Worker Bees’ Daily Bites
1) Gosh, thanks, Labelman!
The FDA has created an interactive online tool to help people better understand the Nutrition Facts Label. Visitors to the site learn to “Make Your Calories Count” with the help of Labelman. Yes.
The program helps explain percentages, serving sizes and caloric information.
The Nutrition Facts Label has been criticized virtually since its introduction. The label is perhaps misleading to some because it is based upon a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet, which is much more than many people, especially women, need to consume. Additionally, nutritional percentages are somewhat misleading. A candy bar may “only” have 20% of one’s daily recommended saturated fat intake, but that doesn’t make a candy bar healthy. The big problem with this percentage standard is that the actual product may be ridiculously high in fat, sodium or sugar, but appear to be “low” compared to the total daily limit. For example, a soda may contain about one-eighth of the recommended daily sugar for a 2,000-calorie-consumer. But soda is nothing more than sugar water and is therefore one of the worst things you can put in your body.
Cynics in the health industry point out that this “percentage” comparison standard, which does not actually reflect the individual merit of the product, almost encourages unhealthy eating habits.
We’re not sure how helpful a guy named Labelman could be, but we want to know why the standards are what they are, anyway. Who says 160 grams of carbohydrates a day is desirable? Is saturated fat really so terrible if it’s properly balanced with health fatty acids like Omega-3? And how about serving sizes – who really only drinks 8 ounces of something or eats 7 chips? Discuss, Apples.
2) Seven Ways, Same Result
The New England Journal of Medicine released a study today that says newer tests are not appreciably better at predicting heart attacks than standard tests. Now, if you run a Google search for this story, you’ll find that they are all suspiciously alike – even newspapers in India are running the same lines. What that means? A press release or a statement from NEJM, most likely. (Yes, this happens all the time.)
The study of some 3,900 people found that testing for CRP, homocysteine and other substances (considered the new rock stars in heart disease treatment) aren’t much better at predicting heart problems than a good old cholesterol or blood pressure test.
This study reveals some interesting things. Let’s read between the lines. It doesn’t necessarily mean that CRP or homocysteine tests are bad; it simply means that obvious factors are enough to determine risk. Guess what those obvious factors are? Even the conservative NEJM discusses them:
However, the standard risk factors — high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history, advanced age, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and diabetes — proved to be just as accurate when it came to predicting heart disease.
Testing cholesterol is still a great way to go, not because cholesterol is bad (like mainstream medicine would have you believe) but because it is indicative of inflammation. Many of the other easy-to-see risk factors are entirely preventable through lifestyle choices. In a roundabout way, this long-term study reflects what we already ought to know: an expensive test can show what’s already written all over one’s face.
Here’s the money quote:
“This really supports the value of focusing on risk-factor reduction, not looking for a magic blood test,” said Dr. Richard Stein, director of preventive cardiology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.
Oh, the holidays. Before you say “bah, humbug!”, rest assured we’re going to help you stay healthy.
Everyone knows the holidays are a spare tire waiting to happen. Alcohol, rich desserts and indulgent carbs are practically throwing themselves at you, begging to be eaten and taking it personally if you don’t. You know what we’re talking about – food is emotional, and powerfully so. It’s that bizarre twinge of guilt for attempting to say no to foods which, come holiday season, seem to take on actual feelings. It’s almost like you’re insulting the food if you don’t eat it. There’s a reason for this. Rich foods, particularly sugary desserts, have long been combined with emotional events. In the Middle Ages, these items were called subtleties, and they still exist today: in the form of Easter chicks, Easter bunnies, Valentine’s hearts, advent calendars, Christmas cookies, and so on.
That’s really great, you say. But it still doesn’t help me say no to unhealthy foods or avoid gaining ten pounds before the New Year knocks at my door.
Hey, we hear ya. So, here’s a quick-and-easy realistic guide to getting through the holidays, enjoying them, and maintaining your sanity.
Part 1: It Ain’t Just the Sugar
A lot of holiday health guides point to the obvious no-no: sugar. Of course you want to stay away from sugar, but that’s probably not realistic, no matter how disciplined you are. We suggest you instead focus on limiting portions. A lot of times, we simply expect too much from ourselves. “No sugar, period. I will be healthy and eat only bean casserole, being careful to remove the crispy fried onions.” This works fine for about five minutes, until peer pressure, Aunt Louise and mulled wine conspire to destroy your best-laid plans. Before you know it, you’ve eaten three cookies, two slices of pie and eighty-three truffles. You feel guilty, bloated and sick, you give yourself a pep talk, and at the next party…you do it all over again.
Step 1: No ridiculous standards. Do not set a goal for yourself that you know you probably won’t reach (from past experience or awareness of your weak points). This just makes you feel bad, and no one is putting that pressure on you, so be nice to yourself. Who needs the added stress? Find a middle ground. If you normally end up indulging through the holidays, try giving yourself a “one freebie” rule: one treat at every party or event.
Step 2: Portion control. The amount of indulgence is more important than anything else. If you love carrot cake, eat a big bite or two, and stop. It won’t taste any better if you eat the entire thing, and you’ll have accomplished two great things: some enjoyment and some discipline. One bite of sugary cake isn’t great, but it’s not going to be cause for regret. You can try out a few of your favorite treats this way without doing any serious damage to your health or waistline – but limit yourself to just a few things at each party or event.
Step 3: Stress! Do you ever wonder why people get sick during the holiday season? It’s not just because we’re indoors and sharing the same old air. It’s not just because of all the sugar in everything. It’s also because of the stress. The holidays are the most depressing, dangerous, stressful time of year. That’s a fact with no sugar coating. Yet it’s supposed to be the happiest time of year. And therein lies the problem: pressure. Combine lack of activity from being indoors with excess amounts of sugary foods with the pressure of gift-giving, travel and entertaining, and it’s no wonder people have a hard time when Santa comes to town. Give yourself a break. The best thing you can do – possibly even better than obsessing or feeling guilty about food – is to get as much exercise, rest, and “me time” as possible. Part 2 of our Holiday Survival Guide will tell you just how to do that.
A fascinating article in New Scientist discusses the impact that germs have on your weight.
In short, our digestive tracts are host to millions of microbes that aid in fermenting and digesting food. There are germs that help break down carbohydrates, germs that help digest fats, and so on. What’s fascinating is the new finding that obese people have more of a particular type of microbe that not only digests “better” but digests carbohydrates “better”.
However, in this situation, “better” is not better at all. In times when food was scarce (certainly not a problem now), being able to maximize every bit of nutritional value from each bite was a benefit. That’s not such a good thing now, particularly for carbohydrate digestion. What this means is that being overweight makes you more likely to become even more overweight.
This is really big news, Apples.
It’s a self-perpetuating system. The more carbohydrates are taken in – because the body is becoming better and better at digesting them – the more those carbohydrates are stored as fat. The body literally is set on a “get fat” course because the digestive tract becomes “efficient” at turning food into stored fat. All thanks to germs.
These digestive microbial bacteria are developed early in life – within the first few years. You can see how a childhood spent eating bad foods sets people up for a lifetime of obesity. And because of the self-perpetuating nature, the more fat you get, the more fat you get.
There’s good news, however. When study participants were put on a reduced-carbohydrate diet, the carbohydrate-friendly microbes began to die, coming closer to levels found in thin people. And, of course, the individuals lost weight. Eventually, the body can be retrained, and the digestive microbes we want – the ones that don’t extract quite as much from the food we eat – increase. All it takes is the first step, and the body can be retrained.
More on this in coming posts, Apples.
Aside from the carbohydrate and weight issues, there’s a further issue to consider: should we be supplementing with beneficial bacteria? And if so, which kind?
EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT: Choline
Choline is a B vitamin. It is essential to the body’s functions and it is found in every cell. Choline can be produced in the body, but not in adequate amounts. Choline works in concert with other vitamins, particularly Folic Acid and B12.
WHAT IT DOES: Choline assists in brain function, liver function, and cardiovascular function. This supplement is a precursor to acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter.
Choline also plays a role in lipid metabolism and storage in the body. Choline is particularly vital for the regulation of fat in the liver, possibly playing a role in triglyceride regulation and fat storage.
STUDIES SHOW: Pregnant women who take choline can help the brain development of the fetus. Choline supplements have been proven to increase blood choline levels. And high-performance athletes have benefited from choline supplementation because it can help boost endurance.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Choline was determined to be an essential vitamin by the U.S. government in 1998, but many people are unaware of its importance to good health. Choline may assist in memory, brain development and function, cardiovascular health, fat metabolism, liver health and energy levels. As an essential component of the B-vitamin family, choline can help to support your optimal health.
The Fuming Fuji is outraged at the marketing of toxic food, especially when it’s aimed at the small fry. This week, the Fuming Fuji has decided to have a serious problem with macaroni and cheese.
But, Fuming Fuji, you ask, isn’t mac ‘n cheese at least rich in complex carbohydrates, calcium and protein?
The Fuming Fuji says no!
The claim: Fuming Fuji notices a certain brand of mac ‘n cheese promotes itself as having calcium.
The catch: Classroom chalk also has calcium, and it is much less fattening. Children like chalk. Yet they do not sell chalk. Mac ‘n cheese is one of the emptiest foods known to humanity. Cats and dogs agree.
The comeback: Come on. It can’t be that bad, especially if you throw in some diced up hot dogs for protein?
The conclusion: The Fuming Fuji cannot believe what was just said. HOT DOGS? For protein? The Fuji only has time for one outrage per week. This week, it is macaroni and cheese, which is bleached processed flour mixed with chemically-altered powdered cheese product and fat. Enough with the calcium obsession! Calcium does not make up for garbage food.
The catchphrase: Heart Attack ‘n Cheese.
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