Friday, May 29, 2009
Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene that's been linked to reduced rates of cancers, especially lung, stomach and prostate cancers.
A study by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that men that ate 10 or more servings of tomato-based foods a week had a 45% reduced prostate cancer rate.
Lycopene is bound inside cell walls, making it difficult for the body to extract it from raw tomatoes. This explains why cooked tomatoes (ie tomato sauce) seem to be more protective than raw tomatoes or tomato juice- the heat seems to release the lycopene.
Lycopene is also fat-soluble so cooking tomatoes in oil (ie. tomato sauce!) enhances the absorption of the antioxidant.
What's causing some confusion is a study conducted at the Ohio State University on about 200 rats (a good model for human prostate cancer, supposedly). Some rats were fed diets containing whole tomato powder and others were fed rat food fortified with pure lycopene (and, consequently, received more lycopene than the tomato powder group). Reserachers caused prostate cancer in these rats.The rats fed the pure lycopene actually had more tumors and a significantly greater risk of death!
What this study suggests is that there seems to be other components in tomatoes that have a protective effect- the whole food is beneficial whereas isolated lycopene may not be.
It seems that tomatoes may also protect the heart. An Itailan study looked at the diets of 507 heart attack victims and of 478 controls- one of the items on the food frequency questionnaire was pizza. Surprisingly, regular pizza eaters (eating about 500g or just over 1/2lbs pizza a week) were 40% less likely to suffer a heart attack than those who never ate pizza!
Maybe the pizza eaters were eating less high saturated fat hamburgers. Remember that real Italian pizzas are not like the North American meat-lovers-pepperoni-3 cheese- stuffed crust ones- they have a thin crust and are dressed with olive oil, a lot of tomato sauce and some cheese. Another possibility that Dr. Schwarcz proposes is that the tomatoes may be responsible: That yellow stuff around the seeds of tomatoes contain flavonoids that have anti-clotting properties... possibly reducing the risk of heart attacks!
Bottom line: Aim to treat yourself to tomatoes, processed tomatoes or tomato products cooked in oil every day. Stay away from lycopene supplements until more research is done.
Friday, May 22, 2009
" I made grilled portobello burgers with homemade whole wheat buns, pesto, provolone and roasted red peppers. Hope you don't mind".
A Gastrosexual: A person that cooks as a hobby and uses his/her culinary skills to impress friends and potential love interests. The British Daily Mail looked at a report, the 'Emergence of the Gastrosexual', published by the food company PurAsia. Here are the highlights:
- Gastrosexuals are typically: Male, aged 25-44 and upwardly-mobile.
- The tension between cooking and masculinity has been resolved- it is now perfectly acceptable for men to show a passion for food.
- Key motivations for the Gastrosexual: Self-actualization (cooking as a passion), cooking for praise and cooking to impress and even seduce potential partners.
- 23% of 18-24 year old men say they cook to potentially seduce a partner
- 48% of people say being able to cook makes a person more attractive to them
- In 1961, women spent 10 times as much time in the kitchen as men did. By 2005, although women remained the primary cooks, men started helping out a bit more- women spent only 2 times more time in the kitchen as men did.
- The increase in the number of women working full time post-war has contributed to the rise of the Gastrosexual male.
- 50% of the men surveyed prepared meals using separate ingredients everyday, spending an average of 41 minutes in the kitchen a day.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
A study published in March’s Archives of Internal Medicine looked at the meat intake of half a million Americans aged 50-71 for 10 years.
After controlling for age, race, BMI, education, smoking history, alcohol intake, caloric intake, fruit and vegetable intake, vitamin intake, hormone therapy and physical activity, researchers found that the more red meat and processed meat people ate, the higher the mortality risk- in fact, they had a 20-40% increased risk of death. They also had a higher risk of heart disease and cancer.
The participants that ate the most meat were more likely to be of white (non-Hispanic) ethnicity, married, smokers, have a higher BMI, higher caloric, fat and saturated fat intake, have lower education and physical activity levels and lower intakes of fibre, fruits and veggies. Remember, that all these factors were controlled for though.
So, how much meat were they eating? The subjects that are the most meat were eating about 160g red meat or processed meat per day- the equivalent of about a 5 oz steak a day. The ones getting the least meat were eating just under 1 oz a day.
This study adds to what we’ve already known: red meat and processed meat are major sources of saturated fat which have been associated with high blood cholesterol, heart disease and cancer. Meat has also been shown to be a source of cancer-causing agents which are formed during high-temperature cooking. Processed meats also contain carcinogenic nitrosamines.
Since it's pretty clear that eating a diet rich in red meat and processed meat puts your health at risk, try to limit your intake- there are so many delicious vegetarians options available now... try them! Also replace your red meat with beans and lentil-based meals, fish and/or white meat as often as possible.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
First, some facts:
The more sensitive your cells are to insulin, the easier it is for the glucose (sugar) that’s in the foods you eat to get used up by your body. When your cells become insensitive or resistant to insulin, the glucose doesn’t get used up by your body but instead stays floating in your blood, causing high blood sugar. You body cries out for the glucose it needs to function causing your pancreas to over-compensate and produce even more insulin. This combination of insulin-resistance and insulin over-production by the pancreas leads to diabetes and/or obesity, increased risk of heart disease.
Inhaling oxygen produces free radicals. These free radicals attack the body causing you to age and also causes illnesses like heart disease and cancer and, eventually, death. 2-3% of the oxygen consumed by our cells is converted into free radicals.
When we exercise, we use lots of oxygen, increasing free radical production and all the stuff that goes with that.
Antioxidants are those highly publicized substances found in plant foods like fruits and vegetables that neutralize free radicals.That's why eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is good for you!
It seems logical that taking supplemental antioxidants, like Vitamins C and E, would reduce the harmful effects of the free radicals produced during exercise and promote longer life and better health, right?
That’s what German researchers thought when they decided to observe 40 young healthy men (half were pretty sedentary and half exercised about 6 hours a week)- randomly assigned, half took a combination of 1000mg of vitamin C (btw, the recommended intake is 75mg and 90mg/day for women and men respectively) and 400 IU of vitamin E (recommended intake is 33 IU/d)- these amounts are commonly found in over-the-counter supplements- for 4 weeks while the other half didn’t. Both groups exercised, supervised, 85 minutes a day, five days a week for the 4 weeks of the study (workouts included biking, running and circuit training).
What they Found:
The exercisers NOT taking the antioxidants did have more free radicals floating around in their bodies but had a significant increase in insulin sensitivity (a good thing), as predicted. However, there was no increase in insulin sensitivity in those taking the antioxidants... but there were less free radicals.
It seems that the supplemental antioxidants prevent the health benefits of exercise when it comes to diabetes prevention. According to the authors, the free radicals produced during exercise are actually a good thing as they activate the body’s defense systems against exercise-induced stress, allowing it to use carbohydrates (glucose) more efficiently, thus helping to prevent diabetes and possibly other diseases. Taking supplemental antioxidants blocks this process and therefore health promoting effects of exercise.
Antioxidants like Vitamins C and E found in food protect our body from damage and help prevent diseases like cancer- this doesn’t change. However, taking high doses in supplemental form can be harmful.
As I’ve said before, if you're healthy and eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, you don’t need supplements!
Monday, May 18, 2009
"Of course there are no wonder foods. There are good diets and bad diets."
Dr. Joe Schwarcz
I'm reading Joe Schwarcz's latest book An Apple a Day: The myths, misconceptions and truths about the foods we eat.
Wonderful read... will blog all about it in the days to come!
Friday, May 15, 2009
Percent of population overweight, male/female: 72/70%
Percent of population obese, male/female: 32/38%
Percent of population over the age of 20 with diabetes: 8.8%
Percent of dieting men/women on any given day: 25/45%
Percent of all dieters who will regain their lost weight within 1-5 years: 95%
Caloric intake available daily per person: 3,774 calories
Annual alcohol consumption per person (alcohol content only): 9.6 quarts (~9 liters)
Cigarette consumption per person per year: 2,255
Sugar and sweetener available per person per year: 158 lbs
Soft drink consumption per person per year: 54.8 gallons (~207 liters)
Meat consumption per person per year: 275 lbs
McDonald's restaurants: 13,491
Liposuction surgeries per year: 400,000
Gastric bypass surgeries per year: 150,000
Percent paid by taxpayers for obesity-related medical costs: 50%
Annual spending on dieting and diet-related products: $40 billion
Taken directly from Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel
Thursday, May 14, 2009
In Canada, we're awaiting Health Canada's decision to allow the food industry to fortify packaged and processed foods with vitamins and minerals. The decision was supposed to be made end of March but because of division within Health Canada on the merits of fortification, it's been delayed.
Health experts are understandably worried that the proposal will pass and allow junk food manufacturers to add nutrients and market their products as healthy, exacerbating unhealthy eating habits and cause confusion about nutritional benefits of certain foods.
Packaged and processed foods are generally high in calories, sugar, fat, salt, negating any benefit derived from adding some vitamins or minerals to them.
Health Canada stated that its tests on focus groups demonstrated that people are not likely to choose fortified junk food over healthy food... but health experts are skeptical.
The industry group Food and Consumer Products of Canada, representing the majority of packaged foods on the supermarket shelves, argues that fortificaion would allow consumers to more easily meet daily nutritional requriements. That's great but we're not a nation that is nutritonally deficient... given our over-abundance of food. In fact, another concerns is that adding all these vitamins and minerals could lead to an overconsumption of nutients. In order to avoid this, Health Canada claims that the propsed policy will limit the amount of nutrients that can be added to food and won't be left to the the discretion of food manufacturers.
Canada's food industry also argues that the out-of-date and strict fortification policies in Canada make it difficult for them to keep up with other countries and develop innovative food products. Moreover, given the fact that the US allows more products to be fortified, harmonization would cut production costs. Maybe, but doesn't make it right.
The Americans are also more liberal in their labeling laws, something that's finally getting a bit more scrutiny. The FDA has taken action against General Mills for its misleading claims that Cheerios can reduce "bad" cholesterol levels by 4% in 6 weeks and ward off heart disease and cancers of the colon and stomach. (These claims don't appear on Canadian boxes because we're more strict with our labeling laws).
In its letter to General Mills, the FDA states that if the cereal does as indicated, it's acting like a cholesterol-lowering drug and should therefore be treated like a drug- and can't legally be marketed with the claim without an approved new drug application.
Hopefully Health Canada will make the right decsion and not allow fortification of packaged and processed foods... fingers crossed!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
A review of the research indicates that eating late dinners or snacking at night will not lead you to gain weight faster. Rather, it's the total number of calories you eat in a day that matters... it makes no difference when those calories are eaten.
A 2006 study published in Obesity Research observed rhesus monkeys (supposedly an excellent model for humans) fed a typical North American diet for a year. The monkeys' eating patterns varied greatly- they ate between 6-64% of their calories at night. The monkeys that ate the majority of their calories at night did not gain more weight than those that ate more during the day.
Human studies have found the same thing.
That said, we do recommend you spread your calories throughout the day:
Eat breakfast to rev up your metabolism and break that fast and eat every 4-6 hours to keep your body and brain fueled and to regulate your appetite. If you do get hungry at night, stick with portion-controlled snacks of less than 200 calories- ie. small bowl of cereal, fruit, air-popped popcorn, yogourt, whole grain toast with peanut butter etc.
If you find yourself restricting your food intake all day and eating the majority of your calories at night, talk to your doctor. Night-Eating Syndrome, although not officially defined as an eating disorder yet, is a form of binge eating and is becoming more understood by the medical community.
- Little or no appetite for breakfast.
- Eating more than half of one's daily food intake after dinner. This behaviour continues over a period of at least three months.
- Feeling tense, anxious, upset or guilty while eating.
- Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Eating continually in the evening rather than bingeing in relatively short episodes.
- Experiencing guilt and shame from eating rather than enjoyment.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Sugars are simple carbohydrates composed of a single sugar (ie. glucose, fructose) or 2 sugars together (table sugar, sucrose, is made of glucose linked to fructose).
In comparison, starch is a complex carbohydrate- made of lots of glucose molecules linked together in very long chains.
The long chains can't be absorbed by the intestine but have to be broken down to single units of glucose to be useable. Simple carbohydrates, though, are readily useable. But do they make us fat?
We know that a calorie is a calorie. Excess calories from sugar will lead to weight gain, just like extra calories from protein or fat. However, when you eat too much glucose at a time, the body can't handle it. What happens is that your pancreas makes too much insulin. Insulin is supposed to take the glucose and put it in your body tissues so it can be used. When there's too much insulin though, it grabs all your available glucose, including the little bit that's supposed to stay in your blood. The result is that your blood sugar drops and you feel hungry. You then eat more and those extra calories will lead to weight gain.
Moreover, your muscles cells start to resist taking in the excess glucose resulting in that excess getting stored as fat.
So yes. Eating too much simple sugars does put you at risk for weight gain.
Fibre slows down the absorption of glucose which is why a high fibre diet- a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains- prevents heath problems.
The Glycemic Index ranks foods according to how quickly they break down to glucose. Click here to read more about Glycemic Index from a previous blog entry.
In general, highly processed starchy foods- crackers, pretzels, cookies- and sugary foods- sodas, candies, desserts, sugary cereals- have no fiber and will cause havoc for your metabolism, providing a huge influx of glucose.
How much sugar is too much sugar?
Per day, it's recommended that less than 10% of your total calories come from added sugars (this doesn't include sugar found naturally in fruits and plain milk). In a 2000 calorie diet, that means you should be aiming for less than 50 grams (about 10 teaspoons) of added sugar a day. The average American eats double that a day.
Sweet tips to limiting your sugar intake
Avoid or cut back on non-diet soft drinks. A 12 oz can of Coke has practically your daily limit of added sugars, 40 grams!!
Watch out for fruit 'drinks', 'beverages', and 'cocktails'- they contain very little real fruit juice and a lot of sugar.
Limit candy, cookies, cakes, pies, doughnuts, granola bars, pastries and other sweet baked goods- eat fruit instead. Desserts in restaurants, with their huge portion sizes, have a large amount of added sugar. A medium chocolate milkshake at McDonald's has a whopping 111g sugar!
Remember that 'fat-free' does not mean 'sugar-free' or 'calorie-free' .
Look for breakfast cereals with less than 10 grams (ideally less than 8 grams) of sugar per serving- read the label!
I found this cool site, sugarstacks.com , that shows us how much sugar there are in some foods. Pretty eye-opening!
They use sugar cubes- 1 cube is equivalent to 1tsp or 4grams.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Foodie: An amateur who not only loves food, but is interested in it. Interests and activities of a foodie include the food industry, wineries and wine tasting, food science, cooking & baking, restaurant opening and closings, food fads and health and nutrition.
A foodie will never answer "what are you eating" with "I don't know".
I guess I'm a foodie...
This movie, about a famous chef and a foodie & blogger, looks amazing! Here's the excerpt from the project this movie was based on:
"Mastering the Art of French Cooking". First edition, 1961. Louisette Berthole. Simone Beck. And, of course, Julia Child. The book that launched a thousand celebrity chefs. Julia Child taught America to cook, and to eat. It’s forty years later. Today we think we live in the world Alice Waters made, but beneath it all is Julia, 90 if she's a day, and no one can touch her.
Government drone by day, renegade foodie by night. Too old for theater, too young for children, and too bitter for anything else, Julie Powell was looking for a challenge. And in the Julie/Julia project she found it. Risking her marriage, her job, and her cats’ well-being, she has signed on for a deranged assignment.
365 days. 536 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen.
How far will it go? We can only wait. And wait. And wait…..
The Julie/Julia Project. Coming soon to a computer terminal near you....And now to a theater near you August 7th!
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The International No Diet Day, started by British feminist Mary Evans Young in 1992, is a celebration of body acceptance and body shape diversity and a day dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of dieting.
The Body Image Coalition recommends:
- Celebrate your natural size, eat well and be physically active every day
- Pay others a compliment based on something other than weight-related qualities
- Don't compare your body to others
- Avoid fad diets and eat healthily
- Help young people understand that the image of beauty portrayed in the media are not normal.
Disappointment with diets shouldn't come as a surprise. I've blogged about the lemonade diet recently. There's the cabbage soup diet, the grapefruit diet, the Subway diet, the Scarsdale diet (promising 1 lbs weight loss a day!), the cookie diet. The list goes on. The fact is, you'll lose weight if you follow these diets... at least for a little while. However, the more restrictive the diet, the more hungry you'll be and the more you'll crave once-favourite foods you've given up. You'll inevitably "cheat", leading to feelings of failure and hopelessness and, in turn, you'll most likely give up on all weight loss strategies, including the good ones like exercise.
A healthy sustainable diet with lots of choices, few (if any) restrictions and no 'special foods' that's not only good for your waistline but for your heart, bones, brain, colon and psyche is what will help you meet your goals and keep you happy and healthy for a lifetime.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I just received the Mindless Eater newsletter put out by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab Team (founded by Brian Wansink, author of the great eye-opening book Mindless Eating) in which they report a study they did published in the Feb 09 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The group looked at 14 of the 18 recipes that appear in each edition of the very popular cookbook The Joy of Cooking throughout its 70 year history and found that the caloric content of the recipes increased by about 43.7% ! Furthermore, 17 of the 18 recipes showed an average of 63% increase in caloric content per suggested serving.
The authors found that in 1936, the average calories per recipe was 2124 and about 268 calories/serving. In 2006, the average calories per recipe rose to 3052 and about 436 calories per serving!
The recipes the team look at included macaroni & cheese, beef stroganoff, brownies, sugar cookies and apple pie. The caloric content increase is due to:
Changes in serving sizes.
What served 7 in 1936 served only 4 people in 1986!
In 1997, the basic waffle recipe made 12 six-inch waffles The same recipe in 2006 make 6 waffles.
The use of higher calorie ingredients.
For example, in the 1997 edition, the beef stroganoff recipe called for 2 Tbsp sour cream. The 2006 edition called for 1 cup!
Wansink points out that people often blame eating out for weight gain, but what we eat and do at home may be equally bad.
What can you do?
Rather than adhering to the cookbook's serving size suggestions, use your judgement. A recipe that claims to serve 4 can probably easily serve 6 or more. Make those brownies or cookies smaller. That cake recipe can be cut into 18 slices insted of 12 etc.
Don't feel that you need to follow a recipe to the letter. Use lower fat ingredients, ie. skim milk instead of 2% milk, low fat sour cream, lean meats. I always cut the sugar they ask for in half. Don't pack down the brown sugar. I replace at least 1/2 of the all-purpose flour (usually all of it) with whole wheat flour. I always use less fat. You can replace some of the oil they ask for in baked good with applesauce. Use less chocolate chips. Use less meat and add more vegetables. etc.
Beth Wareham, editor of the 2006 edition of the Joy of Cooking, even states that " in putting together the latest edition, writers and recipe-testers used their common sense in terms of ingredients and serving sizes, and they figured readers have some common sense of their own. "
Sunday, May 3, 2009
I recently finished the book the '100 Mile Diet: A year of local eating' and I highly recommend it- it will change the way you think about what you eat. The book has spurred a phenomenon (I actually blogged about the movement this time last year!), enticing many to move towards a local-based diet and even inspiring a TV show- The Canadian Food Network hosts the 100 Mile Challenge in which the Canadian authors of the book, partners Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, challenge 6 families from Mission, British Columbia, to follow a 100-Mile Diet for 100 Days.
Not long ago, I blogged about another book that had a similar effect on me: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. (As I mentioned in that blog, if you don't have the time to read the book but have a free hour, check out Pollan's great lecture in which he covers the main point of his book by clicking Here). Equally inspiring but written in a completely different format, the authors of The 100 Mile Diet take turns writing the chapters of their memoir, sharing their experience of eating only foods within a 100 mile radius of their apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Alisa and James bring us through their very personal journey over their year: their daunting realization of what they wouldn't be able to eat (sugar, coffee, chocolate, chips, peanut butter, orange juice, Cola, canned soup, oreos, Ben & Jerry's, beer, Cheerios, all-purpose flour...), dealing with the monotony of eating a lot of potatoes during their first winter and their relationship troubles to discovering the joys of making a great meal from scratch using ingredients of known origin, learning how different and wonderful fresh food tastes, developing relationships with local growers (and with their food) and finally becoming completely self-sufficient on local foods... All while making their readers feel that they if they could do it, so can we.
Why should we aim to eat locally? The authors explain that we're so separated from our food and value it so little, even ignoring the huge impact eating factory-produced foods and foods shipped from across the country (or the world) has on our environment and our health:
A few facts from the book:
- The food we eat typically travels 1500-3000 miles before landing on our plate.
- A regional diet consumes 17 times less oil and gas than a typical diet based on food shipped across the country.
- The United States has lost 2/3 of its farms since 1920.
- Soft drinks, sweets and alcoholic beverages account for 25% of all calories consumed in America. Meanwhile, Americans eat half as many servings of vegetables recommended- 50% of the vegetables eaten include just 3: iceberg lettuce, potatoes and canned tomatoes.
The group Food & Water Watch just posted a great Virtual Grocer that allows you to find out where the food you buy comes from. Try it! It's so interesting.
For example, did you know that if you buy a kiwi in the States, there's a 4 in 5 chance it's imported- most likely from Chile or New Zealand. Asparagus? 57% of the asparagus sold in the States comes from Peru.
What can you do to eat more locally?
Start small- aim to try making one local meal a week, for example.
Find the farmer's market nearest to you and make it part of your weekly food shopping.
Consider joining a CSA- Community Supported Agriculture- allowing you to support a specific local farm by paying a lump sum at the beginning of the growing season and then receiving that farm's food products (whatever is in season) year-round. If you're in the States, Local Harvest is a great resource to find a local CSA; In Canada, click Here.
Buy local produce in bulk and learn how to preserve it. Click Here for more info on preservation.
Try planting a small vegetable garden!
Friday, May 1, 2009
It's almost summer, time to get bikini-ready, and the perfect time to debunk some of those diet myths!
Nope. Dietary fat does not make you fat.
- Randomized weight loss studies show little net weight change after a year of following a low fat diet- although people on the low fat diets generally lost 2-4 lbs after a few weeks, they also tended to regain that weight while continuing with the diet.
- In European country-to-country surveys , women eating the least amount of fat were the most likely to be obese while those with the higher fat intake were least likely to be so. (For European men, there was no relation between fat intake and obesity).
- In the United States, the gradual reduction of the fat content of the average diet from 40% of total calories to about 33% has been accompanied by a gradual increase in the average weight and a dramatic increase in obesity rates.
The fat in your diet doesn't make you fat. You gain weight when you eat more calories (whether coming from carbs, protein or fat) than you burn off.
The goal is to cut back on bad fats (saturated and trans fats) and increase good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats).
If you're already on a low fat diet, think about replacing some of those carbs with unsaturated fats.
An added benefit of replacing saturated fats and carbs in your diet with unsaturated fats is that your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke will decrease by :
- Lowering your "lousy" LDL cholesterol, - Preventing the increase of your triglycerides (fat in your blood),
- Reducing development of erratic heartbeats, the main cause of sudden cardiac death,
- Reducing the tendency for arterial blood clots to form.