Too Many Vegetables? How To Prevent Gas and Digestive Problems Caused By Healthy Eating

by | Sep 30, 2013

Photo by toehk

Maybe you’re embarrassed. Maybe you’ve been too polite to ask me. Whatever the reason, know that you’re not alone.

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For the Love of Food

by | Jul 12, 2013
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week fish oil is linked to prostate cancer, how chronic cardio can kill you, and the truth about grass-fed beef.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself)

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For the Love of Food

by | Jun 7, 2013
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week a crash course in deceptive meat labels, fish eaters outlive vegetarians, and Splenda impacts insulin responses.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

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“Natural” Sugar Substitutes and Artificial Sweeteners: For Better Or For Worse?

by | Jan 21, 2013

Photo by Steve Snodgrass

It’s no secret that I don’t like sugar. But something funny happens every time I recommend people eat less of it: I get bombarded with questions about whether this or that sugar substitute is a good choice.

Sometimes people ask about more natural or “less processed” sweeteners like honey, agave or molasses. Other folks want to know about calorie-free sweeteners like stevia and sucralose (Splenda). But the gist of the question is always the same: what should I eat if I want to have something sweet?

My answer, to many people’s surprise, is to pick whichever one tastes best with what you’re eating (even if it’s plain old cane sugar) and don’t worry about it.

The thing about sugar is no matter what form it comes in, it’s still sugar and is not good for you. Moreover, foods that require sweetening (e.g. pastries) usually have enough other unhealthy ingredients that swapping out the sugar isn’t going to make a huge difference. Sure maybe molasses has a little more vitamin D, or agave ranks a little lower on the glycemic index (because it has more fructose, similar to high-fructose corn syrup), but that doesn’t change the fact that these are still highly concentrated sources of sweetness and should never be eaten in large quantities.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them at all. There’s room for small amounts of sugar in a healthy diet, and it doesn’t matter much where it comes from. Don’t forget to keep everything you eat in perspective. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow, then how virtuous would you feel for ruining your grandmother’s famous apple pie recipe by swapping out sugar for Splenda? We all know pie isn’t the healthiest thing in the world, but some experiences have more value than nutrition alone. As long as you don’t choose experiences over health every single day, those occasional indulgences are not going to kill you.

Artificial sweeteners have other problems as well. Despite their lack of calories, evidence shows that people who use non-caloric sweeteners do not weigh any less than people who don’t use them, and there is no evidence that they help with weight loss. People tend to think they are being virtuous if they choose lower-calorie foods over higher-calorie foods. But without an obvious benefit, what is the point exactly?

Lack of effectiveness is not my only issue with artificial sweeteners. Some studies have suggested that consuming calorie-free sweeteners enhances a person’s appetite and cravings for sweet foods, and this has been proposed as one of the reasons they are not effective at helping people lose weight.

The safety of several of the most popular sugar substitutes has been questioned as well. Though I’ve never found any of the arguments about the dangers of saccharin (Sweet’N Low) or aspartame (Equal) particularly convincing (the original studies were flawed and currently both are officially considered safe for human consumption), they are relatively recent additions to the human diet and the long-term consequences for you as an individual remain unknown. So if you really want to cut back on sugar enough to suffer through the taste of these of these impostors, keep in mind that you are essentially volunteering yourself for a long-term human health experiment that may or may not work out in your favor.

In my opinion still the strongest reason to avoid artificial sweeteners is taste. To me there is something innately unsatisfying about the taste of no-calorie sweeteners, and bad tasting desserts are a paradox of the worst kind. But the assault on your taste buds doesn’t stop there. Artificial sweeteners keep your palate accustomed to overly sweet foods (most are hundreds of times more sweet than table sugar), making it more difficult to re-acclimate to the taste of real food. So not only do artificial sweeteners ruin your dessert experience, they also ruin your healthy eating experience. Awesome, right?

I make one notable exception with these recommendations. Diabetics have a medical condition that prevents them from eating sweet foods that impact blood sugar. This includes cane sugar, honey, agave, molasses, and most other forms of natural sweeteners. The only exception is the stevia plant, which is a natural calorie-free sweetener that has been used therapeutically for hundreds of years. Stevia has been shown in some cases to reduce hyperglycemia and hypertension in patients with pre-existing conditions, and is probably the best option for those who cannot tolerate any kind of caloric sweetener. Because the benefits do not exist for non-diabetic patients and, like other calorie-free sweeteners, stevia is still hundreds of times sweeter than sucrose, I do not recommend it except in these specific clinical conditions.

What’s your sweetness of choice?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Dec 7, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week how the FDA is killing us softly, rats get fat on calorie-free sweeteners, and why coffee is better than 5-Hour Energy.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jun 1, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week learn why we were better off with quarter pounders, butter is better than “buttery,” and frankenfish are the next Monsanto.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomatoGoogle+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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How To Break A Diet Soda Addiction: Tips From A Former (Diet) Cokehead

by | May 16, 2012

It’s the rare person who has never been a victim of Diet Coke. I’ve definitely been there, and I’m not proud of it. My friend E—geek girl extraordinare—overcame her Diet Coke addiction, and can help you find your way to recovery.

Since 2008, E. Foley has been helping geeks find love. She writes amazing online dating profiles and guides her clients through the perilous waters of the dating scene. She’s totally proud to report that she’s even caused a couple geek weddings! As part of her quest for her healthstyle, she is an admin at Plus5CHA, a fitness & health community for geeks. (Visit GeeksDreamGirl.com or follow @geeksdreamgirl on Twitter.)

How To Break A Diet Soda Addiction: Tips From A Former (Diet) Cokehead

by E. Foley

Hi, everyone. My name is E and I’m an addict.

(Hi, E.)

CNN recently posted an article entitled “Can you get hooked on diet soda?” Before I clicked on it, I thought to myself, “Duh, of course you can. Been there, done that.”

The addict in the opening paragraph of the article sounds just like me a few years back:

First thing every morning, Ellen Talles starts her day by draining a supersize Styrofoam cup filled with Diet Coke and crushed ice. The 61-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla., drinks another Diet Coke in the car on the way to work and keeps a glass nearby “at all times” at her job as a salesclerk. By the end of the day she has put away about 2 liters.

“I just love it,” she says. “I crave it, need it. My food tastes better with it.”

My preferred poison was Diet Pepsi, but I’ll still refer to myself as a recovering (diet) cokehead. It was my coffee in the morning, it was my pick-me-up mid-morning, it was my lunch beverage of choice, it was how I washed down my afternoon snack, and it was the drink of multiple refills if we went out for dinner. Two liters a day? Easily.

It took me three tries over several years to fully break my addiction.

Each time I quit I went through the horrible withdrawal symptoms. Headaches, irritability, and the unrelenting desire to take one long draw on a cold bottle of Diet Pepsi and feel the sweet rush of it as it traveled from my tongue to my brain. Even though it’s been several years since my last Diet Pepsi, I can still remember that feeling. That rush I got when feeding my addiction is still there, buried in my brain.

Which is, of course, why I will still refer to myself as a (diet) cokehead. I could, if I chose to feed the beast, reawaken the same addiction and be back to a two-liter a day habit.

5 Tips For Quitting Your Diet Soda Addiction

1. Don’t feel like you have to go cold turkey.

It’s what worked for me, but it may not work for you. Maybe set a rule for yourself that you only drink diet soda when you’re out at a restaurant. Since your SummerTomato-esque healthstyle involves more meals at home, that’ll cut down on the diet soda you drink. Later, you can start substituting other drinks when you eat out until you’re eventually soda-free.

2. Remove the addictive substance from your environment.

Smokers will attest that it’s harder to quit when someone else’s cigarettes are in the house. It’s the same for a diet soda addiction. Try to enlist your family, partner, or housemates to quit with you. If they can’t or won’t, see if you can put the soda in another location. Get a mini fridge for it and put it in another room. Out of sight, out of mind.

3. Be prepared for the withdrawal symptoms.

Your body is addicted to this substance. Your brain is addicted to the high you get from it. When that feeling disappears, your body will fight tooth and nail to get it back, to get that next fix. You’ll probably feel downright terrible – headaches, irritability, lack of focus.

  • Time your quitting so you can be out of focus and irritable without it affecting your life too much. Don’t quit diet soda the week of the giant research paper or the big work project or your wedding. That’s just a recipe for disaster on both fronts.
  • Get some ibuprofin, or your anti-headache medicine of choice. Remember, these headaches are temporary and they will go away. No sense to suffer through them when you can dull the pain.

4. Substitute a tasty beverage that you enjoy.

When I quit, my savior was unsweetened iced tea with lemon. It gave me enough caffeine to dull the headaches and it was sugar-free and natural. Nowadays, my #1 beverage is water, followed by unsweetened iced tea. Here are some substitutes for diet soda:

  • Water. It’s not as boring as it sounds. Flavor it up with a squirt of lemon, lime, or orange.
  • Sassy Water. I tried this recipe from The Flat Belly Diet and it’s pretty darn good. If you hate straight-up water, give it a shot. It tastes very fresh and zippy.

2 liters water (about 8 ½ cups) 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger 1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced 1 medium lemon, thinly sliced 12 small spearmint leaves. Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and let flavors blend overnight.

  • Unsweetened Tea. As a former resident of NC, I can tell you that asking for unsweetened iced tea in the South will get some really odd looks (especially after you tell them you won’t require fake sugars either). But most places have it, and you’ll discover quickly which restaurants have unsweetened iced tea worth drinking.Hot tea is also amazing, especially if you get loose leaf tea rather than grocery store teabags. My favorite loose leaf teas come from Adagio Teas and their Ingenuitea teapot is super spiffy for brewing.
  • Italian Soda. If you can afford a few extra calories, consider stepping down from diet soda to Italian Soda. You make Italian soda by mixing carbonated water with flavored simple syrup. Torani syrups come in a myriad of flavors and are made with cane sugar (not HFCS). It’s 100 calories for two tablespoons, but trust me, you do not need two tablespoons, or even two teaspoons, to transform your water into something a bit more flavorful. Be careful to watch your consumption of Italian soda. It won’t have all the calories (or chemicals) of a HFCS soda, but the empty calories do add up. (Torani does make sugar-free syrup, but it may be better to go the more natural route, even if it does mean a few more calories.)

5. Get a sponsor.

No, you’re not an alcoholic. Diet soda isn’t going to ruin your life and relationships the way alcoholism can. But you will need help sometimes, and it’s good to have a friend or three you can call or text or visit when you’re feeling the need to swing into a 7-11 for a Big Gulp. Have your lifelines on speed dial and don’t be afraid to use them.

You can do it!

Why don’t you drink soda?

Originally published March 9, 2011.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Feb 4, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

In case you missed it, I shared my thoughts on the new USDA Dietary Guidelines over at my personal blog (and on MSNBC, kinda). Also this week fake sugars find themselves in the spotlight, along with dark meat chicken and the culinary crack pipe. And if you were wondering, we here at Summer Tomato have plenty of reasons to believe breakfast is still important.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete list of my favorite stories check out my links on Digg. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jul 23, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I’m excited to announce this week the launch of my personal blog daryapino.com. It’s still very much a work in progress, and there’s a decent chance it may change a lot in the coming months. But since it is meant to be a more informal peek into my personal healthstyle (which I get asked about all the time (???)), I figure there’s no harm in announcing it at this point. There are a few posts up there now, including a review of Anthony Bourdain’s new book Medium Raw, to give you an idea of what to expect. Let me know what you think.

I found a ton of interesting links this week ranging from really cool scientific discoveries on the benefits of whole foods to frightening food safety issues and vegetable MRIs. I also found some proof that organic tomatoes are better for you than the tasteless kind.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on the new Digg or StumbleUpon. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

  • USDA Admits Link Between Antibiotic Use by Big Ag and Human Health <<The horrendous conditions that exist in industrial feedlots require the animals be given huge doses of antibiotics to  stay alive long enough to be profitable survive. This overuse of medicine creates superbugs, antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are becoming a serious problem in our very own hospitals. Solution seems obvious to me. (Huffington Post)
  • Good cholesterol may mean little for statin users <<Interesting new data showing that statin users get no extra benefit from having high HDL “good” cholesterol. I’m a little surprised by this, and will be following this research closely. (Medline)
  • Ten-Year Comparison of the Influence of Organic and Conventional Crop Management Practices on the Content of Flavonoids in Tomatoes <<Translation: Organic tomatoes are more nutritious than conventional tomatoes in a well-designed 10-year study. Why this research didn’t make the news is beyond me. But of course if a poorly designed study shows no difference in the nutrition of organic foods then it’s front page material (in science we call this a negative finding and it should require EXTRA proof). So I’m calling BS of the week on the lack of press here. (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry)
  • A rose may be a rose but perhaps a calorie’s not a calorie <<Cool study showing that whole foods use more calories during digestion than processed foods, even when the meals have the same number of total calories and are almost identical. (Weighty Matters)
  • The Claim: Artificial Sweeteners Can Raise Blood Sugar <<Yes, yes they can. Artificial sweeteners have never been shown to have any value, and they also taste pretty bad. I vote for natural sweeteners with real calories. Just use them sparingly. (New York Times)
  • Why Toasting Dried Chiles Matters <<Cool experiment on the flavor added by toasting dried chilies before using them. I’m totally trying this. (Serious Eats)
  • Your Salad – Is the convenience worth the risk? <<This is a subject that has been bothering me a lot lately. Industrial lettuces have been getting E.coli and salmonella like crazy this year, so even vegetarians and generally conscientious eaters are at risk unless they buy produce directly from farms (which can be impossible for many people). I don’t know what to say except rinse your bagged salads well. (Marler Blog)
  • WTF Should I Do with All This Summer Fruit? <<Tips on freezing fruit so you have a stash come winter. (Chow)
  • Inside Insides <<One of the coolest geeky food blogs I’ve come across. They take MRIs of fresh produce!!
  • Tarragon Egg Salad <<I love egg salad, and am learning to appreciate tarragon. I declare this recipe on the menu! (Simply Recipes)

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love of Food

by | Feb 26, 2010
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Lots of great healthy eating tips this week on the interwebs. I love the news that slow eating can help you eat less. How often are we told that enjoying food more helps us lose weight? (OK, all the time here at ST, but I’m a weirdo.) There’s also an interesting article about sodium worth reading.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the week

What goodies did you find online this week?

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