Tag Archives: healthy

Just because it says it’s healthy, doesn’t mean it is .

iStock_000003492931SmallPretty simple concept, isn’t it? Or at least it should be. But food marketers are well aware that minds can be swayed in a particular direction with the use of some very simple language.

Health-related buzzwords, such as “antioxidant,” “gluten-free” and “whole grain,” lull consumers into thinking packaged food products labeled with those words are healthier than they actually are, according to a new research study conducted by scholars at the University of Houston (UH).

That “false sense of health,” as well as a failure to understand the information presented in nutrition facts panels on packaged food, may be contributing to the obesity epidemic in the United States, said Temple Northup, an assistant professor at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at UH.

“Saying Cherry 7-Up contains antioxidants is misleading. Food marketers are exploiting consumer desires to be healthy by marketing products as nutritious when, in fact, they’re not,” said Northup, principal investigator of the study, “Truth, Lies, and Packaging: How Food Marketing Creates a False Sense of Health.”

The study examined the degree to which consumers link marketing terms on food packaging with good health. It found that consumers tend to view food products labeled with health-related euphemisms as healthier than those without them. The research also showed that the nutrition facts panels printed on food packaging as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration do little to counteract that buzzword marketing.

“Words like organic, antioxidant, natural and gluten-free imply some sort of healthy benefit,” Northup said. “When people stop to think about it, there’s nothing healthy about Antioxidant Cherry 7-Up — it’s mostly filled with high fructose syrup or sugar. But its name is giving you this clue that there is some sort of health benefit to something that is not healthy at all.”

The study also looks at the “priming” psychology behind the words to explain why certain words prompt consumers to assign a health benefit to a food product with unhealthy ingredients.

“For example, if I gave you the word ‘doctor,’ not only ‘doctor’ would be accessible in your mind — now all these other things would be accessible in your mind — ‘nurse,’ ‘stethoscope,’ etc.,” Northup said. “What happens when these words become accessible, they tend to influence or bias your frame of mind and how you evaluate something.”

This triggered concept is then available to influence later thoughts and behaviors, often without explicit awareness of this influence — the so-called priming effect, Northup said.

Northup developed an experiment using priming theory to gather quantitative research on how food marketers influence consumers. He developed an online survey that randomly showed images of food products that either included actual marketing words, like organic, or a Photoshop image removing any traces of those words, thereby creating two different images of the same product. A total of 318 study participants took the survey to rate how “healthy” each product was.

The products with trigger words in their labels analyzed in the study were: Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks (Organic), Apple Sauce (Organic), Chef Boyardee Beefaroni (Whole Grain), Chef Boyardee Lasagna (Whole Grain), Chocolate Cheerios (Heart Healthy), Cherry 7-Up (Antioxidant), Smuckers Peanut Butter (All Natural) and Tostitos (All Natural).

Northup found when participants were shown the front of food packaging that included one of those trigger words, they would rate the items as healthier.

“I took a label from Cherry 7-Up Antioxidant and Photoshop it without the word ‘antioxidant’ and only the words, ‘Cherry 7-Up.’ I then asked people via the online survey which one they thought was healthier,” said Northup. “Each time a participant saw one of the triggering words on a label, they would identify it as healthier than the other image without the word. ”

After completing the product evaluations, the study participants then reviewed the nutrition facts panels on a variety of products. These labels would be presented two at a time so the participants could choose the healthier food or drink option.

“Food marketers say there are nutritional labels, so people can find out what’s healthy and what’s not,” he said. “Findings from this research study indicate people aren’t very good at reading nutritional labels even in situations where they are choosing between salmon and Spam. Approximately 20 percent picked Spam as the healthier option over salmon,” said Northup.

Northup hopes the results of this study will contribute to an increased dialogue on how food is marketed, guide development of specific media literacy and help people understand the effects of how food is marketed to consumers.

While we like to think of ourselves as sophisticated consumers (and just about everyone these days considers themselves as such), the proliferation of those small , yet powerful words on food labels everywhere — even where they don’t make sense — speaks directly to their actual influence. Antioxidant soda? Whole grain canned macaroni? Can those words actually manage to make an unhealthy product full of bad ingredients healthy? We know they can’t and yet, somehow, time after time, consumers are fooled. Armed with the insight as to why this manufacturers ploy continues to work, FoodFacts.com suggests we all think a little harder the next time we’re attracted to a product label bearing an extra descriptive word or two.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140613130717.htm

A Miracle Fruit?

miracle-berry
Foodfacts.com recently came across this article in TIME magazine regarding a “miracle fruit” that changes sour into sweet. How? Read below to learn more!

If you have any foodie friends, you’ve probably heard of miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum), a native West African berry that looks like a cranberry, but acts like a psychedelic for your taste buds.

Eat the miracle fruit on its own and it doesn’t taste like much of anything. But let the juices coat your mouth, then consume sour foods — like lemons, limes, goat cheese, beer, vinegar, pickles — and a remarkable thing happens: they all taste sweet.
“Beer tastes like sweet juice. Lemon tastes like sweet orange,” Keiko Abe of the University of Tokyo told Discovery News.

The fruit’s effect lasts for an hour, and like other trippy experiences, it’s more fun to do it in groups. So adventuresome eaters seek out “flavor tripping parties” during which people pop a berry, then gorge on all manner of sour foods. Guinness beer tastes like chocolate. Tabasco sauce tastes like “hot doughnut glaze,” as one flavor tripper was quoted as saying in this story in the New York Times.

This week, Abe reported the key to miracle fruit’s magic. To figure it out, Abe’s research team used cell cultures to test human taste receptors at various pHs. According to Discovery News:

The key ingredient in the fruit, a protein known as miraculin, binds strongly to the sweet taste receptors on our tongues, Abe reported, but it does not activate the receptors at neutral pH.

When acid is introduced, the miraculin protein changes shape in such a way that it turns on the sweet receptors it is bound to, creating a sensation of ultra-sweet without affecting the other flavors in the food.

After the acidic food is swallowed, miraculin returns to the inactive shape, but it remains bound to the sweet receptor for up to an hour, ready to receive a new acid trigger. The strong binding explains the molecule’s lasting effect.

Abe said the sweet-making power of miraculin was stronger than nearly all other known sweeteners. Given that it’s calorie-free, of course there has been no shortage of interest in developing it into a commercially usable sweetener. Perhaps it will be in Japan, where the production of a purified miraculin extract is currently being sought. As for the U.S., however, a 1974 ruling by the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of an extract.

(TIME)

Weekly Top 5

At Foodfacts.com we commonly receive requests for healthy snack suggestions, alternatives for different meals, etc. We know many of you share different views on organic, genetically modified foods, sugar, saturated fat, and many other nutrition-related topic areas, but we feel there are always a few items that stand-out in our database that many may find interesting, or even want to try.

This week’s top 5:

Blueberries
blueberry
There’s nothing better than picking fresh, ripe blueberries during the summer months. Full of antioxidants and phytochemicals, these berries are considered a “superfood” because of their healthy benefits when eaten. Research has shown that some benefits of eating blueberries include reduced risk of cancers, decreasing the conditions of aging; such as Alzheimer’s, and also preventative of Hepatitis C. Add them to your favorite pies, make them into jam, sprinkle them on your yogurt, drink them in juice form,
or eat them by the handful. They’re great for you!

1311643567_ce732f7e2cRed Bell Peppers
They’re slightly sweet, slightly tangy, and very crunchy. Bell peppers are a great source of vitamins and minerals, mixed in with a great amount of flavor. Known as the “meaty” pepper, this vegetable is commonly added to salads, stews, and also eaten raw. Which is great, because it contains a great amount of carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin. The bell pepper has been shown to reduce the risk of inflammation, which then helps to prevent various types of cancers.
salmon
Salmon
This fatty fish has been given much praise and attention for awhile now. Full of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon consumption creates great benefits. Improved cardiovascular function, reduced risk of heart disease, reduced inflammation, and some evidence suggests that omega-3 fats may prevent the progression of certain psychotic disorders in high-risk children and adolescents. However, some overlooked features of salmon include the amino acid and protein content, which also provides great health benefits. Some that have been researched are alleviated joint pain, and regulating collagen and minerals within the bone and tissue.
spelt
Spelt Bread
This grain has been around for centuries, and offers a variety of wonderful nutrients that other grains may not be able to provide. This is because it contains B2, a great amount of manganese, niacin, thiamin, and copper. Together, these nutrients are powerful against atherosclerosis, diabetes, migraine headaches, and other moderate to severe conditions. Use this grain to make breads, pasta, muffins, and any other meal you desire!
figs
Whole Wheat Fig Bars
Figs have been a staple in many households for years. Which is a good thing considering that they’re high in potassium, and have a good amount of vitamin C. These fig bars are not only organic, which is an added bonus for many, but they also contain whole wheat flour as their base. Another positive, there are no added sugars.

Food Safety Alert: Raisin Recall

raisins
Allergy Alert: Raisins Recalled for Sulfites

A New York company is recalling its 14 oz. packages of “Deer Raisin Golden” raisins because they contain undeclared sulfites. Consumers who have severe sensitivity to sulfites run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reactions.

In a news release, Best Food Cash & Carry Inc. of Maspeth, NY said the problem was discovered after routine sampling by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Food Inspector and subsequent analysis by Food Laboratory personnel.

The consumption of as little as 10 milligrams of sulfite per serving has been reported to elicit severe reactions in some asthmatics, including anaphylactic shock in some sensitive individuals. Analysis of the “Deer Raisin Golden” raisins revealed they contained 11.07 milligrams per serving. The presence of sulfites was not declared on any label.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with the raisins.

The recalled “Deer Raisin Golden” were distributed in 14 oz, clear uncoded plastic packages in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut retail stores.

Consumers who purchased the recalled packages of Deer Raisin Golden may return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Contact the company at 718-786-8961 if you have questions.

(Food Safety News)

Labeling Tricks

food-advertising
Foodfacts.com came across an article featured on Food Network which discusses how to avoid food labeling tricks which are used to make some foods appear healthier. Check it out below! Have any advice of your own to share?

Food labels are carefully worded to entice shoppers to choose certain items. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found dieters often fall for simple labeling tricks that make them believe certain foods are healthier than they are. Find out the top 5 traps people fell into and how to avoid them.

#1: Fruit Chew vs. Candy Chew
The same food labeled with the word “fruit” verses “candy” had dieters opting for the fruit-labeled boxes with identical chews inside. If it doesn’t contain real fruit, it’s probably the same product with different flavoring. Check the ingredients before you buy!

#2: Pasta vs. Salads

Diners watching their calories often jump to the salad section over pasta, since that seems like the healthier choice. But not always: Toppings like avocado, cheese, beans, croutons, fried chicken or too much dressing drive salad calories sky-high (that’s why they made our top 9 “healthy” foods to skip). Ask the server how the salad is prepared, and if any of the toppings or dressings are optional. Get our tips for swapping out high-cal salad toppings >>

#3: Flavored Water vs. Juice
Find yourself grabbing the “flavored” water because it seems like the healthier choice? That’s what the Journal of Consumer research study found their subjects did. Water seems harmless, but many varieties are nothing more than sugar water. If sugar isn’t added, then oftentimes artificial sweeteners are. A glass of freshly squeezed juice may contain natural sugar called fructose, but also a variety of vitamins and minerals. If in doubt, real, unadulterated water is always a great choice.

#4: Veggie Chips vs. Potato Chips
Think veggie chips are healthier than potato chips? Think again: Aren’t potatoes vegetables?!? Any vegetable fried and made to look like a chip can be labeled a veggie chip, so don’t fall for that labeling trick! If you want chips (whether veggie or potato), be sure to stick to a reasonable portion (about 15 chips).

#5: Smoothies vs. Milkshakes

Milkshakes are loaded with fat and calories, but slap on a label that says “smoothie” and dieters feel they’ve made a healthier decision. Be sure to inquire about the ingredients that go into that smoothie, and keep the portion size reasonable. Get our tips for a healthier smoothie >>

Bottom Line: Don’t fall into the naming trap — if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Do some investigating by reading food label ingredient lists and nutrition facts. If you’re dining out, don’t be shy! Ask the wait staff about menu items.

(Food Network- Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN)

Food Industries Pressuring Congress to Scrap New Healthy School Lunch Guidelines

school_lunch_title
Brought to you by Foodfacts.com:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed common-sense nutrition guidelines to improve school lunches and breakfasts, including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk and less salt, unhealthy fats, and calories. So you thought all that news about Congress passing a new Child Nutrition Bill meant that we had solved the problem of junk food in our schools, right?

Think again.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the french fry industry and other food groups are pressuring Congress to scrap the USDA’s new healthy school lunch rules and start from scratch. They write:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed common-sense nutrition guidelines to improve school lunches and breakfasts, including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk and less salt, unhealthy fats, and calories.

If industry is successful in convincing the Senate to do the same, the goal of seeing healthy school lunches in cafeterias across the country will be in serious jeopardy.

Click here to find out how you can tell Congress not to cave to the food industry lobbyists.

(TakePart.com)

Oatmeal now available at BK as a “healthier” option

burger-king-oatmeal
Foodfacts.com has reported on the trend of “healthier” options becoming marketed at major fast-food chains. McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks, and Denny’s have all opted to add oatmeal to their menus in hopes of reaching a newer demographic of consumers. Burger King is now including oatmeal on their menu for just $1.99 in hopes of boosting revenue for the remainder of the year. Check out the article below to find out more on this new menu item!

Huffington PostOatmeal is the new burger.

Burger King, the world’s second-largest hamburger chain, added oatmeal to its breakfast menu this week, joining a slew of other chains that have brought the hot cereal out of the cupboard and into restaurants and drive-thrus.
Click logo for Burger King products at blog.foodfacts.com!
Burger King says it is trying to offer customers a healthier breakfast option beyond its sausage croissant sandwiches and French toast dipping sticks. It’s also an attempt by the struggling chain to catch up to competitors and boost sagging sales by appealing to customers beyond its base of burger-and-fries fans.

“We are definitely looking to broaden our target and our audience,” said Leo Leon, vice president of global innovation for Burger King Corp.

Breakfast is becoming the most important meal of the day for restaurants – accounting for nearly 60 percent of traffic growth between 2005 and 2010. And oatmeal is the latest battleground. It’s low-cost, easily prepared and doesn’t spoil quickly. It also appeals to people who want quick, affordable food they perceive as healthier than the typical fast-food breakfast fare.
fruit-and-maple-oatmeal
Starbucks Corp., the world’s biggest coffee chain, said its $2.49 oatmeal has become its most popular breakfast item since it launched in 2008. Last year, McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest burger chain, added $2.99 oatmeal to its menu. Fast food chain Chick-fil-A and Denny’s casual dining restaurants also offer oatmeal, for $2.49 to 2.85 and 3.49 to 4.49, respectively. Burger King’s oatmeal, at $1.99, is the cheapest of the group.

Restaurants are trying to capitalize on oatmeal’s good-for-you reputation. But some industry experts say it’s not a good fit for fast-food chains.

McDonald’s has faced scrutiny for its oatmeal’s 4.5 grams of fat and 260 to 290 calories. That’s roughly equal to the number of calories in its own hamburger or cheeseburger. By comparison, Burger King’s oatmeal, which was created by Quaker Oats Co., has 110 to 270 calories and 1 to 4 grams of fat.

Still, Steve West, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, said: “People don’t go to Burger King or McDonald’s for their oatmeal … they go for an Egg McMuffin.”

For Burger King, oatmeal is part of a larger strategy. It’s critical for the chain to find a convenient new breakfast option. Burger King said 10 percent to 15 percent of its customers visit during breakfast. And the fast-food chain sells the majority of its food to go or at the drive-thru.

The company also is eager to replicate the success of McDonald’s, which has reinvented itself as a more hip and healthy place to eat, remodeling stores, offering wireless Internet service and introducing new salads, smoothies and coffee drinks. That’s brought in higher-income customers than the young males fast-food chains typically depend on – a demographic hit particularly hard by unemployment in the weak economy.

Burger King, based in Miami, has a lot of catching up to do. McDonald’s brought in more than $32 billion in U.S. sales last year, nearly four times Burger King’s $8.7 billion, according to research firm Technomic. That was a 4.4 percent increase for McDonald’s and a 2.5 percent decline for Burger King.

In the second quarter, Burger King’s profit fell 13 percent and its revenue fell 4 percent to $596.2 million, compared with a year earlier, due in large part to weakness in its North American operations. McDonald’s profit rose 15 percent and revenue grew 16 percent to $6.9 billion during its comparable period.

It’s going to take more than a hot meal to turn around Burger King’s business. Industry experts say the company has let its product lineup grow stale, and the quality of its stores has deteriorated.

“You can sell all the oatmeal and lattes and smoothies you want,” said West, the analyst. “But they’ve got to remodel the stores – for the most part Burger King stores are very old and rundown.”

Burger King, which has been reevaluating its business since it was acquired by investment firm 3G Capital last year, recently made other changes. The chain said Friday that it was retiring its mascot “The King” and launching a new campaign focused more on food. The company also added new salads and “Apple Fries” – apple slices cut to look like fries for its kids’ meals.

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.

mcdonalds-oatmeal1
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.
yogurt-parfait3

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.
salad11

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.

February is American Heart Month

American Heart Month has been around since 1963 the goal is to help raise awareness for America’s #1 killer…Heart disease. A good amount of having a healthy heart deals with nutrition and the good and bad foods Americans are consuming.

Here’s a video of 5 things you can do to have a healthier heart:

To add to that list…
-Control your portion size
-Plan ahead and create daily menus
-Allow yourself an occasional treat

And don’t forget exercise is extremely important in keeping your heart healthy.