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For The Love Of Food

by | Oct 5, 2012

For The Love of Food

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

And we’re back! Sorry for the hiatus, I had to spend a few weeks finishing up a big project I’m working on. Keep calm and carry on.

This week lard is making a comeback, salt may improve your coffee, and why we aren’t eating more GMO animals.

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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Food Revolution Day: Join me at the farmers market, hangout with Jamie Oliver & get a free Mercado Bag [sold out]

by | May 9, 2012

Farmers Market Boot Camp

Big news! On May 19th, I’m hosting one last Farmers Market Boot Camp at the San Francisco Ferry Building in support of Food Revolution Day and Jamie Oliver’s foundation.

For those who don’t remember, last year I offered a farmers market tour/class for a few weeks that was really fun and wildly popular. But I hadn’t started it up again this year due to time constraints.

To support Food Revolution Day I’m hosting one last boot camp and donating all the proceeds to Jamie’s foundation. Even better, Quirky is donating a Mercado farmers market shopping bag to everyone who takes the class. How awesome is that?!

Space is limited to only 10 people, so don’t wait to sign up.

Food Revolution Day Farmers Market Boot Camp

What?

The last Summer Tomato Farmers Market Bootcamp

When?

Saturday, May 19th @ 9:30am

Where?

San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Price?

$40

Sign up here (sorry, the event is now sold out)

Hangout with Jamie Oliver

If you can’t make it to San Francisco on May 19th why not just hangout with Jamie in the comfort of your own home? Jamie is hosting a Google+ hangout for Food Revolution Day that will be broadcast live to everyone. For a chance to join the hangout and talk to Jamie himself, all he asks is that you make a simple video describing one meal that revolutionized your life. Jamie will be watching the videos and will pick the winners who get to join him live. For more info check out Jamie’s video below.

There are a handful of us here on the front lines trying to help people get healthy and live longer, richer, happier lives, and it is hard to argue that anyone has had a bigger impact than Jamie Oliver. I have tremendous respect for Jamie and all he’s done to raise awareness for the importance of real food, educating people around the globe about what it means to eat well. That’s why when the Food Revolution Day team asked if I’d be willing to help out, I jumped at the opportunity.

To learn more about Food Revolution Day or host your own event, check out the Food Revolution Day website.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jul 2, 2010

For The Love of Food

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

Great reading this week. There are 1,001 reasons industrial food will kill you, but I also found a few great videos with DIY cooking tips. There were also a few decent science stories in the LA Times.

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

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!

StumbleUpon.com

http://forms.aweber.com/form/30/split_210533730.htm

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Are Canned Tomatoes Dangerous? The Latest BPA Scare

by | Dec 16, 2009
Photo by TheBittenWord.com

Photo by TheBittenWord.com

Chances are that if you do much cooking, especially during the winter, you rely on canned tomatoes as the base for many dishes. Canned tomatoes are one of the staples of my kitchen and I’ve recommended them many times as a good alternative to fresh winter tomatoes (yuck).

But recent reports indicate that the lining of most cans (including tomatoes, beans and soda) contain a resin that leaches a toxic chemical, bisphenol-A (BPA), into food.

BPA has been shown to be a neuroendocrine disruptor and causes several biological problems, especially during development. Outrage over BPA back in April 2008 led to massive changes in consumer demands about the safety of food containers, especially baby bottles and the then-popular Nalgene bottles.

Since publication of the The 7 Foods Experts Won’t Eat article in Shine, I’ve been bombarded with questions asking if it is still okay to eat canned tomatoes.

Here are my thoughts on canned tomatoes & BPA:

1. Canned tomatoes aren’t great, but soda is worse. In the article, Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, says that tomatoes are a particular problem in cans lined with resin because they are acidic, which increases the rate at which BPA enters food. He goes on to argue that this amount exceeds recommended doses and can “impact people.”

Since Dr. vom Saal studies BPA and I do not, I concede his point. But I think it is also important to consider the context of this argument. It is true that tomatoes are acidic, but tomatoes also have many health benefits and can be a valuable part of your diet.

I don’t drink soda (which is substantially more acidic than tomatoes) or eat canned beans, so tomatoes are the only canned food I eat. I also don’t eat canned tomatoes every day. I therefore question if the tiny, sporadic amount of BPA that I am exposed to through canned tomatoes has a real effect on my disease risk, given my healthstyle.

My guess is the risk is very small. If you do drink a lot of soda, however, you may have more to worry about.

2. Glass jars are a fantastic alternative. Home canning was all the rage this summer, and I’m sure those of you who produced gallons of home stewed tomatoes are feeling pretty awesome right now with your BPA-free stockpiles.

There is no way on earth I would have time for a massive canning project of my own, but fortunately there are some wonderful independent companies willing to do it for me and sell them to me as I need.

I have yet to try tomatoes from a glass jar, but my guess is they lack the metallic aftertaste of those in cans. As an experiment, I’ll make my next preserved tomato purchase from one of my favorite companies, Happy Girl Kitchen, to see if I can tell the difference. They are more expensive than the cans I normally get, but it might be worth it for the better flavor. You can also find their products at Foodzie.

Keep up with my foodie experiments on Twitter @summertomato.

3. I’m not a kid, but if you are you should be more careful. One of the biggest problems with BPA is its effect on children. Kids are small, so the amount of BPA they are exposed to pound-for-pound is relatively higher than it is for the rest of us. Children also metabolize (eliminate) BPA more slowly, so the toxins stay in their bodies longer. Lastly, during development certain organs are more susceptible to the effects of BPA, which may result in serious problems later in life.

In other words, BPA is substantially more dangerous for children than it is for adults.

So while BPA may be a mild concern for grownups with a basically healthy lifestyle, it may be worth keeping it out of your diet for the sake of the younger members of your family.

Conclusion

BPA in canned tomatoes is a legitimate concern. However unless you are a regular consumer or are under the age of 6, the long-term impact of BPA on your life is probably mild.

If you would rather be safe than sorry, glass jars are a fantastic BPA-free alternative that will probably improve the taste of your winter tomato dishes.

As for the other items on the list, I mostly agree with their conclusions. However the selection of these particular 7 things (as opposed to dozens of other problematic foods) seems rather random and arbitrary. In my opinion you will get much more out of shopping at the farmers market than you will from fretting over blacklisted foods.

What do you think about canned tomatoes and BPA? Did I answer your questions?

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BlogHer Food ’09

by | Sep 27, 2009

BHFood09MastheadPostRather than my usual farmers market adventure on Saturday I attended the BlogHer Food conference here in San Francisco. But don’t panic. I still have plenty of kale and other greens from the Mission Bay farmers market last Wednesday (I knew this was coming). If I need more vegetables I’ll make a run over to Bi-Rite Market in a few days.

The BlogHer Food conference was fantastic and I met some incredible foodies and bloggers. The food we were served though was, um, not so incredible. But I don’t want to be too harsh on them since whatever they were lacking in vegetables, they totally made up for with chocolate.

I came home with a sizable bag full of Scharffen Berger chocolate bars (and some Massa Organics brown rice!). But the food highlights were definitely at the after party where Elizabeth Faulkner of Citizen Cake served my favorite After Midnight cakes and Foodzie had piles of delicious treats and confections. (The lighting in there was non-existent, so you’ll have to use your imaginations to visualize them.)

It’s not normally my style to eat nothing but dessert all day, but somehow I think I’ll survive. As you can imagine though I am very much looking forward to eating healthy for the rest of the week!

I’d also like to give some shout outs to some of the awesome people I met.

Check out their blogs and tell them I say hi!

If I missed anyone please leave your links in the comments!

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Organic vs. Conventional Produce Smack Down! (Poll)

by | Aug 3, 2009
Rosa Bianca Eggplant

Organic Vegetables

There has been a lot of back and forth trash talking between fans of organic and fans of conventional produce ever since a new review study by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) reported no nutritional superiority for organics. Let’s take a look at some of the opposing arguments and have a vote.

Since the publication of the review last week I have been collecting the opinions of various experts around the internet.

A few fabulous articles are worth noting:

Key criticisms of the FSA report:

  1. The nutrient analysis is questionable and incomplete.
  2. Findings contradict conclusions of other scientists.
  3. Report does not account for the presence of toxins and contaminants.
  4. Conflicts of interest may exist among the investigators of the report and agribusiness.

So what do you think?

Do you believe the review? Think it’s a flawed piece of industry propaganda? Still undecided? How will this study affect your buying habits?

Do you even think about these things before making food purchases?

Vote in the poll and leave additional thoughts in the comments.

[poll id=”4″]

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Food, Inc. Shows How Your Food Choices Can Change the World

by | Jun 15, 2009

foodincIt is fair to say I’m a bit obsessed with food.

To me this is perfectly natural, because few things are as important or bring as much pleasure to my life. I eat at least three times a day, and each meal is an opportunity to revel in the bounty of nature and ensure my health for (5? 6? 7?) decades. What confuses me is why more people aren’t so obsessed with food.

I admit that my personal history with food is long and intimate, but at this stage in my life what makes me passionate about eating well is what I know about the impact of my daily meal choices on myself and the world.

Food is the cause of almost every modern disease, and is in the midst of creating some new ones.

Food is destroying the planet faster than anything in human history.

Food threatens our national security and the health of the global economy.

But food is not all doom and gloom, nor should it be. Real food is a celebration of life and brings people together. Real food is an art. Real food is health.

My personal favorite reason to eat the way I do is that real food tastes amazing, nothing like the processed junk most of us grew up eating.

When it comes down to it, real food makes my life better.

If you are like most people I talk to, this all sounds wonderful but is a little too abstract to move you to action. Sure we would all love to make it to the farmers market this weekend, but when Saturday rolls around there are 1,001 excuses not to go. Right?

In my world though, the earth has to be collapsing for me to miss my market trip and even then I’ll probably find another one. I don’t see it as a choice. For me my weekly trip to the farmers market determines how well I will eat for the entire week. I know it is possible to eat healthy without going but it won’t taste nearly as good, is less exciting and more expensive. These things make it harder to eat healthy at all, and that is not okay.

My resolve comes from the knowledge that there is no more important decision I can make each week than where I buy my food.

If you aren’t convinced yet, you should definitely see the new film Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. will help you see food as a priority, a solution to and not the cause of our problems. It is a journey through our modern food system, how it works and the tremendous impact it has on our lives.

One of my favorite quotes comes early in the film as Michael Pollan, one of the film’s narrators and hero of the “real food” movement, describes the disappearance of seasonal produce at the grocery store. His quintessential example is the perfectly red, perfectly round tomatoes that can be found year-round in American supermarkets.

“Although it looks like a tomato, it is a notional tomato. It’s the idea of a tomato.”

This is because, as you all know by now, real tomatoes only exist in the summer.

Food, Inc. gives you an intimate look at where these artificial foods come from and the how they affect our lives. It also explores the government policies that have encouraged and protected these practices at the expense of good food and health.

If you have read (and you should) Michael Pollan’s landmark book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, you will find many similarities in this film. However, Food, Inc. preferentially emphasizes the results of our food system and the toll it takes on our health and economy.

Central to Food, Inc. are the stories of people who were the honest victims of our toxic system. These stories are heartbreaking and will make you think twice the next time you are tempted to order a Quarter Pounder.

Importantly, Food, Inc. offers more than just criticism, it also gives us a solution: vote with your fork.

The message of the movie is almost entirely aligned with the philosophy of this blog: shop at farmers markets, cook your own meals, pass on the processed foods.

These simple acts are enough to change the way the system works, because ultimately consumers decide what is produced. If you stop buying it, they will stop selling it and find another way to satisfy your needs. We are the ones with the real power.

It is completely possible to opt out of our current food system by reducing and even eliminating processed, industrial foods from your diet. Amazingly, once you start on this journey you learn that you don’t actually give anything up in the process, but in fact regain a world of lost flavors and the joys of eating real food.

If you like Food, Inc. and want to know more there are numerous resources:

Have you seen Food, Inc. yet? What did you think?

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Fatty Foods Enhance Memory By Same Mechanism As Emotional Learning

by | May 4, 2009
Go Nuts!

Go Nuts!

Have you ever noticed that some of your strongest food memories are of rich, fat laden meals shared with family and friends? According to new research, this may not be a coincidence. A study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates that digesting fatty foods enhances memory consolidation using the same neural pathway as emotional learning.

This finding has far reaching implications for cognitive therapies to fight over-eating, but may also suggest new, easy to implement strategies for memory enhancement. Pistachios anyone?

In the study, rats being trained on memory tasks were administered a substance called oleoylethanolamide (OEA) that normally increases in the gut after the ingestion of dietary fat (not carbohydrate or protein). Several days later, the rats given OEA performed better on the tasks than rats that were not, demonstrating enhanced learning.

To determine the neural pathway involved in this effect, the researchers chemically blocked signaling in the region of the brain that receives neural inputs from the gut (solitary nucleus), which abolished the effect of OEA. Next they selectively blocked neural transmission between this region and another region of the brain that has been shown to be critical for emotional learning (amygdala). This also eliminated the memory enhancement effect of OEA, indicating that emotional memory and memory enhancement from fatty food ingestion share the same neural network.

These findings may partially explain the emotional component that is often associated with chronic over-eating, something that frequently involves learned habits triggered by emotional situations.

However, OEA does more than enhance memory. It is also critical in feelings of satiety after a meal (decreasing hunger) and has been implicated in controlling body weight. Is it possible this new information could be harnessed for the power of good?

Low-fat diets have proved to be a colossal failure for both health and weight loss, partially because they encourage over-consumption of starchy (usually refined) carbohydrates. Moreover, vegetable and fish oils are protective against many chronic diseases that plague Western culture. Regularly seeking healthy fats in your diet can help control hunger, promote weight loss and lower risk of disease. But it now seems that healthy fats could also be a useful tool in overcoming emotional eating, a problem more complex than the standard weight gain that comes from 21st century living.

Another interesting corollary of this study is that fat (specifically oleic acid, a healthy fat found predominantly in olive oil and nuts) may enhance learning and memory. Since the benefits of OEA were only evident when it was administered at the time of or immediately after training, the next time you study or prepare for a presentation you might want to have some nuts around to snack on. Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans and pistachios are highest in oleic acid.

Are you interested in foods that could provide cognitive enhancement?

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Vegetables, Nuts and Overall Healthy Diet Protect Against Heart Disease

by | Apr 20, 2009
Vegetables

Vegetables

Most scientists agree that diet plays an important role in heart disease, but until now there has been no comprehensive analysis of which dietary factors most strongly affect disease outcome. A new meta-analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reviews six decades of research (1950-2007) to assess how different dietary factors affect heart disease. Vegetables, nuts, “Mediterranean” and high-quality dietary patterns are strongly protective, while trans-fat, foods with high glycemic index or load and a “Western” dietary pattern were shown to be harmful.

The Study

This new study is unique for several reasons. First, the authors were only interested in factors that influenced heart disease directly, not simply heart disease risk factors such as cholesterol levels. Also, emphasis was placed on high-quality studies designed to identify strong dietary associations (cohort studies and randomized controlled trials) with long periods of follow up (at least one year). They asked whether the studies they reviewed were consistent with other data such as epidemiological reports, and sought to establish a causal link between diet and heart disease outcomes. Another important goal of the analysis was to identify factors that lack sufficient evidence to be conclusive and require further research.

Results

In addition to identifying vegetables, nuts, high-quality and Mediterranean dietary patterns as being strongly protective against heart disease, they also found monounsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil), dietary folate (e.g. whole grains, not supplements), dietary vitamins C and E (not supplements), alcohol consumption (in any form) and omega-3 fatty acids from fish (not plants, e.g. flax) to be moderately protective.

Factors that were not associated with heart disease in this study were dietary supplements (e.g. vitamins C and E), total fat, saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats (from plants), meat, eggs and milk. It is important to note, however, that negative findings in this analysis are not necessarily indicative of a lack of causality. Rather, it may indicate insufficient data to observe a significant positive association.

Dietary Patterns

The authors point out that “only overall healthy dietary patterns are significantly associated with coronary heart disease” in the controlled trials, while “evidence for most individual nutrients or foods is too modest to be conclusive.” They suggest that the reason an association exists for dietary patterns and not individual nutrients is that patterns “have the advantage of taking into account the complex interactions and cumulative effects of multiple nutrients within the entire diet.” The authors recommend future trials test various dietary patterns for disease outcome, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Taking this further, most dietary factors that were shown to be protective when consumed as part of a healthy diet were not protective when taken in supplement form. This finding bolsters the argument that overall diet rather than individual foods or nutrients are the best strategy for protecting against heart disease. The authors conclude that their findings suggest “investigating dietary patterns in cohort studies and randomized controlled trials for common and complex chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease.”

Based on their analysis, the dietary pattern that best protects against heart disease is rich in vegetables, nuts, fish, healthy fats, whole grains, and fruit. Likewise, the worst dietary pattern consists of refined carbohydrates and artificial trans-fats. The lesson: the best diet consists of plants, fish and whole foods, while processed foods contribute to heart disease.

What about red meat and saturated fats?

Interestingly, there was insufficient data to conclude that red meat or saturated fats are harmful for the heart. This is not terribly surprising, since the data has always been inconsistent. However, I would point out that many studies have looked at the role of red meat and saturated fat in coronary risk and the outcome always shows either harm or no result. And as explained above, no result can be indicative of a lack of statistical power rather than lack of causation. Importantly however, I cannot recall a single study suggesting that red meat and saturated fat is actually good for you.

From this the best we can conclude is that red meat or saturated fat may be involved in promoting heart disease, but if they are the effect is likely to be less harmful than a diet of processed foods. Practically this means small doses of saturated fat may not do much harm when eaten as a part of an overall healthy diet. This is a fairly compelling argument for exercising moderation.

Conclusions

Before you run out and order a ribeye, keep in mind that heart disease is not the only debilitating chronic disease that plagues our culture. Red meat is also associated with several kinds of cancer. Likewise, refined carbohydrates are highly correlated with type 2 diabetes. Vegetables and whole grains are protective against these other diseases as well, and fish may play a role in protecting against neurodegenerative diseases.

The take home lesson is that both diet and disease are complex systems that involve innumerable factors in several different regions of the body. When choosing what to eat it is important that you consider the context of your overall diet and do not get caught up is single foods or a single disease threat.

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