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For The Love Of Food

by | Jun 8, 2012

For The Love of Food

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

This week learn who really tells us how much soda we should drink, why there’s something besides fructose that makes it bad for you and the search for the ideal amount of exercise.

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 | Mar 23, 2012

For The Love of Food

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

Why eating vegetables is cheaper than eating at McDonald’s, there are worse things than white rice and the best reason I’ve ever heard to go to the gym.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. 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.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Feb 17, 2012

For The Love of Food

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

This week McDonald’s comes up with a game changer, Dr. Oz proves once again that he’s a scumbag, and science gives us a few more reasons to eat fish.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. 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.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Why I Don’t Post Calorie Counts On My Recipes

by | Jul 27, 2011
American Cheese Facts

American Cheese Facts

Over the years I’ve had a few people ask me why I don’t include calorie counts on the recipes I share. Isn’t this website supposed to help people eat healthier and lose weight?

You can imagine their surprise when I tell them that the reason I don’t post calories is because I want to help them eat healthier and lose weight. (Zing!) And calorie counts don’t contribute to that goal.

I’m not disputing the notion that eating less promotes weight loss. I’ve tried it and it works. The problem with posting calorie counts is it doesn’t give you any information about whether or not you’re making a good food decision, which is all most of us need to worry about.

You might think that calorie counts can help dieters monitor their food intake and lose weight, but when you stop and think about what this entails it’s easy to see how ridiculous it is.

It takes extreme skill and dedication to accurately tally your calorie intake every day, if it is even possible. As we saw yesterday, calorie counts at restaurants can be off by over a hundred calories, and packaged foods are legally allowed to be 20% higher than their labels claims. You may have better luck with home cooked meals, but it requires the detailed weighing, researching and recording of every ingredient you use.

And toward what goal?

Very few people have been tested and know their resting metabolic rate (how many calories you burn while doing nothing). To balance your energy expenditure you’d also need to account for your physical activity each day (dream on if you think the machines at the gym, or even your heart rate monitor, are giving you accurate calorie expenditures).

Theoretically you could just set a very low calorie goal and hope for the best, but that is essentially a semi-starvation diet and if that’s all you want to achieve then why bother counting?

If you really want to know if a recipe (or packaged food, for that matter) is healthy, skip the calorie counts and look at the ingredients. Do they consist of natural foods that grow from the earth or have they been processed beyond recognition?

Make better food decisions based on quality, unprocessed ingredients and you will be healthier and likely lose weight. Your food will be more satisfying (you’ll naturally eat less), you’ll have more energy (exercise is easier) and you’ll look better (positive reinforcement). If you’re already making excellent food decisions and still need to lose more weight, eating less using mindful eating and other tricks is very effective. Counting calories isn’t necessary.

In other words, I don’t post calorie counts because they distract you from what actually matters: eating real food.

All ingredients are proudly displayed on Summer Tomato recipes.

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Office Hours: Restaurants, Calories and Hydroponics

by | Jul 26, 2011

I’m holding office hours today at 12pm PST. I’ll be answering questions and discussing the latest food and health news. Specifically I’ll be discussing the latest report that restaurants are underreporting calorie counts of food.

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account, and enter the password when prompted.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

To keep up with live events, get access to exclusive content and have Darya personally answer your food and health questions, sign up for the Tomato Slice newsletter.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Apr 8, 2011

For The Love of Food

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

Tough decisions were made this week to narrow it down to 10 stories. Love the calorie infographic, also the commentary by Dr. Ludwig on industrial food and the “small” 32 oz. soda at a SF movie theater.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg, Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. 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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Book Review: Why We Get Fat, by Gary Taubes

by | Mar 2, 2011

I hadn’t planned on writing a formal review of Gary Taubes’ latest book, Why We Get Fat, because I already wrote an extensive review of his first book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, and the messages (and my criticisms) are basically the same. But after finishing the book I think Taubes is worth revisiting.

My biggest problem with Taubes’ first book is that it was very difficult to read, and that of course means most people won’t finish it. In Why We Get Fat Taubes repackages the data in a way that is much more logical and easy to digest. The book is substantially shorter, and is mostly free of the rants and tirades that peppered Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Instead, Why We Get Fat takes the reader through a clear and concise explanation of why all calories are not created equal, and that carbohydrates are the reason for the vast majority of the health and weight problems plaguing modern civilization. He also does a fantastic job demolishing the currently prevailing hypothesis that dietary fat and blood cholesterol are the causes of heart disease. They aren’t.

That so few people understand these points is why I recommend everyone read this book. It breaks my heart every time someone writes to me for nutrition advice and proudly points to their butter-less popcorn or baked chips as proof of their already “healthy” diet. Until it becomes common knowledge that fat is good for you and processed carbohydrates are the worst thing you can eat, I think this book is the best resource we have to explain it.

Still I do not agree 100% with Taubes’ conclusions. Though I do think the evidence is overwhelming that all calories are not created equal, I disagree that calories therefore do not matter and cannot be manipulated to help with weight loss. Taubes argues that how much we eat is dependent on our hormone levels (specifically insulin levels) that regulate energy balance, and that depending on this balance we naturally regulate our feeding and energy expenditure (exercise) so that we maintain our weight.

Taubes makes a compelling case that severe calorie restriction is counterproductive in weight management, and I agree. However there is some evidence that a small calorie deficit, on the order of 100-200 calories per day, is within the range of our natural homeostatic mechanisms and can be effective at controlling body weight.

In his book, Why We Eat More Than We Think (another must-read), Brian Wansink explores study after study where environmental cues are manipulated to get people to eat either significantly more, or significantly less than they believed. Importantly, the participants never reported any difference in satiation no matter how much they ate. Wansink argues that people can make small dietary changes resulting in a moderate 100-200 calorie per day deficit that does not affect hunger levels and can be used to effectively control weight.

Similarly, in The End of Overeating (here’s my review) Dr. David Kessler discusses how eating can become uncoupled from hunger when it is associated with external cues, making a strong case that some of us really do eat more than we need to. I think many of Kessler’s points about overeating are valid, particularly for emotional eaters. His argument is further strengthened by individual case studies of people who learn to eat less without experiencing sensations of starvation that are predicted by Taubes. One such example is Frank Bruni’s book Born Round (my review), in which he overcomes his weight struggles by moving to Italy and changing his relationship with food. Bruni is able to maintain his weight even after accepting the job of food critic at the New York Times.

These accounts conflict with Taubes’ argument that people overeat to satisfy a caloric deficit caused by a carbohydrate-induced faulty metabolism. Though there is good reason to believe Taubes’ metabolic hypothesis accounts for a large part of the health issues in today’s society, I think it is premature to conclude that this is the only force at work in why we get fat. Indeed, some research suggests learned feeding cues can directly impact insulin and metabolic pathways even in the absence of food. This data does not refute Taubes’ hypothesis, but rather makes it more complicated than he implies.

Even if we assume Taubes’ metabolic theory accounts for the majority of our health problems, insulin response (the ultimate cause of fat accumulation) should also be affected by eating rate and exercise, and vary among individuals. However Taubes handedly dismisses the possibility that any behavioral modification other than carbohydrate restriction can impact metabolic function because, he argues, we will modify our physical activity to adjust for any nutritional changes. His case is compelling, but not air tight, and my interpretation is that while carbohydrate consumption is clearly very important, there are likely other factors that may also be helpful in controlling metabolism and body weight.

In his book The 4-Hour Body (my review), Tim Ferriss describes how WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg lost 18 pounds by simply chewing each bite of food 20 times. Extra chewing or “masticating” was made popular as a weight loss technique in the late 1800s by Horace Fletcher and is explored in Gina Kolata’s book Rethinking Thin (not a particularly good read). Extended chewing and eating slowly are both effective at inducing weight loss, likely because they slow the glycemic response and almost always result in decreased meal size.

One of the most interesting points made in The 4-Hour Body was Ferriss’ personal glycemic response to a low-carbohydrate diet of just meat and vegetables. He claims that even with this meal he could easily spike his glucose to over 150 mg/dL (this is very high) by simply eating quickly, and that this effect could be controlled by slowing down and taking a full 30 minutes to finish a meal. Unfortunately I could not find a similar experiment in the scientific literature, but Ferriss’ observation suggests that behavioral modification can have a powerful impact on metabolic response independent of diet composition.

My final complaint about Why We Get Fat is that Taubes never considers that individual variation may preclude his theory from applying to everyone. He suggests that while some people are genetically blessed with a higher tolerance for carbohydrates, others will only thrive on an almost zero carbohydrate diet. Unfortunately this is the one part of the book he does not provide data to back up his assertions.

Though Taubes frequently argues the importance of paying attention to outliers, he never explores the possibility that some individuals may actually do better (rather than less bad) on a diet with slightly more carbohydrates. (Let’s assume for now that I mean slowly digesting, natural carbohydrates and not highly processed sugars and grains.) In a healthy person there is no reason to assume that such a diet would induce insulin resistance, and there may be some additional advantage outside of metabolic health for including such foods. I don’t think this is a possibility we should dismiss without solid evidence.

To summarize, Taubes does an excellent job describing the importance of carbohydrates in both weight management and health but oversimplifies the science, particularly neglecting the importance of behavioral factors on metabolism. However, the analysis presented in Why We Get Fat is still the most clear explanation of the relationship between metabolism and health that I’ve found and is an invaluable resource for the general public.

What did you think of Taubes’ latest book?

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Does Fruit Make You Fat and Old?

by | Jul 14, 2010
Mango Vendor in Bangkok

Mango Vendor in Bangkok

Several readers have asked lately about the impact of fruit–specifically the sugar in fruit–and it’s capacity to cause weight gain and accelerate aging through insulin signaling:

“Do people usually gain weight because of eating fruit and does the sugar in fruit age us?  I just hate to think that I am doing my body harm by eating fruit.”

If this question sounds insane to you, it shouldn’t. It is actually a very reasonable query that was sparked by two Summer Tomato articles, one about saving money while eating healthy and another on calorie restriction, aging and quality of life. In the first article I recommend thinking of fruit as dessert, a treat to be enjoyed once or twice per day. The second article is about the impact of sugar and calories on aging.

Body Weight

The fact is that fruit contains a lot more sugar than other natural foods and in large enough quantities it can contribute to weight gain. But fruit is certainly not bad for you, nor is it worse for your health than anything else in life.

The sugar in fruit contributes calories to your diet, but since you need calories to survive fruit is still a very good choice. The reason is that in addition to sugar (fructose, to be specific) fruit also has vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and many other things that contribute to health and possibly slow aging.

On the rare occasions when I do make an effort to lose a little weight, however, remembering that fruit should be dessert is something I keep in the back of my mind. I eat fruit every day, but when trying to lose weight I keep it under two servings and always choose whole fruit–avoiding anything blended or juiced. (Drinking calories is usually a bad idea.)

But this healthstyle tactic is not for everyone.

Why?

Unlike most people trying to lose weight, I already have a very healthy diet and fruit is one of the easiest places I can trim calories without feeling deprived. Cutting out things like fat and protein make dieting very difficult because you are always hungry. In my experience reducing unnecessary carbohydrates–especially sugars–is the easiest and healthiest way to lose weight.

But it is essential to remember most people are not overweight because they eat too much fruit and the vast majority of people would benefit from eating more of it.

Aging

The question about whether sugar causes aging is a fascinating one that I am very interested in.

Yes, in most organisms eating sugar has been shown to promote aging, but this has not been proven in humans. Sugar induces aging via the insulin signaling pathway, so therefore any food that increases insulin signaling could theoretically accelerate aging. The problem is that you need insulin to survive–those who cannot produce insulin have a disease called type 1 diabetes.

The good news is that eating a diet that minimizes insulin signaling is also the best way to lose weight and stay healthy, so if you are living a healthy lifestyle (one that includes fruit) you do not need to worry about anything else.

Although fruits have sugar, it is extremely unlikely that they accelerate aging. In fact, most evidence suggests that fruit slows aging because of its high levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

If anti-aging is your goal, fruit is your friend not your enemy.

For more on insulin signaling, check out my post at MizFit Online, When is a calorie not a calorie.

Conclusion

While fruits contain sugar, they do not pose a special threat to your health goals. Eat and enjoy fruits as a wonderful and delicious part of life.

How much fruit do you eat?

Originally published August 31, 2009.

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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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For The Love of Food

by | Jan 15, 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.

In case you missed it, check out the interview I did with the Irish Times about the ineffectiveness of traditional weight loss diets. It turned out to be the most popular article on their site the day it came out.

Also be sure to read Michael Ruhlman’s beautiful piece about cooking in American culture. Unfortunately though, Ruhlman’s insight is overshadowed this week by the myopic and painfully unenlightened BS article of the week in The Atlantic about the supposed evils of Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard program. I’d love to know your thoughts on both.

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

  • Bin diets – get slim for less <<I was interviewed by Conor Pope of the Irish Times about avoiding diets and getting healthy. Conor has a fantastic perspective on health and fitness, pop over there and let me know what you think. (Irish Times)
  • America: Too Stupid To Cook <<This is a brilliant piece by Michael Ruhlman. Why is it so many of us dismiss cooking as being too hard or too much effort? Maybe it is because that’s what we’ve been raised to believe. (Michael Ruhlman)
  • Protection of Food Supply Faces Problems <<Did you know that 25% of Americans get food poisoning each year while only 1% of French do? Our industrial food supply is the likely culprit. (CBS)
  • Counting of Calories Isn’t Always Accurate <<Another reason to stop counting calories–labels are wrong. Just eat real, healthy food without labels on it and news like this won’t bother you. (New York Times)
  • Cultivating Failure <<BS of the week. This very controversial article is one of the most irresponsible pieces of journalism I’ve ever had the displeasure to read. The Atlantic FAIL.
  • 7 Exercise and Fitness Beliefs You Need to Overcome <<Don’t like exercise? Time to get over it. Stick with a fitness routine a little while and I bet you’ll change your mind. (Dumb Little Man)
  • Does your diet require a Ph.D.? <<Turns out the simplest diets are the most effective. As someone who has finished the better part of a PhD, I promise you don’t need formal training to eat healthy. (Booster Shots)
  • Genetic causes of obesity: 1%? <<To me it always feels silly to talk about the genetic causes of obesity, since obviously the problem is relatively new and started around the time we embraced the low fat (high sugar) lifestyle. But it is always good to examine the data supporting any hypothesis. (Food Politics)
  • Roasted Beet Salad with Tahini Yuzu Kosho Dressing <<I’m embracing root vegetables for the rest of the month, and this recipe for roasted beets with tahini dressing has inspired me to grab some beets this weekend at the farmers market. (Chez Us)
  • Should You Eat or Drink Your Fruits and Veggies? An Experiment. <<I often get asked about juice and people are sometimes surprised by my answer. I’m not a big fan, and generally treat juice as a special occasion food. This post by my friend Travis Saunders will help explain why. (Obesity Panacea)

What inspired you this week?

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