CAT | Toxins and Health
When it comes to smart food choices, some things are just common sense. Doughnuts and deep-fried candy bars? Probably not the best idea. Fresh, organic fruits and veggies? Definitely sounds like a better choice, right? But, as the experts at TIME Health & Family recently proved with their list of 9 Shocking Food Facts, the more you know, the better. Check it out!
1. Imported produce from the supermarket can have higher nutrient levels than local produce from a farmers’ market. The nutritional content of produce is determined by a number of factors, including temperature, light and soil. Though storage and transportation cause some types of produce to lose nutrients, studies show that antioxidants may actually increase in other cases. As counterintuitive as it seems, this means blueberries shipped long distances could be slightly more nutritious than those right off the bush.
2. Foods labeled “no trans fat” may legally contain some. The government allows manufacturers to round down anything less than 0.5 g of trans fat to zero. That means if you eat several servings of a so-called trans fat-free food—or a few such foods a day—you can wind up consuming measurable amounts of trans fat. To avoid it, check ingredient labels and steer clear of anything containing partially hydrogenated oils. (That may become easier if the Food and Drug Administration’s declaration that trans fats are unsafe holds, and they are banned from foods like doughnuts, baked goods and frozen pizzas.)
3. Decaffeinated coffee is not caffeine-free. Most decaf coffee has some caffeine. A decaf espresso, for example, can have as much as 16 mg. In a decaf latte, which contains two shots of espresso, that adds up to about the same amount of caffeine found in a can of Coke®.
4. Canned white tuna has about three times more mercury than chunk light. The species used for white tuna, albacore, is larger and accumulates more mercury than skipjack, which is used for chunk light. The better option? Canned salmon has less mercury than both types of tuna.
5. Fruit juice can have more calories and sugar than soda. An 8-oz. glass of apple juice has roughly 115 calories, compared with about 95 in Coke. A cup of grape juice contains 36g of sugar—about 9g more than in the same amount of Pepsi®. While the sugar in juice is natural (and not high-fructose corn syrup), it’s still sugar.
6. Not all fiber is created equal. To boost their fiber content, many packaged foods contain added fiber with names such as inulin, maltodextrin and polydextrose. While these count toward a food’s fiber total, they haven’t been proved to offer the same health benefits as the naturally occurring fiber found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
7. Cooked vegetables can be more nutritious than raw ones. Whether a vegetable is more nutritious cooked or raw depends on the vegetable, the nutrient and the cooking method. For example, we get more of the antioxidant lycopene from cooked tomatoes than from raw ones. Likewise, boiling carrots increases their levels of antioxidants called carotenoids. But cooking carrots also lowers amounts of other compounds.
8. “Multigrain” products aren’t necessarily whole grain. While multigrain may appear to be a synonym for whole grain or whole wheat—which is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and digestive problems—it’s not. It simply means the food is made from several grains, which may be whole or refined. To make sure the food is rich in whole grains, check the ingredients. The first one listed should contain the word whole.
9. Adding fat to your salad can make it more healthful. Eating vegetables along with fat can help the body better absorb their nutrients. So using a dressing with fat may make a salad with tomatoes and carrots, which are high in fat-soluble carotenoids, more nutritious than using a fat-free one or skipping the dressing altogether.
It is no secret that sugar is unhealthy. From high blood sugar to diabetes and heart disease, a diet high in sugar has far-reaching effects. But did you know that sugar is also bad for your brain? A recent study published in the Journal of Physiology found an interesting connection between a diet low in omega-3s and high in the sugar fructose, and poor memory and brain function. The researchers stated, “Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information. But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage.”
In the animal study, one group was fed a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids, and another group was fed a diet high in omega-3s from flaxseed and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The omega-3 deficient animals were found to have poor memory function when compared to those fed a diet rich in omega-3s. The negative effects of a low omega-3 diet were exacerbated when high amounts of fructose were added to the diet. In the group receiving sufficient omega-3s, however, a high fructose diet did not have the same negative effects on memory and neuron function, suggesting that omega-3s have a protective effect against the brain dysfunction caused by a high fructose diet.
It is well known that a high sugar diet increases blood sugar and insulin resistance in the bloodstream. This is the hallmark of the metabolic syndrome, an increasingly common condition that precedes type 2 diabetes. This study suggests that not only can a high sugar diet have effects in the bloodstream, but that it can also have similar effects in the brain. The study found disrupted insulin receptor signaling in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory function. Insulin and fructose are both known to cross the blood-brain barrier, where they can interrupt neuron function.
The findings of this study are not surprising. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is also known as type 3 diabetes. The fact is, the amount of sugar—and even carbohydrates, for that matter—in the Standard American Diet (SAD) is alarmingly high. ReNew Life founder Brenda Watson will be debuting a new PBS show in the fall on this very topic. The show, called The Heart of Perfect Health will air nationwide in November. Stay tuned to our blog for more information on show times.