Tag Archives: nutrition data

An unwelcome ingredient in some gluten-free foods — arsenic

Arsenic in Gluten-Free FoodsFoodFacts.com has often been quite impressed by the distinct differences between the majority of gluten-free food products and their gluten-containing counterparts. Nutritional values appear to be much better and ingredient lists can be far superior. While gluten-free foods have been developed specifically for consumers with gluten sensitivities and celiac disease, we know that many have embraced these food products for other perceived health reasons. They may simply be reading the ingredient lists and realizing that there are gluten-free foods that are simply better products. We read something today, though, that might be of concern to all gluten-free food consumers.

Some gluten free foods have been found to boast worrying concentrations of arsenic, as revealed by the analyses of flour, cakes, bread, pasta and other foods made with rice.

With demand up, so is supply, and more gluten-free rice-based products are hitting the shelves. This is no doubt a boon for celiac disease sufferers, who now have a large variety of meal options. However, a new study published in the journal Food Additives & Contaminants says it’s also dangerous, as more of these products have been found to contain worrying levels of arsenic, a toxic and carcinogenic substance.

Arsenic is found naturally in the Earth’s crust, and it is often absorbed with water by rice plants.

These levels are low enough where they are not a threat to standard consumers, but study co-author Ángel Carbonell says that people who exclusively eat gluten-free products – namely celiac sufferers – might be slowly poisoning themselves.

“These figures show that we cannot exclude a risk to the health of people who consume these kinds of products,” Carbonell said in a statement.
He and his colleagues argue that current arsenic limits set by the US and European Union do not accommodate for celiac disease sufferers, as current limits assume the average citizen is eating less rice-product than these niche consumers.

“What is needed is for health agencies to legislate to limit the levels of arsenic that cannot be exceeded in rice-based foods intended for consumers who suffer from celiac disease,” Carbonell said.

The authors also call for clearer labeling, as the quality and even location of rice can affect its arsenic content.

While this information is especially important for those who are exclusively consuming gluten-free products due to sensitivities or celiac disease, it’s important for any consumer who has decided to embrace a gluten-free lifestyle. While these products can be substantially better in terms of nutrition facts and ingredients, we do think that the presence of a dangerous ingredient that will not appear on any list worth noting.

http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/9704/20141018/gluten-free-foods-contain-arsenic.htm#ixzz3GjsWepQv

We finally found the needle in the haystack — a real pumpkin product!

organicslide3Since the fall season began, FoodFacts.com has been on a bit of a mission. We’ve all been inundated with absolutely everything pumpkin this year. Pumpkin is in everything — or so fast food chains and food manufacturers are trying to tell us. But, for the most part, there’s really no actual pumpkin, or “pumpkin spice” in the lattes, coffees, donuts, puddings, waffles, toaster pastries or the other plethora of products we’re being offered.

We’ve located very few of these fall-flavored products that contain the ingredient they’re named for. And honestly, of those few we have located, the ingredient lists made us shy away from them anyway.

What’s a pumpkin lover to do?

Maybe you want to try Cedar’s Pumpkin Spice Hommos. If you enjoy hommos and the flavors of fall, this product really does have it all.

Nutrition Facts:

Serving Size: 2 tablespoons

Calories:              60
Fat:                      3.5 grams
Sodium:              55 mg
Sugar:                 3 grams

Ingredients: Fresh Steamed Chickpeas, Pumpkin, Water, Sunflower Oil, Sesame Tahini, Garlic, Sea Salt, Sugar, Citric Acid, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cumin, Guar Gum.

Pumpkin. Nutmeg. No controversial ingredients. Enviable nutrition facts. We haven’t found a pumpkin product that has this much to talk about all season long!

So, if you’ve been searching for the needle in the pumpkin haystack the same way we have here at FoodFacts.com, you may want to head out to the grocery store to give Cedar’s Pumpkin Spice Hommos a try. It’s great to be able to share some news about a pumpkin product you can feel good about!

http://www.cedarsfoods.com/products/hommus/all-natural-hommus-8-oz-16-oz/pumpkin-spice/

PepsiCo introduces Caleb’s Kola craft soda — don’t get too excited!

CalebsWe’re sure you’ve heard that craft sodas (handcrafted carbonated beverages) are the next big thing. The term “craft soda” has somehow developed a halo effect. It’s one of those terms that consumers assume infers a healthier option. And to be fair, a little internet research reveals that some of these sodas actually are better choices. According to most recent reports, craft sodas are flying off grocery store shelves and exciting consumers at restaurants across the country. So it makes sense that mainstream soda manufacturers want to get in on the action — especially since soda sales overall have been dropping pretty quickly here in the U.S.

That brings us to PepsiCo’s latest introduction — Caleb’s Kola craft soda. Sounds like it could be “handcrafted,” doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled though. The only major difference here is that Caleb’s Kola is sweetened with cane sugar. The rest of it really could be Pepsi.

Here are the nutrition facts straight from the new website:

Calories:         110
Sodium:          50 mg
Sugar:             29 grams

How does that stack up against a regular Pepsi?

First, FoodFacts.com needs to mention that a can of Pepsi offers one 12 ounce serving. A bottle of Caleb’s Kola contains 10 ounces of soda. This smaller bottle does contain less calories per serving. It contains additional sodium. And it does contain what appears to be less sugar. A bottle of Caleb’s Kola contains a little over 7 teaspoons of sugar, while a 12 ounce can of Pepsi contains a little over 10 teaspoons. At the end of the day though, ounce for ounce, they’re fairly similar.

For us, an acceptable soda would feature a completely different ingredient list than sodas from the mainstream brands. As a general statement, sodas are chemical concoctions with absolutely no nutritional value. Many of the ingredients featured are harmful — phosphoric acid, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors. There’s just no way we could ever be fans of a beverage containing these items.

So how does the ingredient list for Caleb’s Kola read?

Sparkling Water, Cane Sugar, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavor, Sodium Citrate, Caffeine, Gum Arabic, Citric Acid, Kola Nut Extract

FoodFacts.com can’t be a fan of Caleb’s Kola. The ingredient list isn’t so much different from the non-handcrafted options available.

As far as craft soda is concerned, we’ll keep right on looking. This one isn’t doing anything for us!

http://calebskola.com/about

Fighting breast cancer in the kitchen

fishWe always hear about the things we shouldn’t be doing when it comes to fighting breast cancer and other diseases and health conditions. We already know that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption contribute to a greater risk of breast cancer. We’ve also heard that we should reduce our intake of red meat for the same reasons. But what should we be consuming that can help stave off breast cancer?

So tonight, FoodFacts.com wants to take a positive approach and look at some foods that help reduce our breast cancer risk.

Oily Fish
Recently, a study published in the British Medical Journal featuring data from over 800,000 participants and 20,000 breast cancer patients linked diets high in oily fish intake to a lower risk of breast cancer. Diets featuring fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel that contain high levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids work to help prevent breast cancer. Other sources of omega-3s are leafy greens, flaxseed and walnuts.

Berries
Featuring ellagic acid — a phytochemical linked to the prevention of a variety of cancers, including breast cancer, berries can make a big impact on your healthy diet. Both strawberries and raspberries are high in ellagic acid, but there are no bad-for-you berries — so enjoy!

Beans and other high fiber foods
Foods high in fiber have been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer. In fact, for every 10 grams of fiber, breast cancer risk has been shown to decrease by seven percent. Breast cancer risk reduction in roughly a half cup of beans — that’s a pretty big benefit!

Cruciferous vegetables
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and kale are all members of the cruciferous vegetable family. A compound called sulforaphane is linked to fighting the spread of tumors.

Dairy
Research has shown that high levels of vitamin D and calcium lower breast density. Women with high breast density have four to five times the risk of developing breast cancer. While researchers haven’t yet determined whether it’s the vitamin D or calcium in your diet that lowers breast density, they do believe that low-fat dairy can help fight breast cancer development.

Tomatoes and other red and orange fruits and vegetables
A colorful plate has a positive effect on breast cancer. Fruits and vegetables that are high in carotenoids may reduce your risk of aggressive breast cancer by up to 20 percent. Carotenoids make for richly colored foods, so you’ll want to add fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, cantaloupe and mangos to your diet.

It’s always important to be proactive about our health. That doesn’t simply mean avoiding lifestyle habits that contribute to the risk of breast cancer. It also includes educating ourselves on the foods that can help us reduce our risks. During breast cancer awareness month, let’s get proactive and find creative and delicious ways to add the foods that can help us make a difference in our own health to the menu!

Fast food menus claiming less calories … sort of

fast food slimmingFoodFacts.com ran across some seemingly encouraging news today regarding calories and fast food menus. As we read further, though, we realized that there’s a bit of a “smoke and mirrors” component going on with these claims.

A comprehensive new report is revealing that fast-food chains have been cutting calories on their menus.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, menu items introduced by big chain restaurants—including McDonald’s, Chipotle, and IHOP—had, on average, 60 fewer calories than items released in 2012. That’s a 12 percent drop in calories.

The study looked at 19,000 menu items served in 66 of the 100 largest restaurant chains in the U.S. from 2012 to 2013. The biggest drops were in new main course offerings (67 calories), followed by new children’s (46 calories) and beverage (26 calories) items.

However, the overall mean calories didn’t budge. The burger chains aren’t cutting the calories of their signature burgers; they’re just adding healthier items, such as salads, to the menu. Time posits that the lower-calorie menu additions are popping up because restaurants with 20 or more locations in the U.S. have to list calorie counts on menus.

But according to the study’s lead author, Sara N. Bleich, 200 extra calories a day can contribute to obesity.

“You can’t prohibit people from eating fast food, but offering consumers lower calorie options at chain restaurants may help reduce caloric intake without asking the individual to change their behavior—a very difficult thing to do,” Bleich said in a statement.

“This voluntary action by large chain restaurants to offer lower calorie menu options may indicate a trend toward increased transparency of nutritional information, which could have a significant impact on obesity and the public’s health,” Bleich said.

On the other hand, FoodFacts.com just wants to put out there that these voluntary actions by large fast food chains may be more about seeking to change public perception than an attempt to increase nutritional transparency of menu items. Since there is no chain that’s actually reformulating their signature items in attempt to decrease calories, we do have to think this might be true. While it’s important for fast food restaurants to introduce lower calorie options, as long as their main offerings remain as they are, it’s somewhat misleading to say that menus are slimming down. It all depends on what the consumer chooses to eat, not on the concentrated efforts of chains to reduce calories in items across their menus.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/10/12/fast-food-menus-are-slimming-down–theres-catch

Soy and breast cancer … there’s more to the story

istock_000014130416xsmallSoy is certainly a controversial subject. And if you rely on soy as a dairy or protein substitute, you’ve undoubtedly heard and read about conflicting information regarding its health effects.

Could your daily soy lattes up your risk of breast cancer or lend a protective effect? So far, the research has been conflicting. While some studies have shown that soy can increase tumor growth at the cellular level, other research has found that soy may actually have a protective effect. However, most of what we know about this link comes from epidemiological studies (looking at broad population data), which have not been able to find a clear cause-and-effect link between soy and breast cancer.

Now, a new study published in the JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute directly compared women who took soy supplements with women who took a placebo to determine what effect soy would have on the expression of genes associated with breast cancer.

The researchers looked at 140 patients who had been recently diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. In the 2-3 weeks before their surgery (either a mastectomy or lumpectomy), these women were given either soy supplements (the equivalent of about four 16 oz. glasses of soy milk or four large servings of tofu) or a placebo every day. “The hypothesis was that soy food for a limited period of time could influence the behavior of already established breast cancer,” says study co-author Jacqueline Bromberg, M.D., Ph.D., breast medical oncologist and researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

After a few weeks, they found that some women in the soy group had high levels of genistein, a metabolite of soy, while the women in the placebo group did not. And interestingly, patients with high levels of this metabolite saw an increase in the genes associated with tumor growth. However, it’s important to note that the tumors were not actually growing better in these women.

Basically, taking a huge amount of soy in a short period of time led to changes in gene proliferation for some women with invasive breast cancer. But importantly, this didn’t lead to an actual change in the appearance or growth of a tumor, explains Bromberg. While the researchers definitely saw changes in the expression of these genes, they don’t know if this would lead to even greater changes if the women had been taking soy supplements for longer than 2-3 weeks.

So does that mean you should limit soy or avoid it completely if you have breast cancer?

Not necessarily. Like many things, soy seems to be safe in moderation, and there is definitely research showing it’s protective effects against a variety of cancers, including breast cancer. That said, this study does suggest that high amounts of soy may have an effect on women who have already been diagnosed. Bromberg notes that normal amounts of soy are probably fine for women with breast cancer, but she strongly advises against taking soy supplements. Moderation in a healthy diet is key, she says.

“Our study simply says that [after taking] large amounts of soy for a short period of time, a subgroup of patients who had high levels of the soy metabolite genistein had an increase in the expression of genes involved in the growth of tumor cells,” says Bromberg. “But that did not translate to an increase in actual growth.”

FoodFacts.com knows that many in our own community have had questions about the health benefits of soy vs. possible negative health effects. This new information does help to put some of those questions to rest. The advice certainly isn’t foreign — moderation in our dietary habits is always for the best.

http://www.today.com/health/latest-soy-breast-cancer-what-you-need-know-2D80192077

Pushing the pumpkin envelope … Chobani Pumpkin Spice Yogurt

blended-pumpkin-spice-53ozSome would say it’s out of control. Others can’t get enough. Pumpkin flavored food products are absolutely everywhere this fall. We’ve been trying to keep up with all of them, but admittedly it’s been pretty hard. It does feel as though almost every new product introduced has the word pumpkin somewhere on its label. So what’s next?

Yogurt. Yep — Chobani has introduced Pumpkin Spice Yogurt.

We have to admit, we really aren’t able to exclaim, “Wow, that sounds so good!” But FoodFacts.com also has to admit that in comparison to the majority of pumpkin-flavored products flooding our grocery stores, restaurants and fast food chains, this one is actually something you might consider eating.

Let’s take a look:

Calories:                130
Fat:                        3 grams
Sugar:                   12 grams

Not bad. Low in calories. Low in fat. And the sugar content is pretty much on par with other Greek yogurt products.

But what about the ingredients?

Lowfat Yogurt (Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk, Cream, Live and Active Cultures: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus and L. Casei), Evaporated Cane Juice, Water, Pumpkin Puree, Pectin, Spice, Natural Flavors, Locust Bean Gum, Lemon Juice Concentrate.

O.k., we don’t like the natural flavors. But that’s about all we see here that would get flagged in the FoodFacts.com Food Score system. And let’s not forget to mention that this yogurt contains real, actual pumpkin puree, unlike the majority of products currently available.

So, if you’ve just got to have a pumpkin-flavored something, you might actually consider the Chobani Pumpkin-Spice yogurt. While fall-flavored Greek yogurt might not seem as alluring as that pumpkin muffin or latte, it’s a much better choice overall. After all, it contains the real thing!

http://www.chobani.com/products/blended#pumpkin-spice

Can dietary fats influence breast cancer outcomes?

breast cancer affectsDuring this Breast Cancer Awareness Month we’ll be reading all about food, nutrition and breast cancer. FoodFacts.com knows we all appreciate this important information, especially women. Understanding more about this devastating disease and what we can do to prevent it is certainly significant for millions of women worldwide. But what about how diet affects women who are being treated for the disease. Interestingly, new research reports the importance of diet in successful treatment.

A new study is suggesting that dietary fat intake may determine how effective chemotherapy will be in preventing the advancement of breast cancer.

The study showed that a diet with stearate can reduce the incidence of breast cancer metastasis to the lungs by 50% in mice inoculated with human breast cancer cells who are receiving treatment with paclitaxel compared to a diet with corn oil and a diet low in fat.

Stearate is the salt of stearic acid, a saturated fatty acid that’s high in animal fat as well as cocoa butter and shea butter. As a saturated fatty acid, it’s won’t oxidize and it will cause the production of free radicals, increasing oxidative stress.

The stearate-enriched diet also reduced the number and size of nodules in the lungs when compared with the low-fat diet. Both the corn oil and stearate diets reduced the number of mice that had any lung metastasis in comparison with the low-fat diet.

This is a fascinating study, suggesting that diet does in fact have a direct correlation with successful breast cancer treatment. We are coming to understand more and more that our diets not only influence our overall health and well being, but can also be key to preventing disease and working along side with science and medicine to help us fight them as well.

http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/2/Cancer/dietary_fat_affects_outcome_of_breast_cancer_0925141052.html

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/