Tag Archives: heart health

Strawberries and Blueberries are kind to your heart

FoodFacts.com is always thrilled to hear about how food can have positive effects on our health. For us, it’s always been about how our diet can affect our well-being. Our community members know how we feel about packaged, prepared foods and artificial, controversial ingredients. Today, we want to share with you some news about some simple fruits that might actually make a world of difference to your cardiovascular health.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States and the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom conducted a study among over 90,000 women between the ages 25 and 42. The women completed questionnaires about their diet every four years for 18 years.

During the study, 405 heart attacks occurred. Those women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had a 32% reduction in their risk of heart attack compared to women who ate the berries once a month or less. This was true even for women who ate an otherwise healthy diet rich in fruit and other vegetables.

Women who ate at least three servings of blueberries and strawberries each week had fewer heart attacks than those who did not incorporate these fruits into their diets at the same levels. Blueberries and strawberries contain high levels of compounds that have cardiovascular benefits.

Dietary flavonoids are found in high levels in both blueberries and strawberries. In addition, they are contained in grapes, wine, blackberries, and eggplant. Flavonoids have acknowledged cardiovascular benefits. In addition, there is a sub-class of flavonoids – anthocyanins – that might help to dilate arteries and counter the effects of plaque build up in the vascular system.

The reason the researchers focused on blueberries and strawberries was pretty simple. These are the most often eaten berries in the United States. Because of this, the researchers acknowledged that it’s possible that other foods might produce the same effect.

FoodFacts.com has always been a proponent of the American Heart Association’s advice regarding eating a balanced diet that includes berries as part of a plan that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. We encourage our community members to remain conscious and colorful in their food choices. We understand that variety in our diets will not only keep eating interesting, but healthy as well. A little green, a little orange, a little red, a little purple might very well go a long way for your heart – as well as your taste buds. It’s also more appealing to the eye … and we all have to see our food before we eat it. If you like what you see, you really are more likely to enjoy the meal. We don’t live in a one-dimensional world. Our plates should reflect that … taste, color, texture. Strawberries and blueberries for heart health can add a wealth of dimension to our plates.

Read more about the study here:   http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130114152954.htm

Wisconsin’s Margarine Ban

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Foodfacts.com commonly receives questions regarding the nutritional status of margarine. As most may know, margarine was seen as the healthy alternative to butter for a few decades due to its lack of saturated fat. However, science eventually caught up and realized margarine maybe the problem rather than the solution. The state of Wisconsin took this news and ran with it, eliminating this butter-like product from restaurants since the 1960s. But now, lawmakers are trying to lift this ban and bring margarine back to the public.

Margarine is primarily composed of partially hydrogenated oils, which was seen as a healthier alternative for a very long time. However, more and more studies began to show that these partially hydrogenated fats are actually trans fatty acids; ones that play a major role in causing cardiovascular disease, arterial plaque buildup, and more likely to cause heart attacks.

Sen. Gordon Roseleip introduced the ban to Wisconsin in the mid 1960s. An advocate for the dairy industry, Roseleip proposed that margarine does not only have an unfavorable taste in comparison to butter, but it also more likely to cause unhealthy results. Which, is true. Whether or not Roseleip did it just to support the dairy council, no one can be too sure, but it was a bold move regardless. The ban has been in place for almost 45 years, and now lawmakers are planning to repeal the anti-margarine bill.

Rep. Dale Kooyenga calls the bill “silly, antiquated and anti-free market.” He’s hoping to have the ban lifted to not only reduce state regulations, but to also save taxpayer money.

What do you think? Is the margarine ban a good thing? Or should people have free choice to use this buttery alternative?

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!

A new genetically modified soybean

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Foodfacts.com recently came across an article which we found interesting pertaining to soybeans. Soybean oil has received some negative attention for including trans fats, which as we all know, has been linked to cardiovascular disease. The soybean industry took a hard hit with the limited amount of soybean oil sales and came up with a new solution, genetic modification. Check out the article below to learn more!

The soybean industry is seeking government approval of a genetically modified soybean it says will produce oil lower in saturated fat, offer consumers a healthier alternative to foods containing trans fats and increase demand for growers’ crops.

Demand for soybean oil has dropped sharply since 2005, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring labels to list levels of trans fats, which have been linked to coronary heart disease. Vegetable oil does not naturally contain trans fats, but when hydrogen is added to make it suitable for use in the food industry, trans fats are created.

Agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. says oil from its new soybean will meet manufacturers’ requirements for baking and shelf life without hydrogenation, resulting in food that’s free of trans fats as well as lower in saturated fat.

The FDA approved the new bean, called Vistive Gold, earlier this year, and Monsanto and several state and national soybean groups are now seeking approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service said in an email to The Associated Press that it has no timeline for making a decision.

U.S. farmers harvested more than 3.3 billion bushels of soybeans valued at nearly $39 billion in 2010. But the Iowa Soybean Association said in a letter to APHIS the industry’s share of the food oil market dropped from 83 percent to 68 percent after the FDA enacted the labeling requirements. Iowa grows more soybeans than any other state.

“We believe because of the trans-fat labeling, 4.6 billion pounds of edible soybean oil was not used for food over a three-year period,” said Bob Callanan, a spokesman for the American Soybean Association. The oil was turned into biodiesel instead, and farmers got less money for their soybeans, he said.

Industry officials believe Vistive Gold could command as much as 60 cents more per bushel than other soybeans, raising a farmer’s income by thousands of dollars.

Jim Andrew, who grows 625 acres of conventional soybeans near Jefferson, Iowa, said he hopes Vistive Gold soybeans also will reduce consumers’ fears about biotech crops by providing a direct health benefit. Most genetically modified crops so far have been engineered to fight pests and increase harvests, benefiting farmers.

“I think it’s a case where we’re trying to modify crops to address specific needs to make other industries more efficient and healthier,” Andrew said.

St. Louis-based Monsanto introduced a first generation of the bean, called Vistive, in 2005 to reduce or eliminate trans fats in response to the labeling requirements. Vistive Gold retains those qualities and offers lower levels of saturated fat and higher levels of healthier monounsaturated fats.

Joe Cornelius, a Monsanto project manager who has worked on the Vistive soybeans for 15 years, said Vistive Gold could make a real difference in efforts to produce healthier foods. As an example, he said it could produce French fries with more than 60 percent less saturated fat.

“I don’t think we can say fried food will ever be a health food, but you can improve the nutritional profile of that food,” Cornelius said.

But Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety, said Vistive Gold and other engineered crops don’t face rigorous enough testing. No animal feeding trials were conducted on the new soybean to see what would happen when it was consumed, he said.

And, the FDA approved it based on the agency’s review of a similar soybean produced by another company, not an actual review of Vistive Gold, he said, adding, “That struck me as very odd.”

Without proper scrutiny, genetically modified crops have a “high potential for harmful and unintended consequences,” such as increased toxicity that could make someone sick or decreased nutritional content, he said.

“Not every genetically modified crop is going to be dangerous,” Freese said. “The bottom line is we need to have a really stringent regulatory system, which we currently don’t have.”

Monsanto said it tested Vistive Gold extensively and found it to be safe. A notice posted on the APHIS website in June said its assessment of Vistive Gold indicated the bean wasn’t a risk to other plants.

Walter Fehr, an Iowa State University agronomist involved in soybean breeding research, said he thinks the federal government has a stringent and effective procedure for reviewing genetically modified crops and he saw no reason to question the soybean’s safety.

“People use different methodologies for different things, and scientists are very aware of potential negative side effects,” Fehr said.

(The Sacramento Bee)