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Small Bites



Bite-size nutrition information. Media and Booking Inquiries: andy.bellatti@gmail.com



Updated: 2017-10-29T23:46:41.289-04:00

 



ATTENTION: SMALL BITES HAS MOVED!

2009-05-01T20:49:08.932-04:00

(image) The new Small Bites is here!

CLICK HERE to be redirected to Small Bites 2.0 -- with a new look, its very own logo, and part of my new website, andybellatti.com.

Starting today, all future postings will be on the new Small Bites.

Every single post since Small Bites' inception in April of 2007 can also be found there, so go ahead and update your bookmarks and links.

This version of the blog will only stay up for redirecting purposes.

I look forward to seeing you on the new site!

PS: If you e-mailed me in the past week, you now know why you haven't heard from me yet! Going through my backlog of e-mails is at the top of my "to do" list now.



"Shop The Perimeter of the Supermarket"? I Don't Think So!

2009-04-28T01:09:55.859-04:00

(image) Earlier today at my dentist's office, I flipped through a fitness and nutrition magazine and spotted the ever-prevalent food shopping tip -- "stick to the perimeter of the store; that's where the healthiest items are."

Alright, time out. I disagree.

While the perimeters of most supermarkets offer fresh and frozen produce as well as lean protein (ranging from chicken breasts to tofu to shrimp), there are plenty of healthy options waiting smack in the middle of all those aisles!

Branding aisle shelves as "evil" is overly simplistic -- and inaccurate. After all, that is where you would find these nutrition all-stars:

* Canned beans
* Lentils
* Nuts and seeds
* Nut and seed butters
* Olive oil
* Plain instant oatmeal
* Quinoa
* Brown rice
* Whole grain pastas
* Spices (a great way to reduce sodium in your cooking!)
* Canned tuna and canned salmon

So go ahead, check out what's on sale in aisle four. Just be sure to glance over the nutrition facts -- and take a peek at the ingredient list!



Quick & Healthy Recipes: Easy Peezy (Healthy!) Sweet "Cream"

2009-04-27T23:26:42.473-04:00

(image) Now that high temperatures are finally back in the Northern hemisphere, the cold breakfasts that seemed so miserable a few months back are suddenly the perfect way to start the day.

I don't know about you, but I LOVE a bowl of fresh fruit and whipped cream. It makes for a great dessert, but it's certainly not the healthiest way to start your day.

Alas, here is my couldn't-be-any-easier recipe for a healthier cream that adds body, creaminess, and flavor to whatever you pair it with!

YIELDS: 1.5 cups

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup raw cashews
1 cup cold water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in food processor and mix until a smooth consistency is reached.

For best flavor and texture, refrigerate for at least 4 hours before consuming.

This tastes absolutely wonderful mixed with a cold bowl of fresh fruit!

NUTRITION INFORMATION (per 1/4 cup serving):

141 calories
6 grams fat
1 gram saturated fat
30 milligrams sodium
1.4 grams sugar (naturally occurring)
4.6 grams protein

Excellent Source of: copper, magnesium, manganese
Good Source of: potassium, zinc



Speaking With...: Brian Wansink

2009-04-27T00:09:28.079-04:00

This past Friday, Cornell University John Dyson Professor of Consumer Behavior and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Laboratory Dr. Brian Wansink stopped by New York University after being tapped as the second featured speaker of a new lecture series on nutrition and chronic disease.Taking off from his bestseller Mindless Eating, his talk was appropriately titled, "How To Turn Mindless Eating Into Healthy Eating."With those prevously mentioned credentials, you might picture a stiff, "all business" type who solves complex equations in his head while half-listening to you.Dr. Wansink, however, is reminiscent of the cool high school math teacher who wanted you to learn -- and have fun while doing so. His research explanations are peppered with personal anecdotes, comedy, and facial expressions that sometimes rival those of Jim Carrey.A few hours before his afternoon presentation, I sat down with Dr. Wansink for a one-on-one interview. If you are unfamiliar with Dr. Wansink's work, please click here to familiarize yourself with his research before reading the interview.I get such a kick out of all your publicity shots for Mindless Eating [NOTE: see accompanying picture]. They're great! Have they all been photographers' ideas?Ha! Thanks. Yeah, I've had some really creative photographers who set up these elaborate shoots. Some of those popcorn shots literally took twelve hours, from setup to cleanup. There was a LOT of popcorn all over the floor at the end that had to be cleaned up (laughs).So, I recently read that all of this research started as a result of you wanting people in the United States to eat more vegetables.That's right.How did you go from that to your current line of research?Yeah, before I started my dissertation [in the late 80s], I wanted to know: "why do you finish your vegetables sometimes and other times you leave them on your plate?". "Why are you hungry for them one night and not the next?" That then evolved into the idea of environmental factors that affect our overall eating patterns. It's a lot more complex than people think because so many of our eating behaviors are automatic. This is all about getting below that surface. One of my first research studies had to do with family serving behavior. We had people come in, eat, and then answer questions about what they ate.Then, we showed them video footage of their meal. It is amazing how many people flat out deny, or are not aware of, their eating behavior. You'll say to someone, "you had three servings of peas." They'll tell you, "No, I only had one!" You feel like saying, "Well, unless you have an evil twin..."It's not until you show them the videotape that they change their mind. I once had a woman cry when she saw herself eating on camera! My research considers three angles. Not only what people are eating and how much of it, but also with what frequency.How did all that research turn into Mindless Eating?In 2004, I was in France and thought to myself, "I'd like to write a book, but I don't know if I want it to be academic or pop."That year, Bonnie Liebman of the Center for Science in the Public Interest interviewed me for their Nutrition Action newsletter, and suddenly a lot of requests for book deal started coming in. Most of them were e-mails and, I don't know, nothing really stood out. Then I got a letter -- an actual letter! -- from Bantam Dell Books. One of the things I liked about them is that, as they told me, they are in the business of creating "real books that people read."Interesting you say that, because I think that's definitely one of the factors behind the popularity of Mindless Eating. It is relatable for and interesting to the average consumer.So at this point, it's been a few years since the book came out. I was wondering about recent developments. For example, have you conducted any research on the effects of calorie postings in fast food restaurants?Oh yeah, I was involved in a VERY well-done study with Carnegie Mellon i[...]



Coming Attractions

2009-04-26T02:55:35.662-04:00

(image) Over the past ten days I have had the pleasure of watching two upcoming, vastly different food and nutrition documentaries.

First up? Food, Inc -- an incredibly engrossing and harrowing look at the state of farming and food processing in the United States from the people who brought you An Inconvenient Truth.

To become familiar with the subject matter before its June release date, visit The Meatrix, where all the grizzly details of meat production are explained.

I also recommend checking this link to see if Food, Inc. will be screened at a film festival near you before its limited big-screen debut later this Summer.

This is a MUST-SEE for anyone interested in farm policy, agricultural subsidies, agro-business, and the current state of the United States' food chain. You might want to bring some anxiety medication with you.

On a more lighthearted note, this past Thursday I had the pleasure of watching upcoming kid-friendly documentary What's On Your Plate?, "[which] follows two eleven-year-old African-American [New York City] kids as they explore their place in the food chain [and] talk to each other, food activists, farmers, new friends, storekeepers, their families, and the viewer, in their quest to understand what’s on all of our plates."

While certainly softer (and much easier for children to grasp) than Food, Inc., What's On Your Plate? showcases issues of local agriculture, school nutrition, and big business with very little preaching or finger wagging.

PS: I predict an Oscar nomination for Food, Inc.



Takeaways from Brian Wansink

2009-04-26T02:29:33.196-04:00

(image) I am in the process of transcribing the enthralling interview I conducted with Mindless Eating author Brian Wansink this past Friday morning.

In the meantime, I want to share a little bit of what Dr. Wansink presented later in the afternoon when he addressed 150 New York University students and faculty members about details of his research.

His talk, titled "How To Turn Mindless Eating Into Healthy Eating," encouraged professionals in the nutrition field to shake up the traditional research model that commences in isolation in a laboratory and instead begin by thinking about human application first (rather than leaving it for last).

It is precisely this alternative research model that led Dr. Wansink to become a pioneer in the science of consumer behavior as it relates to diet and nutrition.

One of the most important phenomena he encountered during his research was the ripple effect one small change can have on individuals.

In one recent study, Dr. Wansink and his team recruited individuals to take on one small nutrition-related change -- such as eating on smaller plates or not eating in front of the television -- for 90 days.

While collecting data, Dr. Wansink observed that the vast majority of these people (roughly 70 percent) were losing weight in increasing amounts each month. Weight loss was not occurring at a steady rate, but actually doubling -- and even quadrupling -- in many instances.

What was happening? Was the "small plate" group shrinking plate size even more? No -- they simply began to implement more changes when they saw how painless their first behavioral modification was!

A month into eating from smaller plates (and, therefore, almost mindlessly consuming less food), most of that cohort noticed the accompanying weight loss and thought, "Hey, this is painless! I'll keep doing this AND cut down my soda consumption."

As a result, Dr. Wansink has seen many individuals lose up to thirty pounds in the course of one year without ever feeling like they had "started a diet" or "sacrificed everything."

Stop by tomorrow to read my full interview with Dr. Wansink!



Say What?: Pasta... in a Bread Bowl?

2009-04-26T02:12:52.239-04:00

(image) Behold the latest creation from Domino's Pizza -- penne pasta entrees... served in a bread bowl!

As a matter of fact, the chain claims their "pasta is so good, you'll devour the bowl."

Not too surprisingly, calorie information is yet to be posted, and the four calls I made to their corporate headquarters proved unsuccessful.

It doesn't take many brain cells, though, to figure out that items like chicken carbonara, Italian sausage marinara, chicken alfredo, pasta primavera, and three cheese mac-n-cheese nestled inside a thick round piece of bread is far from a "light" option.

I'm willing to bet we are dealing with 4-figure calorie values. As soon as the reveal occurs, I will post it on Small Bites.

In the meantime, I'll meditate and see if I can come up with the answer to: "What higher-up at Domino's passionately believes Americans are clamoring for pasta in a bread bowl?"



Numbers Game: Unlocking the Secret

2009-04-24T13:07:47.294-04:00

(image) A reduced-fat Oreo cookie contains _______ fewer calories than a regular Oreo cookie.

a) 3

b) 12

c) 26

d) 51


Leave your guess in the "comments" section and come back on Tuesday for the answer.



Administrative Announcement: Taking Your Questions!

2009-04-22T12:26:23.823-04:00

(image) This Friday, Mindless Eating author (and professor of consumer nehavior at Cornell University) Brian Wansink will be visiting New York University -- and I have the opportunity to sit down with him, one-on-one, for thirty minutes!

This time around, I want to give you the chance to submit your questions for this upcoming "Speaking With..." segment.

Leave your questions for Brian in the "comments" section and come back next week to read a transcript of our interview!

As a reminder, "Wansink's award-winning academic research on food psychology and behavior change has been published in the world's top marketing, medical, and nutrition journals. It contributed to the introduction of smaller "100 calorie" packages (to prevent overeating), the use of taller glasses in some bars (to prevent the overpouring of alcohol), and the use of elaborate names and mouth-watering descriptions on some chain restaurant menus (to improve enjoyment of the food). "



You Ask, I Answer: Breakfast

2009-04-21T12:47:42.847-04:00

(image) In Gwyneth Paltrow's new site she gives nutrition advice.

She recently said that a person should try to go 12 hours between finishing dinner and beginning breakfast.

She states that breakfast should be a "break from the fast" (12+ hours) to allow the system to rest and detoxify.


What do you think of this concept?


-- Sarah (last name unknown)

Via the blog


Gwyneth didn't have much nutritional credibility with me earlier this year when she blogged about the health miracles of detoxing. Let's find out if she has redeemed herself with her latest batch of advice.

No need for a drumroll -- the answer is NO, she has not redeemed herself.

The number of hours that pass between your last bite of food prior to hitting the sack and waking up the next morning are irrelevant.

There is nothing magical about twelve hours. Eating breakfast nine hours after finishing dinner has no negative effects on health or digestion.

Let's assume you had a late snack at 11:30 PM and went to bed an hour later, at 12:30 AM. Eight hours later (at 8:30 AM) you wake up. I find it absolutely ridiculous to expect you to wait three hours to eat breakfast!

If anything, by the time you have your first morsel of food, you'll be so famished you'll overeat.

I would much rather you focus on what you're eating for breakfast. Waiting twelve hours to load up on a breakfast low in fiber and nutrients but high in added sugars and calories makes no sense.

My other concern with this "health halo" surrounding fasting and spending hours without eating is that it is a half step away from glorifying anorexia nervosa.

Where did celebrities get the idea that an Oscar and a health credential are the same thing?



Different Day, Same Cow?

2009-04-21T11:43:54.858-04:00

(image) Would you ever eat the meat -- or drink the milk -- of a cloned cow?

Heck, why am I even asking? You really have no choice!

One of George W. Bush's last decisions as Commander-in-Chief included quietly passing legislation allowing the meat and milk of cloned animals to be sold to consumers without being labeled as such.

The Food and Drug Association's argument is that since food from cloned cattle is no less healthy than that of "conventional" cattle, there is no need to differentiate between the two.

In fact, some documentation quotes scientists as saying cloned meat can actually be better, since it often results in tender, juicier steaks (right, I am sure this was the driving force behind animal cloning).

The main line of reasoning behind cloning is to provide more food to the American public.

Really? The food industry is already supplying an average of 3,900 calories per person -- almost double the requirement for most people. Do we really need more food? And if we do, why is red meat the chosen one?

The chances of you having consumed food from a cloned animal is low, as the number of them is currently too low to enter the food supply.

However, don't expect any special announcements once this happens.

Industry response to concerns from consumers? "If you don't feel comfortable eating food from a cloned animal, buy organic."

Thoughts?



Numbers Game: Answer

2009-04-20T00:29:46.912-04:00

(image) In the United States, a McDonald's Big Mac and order of large fries adds up to 1,040 calories. In the United Kingdom, those same two items add up to 950 calories.

You would think all McDonald's items would be standardized, no matter what corner of the world you were ordering them in.

Not so.

Why the caloric difference? Simple -- a container of large fries is slightly smaller, as are the beef patties.

Mind you, McDonald's USA only recently lowered the calories in their large fries from 550 to 500. Two years ago, this combo would have added up to 1,090 on this side of the Atlantic.




You Ask, I Answer: Depression & Vitamin D

2009-04-19T14:29:40.296-04:00

(image) I just got my blood labs done to test for vitamin D deficiency.

My doctor said that my recent depression symptoms and joint pain could be resulting from that.

I knew about rickets and vitamin D deficiency in children, but what is this chronic pain/fatigue/depression stuff in adults?

How does vitamin D deficiency play a role in that?


-- Christine (last name unknown)

Via the blog


Thanks to more funding -- which means more research -- we are finally getting a glimpse at all of Vitamin D's important functions.

Many people don't realize that the term "vitamin" isn't even 100 years old (that anniversary will occur in 2012).

Vitamin D, meanwhile, wasn't discovered until 1922.

In any case, recent research on vitamin D status, depression, and joint pain appears promising (more studies are needed before any of this can be established as fact, though).

As far as depression is concerned, this is the reasoning:

* Blood samples of individuals experiencing clinical depression show lower levels of
25-hydroxyvitamin D (the active form of vitamin D measured in blood).

* The brain contains vitamin D receptors, which vitamin D uses in the synthesis of vital peptides and compounds.

* Recent studies on individuals suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) concluded that those who supplemented 600 International Units of vitamin D reported feeling better more quickly than those who did not supplement. It is worth noting that neither group used special UV lamps for the study.

This is not to say that vitamin D "cures" depression. The current line of thinking is that low vitamin D status can exacerbate some types of depression, and that correcting this inadequacy may be one factor than can help speed up recovery.

As for the second half of your question -- since Vitamin D is tightly linked with calcium and phosphorus in bone metabolism, it only makes sense that inadequate levels could have an effect on joints.

The latest studies theorize that deficiencies of vitamin D make it more difficult for the body to repair cartilage and joint damage from arthritis.

I completely side with scientists and researchers who recommend daily supplementation of 2,000 International Units of vitamin D for the following groups of people:

* Dark-skinned individuals
* Adults over the age of 65
* Anyone living north of Atlanta (from October to April)
* Anyone with limited sun exposure



Misnomer

2009-04-17T14:52:12.339-04:00

(image) Pistachio-almond is one of Baskin Robbin's classic 31 flavors.

Upon closer inspection, two oddities emerge.

First, the product's official description is: "a nutty combination of pistachio-flavored ice cream and roasted almonds."

That's right, the nut pieces you see are almonds, not pistachios.

Then there's the ingredient list, from which pistachios are entirely missing:

"Cream, nonfat milk, almonds, sugar, corn syrup, natural & artificial flavor, blue 1, yellow 5, cellulose gum, mono and diglycerides, guar gum, carrageenan, polysorbate 80."

It's not just ice cream chains pulling this trick.

I recently stopped by a well-known New York City vegan restaurant and ordered a delicious-sounding spinach-almond-banana-soy milk smoothie to go.

As I watched the smoothie man concoct my beverage, I was slightly crushed to see it didn't contain actual almonds, but rather a few drops of almond extract.

I think I now understand how Milli Vanilli fans felt when the lip-syncing scandal broke...



Administrative Announcements: Small Bites Turns Two!

2009-04-17T02:41:43.100-04:00

(image) Today is Small Bites' second birthday!

I want to say THANK YOU to everyone who has ever visited this blog, recommended it to a friend, left a comment, submitted a question, forwarded a nutrition news item my way, voted in a survey, and generally supported this ongoing project.

Here's some fun trivia. In the past two years:

1,148 posts have been uploaded
343 reader questions have been answered
Readers in 91 different countries have visited

WOW! Here's a toast to further growth in the coming years.

PS: Expect BIG news the last week of April. There has been quite a bit happening behind the scenes...



In The News: "For The First Time"??!!

2009-04-17T00:01:00.327-04:00

(image) Encouraging -- yet disturbing -- news courtesy of The Washington Post: "The Environmental Protection Agency for the first time will require pesticide manufacturers to test 67 chemicals contained in their products to determine whether they disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates animals' and humans' growth, metabolism and reproduction, the agency said yesterday."

Two thoughts immediately came to mind.

First? "Victory!"

Second? "For the first time?? What have they been waiting for??"

Well, I suppose the article gives some indication of what they might have been waiting for -- science-fiction turned reality.

After all, "researchers have raised concerns that chemicals released into the environment interfere with animals' hormone systems, citing problems such as male fish in the Potomac River that are bearing eggs."

That's what I call a substantial "oops!".

Oh, there's even more jaw-dropping material.

"Pesticide industry officials said they had anticipated the move, which was set into motion in 1996 by the passage of the Food Quality Protection Act, and they planned to cooperate on the matter."

Well, gee, pesticide industry officials. I certainly hope that after 13 years of contemplation you are willing to cooperate with the matter.

How, exactly, did it take over a decade for this act to take effect?

This is certainly one to watch. Testing is set to begin this summer, and results are expected by 2011.



Three Useless "Facts"

2009-04-16T09:34:45.237-04:00

Bite-sized nutrition trivia is not limited to Registered Dietitian Jeopardy!Magazines of all sorts (ranging from Us Weekly to Details to Forbes) occasionally pepper sidebars or "Did You Know...?" features with short bursts of "diet-friendly" tips.Television shows, e-mail chain letters, news broadcasts, and even advertising campaigns often rely on nutrition "facts" to captivate their audiences.Alas, here are three often-mentioned facts I consider useless, irrelevant, and better off erased from the collective consciousness."If you put a nail in a glass of Coke for four days, it dissolves because of all the acids!"The "logic" here is that if Coke can corrode metal, just imagine what it does to our stomachs!Although all soda is nutrition-void sugar water (and the phosphoric acid in it can contribute to osteoporosis in individuals with insufficient calcium intake), it is not corroding our gastrointestinal system -- particularly when you keep in mind that stomach acids are more acidic than anything in Coke.If you put a nail in a glass of our stomach acids, that sucker would probably disintegrate in just TWO days.Initially shocking fact? Check.Completely irrelevant? Check.Absolutely useless? Double check"I lost weight by cooking with olive oil instead of butter and choosing healthy fats, like avocado."It seems like every other "celebrity who lost weight shares diet secrets!" (it seems to me that celebrity magazine editors think the only two secrets are to eat lots of fish and hire a personal trainer) article I read contains this quote.Yes, olive oil and avocados are heart-healthy fats that, if consumed regularly, can benefit cardiovascular health. However, all fats -- regardless of how heart-healthy -- contain nine calories per gram.I suppose I can somehow "vouch" for the avocado reasoning since they offer a good deal of fiber (thereby contributing to quicker satiety).However, a tablespoon of butter contains approximately twenty fewer calories than a tablespoon of olive oil.From a weight loss standpoint, replacing two tablespoons of butter with two tablespoons of olive oil in a dish serves no purpose."Twinkies are so processed they have a shelf life of 20 years!"You need the exclamation mark at the end of that one for complete pearl-clutching effect.Twinkies are by no means a health food, but they will not outlast a nuclear explosion (that honor only belongs to cockroaches and Cher).While Twinkies have a longer shelf life than many other mass-produced baked goods (mainly thanks to their dairy-free ingredient list), expect them to start spoiling after a month.PS: although foods with long shelf lives are usually highly processed and offer plenty of sodium, sugar, trans fats, and/or artificial preservatives, they do not take that same amount of time to be digested.[...]



Numbers Game: McCounting

2009-04-15T16:11:26.096-04:00

(image) In the United States, a McDonald's Big Mac and order of large fries adds up to 1,040 calories. In the United Kingdom, those same two items add up to __________ calories.

a) 1,125

b) 950
c) 800
d) 1,040


Leave your guess in the "comments" section and come back on Sunday for the answer.



In The News: Game On!

2009-04-14T10:07:27.913-04:00

(image) Today's Los Angeles Times reports on the subtle nutritional shift occurring at Dodger Stadium and other massive ballparks across the country -- healthier food!

Although 1,000-calorie nacho plates and 300-calorie cups of beer are still present, they are now joined by "wholesome new neighbors: curried chicken salad made with low-fat mayonnaise, turkey sandwiches on whole wheat, and fruit and yogurt parfaits."

And, oh, be still my heart. Not only will fresh fruit skewers soon be available, but "for the first time, a registered dietitian, also part of the Kaiser link-up, had a hand in fine-tuning the items."

This nutritional "aha" moment isn't just limited to the City of Angels.

"This year, the [San Diego] Padres are expanding their FriarFit program... which includes $1.50 healthful menu items for kids such as whole wheat animal cookies, a fruit cup, and 1% milk, plus a FriarFit cart offering fruit salad, sushi, veggie burgers and dogs, and a mandarin salad. This food, too, was created with the help of a nutritionist, from UC San Diego."

Now it's time for zoos and amusement parks to step up to the plate. Keep the curly fries, cheeseburgers, and jumbo hot dogs on the menu if you want, but also offer options for health-conscious patrons.



Survey Results: Make Room For Spongebob

2009-04-13T13:01:23.335-04:00

(image) The latest Small Bites survey asked visitors if they supported the use of popular cartoon characters to advertise fruit and vegetable products like "baby carrots" and frozen spinach to children.

Sixty-three percent of respondents supported that form of advertising, eight percent did not, and the remaining twenty-seven percent did not have a strong opinion either way.

I strongly favor that sort of advertising.

Many nutrition advocates do not, claiming it confuses children to see Spongebob on baby carrots as well as a box of sugary fruit snacks.

My main concern with that argument is that it attempts to view the world through the eyes of a child who has the marketing awareness of an adult.

Six-year-olds are not aware of nutrition. They don't understand the difference in nutrients between a fruit snack and a real fruit. Seeing their favorite cartoon character on different products doesn't confuse them -- it simply draws their eyes and attention to them!

In my opinion, too many nutrition advocates make the crucial mistake of forgetting that they, too, can implement the same tactics used by food companies.

Getting children interested in eating healthier food by simply branding it with cartoon characters is certainly far from utopian, but it's a significant step forward we need to pursue.



You Ask, I Answer: Exercise

2009-04-12T19:15:34.045-04:00

(image) Is exercise enough?

I know plenty of long distance runners that subsist on ice cream and candy bars, even well into their middle-age, and have perfect health.

Can exercise overcome poor dietary choices? If so, to what degree?

-- Corey Clark
(Location withheld)

Exercise in itself is NOT enough.

Sure, exercise can help with cardiovascular heath, respiratory health, and musculoskeletal maintenance, but you also need proper nutrition to keep all systems running properly.

Exercise does not provide Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, monounsaturated fats, or phytonutrients.

How do you know these long-distance runners who subsist on junk are in perfect health? Have you seen their blood labs?

Just because someone is thin and has a six pack does not necessarily mean they are in perfect health. They could have high blood pressure, low bone density, and low intakes of most vitamins and minerals.



Eating Out? Don't Wrap It Up!

2009-04-12T01:37:48.631-04:00

(image) Wraps and sandwich bread happily co-exist in many food establishments across the United States.

I, however, consider them two very different creatures.

If you're eating out and in the mood for a handful of ingredients contained within a bread product, you are better off selecting sliced bread (preferably 100% whole grain).

Although you can find healthy -- and calorically-reasonable -- wraps at your local supermarket, you need to tread more carefully with restaurants.

Many establishments use wraps that double the calories -- and sodium -- found in two slices of bread.

Additionally, since large wraps offer more surface area in which to spread condiments, dressings, and sauces, caloric values are often driven up further.

PS: At Chipotle and Qdoba, ask for your burrito in a bowl (rather than a tortilla) and instantly save 290 (Chipotle) or 330 (Qdoba) calories!



Numbers Game: Answer

2009-04-11T18:34:42.610-04:00

(image) When comparing an Au Bon Pain double chocolate chunk muffin with a large order of McDonald's french fries, the muffin provides 70 MORE calories (570 calories vs. the large fries' 500 calories).

That's not all, folks.

This muffin also provides double the saturated fat of those large fries -- and 100 MORE milligrams of sodium!


Oh, and then there are those 11 teaspoons of added sugar.

These gigantic muffins truly irritate me because they suck away all the enjoyment from savoring a chocolatey baked good.

Why can't these simply be half the size (and calories)?
A 285 calorie muffin sounds more reasonable -- and easier to justify as an occasional treat.

And anyone who says "just don't eat the whole thing!" needs to go up to their bedroom and read Brian Wansink's amazing book, Mindless Eating.



You Ask, I Answer:BHT/BHA

2009-04-12T01:45:36.527-04:00

(image) I bought some gum today and the last items on the ingredient list are "BHT and BHA to preserve freshness."

Do you have any idea what that is? It sounds freaky and "chemical"-y.

-- Lori Echter
[Location withheld]

Chewing gum ingredient lists -- especially those of sugarfree gums -- are always fascinating. Artificial sweeteners and dyes abound! But, hey, at least they whiten your teeth, right?

Since BHT and BHA are antioxidants (they prevent the oxidation of oils and fats), their presence increases the shelf life of gum and many other packaged foods.

Yes, gum contains oils (in the form of glycerol, which impart a waxy texture).

You are correct when you say that these two ingredients sound "chemical"-y. They ARE chemicals. BHT stands for butylated hydroxytoluene, while BHA is an acronym for butylated hydroxyanisole.

Although the United States considers them safe to include in food processing, the European Union has banned BHA from all cosmetic products. BHT, meanwhile, is banned from the British food supply amidst reports of its carcinogenic risks and harmful renal effects.

A significant problem here is not so much that the miniscule amounts of BHA or BHT in food are deadly, but rather that because so many people eat heavily processed diets, the amounts of BHA and BHT being consumed worry some researchers.

For what it's worth, the Food & Drug Administration claims to be conducting "further research" on BHT (they have been saying this for at least a decade).

Whenever possible, I suggest you purchase products that use natural antioxidants to preserve freshness (i.e. tocopherols, also known as vitamin E).



You Ask, I Answer: Coconuts/Coconut Oil

2009-04-11T03:34:53.991-04:00

I have a question about coconut oil and lauric acid. [A] co-worker was doing some research online, and found out that coconut oil is supposedly antimicrobial.The main fatty acid is lauric acid, which supposedly helps boost metabolism by activating the thyroid. Is there any truth to those statements?-- Brandon (via the blog)Coconut is a controversial fruit. Although almost entirely made up of saturated fats, there are plenty of books and websites dedicated to its "miraculous" weight-loss and healing properties.However, two red flags immediately go up.Number one? Most websites that hail coconut oil as a holy food that cures you of all ills while simultaneously helping you look years younger inevitably -- and predictably -- end up hawking some sort of coconut product.Number two? My "BS" radar always beeps loudly when one food is referred to as a "miracle" or "cure-all".The links between coconut oil and thyroid function have never been even remotely established in any studies. I believe that "fact" stems from an article in health and diet supermarket trash tabloid Woman's World, which is as reputable as a Vegas used car salesman.Although lauric acid is one of the "least unhealthy" saturated fats, it certainly doesn't justify including massive amounts of coconut oil in your diet.Before I continue, let me share one of my biggest nutritional pet-peeves. I always find myself counting to ten and taking deep breaths when I hear someone say something along the lines of, "but there are tribes in Polynesia that LIVE on coconuts and their heart disease rates are really low!"The problem with that statement is that those Polynesian tribes also have extremely different lifestyles, dietary patterns, and environmental factors affecting their health.Extracting only the coconut eating and adapting it to a traditional United States diet does not guarantee YOUR risk of heart disease is suddenly going to match that of a random member of that Polynesian tribe.With that out of the way, let's continue.My verdict on coconut oil? For the time being, treat it like you would all other saturated fats. Don't shun it, but do keep it to a certain limit (if eating 2,000 calories, aim to consume no more than 20 grams of saturated fat a day).Also, I would much rather you consume coconut meat (or shredded unsweetened coconut) rather than coconut oil, as the actual fruit provides more nutrients.If antimicrobial properties of food are your thing, coconut oil is not the only source. Garlic, green tea, cumin, and cayenne pepper also have antimicrobial components.[...]