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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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Shocking: Sugar Content of Common Food Products

by | Mar 24, 2010
Sugar

Photo by Uwe Hermann

Refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrup are considered by many experts to be the biggest contributors to obesity and poor health in Western civilization.

In her book What To Eat, Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at NYU and blogger at Food Politics suggests that any food that contains more than 15 grams of sugar per serving is closer to dessert than anything else. Though this number is arbitrary, it is a good benchmark for evaluating food products.

Obviously sugar content is not the only factor in a food’s nutritional value (and not all of these have added sugar), but it can be illuminating to see the relative amounts in the foods we consume.

Just for fun I looked up the sugar content of a few common foods and menu items. I hope you’re as horrified as I am.

Listed values are as close to a normal serving as I could approximate. Units are listed as grams of sugar.

Sugar Content of Common Food Products

1. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut …………………………………………………10 g

2. Luna Bar berry almond ……………………………………………………………………………11 g

3. Froot Loops breakfast cereal 3/4 cup ……………………………………………………12 g

4. Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream ………………………………………………………………..16 g

5. Starbucks caffè latte grande 16 oz ………………………………………………………..17 g

6. Godiva 2 truffles ……………………………………………………………………………………….17 g

7. Subway 6″ sweet onion teriyaki chicken sandwich ……………………………….17 g

8. Ms. Field’s chocolate chip cookie …………………………………………………………….19 g

9. Tropicana 100% orange juice 8 oz …………………………………………………………25 g

10. Yoplait original yogurt ……………………………………………………………………………27 g

11. Craisins dried cranberries 1/3 cup ……………………………………………………….29 g

12. Vitamin Water 20 oz bottle ………………………………………………………………….33 g

13. Oscar Mayer Lunchables crackers, turkey & American cheese ………….36 g

14. Coca-Cola Classic 12 oz can …………………………………………………………………39 g

15. Sprinkles Cupcake red velvet ……………………………………………………………….45 g

16. California Pizza Kitchen Thai chicken salad ………………………………………….45 g

17. Jamba Juice blackberry bliss 16 oz ……………………………………………………….49 g

18. Odwalla SuperFood 450 ml bottle ………………………………………………………..50 g

19. Starbucks caffe vanilla frappuccino grande 16 oz ………………………………58 g

Take home messages:

  • Foods we recognize as dessert (e.g. doughnuts, ice cream, cookies) often have far less sugar than things we consider “healthy” (e.g. juice, yogurt, dried fruit).
  • Froot Loops aren’t necessarily better than doughnuts.
  • Energy bars are glorified candy.
  • Dessert is sometimes hidden in things like sandwiches.
  • Some foods marketed to children aren’t much better than soda.
  • A salad can have as much sugar as one of the biggest cupcakes I’ve ever seen.
  • “Natural” foods can have lots of sugar.
  • The worst offenders are drinkable.
  • Starbucks is why you’re fat.

How much sugar is in your favorite foods?

If you like this story follow me on the new Digg!

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For The Love of Food

by | Sep 25, 2009
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.

I’m pleased to inform you that I became an official blogger at The Huffington Post this week. My first article there was my interview with David Kessler, Learning to Eat Less: How Understanding Your Brain Can Make You Healthier. I hope to post many of my best articles there in the coming months, usually in the Living section.

Publication at Synapse has also resumed, though I have stepped down as the official science editor to focus on Summer Tomato and (ah hem) finish my lab work.

I’m also excited to announce the creation of the Summer Tomato monthly newsletter! The newsletter will include new content that is not posted here on the blog, and will feature Summer Tomato news, healthy eating tips and recipes. Newsletter subscribers will also have access to exclusive offers and discounts on future Summer Tomato material. Exciting, right?!

newsletter-form

Don’t forget to confirm your subscription by clicking the link in the confirmation email.

If you are wary of entering your email address, rest assured I will never sell or exchange your information and you can unsubscribe anytime. Consider this my personal spam-free guarantee. The main purpose of the newsletter is to reward loyal readers with great tips to upgrade your healthstyle. Feel free to email me any time if you are unhappy with Summer Tomato material.

This week around the web there were some interesting articles about the cholesterol-heart disease hypothesis, which you may be surprised to hear is not particularly strong. These stories may renew your interest in my post last week on How to raise your HDL cholesterol. There are also a few pieces on the role of the brain in eating behavior, which I am becoming more and more interested in (shocking, I know).

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).

I also invite you to submit your own best food and health articles for next week’s For The Love of Food, just drop me an email using the contact form. I am also accepting guest posts at Summer Tomato for any awesome healthstyle tips and recipes you’d like to share.

This post is an open thread. Share your thoughts, writing (links welcome!) and delicious healthy meals of the week in the comments below.

For The Love of Food

What great stuff did you read and write this week?

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For The Love of Food

by | May 15, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome back to For The Love of Food. Thanks to everyone who sent me articles this week, I couldn’t have done it without you. We have a ton of great stuff here. I particularly love the Cheerios story, the fake “local” food from Frito-Lay and the video clip of Michael Pollan on The Colbert Report.

If you would like to see more of my favorite articles each week or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page.

Submissions of your own best food and health articles are also welcome, just drop me an email using the contact form.

For The Love of Food

  • When ‘Local’ Makes It Big << OH SNAP! New York Times calls out Frito-Lay and other food industry giants for pretending to sell local food. But I know you guys won’t be fooled. I love this movement because it supports the exact opposite of selling out. Big Ag would love to package, cheapen and sell “local” like they have with organic, but this time they can’t do it without looking like fools. Funny to watch them try though.
  • It really does help <<Great advice on how to stay inspired to cook yourself dinner when you lack motivation, from Orangette.
  • Michael Pollan on The Colbert Report


.The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michael Pollan
colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Gay Marriage



Let us know what you think!


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Who Can You Trust For Diet Advice?

by | May 1, 2009
3D Brain MRI

3D Brain MRI

Last time I gave you a list of 10 people you can’t trust for diet advice, but many of you were left wondering who can you trust? As I alluded to before, it is extremely difficult to give a generic answer to this question because, frankly, there is no single group of people I can point to and say, “These people always do it right.” This is never true.

Where To Start

In the comments on Wednesday, reader Steve Parker M.D. (blogger and author of The Advanced Mediterranean Diet – visit his new Diabetic Mediterranean Diet Blog) said he mostly relies on primary scientific literature for his information. “Primary” literature is the original study where the actual scientific data is published and analyzed. This is very different from a newspaper article or press release (what a newspaper article is based on).

Without a doubt going straight to the source is the best way to get the facts regarding food, health and nutrition, and this is exactly what I do.

The Catch

It would be wonderful if we could all read the science directly and decide for ourselves how to eat for health and weight loss. But unfortunately, most people do not have access to these studies unless you are on a university campus or pay the exorbitant subscription fees (hundreds of dollars) for each individual scientific journal (there are thousands).

Moreover, unless you have extensive training in biological sciences (more than a bachelors degree), these papers will make no sense to you anyway. Some people try to get around this by reading only the abstracts, but reading an abstract to comprehend a scientific paper is like trying to understand a Seinfeld episode by reading the TV Guide (only more irresponsible).

This is the root of the problem.

Scientific experimentation and analysis is incredibly complex and requires decades of training. Therefore the general public needs the data translated into plain English and explained in simplified concepts. It is tempting to believe that anyone with the appropriate education and a knack for writing can provide this service, however the nuances of data interpretation make this very tricky business. It is frighteningly easy to spin ideas and make claims the data does not really support. This is even scarier when you think of health and how many lives are at stake.

The difficulties that arise from this issue are far reaching. At the most extreme, we have seen that research funded by industry is biased toward a favorable result for the company conducting the research.

Another potentially dangerous scenario is the misinterpretation of data by press rooms and journalists, who then translate these false ideas to a wide audience. Finally there are well-meaning people who do their best to alert the public to important health concerns, but simply misinterpret the science for one reason or another.

Who Is Qualified?

Scientists Although I myself may be biased, I am inclined to trust the opinions of well-respected (highly published) scientists in the field of food and nutrition. Luckily, several of these people have written wonderful books clearly explaining the basics of food and health. Although I am probably the only person under 50 to have ever read these books, they are wonderful resources that I recommend whole-heartedly.

Here are my favorites:

Eat, Drink and Be Healthy by Dr. Walter Willett

Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink

What To Eat by Marion Nestle

Smart journalists Despite my tirade above, scientists are not the only ones with good diet advice. Some journalists have the intelligence and tenacity to uncover all the necessary information and convey it to their readers. To know if you have found this kind of journalist you must read their work and make critical judgments about the logic and conclusions drawn from the data provided.

I have read more bad than good books by journalists, so please be skeptical of what you find. Note: extended book reviews are on the future agenda at Summer Tomato (for short summaries please read the captions under the books in the Summer Tomato Shop).

So far the most thorough analyses I have read from any journalist are the works of Michael Pollan. I also think the work of Gary Taubes is essential reading.

These are the best books on food and health ever written:

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

Trained nutritionists and dietitians I have also been impressed by many of the nutritionists I have encountered (especially Dinneen at Eat Without Guilt – find her on Twitter @EatWithoutGuilt). Nutritionists and registered dietitians are specialized in nutrition, food and eating. These professionals are skilled at working closely with an individual to develop personal eating plans. Although they are not specifically trained to read and interpret scientific studies, their education ensures substantial familiarity with the literature on nutrition, putting them ahead of most medical doctors.

Conclusion

In general you should be more skeptical than accepting of diet advice–particularly if the recommendations sound very strange or unnatural to you. However there are many good resources if you are careful to choose them wisely.

I am always looking for more book recommendations. See what I have read in the Shop and leave your additions in the comments.

Thanks to everyone who has participated in this lively conversation!

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The Food Industry’s Approach to Public Health

by | Nov 6, 2008

Obesity is quickly becoming America’s number one public health concern, and there is little doubt our changing food landscape is largely responsible. To combat negative press and present an image of public responsibility, food industry giants like McDonalds’s and Coca-Cola have announced policies that seem aimed to help consumers make healthier, informed lifestyle choices. However, leading nutrition and public health experts charge that these policies are disingenuous and are closer to advertising than sincere social responsibility.

In the October 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), David Ludwig, MD, PhD, and Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, published a commentary on the role of the food industry in public health. The question they seek to answer is, “Should the food industry be welcomed as a constructive partner in the campaign against obesity?”

The answer, they argue, can be found in the analysis of scientific data on food industry practices. One such study published in 2006 investigated United States food corporation practices in school nutrition and concluded that food companies “make public promises of corporate responsibility that sound good, but in reality amount to no more than [public relations].” Another study found that McDonald’s continued to use trans fats in their cooking oil until at least 2005, even though they claimed otherwise. (They were required to pay a settlement for deceptive advertising).

Trans fat! There is no amount of trans fat in the diet that is considered safe.

The food industry also heavily funds an independent firm, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), that aggressively lobbies against “obesity-related public health campaigns, legislation to regulate marketing of junk food to children and scientists who advocate for healthier diets.” It is difficult to understand how these practices meet the proclaimed agenda of these companies to increase the health of society.

These issues then raise an interesting question. Why would a food company care about the health of society? Isn’t a food company’s primary goal to make profits for their shareholders? Of course it is, and that is fine. The problem is that the most healthful foods—unprocessed vegetables, fruits and grains—are not nearly as profitable as highly refined and processed foods. This fact makes the industry’s claims to promote health somewhat dubious.

The obvious answer to why a food company might claim to have concern for public health even if health is at odds with its product is that companies must work to maintain a positive image. Advertisers know very well that image and branding have a tremendous impact on sales. Generally our society does care about health and is willing to pay a premium for products they consider to be healthful. Thus these public health campaigns are indeed a form of advertising because they help shape the public image of a company and its products.

How then do these campaigns manifest in society? One example is the voluntary efforts of beverage companies (in conjunction with the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation) in 2006 to curb the sale of sugary drinks in schools, one of the largest sources of excess calories for children. Though at first glance this seems like a noble effort by the companies, after much negotiation the agreement ultimately permitted several caloric drinks to remain on campuses, including sweetened vitamin waters and sports drinks. So much for getting those sugary drinks out of schools.

Also, the food industry invests enormous amounts of money to fund nutrition research. However a study published last year in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) journal found that studies fully funded by industry are 4 to 8-fold more likely to have conclusions favorable to industry compared to those with no industry funding. This raises the possibility of a “systematic bias” in scientific research when industry is involved.

Thus the authors conclude that the interests of the food industry are at odds with public health and should be separated from policy decisions. They go on to argue that while market-driven supply and demand works splendidly for many industries, it must be more carefully regulated when public health and safety are involved. This, they say, is the primary reason there are so many safety requirements on cars, and our food supply should be held to similar rigorous standards.

“Modifiable dietary factors cause substantially more illness and death than automobile crashes. Left unchecked, the economic costs associated with obesity alone will affect the competitiveness of the US economy.”

The authors recommend several courses of action. First, the government must “ensure that nutritional policies are based on solid science, rather than special interests.” Second, congress should provide more funding to nutrition research to “help counter the influence of the industry money.” Third, allow an independent body such as the Institute of Medicine to draft dietary guidelines (this task is currently under the control of the United States Department of Agriculture, which is primarily concerned with the well-being of the food industry and not public health). Fourth, restructure agriculture subsidies to “support public health, not commodity producers.” And finally, “reform campaign finance laws to prevent corporate political donations from leveraging the legislative process.”

These recommendations would be a good start to combating obesity in America, but it is important to remember that ultimately the responsibility for your health is in your own hands. If we as consumers decide we would rather buy healthier, less processed foods and purchase them in larger percentages than processed foods, the food industry will certainly notice.

This article can also be found at Synapse.

What role do you think the food industry should play in public health policy?

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