Packing lunch for your kids or yourself to bring to work or school? Here's some food for thought...
This newsletter started with my reading a few articles from various
magazines that really frustrated me! Here's a quote from a
fitness magazine that I've quickly eliminated from my clinic waiting
Hut 12" Fit N' Delicious Pizza with Diced Chicken, Red Onion, and Green
Pepper. A dietician's dream [emphasis mine]..." Um....dream?!...I
don't think that Pizza Hut currently makes anything that is truly a
dietician's dream. At least not a good dietician.
At least Krispy Creme, with 3 g of saturated fat, 4 g of trans fat, 200
calories, and 10 g of sugar in one single donut never tried to pretend
to be healthy--really how could it?!--unlike the new "0 g Trans Fat per
24g serving" Oreo cookies which still contain a fifth of a day's worth
of saturated fat in just 2 cookies.
Fiction: "Natural", "Sugar-free", "Fat-free", "Cholesterol-free", "Trans-fat free", "Made with Whole Grains" is always healthier
With the push from consumers looking for healthier, yet still
convenient, foods, many fastfood and junkfood companies have jumped on
the bandwagon. Sounds great, but are they actually healthy?
When used on food labels "natural" should mean that it does not contain
any substance that has an artificial source. It does not,
however, mean that it did not undergo a great deal of
processing. In addition, sometimes the word "natural" is also
misused. One big problem is that the Food and Drug
Administration does not have a strict definition for "natural" for
foods other than meats and poultry.
For example, the manufacturer
Cadbury Schwepps is now advertising 7-Up
as "100 percent natural" with commericials showing cans of 7-Up being
picked like fruit from trees (even though it does not contain any
fruit!). While some artificial ingredients were removed from
the beverage, it still contains at least on artificial ingredient: high
fructose corn syrup. The contention is whether or not high
fructose corn syrup can be called natural. Cadbury Schwepps
maintains that high fructose corn syrup is made in a way similar to
other ingredients which are also called natural.
The Center for Science
in Public Interest has threatened to sue Cadbury Schwepps stating that the only way you can make high fructose corn syrup is
through the unnatural processing of "centrifuges, hydroclones,
ion-exchange columns, and buckets of enzymes".
In addition to this, "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"
has also found that fructose consumption produces insulin resistance,
high insulin levels, impaired glucose tolerance, hypertension, and high
triglyceride levels. In other words, even if you call it
"natural", high fructose corn syrup certainly is not healthy, even
though the marketing gurus of these companies would like you to believe
about eating sugar-free foods? Which is better for
you? Eating sugar, or choosing artificial flavours like
aspartame, acesulfame potassium, or sucralose? As one health
professional, Dr. Mercola, puts it, "In some ways this is analogous to
asking which would you rather get hit with, a hammer or a baseball
We have evolved over thousands of years, while artificial sweeteners,
flavours, and colourants are relatively new to our bodies.
Simply put, we were not designed to be able to digest, process, and
properly eliminate these chemicals.
How's this for a story of deception and intrigue? In 2005,
McNeil Nutraceuticals (a subsidary of Johnson & Johnson) the
makers of Splenda (an artificial sweetener that uses sucralose) filed a
lawsuit against the Sugar Association in response to their attempts to
raise awareness that Splenda's claim that it is "made from sugar so it
tastes like sugar" is false and deceptive. As part of the
Sugar Association's push, they have established the website
www.truthaboutsplenda.com. The lawsuit was dismissed, but
McNeil Nutraceuticals has filed another suit to continue to try to
silence the sugar group and have the website shut down. In
addition, residents who live near a manufacturing plant for sucralose
in Alabama have filed suit that the plant has lowered their quality of
life. They are reportedly experiencing a variety of medical
concerns, including watering eyes and respiratory problems that may be
associated with exposure to phosgene gas, a poisonous gas that is
thought to be used in the production of sucralose and that was used as
a choking agent during World War I.
Of course the sugar industry stands to gain if Splenda is removed from
the market, but the fact of the matter is that while Splenda claims it
is safe, its claims are not clear. Of all the 83
publically-available studies that were supposed to document its safety,
only 16 had anything to do with safety and only 6 of these were human
studies. All of the animal studies were funded by the company
and only 3 human studies were done independently. One of
these studies was actually a case report showing it caused
migraines! The other 2 studies were related to
diabetes. So, there were no independent studies demonstrating
the safety of sucralose! As an example of how a study done by
the manufacturer can taint the results, when Dr. Ralph G. Walton did an
analysis of 166 published medical journals on the safety of aspartame,
all of the 74 studies funded by the manufacturer found aspartame to be
safe. Converserly, of the 92 independently funded articles,
all 92 studies documented adverse health effects!
So, what's a person to do? Choose more natural options like
honey, molasses, maple syrup, and unprocessed cane sugar in small
amounts to sweeten your foods. Or, choose the natural,
calorie-free sweetener option of stevia!
While not as popular as it once was, "fat-free" can still be found on
many food packages. Fat-free diets were supposed to help us
to lower our cholesterol levels, reduce the number of cardiovascular
diseases and related deaths, and help us to lose excess
weight. So why is it that fat-free diets and foods have
fallen out of favour? Perhaps because it was not the answer
to our questions. Fat lines every cell in our
bodies. When all the water is taken out of our brain, the
remainder is 60 percent fat. The problem isn't with fat in
general. Fat is a major piece of a healthy diet; that's why
it's called a "macronutrient". The problem, we are
discovering, is with eating the right kind of fats, focusing on
unsaturated fats (like olive oil instead of lard) and essential fatty
acids (like those from fish and flax seeds instead of deep fried onion
What about if you are told that you have high cholesterol?
Are you saved if you eat "cholesterol-free" chips, eggs, cookies, and
so on? A basic nutrition course will tell you that the main
source of diet-induced high cholesterol is not consuming too much
cholesterol, but eating too many saturated fats. What really
gets me is when foods that never contained any cholesterol are labelled
"cholesterol-free" just to make it appear as if they are healthy!
That brings us to the next topic of "trans fat-free" foods.
Just 5 grams of trans fat a day has been found to raise the risk of
heart disease by a shocking 25 percent! Trans fats are
produced when oils are put through a process known as
hydrogenation. We have known for awhile that unsaturated fats
(such as olive oil which is liquid at room temperature) tend to be
healthier for us than saturated fats (like lard which is solid at room
temperature), but unsaturated fats are not as stable.
Hydrogenation gives unsaturated fats the stability that we desire, but
the problem is that it also produces fiendish trans fats, such as those
in potato chips, margarine, and french fries.
So, now the
latest key phrase in the food industry is "trans fat-free" and it has
even reached the fastfood industry. Starting this month,
Wendy's is slated to start using trans fat-free oil to cook its french
fries and breaded chicken items. Sounds great, especially
when you consider that some fastfood chains' fries contain more than 30
percent trans fat. But is it really as healthy as you
think? You know that if I ask the question, the answer is
probably "no". When you heat oil to a high temperature in the
presence of light and oxygen you create all kinds of damaged and toxic
molecules. A 10 degree Celcius increase in cooking
temperature can double, triple, or even quadruple the rate of chemical
reactions, so it is best to cook at a lower
temperature. One toxic substance created by frying
potatoes or other carbohydrate is called acrylamide and it is a
possible carcinogen (cancer-causing agent), so I hope you are better
than the average American that eats 4 orders of fries every week!
Another problem with fat-free foods is that in order to keep the
flavour, they are often laden with other processed flavours or more
sugar! What a catch 22!
"Made With Whole Grains"
So, how can I find fault in this? How about with the
wording. It's like selling Fruit Loops as "part of a
nutritious breakfast". Yes, if you have it with fruit, whole
grain toast or oatmeal, and perhaps an egg. The Fruit Loops
is part of the nutritious breakfast; it just happens to be the
unhealthy part. The question to ask when you see "made with
whole grains" is, how much whole grains? It might be just a
sprinkling! Even if the label reads a "good" or "excellent"
source of whole grains, which means that it has to contain 8g (good) or
16g (excellent) of whole grains per serving, that serving may be 30 to
55 g, leaving up to 85 percent of it as refined (i.e. unhealthy)
grains. And remember, that 8 g of whole wheat still has only
1 g of fibre.
Another misleading marketing tactic is to call
something "harvest wheat". This does not define whether the
wheat is whole or refined, and the word "harvest" has absolutely no
meaning other than to make it sound wholesome. The same thing
goes for "multi-grain" which also does not define whole or
refined. You need to read the labels to get the
truth. You'll know that you're getting refined grains if you
read any of the following: enriched or unbleached wheat flour, semolina
flour, or durum flour.
Truth: How frustrating it all seems. There's a lot of money
at stake in the food industry, so keep that in mind when you are told
what's healthy for you. Use common sense and know that you
can't go wrong with eating a variety of fresh (or frozen, not canned),
whole (not processed), and preferrably locally grown and/or organic
real foods in a balanced and moderate manner.
Still don't know what to do? Want to find out what foods
would be ideal for you this season? Call me for a nutrition
consultation that's a blend of TCM food cures and western-based