Sign up

You deserve to feel great, look great & LOVE your body

Enter your email for your FREE starter kit to get healthy & lose weight without dieting:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Intact Grains vs. Whole Grains

by | Nov 29, 2010
Photo by Venex_jpb

Photo by Venex_jpb

If there is a single subject that befuddles the health-conscious eater, it is undoubtedly carbohydrates.

Most of us have seen the impressive results of at least temporarily restricting carbs, but studies examining the long-term effects of carbohydrate restriction are often ambiguous. Also, while some experts argue fervently for a low-carb lifestyle, some nutritionists still warn about the dangers of eating too much fat or protein.

So how do we know what to believe?

A full examination of the science behind carbohydrate metabolism is beyond the scope of a single blog post, and is in fact not entirely understood by the scientific community (for a thorough review of this topic read Gary Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories, which I have reviewed here).

However, there are a few things we do know about carbohydrates that are worth pointing out.

Lesson 1: Refined grains contribute to nearly every chronic disease in modern civilization.

It is universally agreed in the nutrition community that refined, processed carbohydrates are the worst things to eat on the entire planet.

And it is impossible to overstate how remarkable this is.

The nutrition community is one of the most disagreeable bunches in all of science. But across the board–from vegans like Colin Campbell to carnivores like Robert Atkins–not a single one of them considers processed carbs to be nutritionally neutral. They all consider them dangerous.

Without question, refined carbohydrates contribute to poor health.

Lesson 2: Vegetables protect against nearly every chronic disease in modern civilization.

Where things start to get more complicated is with unrefined carbohydrates, and the various iterations of this definition. There is ample evidence that the carbohydrates contained in vegetables are not harmful, and possibly beneficial.

To call these vegetable carbohydrates “fiber” is to oversimplify the science, but suffice to say that vegetables are good for you and contribute to your good health.

This is also generally agreed upon.

Lesson 3: Whole grains are different from intact grains.

Few people will argue against my first two points. But bring up whole grains and you will unleash a fury of controversy. Some people believe whole grains to be the cornerstone of any healthy diet, while others consider them superfluous and possibly detrimental to good health. You can find dozens of PhDs and MDs to back up your claims no matter what camp you align with.

So why is there so much disagreement? What does the science say?

The problem is that nutrition science conducted in free-living humans is virtually impossible to interpret. This is largely because the studies are so difficult to control and people’s behavior and self-reporting are so unreliable. Another problem is that the definition of “whole grains” has been watered down to a point where it is virtually meaningless.

One reason whole grains are hard to identify is because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created a definition that is friendly to food companies, but not to consumers.

The FDA requirements for a manufacturer to use the term “whole grain” on its label (along with the respective health claims) are as follows:

“Cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis, whose principal anatomical components – the starchy endosperm, germ and bran – are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis – should be considered a whole grain food.” (emphasis added by me)

Get it? To be considered “whole,” grains do not actually have to be intact.

Thus food manufacturers create products using this loose definition to their advantage, demolishing grains as normal, then adding back the required ratios of grain parts (germ and bran) to meet the standard.

This is how products like Froot Loops get spiffy health labels claiming they lower heart disease when any unbiased nutrition scientist would agree that, with 41% sugar by weight, Froot Loops almost certainly contribute to heart disease.

On the other hand, there is compelling data that intact whole grains contribute to better health.

Lesson 4: Eating grains is a personal choice, not a nutritional imperative.

The good news is that it is really easy to tell the difference between fake “whole” grains and intact whole grains. If a food actually looks like a grain (i.e., it retains its original form and bran covering), then it is an intact grain. If it looks like a Cheerio, chip, loaf of bread or pasta with a “whole grain” label, then it is a fake whole grain.

People following a primal or paleo diet will argue that this difference is irrelevant and that all grains (and legumes?!) are unnecessary for good health. Personally I disagree, but remain fairly neutral on the personal choice of removing grains from the diet entirely.

Grains do not appear to be necessary for survival (Inuit tribes survive without them), but optimal nutrition may require slightly more effort than would be necessary following a traditional balanced diet.

This is generally how I feel about all healthy, restrictive regimens such as vegetarian, vegan and raw diets. You can make it work for yourself if you are willing to make sacrifices and put in the effort.

However you should be aware that for many people, myself included, cutting whole grains out of your diet completely is extremely difficult and, if you ask me, unnecessarily painful.

Conclusion

When making food choices about grains, the critical question is not whether or not a food is “whole” grain but whether the grain is intact. For this reason, it matters very little if you substitute “whole grain” products for regular refined products such as pasta.

Examples of intact grains are oats, barley, brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa (sort of) and faro. White rice is not a whole grain, and is closer to a refined grain than a whole grain.

For optimal health, processed and refined grains should be eaten very sparingly. Small amounts such as those eaten in traditional cultures can be part of any healthstyle, but including them is a personal choice that will depend on your own goals and preferences.

The irony is that if you are able to remove processed foods from your diet, the way you eat could probably be described as low-carb. But this label really undermines a healthstyle based on real food.

Though I eat relatively few grains compared to most Americans, I cringe when I see the shining example of low-carb living, The Atkins Diet website, with images of fake pancakes and pasta plastered all over it. If that is what low-carb is, I want nothing to do with it.

Processed food is still processed food, whether the carbohydrates have been synthetically removed or not. Stick to eating real food and you’ll never have to worry about carbs.

Do you count your carbohydrates?

Originally published November 25, 2009.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

For The Love Of Food

by | Nov 5, 2010

For The Love of Food

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

This week I was introduced to the concept of food “ultra-processing”, learned how to best convince friends to eat more vegetables and was re-horrified at a fellow scientist’s ignorance of the relationship between dietary cholesterol to personal health.

On and unrelated note, I’ll be at the Foodbuzz Festival this weekend. If you’ll be around, come say hi 🙂

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 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?

Tags: , , , , , ,

For The Love Of Food

by | Aug 13, 2010

For The Love of Food

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

This week I found an exceptional number of articles supporting the value of minimally processed foods (shhh, even the one that tried to argue the opposite). Also some useful tips on juicing and weight lifting (not together, of course).

I’m also happy to tell you that the print buttons are working again 🙂

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?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

For The Love Of Food

by | Jun 18, 2010

For The Love of Food

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

Some great reads this week. There’s scary news for those of us who spend a lot of time at the computer, as well as a terrifying example of what it means to be a food-like product. On the other side, there’s some good news about cholesterol.

I’m still participating in the Inkwell interview at The Well with David Gans and Diane Brown until June 23. Have questions for me or just want to eavesdrop? Come join us! http://bit.ly/9n1v8O

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 inspired you this week?

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

For The Love Of Food

by | May 21, 2010

For The Love of Food

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

Meditating on food, the health differences between steak and bacon, and the secrets to ordering Thai are some of the highlights from around the web this week. I also figured your attention would be better spent on a cupcake canon rather than the usual BS of the week. Enjoy!

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 inspired you this week?

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Picky Eaters vs Food Snobs

by | Oct 6, 2009
By _Max-B

By _Max-B

Hopefully I sold you on why it’s better to be an adventurous eater than a picky eater, but that doesn’t mean you should eat everything that’s put in front of you.

In fact, you should always question what you eat and never accept food blindly. Learning how to choose good food is one of the most important skills you need to successfully navigate the nutritional minefield we live in.

But how do you learn to be judiciously discriminating without being annoyingly picky? And how do you avoid stepping over the boundary into food snob territory?

Ultimately you need to determine your personal values and define your own healthstyle. Here I’ve outlined a few guiding principles I use to make these decisions every day.

Food Origins

The first step is developing an appreciation for where your food comes from.

Whole foods vs Processed foods

The first great divide in the modern food world is between whole foods and processed foods. Whole foods are those that have not been substantially changed by industrial processes and still look fairly similar to how they are found in nature. Processed foods are those that have been broken down by commercial methods then reassembled into “edible food-like products,” to quote Michael Pollan from In Defense of Food.

For unknown reasons the act of processing foods strips them of their magical powers (pretty scientific, eh?). We’ve learned from dozens of clinical trials on nutrient supplements that removing molecules from the context of whole foods almost always prevents them from doing their job properly.

Thus it seems that natural foods–as far as our bodies are concerned–are equal to more than the sum of their parts, and it is unlikely we will understand all the science behind this for at least several decades.

Luckily we do not need to know the mechanisms of nutrition to make healthy food choices.

The single most consistent finding in the field of nutrition is that whole foods are better for you than processed foods.

Independent food vs Industrial food

The second great divide is between independent food producers and industrial farming and agriculture. A huge misconception among eaters is that all produce and farm products are created equal. But anyone who has shopped at a farmers market knows this is not true for produce, meat or any other farm product.

Not only does produce grown in (or animals raised on) healthy, fertile soil taste orders of magnitude better than anything grown in depleted industrial soil, but it will also have more nutrients, be better for the environment and create a more healthy food culture.

No matter how you slice it, farm fresh food is better.

I will even  make the case that the distinction between independent and industrial food is more important than the difference between organic and conventional. While I support organics in general (especially compared to conventional industrial ag), some of my favorite farms are not certified organic, yet their growing practices far exceed certification requirements.

I know these farmers personally, and their food speaks for itself.

There is a world of difference between rejecting food for what it is and rejecting food because of its quality. My personal opinion is that any whole food that isn’t grown industrially is probably worth trying and liking.

Culinary Talent

Also important in appreciating valuable food is recognizing culinary talent.

The prospect of experiencing an artist’s work is usually enough to get me to try a food, even if it is not the healthiest thing on earth.

As I explained above I rarely find reason to eat processed foods, and that means pretty much anything made with sugar or flour. Most of the time it just isn’t worth it.

But sometimes it is.

Sometimes pastry chefs, bakers and pizza makers can transform simple ingredients into such amazing creations that you’d be foolish to turn them down. I watch my portions when I eat these foods, but generally think life is too short to miss such opportunities.

But proceed with caution. The quest for superior culinary talent is a slippery slope to food snobbery. You don’t want to be that guy who turns down birthday cake unless it is make by Elizabeth Prueitt. Nobody likes that guy.

But of course, where you draw the line is up to you.

Finding Value

For me the value of food is defined by the quality of the ingredients, the talent of the chef and the nature of the occasion.

The purpose of eating should always be to make your life better in some way: may it bring you good health, sensual pleasure or stronger personal relationships.

I think it’s best when it does all of the above.

What kind of eater are you?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

For The Love of Food

by | May 8, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or my Facebook fan page know I read a lot about food and health. Every week I post dozens of interesting articles and tips I find around the internet, most of which I do not have time to blog about. In the interest of awesomeness (and time) I have decided to start posting my favorite articles from the week  every Friday in a new segment, “For The Love of Food.”

For those of you with time constraints or an aversion to social media, this should help you find and prioritize the most worthwhile food and health stories and recipes. It will also free me up to do more in depth research for my Monday and Wednesday posts, something I think we can all appreciate.

I work like mad to keep up with the most interesting news on the web, but I would love your help in this! Please feel free to send me your favorite links and I might include them in Friday’s post (with a shout out, of course!). If you think it is appropriate, you are welcome to send me articles from your own website, but please please please only send me your best material. My time is extremely limited and I hope no one chooses to abuse it by spamming me with every single one of their blog posts. But I do want to see your best work, so send it along!

If you find anything awesome that I missed, go ahead and leave us a link in the comments.

Oh, and since I know you’re wondering, yes I carved that heart out of a red bell pepper myself 😉

For The Love of Food

  • Freeze That Thought <<My favorite advice article this week about optimizing your freezer, by Mark Bittman at the New York Times.
  • Drink Away Dementia? <<There isn’t enough info about the role of food in cognitive health. I hope all the news is this good! From Medline.

Let us know what you think!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,