Tag Archives: diet

Eating Disorders: Not Just a White Girl’s Problem

Gwyneth image via SFGate

No matter what I do, I will never be as strong or thin as Gwyneth. (#whitegirlproblems)

If you thought eating disorders were only for white girls, think again.
New studies of disordered eating among racial and ethnic minorities are challenging the widespread perception that these afflictions are the sole domain of privileged, white teenagers.

For years, girls of color were thought to be immune. The cultural standards of beauty in Black and Latina communities had always valued size and curves, and put less emphasis on thinness. But new generations of minority girls are striving to conform to the standards of the prevailing culture, and its reinforced by the increasing diversity of fashion and advertising, with images of thin, beautiful Hispanic- and African-American women joining those of whites.

I need to lose about 6,000 pounds. (#whitegirlproblems)

The classic study of body image presents girls with a set of female silhouette images and instructs them to select their current and ideal from the choices. Body dissatisfaction is then calculated by ascertaining the absolute differences between participants’ current and ideal silhouettes. Historically, the white girls in these studies chose smaller ideal silhouettes and demonstrated vastly higher rates of dissatisfaction with their current shape; recent results show non-whites choosing larger sizes for their current representations, but virtually no difference in the choice of ideal form.

This toothpaste tastes fattening. (#whitegirlproblems)

Now that they have the same anxiety and shame about their bodies, girls of color are succumbing to the same eating disorders as the white girls. Occurrences are at a rate of about 1.5% for all population groups. White and Latina girls are more inclined to be anorexic, while Black and Native American girls have higher rates of bulimia. Only Asian-American girls, with their naturally smaller body types, are less prone to engage in disordered eating.

I was gonna work out but I’m hungry so…..oh well. I’m just gonna embrace my body and be a size 6. *sigh* (#whitegirlproblems)

Looks like it’s time for an overhaul over at White Girl Problems. *
Or at least a new name.

*In case you missed it:
WGP
is the twitter feed/internet meme/pop culture sensation/now a book that spoofs the obnoxious, condescending, and frivolous whinings of the privileged and self-absorbed. It’s a world that is profoundly inconvenienced by shopping, yoga, boyfriends, roommates, and especially the pursuit of a decent low-fat frozen yogurt.

 

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Don’t Eat a Bad Sex Diet. Avoid these Libido-Killers.

You won her heart with long-stemmed roses. Now what?
Keep the post-Valentine’s Day doldrums at bay by steering clear of these foods. Every one of them is known to kill the sex drive.

Gin and tonic
You already know about the effects of gin (I believe the proper medical terminology is whiskey dick), but did you know that tonic water also suppresses the libido? The quinine that flavors it is known to lower testosterone levels. Gin with tonic water is a double whammy in a highball glass.

Microwave popcorn
Pop a bag and the nonstick chemicals used on the inner lining of the microwave bag are transferred to the popcorn you eat. The most commonly used of the chemicals contain substances that have been linked to testicular tumors, infertility, and lower sex drive.

 

Moroccan spices
The Willams-Sonoma website describes its little jar of ras el hanout as ‘notable for its rich aroma and well-balanced curry-like flavor.’ Ras el hanout is even more notable for containing agnus castus, a spice better known as monk’s pepper or chaste berry, an ingredient prized in monastery kitchens for helping monks to maintain their vows of chastity.

Black licorice
A simple movie date is a nice follow-up to the Valentine’s Day fuss, but skip the concession stand Good & Plenty. Black licorice contains testosterone-lowering phytoestrogens. Just the black. Have some Red Vines instead.

Mint
Mint tea is a common homeopathic remedy prescribed for women with excess body hair. The mint oil in the tea (and other minty foods) makes the extra hair fall out by lowering the drinker’s testosterone. This is a good thing. Not so good for men who want to hang on to their testosterone and their hair.

And then there’s soy.
Soy gets a special mention because it doesn’t belong on this list.
For years it’s been getting a bad rap. The story goes that soy is loaded with estrogen; it will overwhelm your system with female hormones, your testosterone will plummet, your muscles (and more!) will start shrinking, and you’ll develop gynecomastia, a.k.a. man boobs. Not true. The misinformation stems from a lone test subject in a single study who apparently did grow breasts and did drink soy milk in ungodly amounts, but he also suffered from a host of other health and weight-related issues that were not widely reported but probably the true culprits.

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Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Drink Soda

We all know about tooth decay from the sugar and the elevated risk of diabetes, asthma, and heart disease associated with obesity. But there are plenty of other reasons not to drink soda.

Weird fat accumulations
According to a recently published Danish study, a liter of soda a day can dramatically increase the amount of fat surrounding the liver and skeletal muscles. Soda doesn’t simply make you fat—it makes you weirdly fat.

 

Fat in the usual place- even from diet soda
Of course all the sugar in soda will cause weight gain, but did you know that even diet soda settles in your midsection? Researchers from the University of Texas reported something they call the diet soda paradox. They monitored subjects for 10 years and found that those who drank diet soda had a 70% percent increase in waist circumference compared with those who didn’t drink any soda. Those who drank more than two diet sodas per day saw their waists expand by 500%.

Wouldn’t you rather have a crusty baguette and a nicely ripened Camembert?
One soda a day—less than the average daily consumption in this country—adds up to around 90,000 calories a year. That’s a lot of empty calories. Think of all the wonderful splurges you have to forgo to make room for that in your diet.

 

Old before your time
The resin lining of soda cans contains a hormones that ages your body prematurely and brings on early puberty in children. The phosphates shrink muscle and leach calcium from your bones giving you old-lady osteoporosis, and a new study links the sugars to high blood pressure. And rats given the compounds found in cola drinks died five weeks early; you don’t even want to think about what that means in human years.

Poison for all ages
High-fructose corn syrup derived from genetically-modified corn; brominated vegetable oil with an alternative use as a flame retardant— these soda additives are banned in more than 100 countries, but Americans happily drink them up. The substances have been linked to memory loss, nerve disorders, autism, infertility, and a jumble of cancers.

Glass, aluminum, plastic; take your pick
Glass is heaviest to ship; we export our planet-warming carbon dioxide addiction along with Coca Cola. Aluminum is an environmental disaster before the soda cans are even pressed. And then there’s the ubiquitous plastic bottles. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating mass of plastic debris that covers an area larger than most European nations. More than 200 species of fish and marine wildlife ingest the toxic trash, including some that end up at supermarket fish counters.

You really don’t want your neighbor drinking diet soda
Artificial sweeteners and other soda additives pass through both our bodies and waste water treatment plants without breaking down. A recent test of major municipal water supplies serving 28 million people found sucralose in 8 out of 12 of them. Yes, that’s someone else’s post-digestion Splenda in your drinking water.

 

 

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How Food Influences Dreams

image via the film 'Sleeping and Dreaming of Food'

You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!

-- Scrooge to Marley’s ghost; from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Was it something I ate?
Anyone who has ever gone to bed after a dinner of enchiladas can tell you that what you eat affects your dreams. Surprisingly, there is very little solid science to explain it.

Spicy foods in particular are notorious for inspiring especially vivid dreams.
Some in the medical community have theorized that the heat from the spices elevates body temperature enough to interfere with the quality of sleep. The discomfort then works its way into your subconscious, and is reflected in the narrative it creates. Real life stomach aches and other types of gastric distress can end up as dream-pain experienced by your dream-self.

Another theory suggests that what you eat before bedtime isn’t as important as how much you eat and when you eat it. Any digestion increases the metabolism and brain activity, so the more you eat and the closer it is to bedtime, the more vivid the dreams.

Sweet dreams: Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is another culprit. When your body’s blood sugar level is low, which happens when you haven’t eaten in a long while before bedtime, your brain gives you a little spurt of adrenaline that causes your body to drop some stored glucose into the bloodstream. If you’ve ever had a dream that wasn’t just vivid but also felt especially frantic, you know the feeling of adrenalized dreaming.

If you’ve ever dreamed you were sitting in a restaurant only to wake up and find your partner cooking up some bacon, you already know that food smells can creep into your dreams. The sense of smell is associated with the part of the brain that is associated with emotions, so food smells can take on a literal meaning and also affect the mood of your sleeping-self. One study (unpublished but presented to the American Academy of Otolarygology) pumped different scents into the nostrils of sleeping subjects, and found that dream moods and impressions were clearly colored by the smells, although dream content seemed unchanged.

Gaming your own dreams
We know that food affects dreams, but no one has figured out how to use it to manipulate the content of dreams, Inception-style. The best we can do is choose foods and time our meals to get the best night’s sleep possible. Web MD has a slide show of foods that help and foods that harm your sleep.

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Subway is Bigger than McDonald’s, But is it Better?

image via NMA.TV

Subway has given McDonald’s a good thumping.
About a year ago Subway surpassed the long time leader in restaurant count, and McDonald’s has been choking on Subway’s dust ever since with a mere 33,000+ locations to Subway’s nearly 36,000.

Subway owes much of its success to its image as a healthy alternative to the traditional fast food meal of burger and fries. The chain gets a lot of traction from its ‘Eat Fresh’ slogan, and especially from an innovative ad campaign promoting a weight loss angle through spokesman Jared Fogle who reportedly lost 245 pounds by exercising and eating only Subway sandwiches. The company now has a lucrative hold on the minds of fast food eaters as the virtuous option.

According to the marketing researchers at Decision Analyst, more Subway customers than any other quick-serve restaurant patrons (42%, versus a low of 3% for Taco Bell) choose the restaurant because of its selection of healthy offerings. Subway also rates highest in consumer trust; in fact it’s the only one of these restaurant with more people who ‘completely trust’ their nutritional claims than ’do not trust’ them (again, Taco Bell is in the cellar with just 7.5% of consumers putting faith in their claims).

Subway says its better, and we believe it’s better, but is it really?

The truth is, you can eat a low-cal, low-fat meal at either chain, albeit one loaded with hormones, pesticides, preservatives, and sodium. Both chains offer their share of options, though McDonald’s selection of snack-sized wraps and salads feels meager and skimpy next to Subway’s assortment of meal-sized 300 calorie subs. But Subway more than holds its fat-laden own when it comes to core menu items. The chain’s top-seller is the B.M.T., short for Biggest, Meatiest, Tastiest; the 6 inch version, at 450 calories, is on par with McDonald’s Big ‘N Tasty, and the best-selling meatball marinara sub, also in the small size, tops the Big Mac by an (un)healthy margin. Opt for a 12 incher- even chicken or tuna- and you can be eating a thousand-calorie sandwich. Get it on Subway’s honey oat roll and the bread alone snags you more than 500 calories.

Researchers have also found something they call a ‘health halo’ associated with a Subway meal. Consumers are so familiar with Subway’s claims as the healthier choice that they will underestimate the calories they are actually consuming. The misperception that they are being ‘good’ influences them to be ‘bad’ with other food choices: studies have shown Subway diners to be more inclined to justify an order of chips or dessert, and one study’s participants ended up consuming 56% more calories than those eating at McDonald’s.

Basically, eating at any fast food restaurant is like jumping out of a window. It doesn’t really matter if it’s the 30th floor or the 40th; the net effect to your health will be pretty much the same.

 

 

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Why We Drool

image via Abracadebra

Pavlov’s drooling dog has nothing on us.
Each of us pumps out a liter or two of the stuff daily. Food photography, TV cooking shows, even the mere reading of menu descriptions can get us dribbling. A typical year’s worth of saliva could fill your bathtub a few times over.

Saliva is much more than water. It’s teeming with hormones, proteins, and enzymes that heal wounds, keep our teeth from rotting, and help to control the hordes of unhealthy microbes that find their way into our mouths. It’s essential to our sense of taste, helps us to swallow, and makes food digestible.

Drooling also plays a role in weight loss. It’s part of the body’s automatic appetite response. We salivate at the sight, sound, and especially smell of tempting foods and that causes the body to produce insulin, the hormone that encourages our bodies to store fat and triggers hunger signals from the brain and intestines. Basically, drooling is related to the factors that undermine our resolve to eat healthfully—really, who’s drooling over celery sticks?

Successful dieters seem to be able to rewire the appetite response. Research has shown that people who struggle with their weight drool more than individuals who’ve succeeded on diets. It seems that if a dieter can consistently and repeatedly resist temptations, over time their saliva response will decrease. Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows that the toughest part of any diet is just getting started; the drool data tell us that it gets easier if a dieter can push through the early days and reprogram their appetite responses.

It’s not just about food.
Are you drooling over the new iPhone? That’s not just a figure of speech; we really do salivate for material goods. The results from two recent studies published in The Journal of Consumer Research reported increased saliva flow in subjects shown photographs of shiny new sports cars, cashmere sweaters, and piles of money. By contrast, they got dry-mouthed from images of office supplies.

This is all sounding very Pavlovian. Instead of a dog and a bell, we’re drooling reflexively over everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to paper bills with pictures of dead presidents. But we are not simple stimulus-response machines. We are infinitely more complex with active internal lives and the capacity to ignore, resist, choose, and change. We’re not immune to conditioning, but we are free to chart a different course.

Now that we know why we drool, we can use the knowledge to rise above it.

 

 

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Make Plans, Not Resolutions

[image via TheResurgance.com]

New Years resolutions are a sucker’s bet.
We all know it. Even so, there’s something about the next year’s calendar with all its small, clean squares so full of potential.
Resist the urge.
Make plans, not resolutions. Lay foundations instead of boundaries.

DON’T resolve to eat out less often. INSTEAD get your house in good cooking order.
Keep a well stocked pantry, have your knives professionally sharpened, buy lots and lots of condiments, play with your forgotten utensils and appliances (have you ever used the sausage attachment that came with your food processor?).

DON’T resolve to limit your fats. INSTEAD plan to savor every bite.
Experiment with nut oils and buy different grades of olive oil— use the good stuff when it counts. Eat really fresh butter from grass-fed cows. Same for cheese. And ice cream.

DON’T give up meat. INSTEAD plan to broaden your culinary horizens.
Beans, nuts, grains, and even green vegetables contain protein. Did you know that there are 40,000 different varieties of rice? That should keep you busy for a while.

DON’T give up refined foods. INSTEAD plan to make informed decisions.
Know your food—where it’s from and what’s been done to it.

If you must make a New Years resolution, make it this one:
This year, I resolve to enjoy my relationship with food.
Make 2012 a celebration, not a challenge.

 

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Your Plate is Making You Fat

image via Beard Crumbs

It turns out that portion control is just an optical illusion.
The size and shape, even the color of dishes and glasses have a huge effect on how much we eat and drink. We pour larger drinks into short, wide glasses, and put big servings on big plates. When the food coordinates with the plate’s color, we load up even more.

Did you think it was your appetite and willpower determining choices?
We face an average of 226 food-related choices in a day, but we exercise conscious decision-making in only around 15 of them. The other 200 or so daily food choices are essentially mindless decisions. You’ll finish any sized hamburger just because you always eat a whole hamburger, grab a doughnut because someone brought a box into the office, and help yourself to seconds because the bowl is right there.

Size matters.
Fifty years ago, the standard dinner plate had a 9 inch diameter. Today, it’s most likely to be 12 inches, and we tend to calibrate our appetites to what’s on the plate instead of what our bodies tell us.

Color matters too.
Portions appear smaller when the food blends with the plate color. You’re likely to eat more spaghetti with marinara sauce on a red plate and cornbread on a yellow one. White and blue plates tend to provide the best contrast for portion control; researchers say red and gold are the worst. Even the tablecloth color can shape portion perceptions.

It’s impossible to avoid the environmental cues that encourage us to eat, but recognizing them is a step in the right direction.

 

 

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The Snack of Your Dreams

image via PEANUTS Worldwide LLC

Forget that glass of warm milk at bedtime.
It might feel as cozy as a tuck-in from Mom, but it’s doing more harm than good when it comes to falling asleep.

The right foods before bed can contribute to restful sleep. Sleep-friendly foods are rich in tryptophan, the notorious nap-inducer found in Thanksgiving’s turkey dinner. The wrong foods have amino acids that keep the tryptophan from crossing into the brain where it’s converted into the sedatives serotonin and melatonin.
A glass of warm milk is one of those wrong foods.

A well-chosen bedtime snack can help you get a restful, restorative night’s sleep. According to the sleep specialists at the Mayo Clinic, you want to avoid garlicky, spicy, fatty foods before bed. Here are the three most highly recommended bedtime snacks:

  • Popcorn, preferably air-popped, washed down with cherry juice
  • Oatmeal with sliced banana and just a splash of nonfat milk
  • Low- or nonfat yogurt with a sprinkle of almonds or sesame seeds

The meal of your dreams:
Monastrell Restaurante
in southern Spain serves a special “sleep menu” that is purported to cure insomnia. The chef claims knowledge of a secret ingredient prized during the Roman empire for its soporific qualities. Courses include grilled octopus, pumpkin lasagne, turbot with lemon calamari, lemon sponge cake, and olive oil sorbet.

 

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Holiday Weight Gain: First the good news…

How about the good news first…
Reports of holiday weight gain have been greatly exaggerated. The perception is that we really pack on the pounds at holiday time. The reality (according to the National Institutes of Health) is a typical weight gain of between 0.4 and 1.8 pounds— just about one pound on average. Despite six weeks of free-flowing eggnog from Thanksgiving through New Years, the typical weight gain is surprisingly small— except for the already-overweight who tend to keep growing during the holidays.

And the bad news…
It may be a mere pound, but the weight adds up.
Most people don’t ever lose that extra holiday pound.

Our weight is on an upward creep through the adult years. On the march toward the middle-age spread, and the health complications that accompany it like diabetes and heart disease, we tend to accumulate about 2 pounds each year. About half of that can be traced to seasonal overindulgence.

A January menu of cottage cheese and rice cakes.
40% of all New Years resolutions relate to diet and weight loss. We take alcohol and red meat off the menu and sign up for gym memberships. Unfortunately, research shows that our resolve is not so strong: six out of ten will fall off the wagon by January 6th.

There are unexpected side effects to holiday weight gain.
You’re not the only one affected. Read: Pet Parade: Holiday weight gain affects pets too.
And then there’s that special someone. Last year, BeautifulPeople.com, apparently a dating site for the thin and superficial, canceled more than 5,000 memberships on the basis of profile photos showing evidence of holiday overindulgence. In the words of the site’s founder, Robert Hintze, “Letting fatties roam the site is a direct threat to our business model and the very concept for which BeautifulPeople.com was founded.” You can read about it in Dating Site for Beautiful People Expels “Fatties” Over Holiday Weight Gain.

Feel free to make a New Years resolution to send nasty email messages to Mr. Hintze.

 

 

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The Myth of the Sugar High

Let’s put this one to rest once and for all…
Sugar does NOT turn kids into hyperactive maniacs.
There’s NO SUCH THING as a sugar-induced high.

I know what you’re thinking. Of course it’s real. You’ve seen it with your own eyes. Two cans of Coke or a birthday party goodie bag and the kids are bouncing off the walls.

But study after study after study proves otherwise. Researchers have tested the sugar in soda, candy, and fruit; compared honey, molasses, corn syrup, and cane sugar; looked at short-term and long-term effects; examined young kids, old kids, kids with ADHD and the purportedly sugar sensitive; and the results are always the same: there is no scientific cause and effect between sweets and hyperactivity. In fact the only reason there are so many studies is because you refuse to believe the results.

I know. You’re still not convinced because studies, schmudies; you know what you know—a handful of Hershey’s Kisses and you’re prying the little ones off the ceiling.

The scientific community has a couple of theories.
All suggest that there is a legitimate high; it’s just not really from the sugar.

The buzz can come from the sheer thrill of getting a sweet treat—eating a forbidden or restricted food can in itself create a certain excitement. Then there are the environmental factors. Often the treats are given on occasions when the kids are already amped up like a play date, the ball park, a holiday, a school event, or a party. It can also be the caffeine that’s found in the treats—it’s in soda, and not just cola but some orange, cream soda, and lemon-lime varieties; and it’s in the chocolate in cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, candy bars, pudding, ice cream, and more. And then there are the expectations. Parents are on alert, on the lookout for bad behavior, maybe even fueling it by raising the anxiety level in their kids.

There are plenty of  good reasons to limit the amount of sugar in children’s diets. A sugar high just isn’t one of them.

 

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Cat-Pork, Latex-Fruit and other Cross-Allergies

image via BuzzNet

Hay fever sufferers should take a pass on the swiss chard and sunflower seeds. No celery sticks in the shade of a birch tree either. Skip the dill pickles if you react to latex, steer clear of tropical fruit if dust mites make you sneeze, and yes, pork and cat dander can be problematic.

These are all examples of cross-allergies (also known as Pollen-Food or Oral Allergy Syndrome), and like the recent rise of food allergies, they are becoming more common. About a third of seasonal allergy sufferers will cross-react to the wrong foods, but the number is closer to two-thirds if birch or alder pollen are your triggers.

Here’s how it works: the same chemicals that cause hay fever and other airborne allergies can also be found in some foods. There’s a whole grocery list of reactive foods, but the culprit is usually a raw fruit or vegetable that has the same protein as the airborne allergen. Eat the wrong food, and it sends the immune system into overdrive and triggers an allergic reaction. Instead of the sneezing and itchy eyes you get when you inhale the allergen, you’ll end up with a tingly mouth, hives, difficulty swallowing, or even anaphylaxis—all food allergy symptoms.

These are the most commonly occurring cross-allergies and their offending foods:

  • Dust/Dust Mites: mangos, shellfish, plums, melons, tomato, avocado, pawpaw, pineapple, peaches, and kiwis.
  • Latex: almonds, apples, bananas, kiwis, avocado, dill, oregano, ginger, and sage.
  • Birch/Alder Tree Pollen: celery, apples, apricots, cherries and other stone fruits, parsnips, buckwheat, caraway seeds, and coriander.
  • Hayfever (Ragweed/Grasses): cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, bananas, sunflower seeds, zucchini, cucumber, and chamomile tea.
  • Cat Dander: pork.

Some foods contain more of the troublesome proteins than others—peaches more than plums, apples more than pears. And there can be differences between varieties—Gala and Golden Delicious apples cause more allergic reactions than Braeburns, and Crenshaw melons are benign while cantaloupe and watermelon are powerful triggers.

Not every pollen produces cross-allergies; some trees like maple, oak and poplar, don’t share reaction-causing proteins with foods. Nor does having one of these allergies mean you’ll necessarily cross-react with any of the implicated foods. And, if you do react, you may not be allergic to every food on the list.

 

 

 

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5 Foods for Senior Moments

[image via R2 Thoughts 4 You]

We’re having a national senior moment.

Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are a demographic time bomb. Making up nearly one-third of the population, they’ve reached the age of memory loss, slowed reflexes, and synaptic glitches. That’s 75 million boomers that can’t remember what they went upstairs for.

Brain foods really work.
In the same way that a low cholesterol diet can keep plaque from forming in arteries, there are foods that can keep plaque from forming in your brain. You can unclog your cognitive functions just like you can unclog your arteries.

There are also foods that can sharpen your focus and concentration, enhance your memory, and speed your reaction times. Add them to your diet early enough and you can stave off cognitive decline later in life.

Here are five foods that can make a real difference; if you’re one of those baby boomers, maybe you should write them down.

http://yourbarcelonaguide.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/salmon-steak12_-_resize_large.jpg Nothing preserves cognitive ability like wild salmon. That’s right, wild— not just any salmon will do. Farmed salmon doesn’t develop the same quality or level of essential fatty acids that make wild salmon the ultimate brain food.

http://www.pachd.com/free-images/food-images/matcha-green-tea-01.jpg Just like the wild variety is souped-up salmon, matcha is high-test green tea. Matcha is a type of Japanese green tea that’s ground into a powder. Instead of drinking an extract, like what you get when tea leaves are brewed, you consume the whole thing dissolved into the beverage. The brain buzz of focus and clarity is exponentially greater, and immediately noticeable. And the Kermit-green shade? That’s how it’s supposed to look.

http://www.fitnessgurusam.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/energy-coffee-and-sugar.jpg The brain boost from caffeine or sugar is short-lived but real. They both can make you alert and focused. Too much sugar, though, can actually interfere with your memory.

http://www.blackdiamonduniversity.com/images/monavie-training/product/acai-in-basket.jpg The acai berry is this year’s pomegranate; the ‘it’ fruit that is showing up everywhere, blended into smoothies and dressings, flavoring teas, juices, and sodas. Oddly, for a fruit, its nutritional profile resembles that of wild salmon, high in protein and the essential fatty acids our brains desire.

http://www.cheftools.com/images/13-0938-180.jpg The newest brain food discovery is turmeric. Turmeric is a mildly-flavored, deep yellow spice that is always found in curry powder, and is often used as a less costly alternative to saffron. It is such a powerful brain plaque-remover that it’s being tested as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

 

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The Dirty Details: Food Imports from China

Can somebody tell me why we still import food from China?

Recent food scandals include:

  • contamination by a phosphorescent bacteria that causes pork to glow in the dark an eerie, iridescent blue
  • watermelons that explode like landmines from the application of growth hormones to increase melon size
  • industrial resins added to rice that makes eating three bowls of it equivalent to ingesting an entire plastic bag
  • processed animal skins added to milk to boost its protein content
  • foods processed with used cooking oil scavenged from sewer drains

The United States is awash in tainted, toxic, parasite-riddled, putrefying food imports from China—we know that they’re filthy and contaminated, but we’re still letting them in.

China is the world’s biggest polluter and a country that lacks widespread modern sanitation, with 55% of the country emptying raw sewage into its waterways. It’s also the world’s largest producer of farmed fish, which means that 60% of all the world’s seafood is raised in waters teeming with feces and industrial pollutants.

Chinese producers continue to use pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, fungicides, hormones, and other additives banned in most other countries, and its standards for allowable chemical residue levels fall far short of everyone else’s.

Does the United States really let this stuff in?
Don’t we have laws, and regulations, and the Food and Drug Administration to protect us?

This year, 24 million shipments subject to FDA regulation will pass through our ports, and the FDA expects to visually inspect less than 2% of the food imports, and a tiny fraction of those will be sent on for laboratory analysis. More than 98% of food imports are allowed to stock our nation’s supermarket without even a cursory glance. from a safety inspector.

Do you think that you’re not buying Chinese food imports? Think again.
Reading labels is not enough: American food companies are generally required to label only where their products are packaged or processed, not where the ingredients come from. A Swanson frozen dinner or a can of Campbell’s soup can contain 20 different ingredients from 20 different countries with no mention of this on the label. When you open a can of Bumble Bee tuna or Dole fruit, or pour your child a glass of Mott’s apple juice, you’re likely eating foods from China. All-American brands like Kraft, Lay’s, Pepsi, and General Mills all buy from Chinese growers and producers that harvest and process with lower labor costs than almost anywhere else.

For more information on where your food comes from, read A Decade of Dangerous Food Imports from China, a report from Food & Water Watch, a public interest organization that monitors the practices and policies of food and water systems world-wide, and advocates for common sense policies that will result in healthy, safe food and drinking water.

The Food and Drug Administration releases a monthly Inspection Refusal Report of goods that are determined to be out of compliance with the The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and refused admission at the port of entry.

 

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The Hungriest Organ

 

image via Walk the Road Less Traveled

According to the Journal of Physiology, your brain is just 2 percent of your body weight but sucks down 20 percent of your daily calories. Feed it right and you’ll be perky, productive, and alert. Junk it up with the wrong foods and you’ll never remember where you put your keys.

Breakfast
A little coffee and sugar can get your brain going in the morning. Caffeine fires you up pretty much instantaneously, and a sweet on the side adds to the effect: the duo can improve physical energy, short-term memory, and problem-solving skills, but it’s temporary, and there’s an equally fast drop in all of those as the caffeine wears off and your body has burned through the sugar.

Keep coffee and danish to a minimum; the better choice: citrus or berries (complex sugars to power up, anti-oxidants to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment), and cereal (protein for long-lasting brain energy, memory, and attention).

Lunch
An omelette and a salad are perfect midday brain food. The antioxidants in a salad can mop up the cell-damaging free radicals you’ve run into all morning from the ozone and pollutants, and the combination of vitamins C and E can improve cognitive skills and stave off Alzheimer’s Disease. A sprinkle of sunflower seeds, nuts, or dried herbs will add the vitamins, and dark green (romaine, spinach) or orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes) are full of the antioxidant beta-carotene. The eggs are rich in choline, which your body uses to produce a neurotransmitter that snaps your brain to attention and boosts memory.

Have a little yogurt for dessert and you’ll produce dopamine, the happy neurotransmitter, and noradrenalin, the perky hormone. Together they will help you face the afternoon with a smile.

Snacks
Your brain loves a good snack. A couple of pints of blood move through it every single minute, and the brain is always on the the lookout for nutrients in the flow; its favorite would be 25 grams of glucose in there, which is exactly one banana. Avoid junky processed foods with their trans-fatty acids. Rodents that are fed a steady diet of junk food get seriously confused by the classic rat-in-a-maze experiment, while in humans, highly-processed chips and baked goods have been implicated in a slew of mental disorders, from dyslexia and ADHD  to autism.

Dinner
Have a cocktail or two to increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Eat fish to rebuild the cells and gray matter you were losing all day, and finish up with a dessert containing strawberries or blueberries, which seem to help with coordination, concentration, and short-term memory.

According to Men’s Health, you can tailor your food choices to suit specific mental tasks, from picking the best American Idol contestant to refinancing your mortgage. Check out its list of the best and worst brain foods for the job, which it claims can boost your brain’s productivity by 200 percent.

 

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Food Addiction: When food is like heroin, only worse- it’s everywhere.

image via Health Freedoms

The American Medical Association just got a lot closer to defining food addiction as a disease.
A new study from Yale University measured the brain activity of women tempted, and then rewarded, with a chocolate milkshake. For all the test subjects, neural activity surged in regions that govern cravings, identical to the neural response of alcoholics and drug addicts when they’re given their drug of choice. In the food addicted, activity fell off in the brain regions involved with self-control, just like the brain response of substance abusers. The findings suggest that setting a chocolate milkshake down in front of the food addicted is just like dangling a dime bag of heroin in front of a junkie.

There are more than 70 million food-addicted adults in the U.S. according to David Kessler, a biostatistician and a former commissioner of the U.S Food and Drug Administration; and they’re sick of being a pop culture punchline. To them, willpower is not enough to just say ‘no’ to french fries; they hope the biological basis of the Yale findings will bring understanding and compassion to their plight.

Food addicts are forced to confront their demons three times a day. Every meal challenges them to resist the pathology of the brain’s reward center. They reel from the constant temptations on the calendar—Halloween candy gives way to Thanksgiving dinner followed by Christmas and New Years feasts. Just when they’ve made it through the back-to-back candy holidays of Valentines Day and Easter, the doorbell rings and it’s the Girl Scouts hawking those damn Thin Mints cookies. How long do you think sobriety would last if a glass of whiskey was placed in front of an alcoholic as often?

Then there’s the pervasiveness of foodie culture, which runs amok on dedicated cable channels, in the food porn everyone is snapping, and in countless tweets and food blogs. For too many, food appreciation has become an obsession. While some of us feel food fatigue, for the food addict it’s a constant, punishing minefield of temptation.

Foodies have created an environment in which celebrations of narcissism and gluttony are socially acceptable, blurring the line between preoccupation and pathology. Disordered, compulsive eating can be hard to spot. It rarely has the rock-bottom, aha moment of other addictions, but instead tends to be a slow, chronic creep of abuse of a substance we’ve indulged in our entire lives.

Are we all food addicts waiting to happen?
CBS News has an online test of addictive behavior based on the Yale Food Addiction Scale underlying the study.

 

 

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7 Foods the Experts Won’t Touch

image via Care2

Where do the chefs eat when they have a night off? That’s where you want to go. In the market for a new computer? Ask the head of your company’s IT department what he uses at home. If you knew what toothpaste your dentist’s family uses, you’d probably buy it too.
The skinny, the scoop, the inside track—that’s what you want.

Experts from a variety of food-related fields have made these 7 insider recommendations of foods to avoid. They’re based on professional wisdom and expertise, but more importantly, they represent personal choices. None are banned in the U.S.; they’re all USDA or FDA approved, but those in the know won’t eat them, and they won’t feed them to their own families.

1.Conventional Apples
The grafting techniques of conventional apple growers demand some of the most extensive pesticide usage in all of agriculture. While chemical producers and regulators duke it out over the residue, Mark Kastel, former executive for agribusiness and co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group, buys organic only. When that’s not feasible, then peel the apples and wash up well afterwards.

2.Canned Tomatoes
The resin linings of cans contain bisphenol-A, what we know as BPA. It’s a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. The acidity of tomatoes causes a large amount of BPA to leach out of the lining and into your food—so much that the BPA level from just a few cans’ worth of tomatoes is enough to have a health impact. Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist and bisphenol-A scholar at the University of Missouri, won’t touch them.

3.Microwave Popcorn
Actually, the popcorn is fine. The microwavable bag is another story. Its lining is coated with chemicals that, when heated, vaporize and migrate to the popcorn. One of those chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid, accumulates in your body for years and is linked to infertility, liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. It’s such a known threat that DuPont and other manufacturers will phase it out by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan. Dr. Olga Naidenko, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, won’t be indulging until then.

4.Farmed Salmon
Dr. David Carpenter is the director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and a leading authority on contamination in fish, and he won’t go near farmed salmon. Commercially farmed salmon is raised in packed pens and fed an unnatural diet of  soy, poultry litter, antibiotics, and chicken feathers. Contaminants in those items include carcinogens, PCBs, flame retardants, and nasty pesticides like dioxin and DDT. These substances are so concentrated in the fish that Dr. Carpenter says you increase your risk of cancer after just two salmon dinners in a year. Since there are no remaining commercial fisheries for wild Atlantic salmon, Dr. Carpenter sticks with Pacific salmon, like wild-caught Alaskan.

5.Conventional Potatoes
Conventional potatoes are chemically dosed three time: fungicides during the growing season; herbicides before harvesting; and a second herbicide after after they’ve been picked to keep them from sprouting. Since potatoes grow underground, they can’t be sprayed directly. Instead, the chemicals are put into the water and soil where they’re absorbed into the flesh of the potatoes. You can’t washing and peel them away. According to Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board and farm director of the Rodale Institute, potato growers “say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals.”

6.Grain-fed Beef
A cow’s steady diet of corn and other grains is, simply put, unnatural. Their multi-chambered stomachs are built for grass, and have never adapted to the corn and soybeans of the feedlots, so favored by most cattle ranchers because they are cheaper than pastured grazing and can fatten a cow for slaughter much more quickly. The feedlot environment, combined with the lack of adaptation in digestion, makes grain-fed cattle vastly more disease prone than grass-fed, and the bacteria they pass to beef eaters is much more dangerous. Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of numerous influential books on sustainable farming, would never, ever allow grain-fed beef to cross his lips.

7. Hormone-treated Milk
Most dairy cows are fed artificial growth hormones to increase milk production, and that milk contains elevated levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF). Unless the milk is organic or explicitly labeled hormone-free, it’s in there. IGF  is linked to breast, prostate, and colon cancers, and while the exact mechanism in milk is not clear, Rick North, project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society points out that the hormones are banned in nearly every other industrialized nation.

 

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The Fat Tax is Coming!

image via the Army of Epiphenomenon

How would you like to trim the deficit, healthcare costs, and your waistline in one fell swoop?
That’s what a fat tax can do. it’s been embraced by much of Europe, and the idea is gaining traction in Washington.

Hungary’s so-called ‘hamburger tax’ goes into effect next month, just a few weeks ahead of Denmark’s ‘saturated fat’ tariff, targeting pork, cheese, and butter. Finland is looking to add a fat tax to those it already levies on salt and sugar-laced foods. Germany, Romania, and Spain all have similar legislation moving through government channels.

Instead of taxing fatty foods, Japan taxes body fat. The Ministry of Health requires businesses to administer obesity checks for all employees and their family members ages 40 to 74. The legislated upper limit for the waistline is a strict 33½ in. for men, and 35½ in. for women, beyond which a tax is levied (by comparison, the average waistline in America is 39 in. for men and 37 in. for women).

We actually have some fat tax history in this country. In the months following the 1942 Pearl Harbor attack, a handful of states taxed obese citizens–per excess pound–to encourage them to eat less and preserve food resources for the war effort. The fat tax was revived in the 1990’s when a proposal was floated to tax certain foods and put the proceeds toward nutrition literacy programs. The concept was debated publicly when it was ranked #7 on U.S. News and World Report’s  list of 16 Smart Ideas to Fix the World, and the debate grew louder when Rush Limbaugh spearheaded the opposition.

The fat tax debate has stayed with us.
Current supporters include the World Health Organization, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, food writers Mark Bittman (with the New York Times as his soapbox) and Michael Pollan (who contends that the insurance industry is ready to get on board), and President Obama, who supports a tax on soda and other sugary foods.

Congress, though, has shown little enthusiasm for a federal fat tax, although most states are already getting their cut in the form of taxes on junk food and soda. The public, too, consistently shows low approval ratings for the taxes in polls. Critics point to its regressive nature, with the burden falling on lower income Americans who are the biggest consumers of junk food and already spend disproportionately on food, relative to their  incomes. And of course the notion of the food police is troubling in terms of both privacy issues and the broader concept of the role of government.

There are few privacies more worthy of protection than what we choose to eat and drink. While these are personal decisions they’re not private ones; not when our healthcare system spends nearly $150 billion dollars annually to treat obesity, nearly as much to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more goes toward the treatment of cardiovascular disease and cancers that are linked to diet.

How do you weigh individual freedoms and social responsibilities?

 

 

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Contest Winners: Designing a new food label

 

Daniel Campuzano

http://thewonderlustjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/nutrition-label.png 


 

 

The old label (far left) just isn’t working for us.

Not that it ever really did. In fact when the FDA first introduced nutrition labeling in 1993, the agency deliberately didn’t choose the best option; instead, it opted to play it safe by choosing the design that was characterized as ‘the least poorly understood.’

The FDA is taking another crack at it. Later this year it will introduce revised food labeling, and the hope is that it set its sights a little higher.

Melissa Messer- Daily Nutritional Value Paul Frantellizzi

The School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, is lending an unsolicited hand. It held a public competition called Rethink the Food Label,  judged by a panel of designers, health professionals, and food activists (including faculty member Michael Pollan). Entrants were encouraged to “re-imagine the label to include geography, food quality, food justice, carbon footprint, or lesser-known chemosensory characteristics.”

Joanne Frederick- The Real Food Label

The biggest shortcoming of the current label is the nutritional arithmetic. All those grams and percentages tend to cause our eyes to glaze over. It also gives manufacturers the ability to ‘game’ the system by adding irrelevant and inert ingredients that improve the labeling profile without making the food any healthier. Instead of improving food and nutrition literacy, the current label is a distraction that doesn’t directly answer the real questions:  Is this good for my health? Is this good for the planet?

The best of the contest submissions (some seen here) use a visual shorthand to answer those questions. They finesse a graphical yes or no with design elements like thumbs up or thumbs down, report card-style letter grades, color coded food groups, and red light or green light.

We will soon find out if the FDA has incorporated any of these elements in its final redesign. The contest makes one thing clear —the existing model can be vastly improved with a dose of simplicity and a little creativity.

See who won at Rethink the Food Label.

 

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How Did Rich and Fat Become Rich and Thin?

Richer, thinner, younger, smarter; what if you could change one thing about yourself? Which would you choose?

A recent Harris Poll asked this question.

Not surprisingly, given the current economic climate, richer was the top choice. But thinner came in a strong second picked by one in five respondents overall, and one in four women.

We tend to forget that this has not always been so.

Thinness was, for most of recorded time, the fate of the lower classes with their inadequate diets and physical labor. Traditionally, only the rich could afford to be well-fed. Fat was a status symbol.

Not any more. In fact the polar opposite is now true: as income and education falls, obesity rises– both the rate of obesity and the amount of excess weight. The poorest Americans, those living below the poverty level, are the most likely to be morbidly obese.

The underlying causes are many, especially for the urban poor who face high concentrations of fast food outlets and low concentrations of grocery stores, plus limited time for exercise or access to outdoor space. But the big culprit is our out-of-whack food system that can sell highly refined, fat and sugar-laden, processed foods at far lower prices than fresh, whole foods.
The terrible irony is that these days, thinness is a luxury reserved for the rich.

For the record, the complete poll results are:

  • richer    43%
  • thinner  21%
  • smarter   14%
  • younger   12%
  • and 9% seem to like themselves just fine.

Visualize the caloric bang for the buck: see why a Big Mac costs less than a salad (spoiler alert– it’s the federal subsidies).

The Rich & Thin Club claims to simultaneously whip your waistline and your bank account into shape by monitoring calories coming in and dollars going out. It theorizes that small, unnecessary, everyday indulgences are the undoing of both. Calculators demonstrate the impact of 10 years of Starbucks lattés or restaurant appetizers in terms of accumulated pounds versus an early mortgage payoff or the compounded interest of savings. It’s an eye-opener.

 

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