Sausage Croissanwich’ is approximately 570 calories. Included in this mountainous sandwich are two layers of scrambled egg “patties”, 2 slices of processed cheese, slices of ham, and a sausage patty. If this still sounds appetizing to you, think about the sodium, cholesterol, and fat that will negatively affect your health. About 68% the daily value of sodium, 80% the daily value of cholesterol, and 70% the daily value for saturated fat should be numbers that immediately make you switch to other options. The option to make this sandwich slightly healthier would be two remove everything, and keep the croissant, but you’re still paying 6 bucks for it.

Here is a video recently posted on ABC News that emphasizes how to order healthy options at fast food restaurants.

Mid-Life Cholesterol Levels Not Linked To Alzheimer’s Disease

Foodfacts.com has learned that, contrary to earlier research, a new, long-term study suggests that cholesterol level in mid-life may not be linked to development of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the November 10, 2010, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. However, the results suggest that large decreases in cholesterol levels in old age could be a better predictor of developing the memory-robbing disease.

“While some studies suggest that cholesterol is a risk factor for dementia, others have not replicated this finding, so the possible association has been under debate,” said study author Michelle M. Mielke, PhD, with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

For the study, 1,462 dementia-free Swedish women between the ages of 38 and 60 were followed for 32 years. As part of the study, the women were given a physical exam, heart tests, chest x-rays and blood tests. The group was also surveyed for smoking habits, alcohol and medication use, education and medical history. Throughout the study, body mass index (BMI), a measurement of weight-per-height, and blood pressure were taken. At four points, the women were tested for dementia.

After 32 years, 161 women had developed dementia.

The study found that cholesterol measured in middle or old age showed no link to dementia, which is contrary to some earlier studies. However, the study also found that the women whose cholesterol levels decreased the most from middle to older age were more than twice as likely to develop dementia as those whose cholesterol levels increased or stayed the same. The risk increased from 8.9 percent for those who maintained or had increased cholesterol over the course of the study to 17.5 percent for people with the greatest decline in cholesterol.

Mielke said that decreased cholesterol levels greater than what is expected in old age might be a more accurate indicator of dementia risk then cholesterol levels in middle age. In addition, despite the finding that cholesterol did not influence dementia risk, Mielke recommends that people still follow heart healthy guidelines. “Cholesterol should still be monitored and treated through diet, exercise and medication for cardiovascular and overall health.”

Another way to be “cholesterol aware” is to actively monitor the hidden ingredients within the foods you eat. FREE membership in Foodfacts.com reveals an immense resource ready to use, including the revolutionary Food Facts Health Score. Visit today.

Source: Lockergnome and American Academy of Neurology

How to Lower your Cholesterol Through Diet

Cholesterol Levels | Foodfacts.com

Cholesterol Levels | Foodfacts.com

The Myth of Cholesterol – the Bad and the Good

For some people, cholesterol is bad because they do not know there are two types of it. These two types are LDL and HDL – the bad cholesterol is called LDL, while the good one is called HDL. Plaques can form on one’s arteries if you have a lot of LDL in the bloodstream. Eventually, your arteries will get narrow as a result of being clogged up and it will block off blood flow. The truth is, your high cholesterol is not caused by dietary cholesterol but by other things. This is caused by excessive amounts of transfat and saturated fat. Exercise and eating a lot of fiber and unsaturated fats will do a lot to keep cholesterol down. Continue reading