Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

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9 Ways to Fix Our Food System

Hungry for change? Take these simple steps right now!
By Max Follmer       October 10, 2012

Drink Fewer Sodas And Sweetened Beverages
Fact: If you replace one 20-ounce soda a day with a no-calorie beverage (preferably water), you could lose 25 pounds in a year.

Eat At Home Instead Of Eating Out
Fact: Children consume almost twice as many calories when eating food made outside the home.

Tell Schools To Stop Selling Sodas And Junk Food
Fact: Over the last two decades, rates of obesity have tripled in children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 years old.

Meatless Mondays! Go Meatless At Least One Day A Week
Fact: An estimated 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to farm animals.

Buy Organic Or Sustainable Foods With Little To No Pesticide Use
The EPA says more than 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the U.S.

Protect Family Farms By Visiting Your Local Farmers’ Market
Farmers’ markets enable farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the customer.

Make A Point To Know Where Your Food Comes From By Reading Labels
The average meal travels 1,500 miles from the farm to your dinner plate.

Tell Your Lawmakers That Food Safety Is Important To You
Fact: Each year, contaminated food causes millions of illnesses and thousands of deaths.

Demand Job Protections For Farm Workers And Food Processors, Ensuring Fair Wages And Other Protections
Fact: Poverty among farm workers is more than twice that of all wage and salary employees.

source: takepart.com

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Food allergy label changes come into effect

New food labelling regulations apply to priority allergens, gluten and sulphites

Posted: Aug 3, 2012

Health Canada’s new food labelling regulations, which came into force Saturday, will make it easier for people with food allergies, their families and caregivers to determine which products to avoid.
The regulations were announced in February 2011. After an 18-month phase-in, packaged foods must clearly list allergens using common names, like “milk” instead of “hydrolyzed casein.”
The new rules apply to priority allergens in foods known to cause 90 per cent of reactions:
  • Peanuts.
  • Eggs.
  • Milk.
  • Tree nuts (almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts).
  • Soy.
  • Sesame seeds.
  • Seafood (fish, crustaceans and shellfish).
  • Sulphites.
  • Mustard seed.
  • Glutens (oats, barley and rye).
  • Wheat (as a food).

The rules will require a listing of allergens in smaller components of the product. For example, if a product includes “spices,” the label must list any allergens, glutens or sulphites contained in the spices.
Food allergies can trigger anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition in which a person’s immune system identifies foods as a threat, and attacks it. Symptoms can include blood pressure drops, narrowing of the airways and hives.
Marilyn Allen of Sutton, Ont., has been a driving force behind the food label changes for more than a decade. Allen is a founder of Anaphylaxis Canada, an advocacy group for people with food allergies. Her daughter, Robyn Lyn, died from her food allergies in 1990 at age 15.
Under the new regulations, packaged food companies have the option of either putting an allergen in the list of ingredients or adding a line with the word “contains X.”
“It is going to require allergic people to look for the ‘contain’ statement,” advised Allen, a food allergy consultant. “If it’s absent, never assume. Then go back and read the ingredient list to make sure there’s been enough space on the label for that company to repeat that message twice.”
Allen is celebrating the changes, but notes there are still gaps, such as:
  • The regulations don’t apply to deli, bakery and bulk foods.
  • Beer is exempt from listing glutens, although the beverage may contain sulphites that trigger asthma and caramel colouring that include dairy.
  • The term “may contain X” is not regulated for allergens not listed in the ingredients, but may have cross-contaminated the food in trace amounts at the factory.
Allen hopes allergic consumers will monitor the new labels and report potential problems to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Some companies have already been identifying “plain language” ingredients in their products voluntarily.
Liza Lukashevsky takes care to decipher ingredient lists after discovering her 10-year-old son Charlie is allergic to soy, yeast and sulphites.
“I think the more information that is put on food, the better,” said Lukashevsky, owner of the Nut House, a bulk food store in Toronto with labelled bins.
Lukashevsky recalled that when her son was 2½, a daycare worker was pleased that he had eaten all his vegetables — a whole bag of edamame beans that the worker didn’t realize were soy.

Guidance for caregivers

“That would’ve been a great example where if underneath edamame it says ‘contains soy,’ and she wouldn’t have given it to him,” said Lukashevsky, noting the daycare worker said she felt horrible seeing the boy break out in rashes.
Caregivers including daycare workers who look after children and shop for them could really benefit from the new labels, she said.
The new food allergen labels will bring a sigh of relief to many parents and school board bureaucrats, said Sylvain Charlebois, associate dean of the College of Management and Economics at the University of Guelph in Ontario.
Australia and New Zealand also require warning of allergens on food labels, Charlebois noted. The United States and the EU are working on similar regulations.
Charlebois applauded the changes, but also called for allergen labels to be standardized globally for consistency and clarity.

With files from CBC’s Marijka Hurko and Melanie Nagy   
List of food allergen names ~ CFIA

Source: CBC

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Consumer groups demand GMO labeling, question food safety

Tue Mar 27, 2012

(Reuters) – Critics of genetically modified crops are making new demands for government mandated labeling to identify foods on grocer shelves that contain ingredients from transgenic corn, soybeans and other crops.

Labeling drives are underway on both state and federal levels, and on Tuesday several U.S. consumer groups released a survey and results of a petition drive that they say shows overwhelming consumer support for labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO).

“People believe they have a right to know what goes into their bodies,” said Mark Mellman, a public opinion pollster and consultant.

The Mellman Group survey released Tuesday said based on a polling of 1,000 voters last month, about 91 percent support labeling of GMO foods while 5 percent oppose such a move. Support was nearly equal among Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

The survey was commissioned by a group called “Just Label It” that includes organic farming groups, along with representatives from the medical and retail industries and some faith-based groups. Similar surveys issued recently have also shown widespread support for labeling as consumers express increasing concern about overall food safety.

The Just Label It group, which filed its petition with the Food & Drug Administration on October 12, 2011, claims to have more than 1 million signers.

Tuesday marks the end of the 180-day comment period that precedes a formal FDA response. Petitioners say that the petition process allows them to pursue “judicial review” if FDA fails to act.

“Should it be denied the next step we would consider would be litigation,” said environmental attorney Andrew Kimbrell who wrote the petition.

“The GMO issue is finally getting traction in the U.S., in the form of an overwhelming preference for labeling among consumers across the political spectrum,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit public health and environment advocacy organization.

FDA declined to discuss the labeling petition, saying that it would respond directly to the petitioner. But a spokeswoman did say that FDA’s position on labeling of genetically modified foods is rooted in the premise that there is no “material difference” in foods containing ingredients from genetically modified crops and foods made from conventional crops.

“Companies are welcome to label their products on a voluntary basis as long as it’s truthful and not misleading, and it doesn’t imply that it’s somehow better than the conventional counterpart,” said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman.

Alongside the national push, the GMO labeling debate is also active in California, where a grassroots coalition of consumer, public health and environmental organizations has submitted what it calls the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act” to the state Attorney General.

Backers of the measure must obtain more than 500,000 signatures by April 22 to get it on the November ballot. They say that in addition to giving consumers information about what they are eating, labeling would also allow health professionals to track potential adverse health impacts of GMO foods.

The question of safety is separate, though related, from the issue of labeling, according to Mellman.

“Calories aren’t unsafe… but people want to know what they’re ingesting,” he said.

A recent study by the Grocery Manufacturers Association said about 80 percent of packaged foods contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Leading biotech crop developer Monsanto Co. and other agricultural biotech seed companies are opposed to labeling, saying it misleads consumers and there is no safety concern with GMOs.

As well, opponents of labeling say mandatory labeling would be costly, increasing food prices for consumers, cost taxpayers for enforcement, and trigger costly litigation.

More than 40 countries have some requirements for labeling of genetically engineered foods, with Europe a prominent leader in mistrust of genetic alterations to crops.

(Reporting By Carey Gillam in Kansas City; additional reporting by Anna Yukhananov in Washington; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

source: Reuters.com

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Health or hype? Reviewing questionable food marketing claims

February 10, 2012 By Cara Rosenbloom

A recent trip to one of the big health food stores in Toronto led to a rather shocking result: many “health foods” aren’t very healthy!

From code names for sugar to questionable claims on salt, I saw many processed and packaged foods posing as healthy fare. I’ve been a dietitian for over 12 years, and even I was duped by some of the clever marketing tactics.

Whether you are shopping at your favourite grocery store or at the mom and pop vitamin shop down the street, watch out for these common tricks that can mess up your best intentions for eating well.

‘Made with real fruit’

Note to readers: An apple is real fruit. A banana too. But a jam-like purée made with buckets of sugar is not real fruit, no matter that the label says.

An actual piece of fruit is a powerhouse of nutrition. Packed with fibre, vitamins and natural antioxidants, fruit can help fight the cellular damage that leads to heart disease and cancer. However, once the fruit is processed, stripped of fibre, and the vitamin C has been cooked out of it, the nutritional value is no longer the same. So, those cereal bars, toaster pastries and gummy candies don’t count as a serving of fruit. They are sugar, pure and simple.

How sweet it is

Many products with a healthy glow are sweetened with “organic evaporated sugar cane juice” instead of refined white sugar. Guess what? Whether it’s organic or not, when you evaporate sugar cane, you get SUGAR. Sure, evaporated sugar cane juice doesn’t undergo the same degree of processing that refined sugar does and therefore it retains a few more minerals – literally trace amounts of calcium and potassium. Call me crazy, but instead of eating sugary foods, I’d rather get potassium from a banana and calcium from low-fat yogurt. And despite the level of refinement, both sugar and evaporated cane juice have a negative impact on blood sugar levels, triglycerides and weight.

Once in a while, it’s okay to indulge in something sweet. But, don’t believe that you are eating something that’s “good for you” because the sugar is minimally processed or organic.

Slashing salt

In Canada, a company is legally permitted to reduce sodium in their product by 25% and make an on-pack claim that says: ‘sodium reduced.’ While it is commendable that some companies are looking to reduce their sodium levels, sometimes a 25% reduction isn’t enough. Case in point:

  • 1 cup chicken broth = 983 mg sodium
  • 1 cup sodium reduced chicken broth = 735 mg sodium


  • 1 tbsp soy sauce = 914 mg sodium
  • 1 tbsp sodium reduced soy sauce = 685 mg sodium

We only need 1,500 mg of sodium in our diet each day, but most Canadians get closer to 3,400 mg. Do we really need 735 mg from a simple cup of broth? That’s HALF of our daily sodium intake – all for about 20 calories. Will that fill you up at lunch? Not me.

Instead of “sodium reduced”, look for products that claim “no added salt” or “low in sodium.”

Smart marketing

Ah, “smart” foods. From popcorn to bread to pasta, many companies have jumped on the “smart” bandwagon, and use this tempting word on their packages. Smart products are usually enriched with something – omega-3 fat or fibre, for example. But often, that’s not the whole story. Smart snacks may be high in fat, salt and sugar. Smart pasta may be made with mostly refined flour and have a type of fibre called inulin, which doesn’t have the same bowel-friendly effect of whole grain pasta.

So if they aren’t the healthiest option, what’s smart about these products? The marketing. They play with consumers’ sense of self-worth (everyone wants to be smart, right?), and use trickery to make the products seem healthier than they are.

Before you buy something “smart,” read the ingredients and Nutrition Facts to get the whole story.

The other amazing thing I have recently noticed at a number of grocery stores is the presence of an in-store registered dietitian. They are on-site to offer grocery store tours, help you choose healthier products and wade through the marketing hype. Now that’s smart!

source: ctv.ca

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‘Best Before’ confusion leading to needless food waste

Angela Mulholland, CTVNews.ca Staff

Date: Monday Dec. 26, 2011 7:14 PM ET

You’ve opened up your fridge to find a tub of unopened yogurt with a Best Before date that says it expired three days ago. Would you toss it out? Most of us would. After all, “when it doubt, throw it out,” we’ve all been told.

In fact, though, you would likely be throwing away perfectly good food. As long as that yogurt had been stored properly since being bought, it would still be good a few days after its Best Before date. The same is true with milk, cheeses and countless other foods.

And yet every year, thousands of kilograms of food are needlessly thrown away simply because consumers misunderstand what the Best Before date means.

Most of us see them as expiration dates, when they’re often anything but. In fact, a Best Before date says nothing about the safety of a food.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency points out that Best Before dates are only an indicator of the “quality” of the product — meaning how long it will maintain its optimum taste and texture. The dates don’t guarantee that the food is safe before that date, and they don’t necessarily mean that the food is unsafe after that date.

“You can buy and eat foods after the ‘best before’ date has passed,” the CFIA says on its website. “However, when this date has passed, the food may lose some of its freshness and flavour, or its texture may have changed.”

In other words, Best Before dates are merely suggestions about how long a food will taste “fresh,” not whether it’s safe.

The only foods that the government insists must have expiration dates are infant formula, meal replacements and nutritional supplements. These must come with an “expiration date” because the vitamins in these foods can deteriorate, rendering them useless.

What might also surprise many shoppers: while the government requires Best Before dates on foods that will keep fresh for less than 90 days, it’s left up to food makers to pick those dates; there is little oversight from the government.

Another surprise: Those canned and packaged items in your cupboard? These don’t need to have a Best Before date at all. Not that it stops manufacturers from adding dates to such products anyway.

Check the labels of cookies, crackers, pasta mixes, canned tuna and beans and most come with Best Before dates. But none of these dates have anything to do with food safety; in fact, these foods are typically safe to eat long after their Best Before dates have passed. (Of course, that’s assuming the can isn’t bulging or leaking. It’s never safe to eat from those cans.)

Even soft drinks often come with “best if used by” dates, though their manufacturers insist there is no danger from drinking the products beyond those dates.

How do food makers decide when a food is past its “optimal freshness” on the shelf? That’s unclear. It seems it’s really up to them to decide because there aren’t government regulations on such decisions. That’s prompted some, including The Telegraph food writer Rose Prince, to suggest that food makers set the dates deliberately early, so that consumers toss the foods out sooner and buy more.

“The dates are decided by the manufacturers after testing and some would certainly have an interest in setting these dates at conservative levels. After all, the more we throw away, the more we buy,” she wrote earlier this year.

The problem is that when consumers become confused by these labels, and mistake Best Before dates as expiry dates, they toss out products as soon as the dates have passed, resulting in thousands of kilograms of needless food waste every year.

(It’s important to note that all these rules about Best Before dates apply only to foods that haven’t been opened. Once opened, most foods need to be consumed quickly, though the rules vary.)

The issue of food waste has been a hot topic in the U.K. in the last few years — and not only because food prices around the world have been rising. Much of it stems from a 2008 report from the U.K.-government group called WRAP, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

The government-funded group published a report three years ago entitled “The food we waste,” in which they carefully studied the food disposing habits of Britons, actually auditing the household garbage of thousands of them.

What they found was fascinating — and disturbing.

The most sobering fact: on average, every Briton throws away 70 kilograms (150 lbs) of “avoidable” food waste a year — the weight of an average person.

By “avoidable” food waste, they meant food that could have been eaten if it had been managed better by buying the right amount, storing it correctly and eating it up quickly.

Yes, there’s unavoidable waste, such as vegetable peelings, meat bones and coffee grounds. But the audit found that more than 60 per cent of food that was being wasted each year in Britain was avoidable.

The audits also found that over a quarter of avoidable food waste was thrown away whole or still in its packaging. This included stale bakery items, overripe fruits and packaged food such as yogurts that had passed their Best Before dates.

WRAP estimated that a full 20 per cent of food waste is linked to date labeling confusion.

Though these are British figures, there’s no reason to believe the situation is much better in Canada. In fact, it might even be worse, since there are plenty more oversized refrigerators — where foods get pushed to the back and forgotten — in North America than Britain.

In a bid to cut down on some of this waste, the British government brought in new guidelines last September to clarify freshness dating and to educate the public on what Best Before dates mean and don’t mean.

The government would like food makers to stop using Sell-By or Display Until dates, which they found were really just meant for stock control reasons. WRAP found that consumers were reading the labels and becoming confused about what they meant, leading to some of the unnecessary waste.

The British government would like food to be labelled with one date only — either a Use By date or a Best Before date. Use By labels would only apply to foods that could become unsafe to eat after the specified date. It will go on such foods as soft cheeses, meat, fish, eggs and ready meals. Best Before dates, on the other hand, will indicate only that the product is no longer at its best, though it would still be safe to consume.

In Canada, most consumers don’t see Sell By dates as much as they do in the U.S. and the U.K. But it’s likely most Canadian consumers share the same confusion over Best Before and Use By dates.

In the U.K., WRAP is working with the food industry to roll out public education programs to reinforce to consumers how Best Before dates work. Here in Canada, the messaging hasn’t been as clear, though there are a few websites that offer help. The Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education is a good start and offers a chart for how long it’s safe to keep unopened and opened foods in the fridge.

Still Tasty.com is another site that offers tips on the shelf life of foods. You can look up just about any food and it will tell you how long that food will stay fresh for and when it’s best to toss it. Their advice on that barely-expired yogurt?

“Yogurt that has been properly stored will generally remain safe for at least 7 to 10 days after the ‘sell-by’ date on the package,” the site says.

source: CTV.CA

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Nutrition Tips

Seven Diet Sins

You read all the books; buy all the right vitamins; you know the buzzwords to look for on food labels. By all standards, you’re certain your nutrition report card should be filled with straight A’s.

But before you start pasting gold stars onto your refrigerator door, take heed: Nutrition experts say most of us think we are eating a lot better than we actually are.

“It’s easy to buy into some pretty popular nutrition misconceptions — myths and half-truths that ultimately find us making far fewer healthier food choices than we realize,” says New York University nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD.

To set the record straight, Heller and two colleagues from the American Dietetic Association gave us the dish on seven nutrition mistakes you probably don’t know you’re making — along with sure-fire ways to avoid them.

Mistake No. 1: Assuming your choices are better than they actually are.

From fruit juices to canned vegetable soup, breakfast muffins to seven-grain bread, it’s easier to think your food choices are healthier than they really are, experts tell WebMD.

“If a label says ‘Seven-Grain Bread,’ it sounds pretty healthy, right? But unless that label also says ‘whole grains’ it’s not necessarily going to be the healthiest bread choice you could make,” Heller says.

Likewise, she says many folks think that eating a can of vegetable soup is as nutritious as downing a plateful of veggies — not realizing how few vegetables are inside, and how much of the nutrients are lost in processing.

Another common mistake: Substituting fruit juices for whole fruits.

“Are fruit juices healthier than soda? Yes. But they are also concentrated sources of sugar that don’t give you anywhere near the same level of nutrients you get from whole fruits,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD. What’s more, says Taub-Dix, if you’re trying to lose weight, you won’t get the same sense of fullness from a glass of juice that you will from a piece of fruit.

“Instead, you’ll just take in a whole lot of calories — and still feel hungry,” Taub-Dix says.

The solution: Whenever possible, eat whole, fresh, and unprocessed foods. Even when you eat them in smaller amounts, you’re likely to get a well-rounded group of nutrients. When buying packaged foods, put in at least as much time into reading labels and selecting products as you do when choosing a shower gel or shampoo.

“Don’t just assume a product is healthy — even if it’s in the health food section of the supermarket,” says Heller. “You’ve got to read the labels.”

Mistake No. 2: Being confused about carbs.

A national fascination with low-carb diets has many Americans eliminating carbohydrates from their eating plans in record “grams.” But before you reconstruct your personal nutrition pyramid, there’s something you should know.

“There are carbs that are very, very good, and some that are less good, but your brain and body must have some carbohydrates every day,” says Heller.

Moreover, because complex carbohydrates (those rich in whole grains and fiber) keep you feeling full longer, they also help you to eat less — and lose more!

But eliminating this important food group isn’t our only carb-related mistake. According to dietician Rachel Brandeis, MS, RD, just as troublesome is the belief that all no-carb or low-carb foods are healthy, or that you can eat them in any amount.

“Much like the low-fat diet craze, where everyone thought that if a meal had no fat, it had no calories, similarly people have come to believe that if it has low carbs you can eat as much as you want and not gain weight,” says Brandeis. “And that is simply not true.” Eat enough of anything, she says, and you’ll gain weight.

The solution: Experts say you should never cut any food group out of your diet — including carbohydrates. Equally important, says Heller, is to learn which carbohydrates give you the biggest bang for your nutritional buck.

“It’s a lot harder to run amuck when you are including carbohydrates like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains in your diet,” says Heller.

Mistake No. 3: Eating too much.

Whether you’re filling your plate with low-fat, low-carb, or even healthy, nutritionally balanced foods, overestimating how much food your body needs is among the most common mistakes, experts say.

“Many people believe they should feel not just satisfied after a meal, but stuffed,” says Heller. “I think many of us have lost touch with the sensation of having had enough food.”

Adds Taub-Dix: “People also tend to believe that they can eat larger portions if all the food on their plate meets the guidelines of their current diet — such as low-carb or low-fat — and that, of course, is also not true.”

The solution: Remain conscious of portion sizes. Weigh and measure standard portions, at least at first, so you’ll know what the amounts should look like. And, says Brandeis, “never use restaurant portions as your guide — they super-size everything.”

Mistake No. 4: Not eating enough — or often enough.

While overeating and undereating may seem like contradictory nutrition mistakes, they are related.

“If you don’t eat at regular intervals throughout the day, you risk disrupting your blood sugar and insulin levels, which in the end can promote fat storage and lower your metabolism — both of which lead to weight gain,” Brandeis says.

The solution: Eat something every four hours and never let yourself “starve” from one meal to the next, Brandeis says.

Mistake No. 5: Taking too many supplements.

“People tend to forget that a vitamin pill is a supplement — it’s meant to complement your diet, not act as a stand-in for the foods you don’t eat,” says Heller. What’s more, she says, taking too many vitamins can end up sabotaging your good health.

“Every vitamin and mineral and phytochemical in our body works in concert with one another, and it’s easy to knock that balance off if you are taking concentrated doses of single nutrients, or even groups of nutrients,” says Heller.

Bradeis cautions that any diet plan that claims you must take a high-potency supplement to meet your nutritional needs should send up a red flag.

“It means that eating plan is not healthy,” says Brandeis, “and it also means you are going to miss out on the synergistic health effects that can only come from whole foods — including not only helping you to feel fuller longer, but also preventing cellular breakdowns important to preventing disease.”

The solution: Both experts recommend taking no more than one all-purpose multivitamin daily. Don’t supplement your diet with individual nutrients without the guidance of your doctor, nutritionist, or other health expert. Keep in mind that the sales clerk in the health food store is usually not a health expert.

Mistake No. 6: Excluding exercise.

While most folks believe nutrition is all about food, Brandeis says it’s also about how your body uses food — and that’s where regular exercise comes in.

“Without adequate exercise, you cannot maintain a high enough metabolic rate to burn your food efficiently,” says Brandeis. “A pill can’t do that for you; foods alone can’t do that for you. Exercise is the only way to achieve it.”

The solution: Make exercise a regular part of your life. And don’t get hung up if you can’t do it at the same time every day. If you miss your routine in the morning, don’t wait until the next day and try to do twice as much. Instead, try to fit in some exercise — even if it’s just a little bit — every day, says Taub-Dix.

Mistake No. 7: Believing everything you read about nutrition and weight loss.

“Just because someone writes a diet book or a nutrition guide does not mean they are an expert,” cautions Brandeis.

If you’re turning to a book for guidance, she says, “look to the author’s credentials and ask yourself: Is this person a dietician; do they have an advanced degree in nutrition? Or are you buying this book because it’s written by a celebrity who you think looks good?”

Even if an “expert” is behind your nutrition or diet plan, Brandeis says, it’s important to make sure the plan is based on solid research.

“Has the plan been tried on 20 people or 200 people? Have the results been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal — or is it based solely on anecdotal reports? These are things that I fear many people don’t pay attention to before paying attention to what is being said — and that is a huge mistake,” says Brandeis.

Perhaps even more important: Experts say there is no one diet or nutrition plan that is right for every person.

Brandeis tells WebMD that dieters need to stop blaming themselves when a plan doesn’t work for them. It’s not them, she says. It may not even be the plan. “It’s just not the correct match,” she says.

The solution: Before following a particular diet or nutrition plan, check the credentials of the author or creator. Look for plans that are backed up by published medical data, and supported by the opinions of many experts in the field.

Published January 11, 2005.

SOURCES: Samantha Heller, MS, RD, dietician and nutritionist, New York University Medical Center, New York City. Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, director, medical nutrition therapist, BTD Nutrition, New York City; spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association. Rachel Brandeis, MS, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association, Atlanta.

source: www.medicinenet.com www.WebMD.com

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Raw food provides less energy than cooked

Food labels don’t account for difference, making them inaccurate

Nov 11, 2011

Cooking food boosts the amount of energy your body can get from it — and hence the weight you gain by eating it.

That applies to both meat and potatoes, and likely had a profound effect on human evolution, says a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mice fed cooked meat gained more weight than mice fed raw meat. IStock

It also means that current food labels — which list the same number of calories for ingredients whether they are raw or cooked — are inaccurate, suggests Rachel Carmody, a researcher at Harvard University and lead author of the study.

Evolutionary biologists had long suspected that the human diet became significantly more energy rich in the past two million years due to changes in the human body that make it require more energy, said Carmody, a graduate student specializing in human evolutionary biology.

“We see … increases in body mass, increases in brain size, some adaptations to energetically costly exercises such as long distance running,” she told CBC’s Quirks & Quarks in an interview set to air Saturday.

Interestingly, those changes came at a time when humans’ teeth and guts were getting smaller, providing further evidence that the human diet must have been getting richer in energy.

Some scientists hypothesized that the extra energy may have come from eating meat. Previous studies found that cooking starchy foods increased the amount of energy that could be extracted from them by the digestive system.

Carmody and her colleagues decided to test the effect of cooking on the amount of energy provided by meat.

Because the risk of food poisoning makes feeding humans raw meat as part of an experiment impossible, the researchers ran their experiment on mice, which have a similar digestive system to humans, and can eat both meat and vegetable matter.

They compared the weight of mice that were fed either raw or cooked meat. And they performed the same experiment with raw or cooked sweet potato.

“In both diets, the cooked food led to a higher body mass,” Carmody said.

The researchers suggest that is largely because cooking food makes it easier to digest.

“We can think of it as externalizing part of the digestive process,” Carmody said.

As a result, the body doesn’t have to expend as much energy producing digestive acids and enzymes and using muscles to push the food through. The food may also be digested higher in the digestive tract, allowing more of it to be absorbed by the body. Lower in the digestive tract, bacteria that live in the human gut take more of the food for themselves.

Finally, because cooking kills harmful food-borne microbes, the body doesn’t have to spend as much energy on the immune system to deal with those microbes.

Carmody said researchers still aren’t sure exactly when humans adopted cooking during their history. But she believes that whenever it happened, it had a significant impact on the amount of energy they could get from their food.

source: CBC News