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Posts Tagged ‘Processed Foods’

I’m a heavy magazine reader (mostly nerdy stuff). This week, I polished-off a Women’s Health and a National Geographic:

  • The Women’s Health* May issue (page 112) has an article titled “Can you build a better sugar?” which basically concludes that sugar substitutes have their issues (they may actually cause blood sugar spikes) and that it might be best to just stick to the more natural sugar.
  • National Geographic included an excerpt of the book, Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong and highlighted how margarine and Crisco basically introduced trans fats to the American diet and cause up to 250,000 deaths per year in the U.S. We’d be better off sticking with the more natural butter.

So, both concluded that we’d be better off sticking to a food closer to it’s original form than one created through a highly lab-intensive process. SHOCKED, shocked I tell you! (sarcasm)

I’m definitely guilty of some processed foods, but whenever possible, we should try to avoid them, especially as hypoglycemics, as there can be serious blood sugar consequences.

Am I saying go to town and eat as much sugar and butter as you want? Nope. Moderation is the key, a combination of portion control and cutting-back on how much sugar, butter, salt, etc. we add to things. For example, our sweets in the U.S. are ridiculously sweet compared to sweets in other countries and they are HUGE. We could easily fix both.

 

 

*I’m in no way advocating that Women’s Health is a good source of actual health advice. Some of their articles are great and well-researched, but many are not, and contradict each other. Read with caution.

 

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A Clean Eating magazine opened to a page with a dog's leg in the middle of it.

My boyfriend’s dog doesn’t think much of the magazine either.

For some points program, I was given a year’s worth (which I think it 10 issues) of Clean Eating Magazine. Constantly on the hunt for good recipes that are low in processed foods, I thought this would be a good fit. But, the magazine has so many flaws in it it’s honestly not worth reading it.

Some of my comments are below (note: I received a couple of issues at once, so I was able to really assess the magazine over a sample of more than one):

  • June 2015 issue, according to Alicia Rewega, Editor-in-Chief (page 5), is supposed to be easy issue, “so everything inside is simple to make with just a few quick steps…”  But when I actually looked at the recipes, most had 12-20 ingredients. I’m sure they are easy enough to measure out, but anything with that many ingredients isn’t “easy and simple to make” to me.
  • Clean Eating, although not always, is usually tied to fitness/bodybuilding. But the recipes in the magazine are very low protein, many with only 8-12 grams of protein per serving. This seems like audience confusion to me.
  • Pay 74-75 of the June 2015 issue has a weeklong meal plan, but it’s incredibly unrealistic. For example, Wednesday’s breakfast is 2 Dark Chocolate Cherry Hazelnut Energy Balls and 1 hard-boiled egg.  The Energy Balls are 151 calories for 2, and a hard-boiled egg is 70 calories. So breakfast is 221 calories. Um, seriously?  That’s not enough energy! You’d be starving in an hour!
  • It’s really hard to distinguish what is an advertisement and what is an actual article. There’s a very tiny “ADVERTISEMENT” note in light gray on the corner. This bugs me since this is my profession and making a clear distinction is really important from an ethical perspective.
  • In the May 2015 issue (page 21) asks the dietitians the best time to take vitamins. These dietitians clearly aren’t “up” on their research. Maybe they should read The Atlantic’s The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements.
  • In the May 2015 issue (page 17 “Traffic Signals for Food” and page 25 “Run to Stay Young”), they report on studies with VERY low numbers of participants (30 participants? Are you kidding me?), which is an inherent flaw in nutrition and health research design and shows very little concern for quality science reporting. The staff should really read I Fooled Millions into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here’s How. and then hire an actual science reporter before publishing studies.

I could point out more, but I think that’s enough to prove what I mean. This magazine has some serious flaws and I definitely don’t recommend it.

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Whenever I travel overseas or meet friendly travelers with in the United States, I like to investigate what perceptions others outside of the U.S. have about Americans. One of the biggest is that we’re fat. So that always leads me to the question, “Why do you think Americans are fat?”. Below are some of the most common and one of the most interesting responses I’ve received.

 

Your food and/or meat is loaded with hormones

I’ve had several people I’ve asked respond with some rendition of this. They especially point to the injections we put into meat.

 

You eat too many processed foods

After getting this from a friend from Italy, I asked her “What’s the least expensive type of food you can buy at the grocery store?”. She replied, “Fruits and vegetables.” I compared that to the U.S., where junk food (soda, chips, etc.) are the least expensive food options.

 

We walk everywhere, you don’t

What amazed me was how many social activities, when I’m in Europe, were physical-based. “Let’s go for a hike!” someone would say. In contrast, in the U.S., it’s almost always “Let’s go for a drink!” or “Let’s go for food!”.

 

We take time and enjoy our food

I remember a Spanish roommate of mine laughing about drive-throughs at fast food restaurants.  He’d never seen them before coming the U.S. and remarked that they would probably never catch on in Spain because people there like to sit down and enjoy their food. It’s not uncommon for dinner to be 2 hours long in Europe and you don’t feel rushed by the wait staff to hurry up.

 

It’s not socially acceptable to be fat

I only received this response once, but I found it by far the most interesting. I was in Germany and the man who said it was a friend of a friend. He went on to explain that, in Germany, it’s simply not socially acceptable to be fat. He pointed to a bit of fat around his belly (about 15 lbs I’d guess) and told me that he had already reached the socially acceptable limit and was getting significant pressure from family/friends to lose the weight.

This might explain, while I was shopping with friends, that I never saw any “plus size” clothing or “big and tall” shops in Europe. Personally, while I was in Italy, I was a size 4-6, but in Rome? That was a medium, not a small.

 

There’s so much sugar in your food

Agreed!  One of my favorite things about going overseas or eating non-American food is the limited sugar, even in desserts.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend watching the documentary Fed Up. I don’t agree with everything they say, but I do agree with most of it.

 

 

 

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A photograph of three sugar cubes

Sugar is a main culprit in disease and obesity. From Flickr: Uwe Hermann

 

This month’s National Geographic cover story is an article titled, Sugar Love: A not so sweet story. I would really encourage you to read this. Not only is it a fascinating account of the history of sugar and sugar’s ties to slavery, but it really made me realize just how much sugar I am really eating because of added sugar in most of my processed foods.

It also does a great job of explaining why, after we as Americans cut so much fat from our diets, we are still unhealthy and obese. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the article:

“As a result, fat makes up a smaller portion of the American diet than it did 20 years ago. Yet the portion of America that is obese has only grown larger. The primary reason, says Johnson, along with other experts, is sugar, and in particular fructose.”

This article definitely made me rethink some of the foods I’ve been eating; even some of the protein and energy bars I’ve reviewed positively on here! Join me in paying attention to the sugars in your diet and let’s work together to get our needed carbohydrates from natural sugars.

 

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A family showing a week of groceries displayed on a table. The majority of the foods are processed foods.

Here’s the Revis Family representing America in California Photographer’s Peter Menzel collection of photographs of groceries for families around the world. Click on the photo to see all of the photos.

I was killing time on my Flipboard app yesterday when I noticed a cool photo journal titled, “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats – in pictures.” California Photographer Peter Menzel traveled to 24 countries  for the book Hungry Planet. The photo slideshow says that the point is to show “how much the world’s weekly groceries cost” and it does a good  job of that (it’s really sad in some cases).I was more interested in what people are EATING.

Not shockingly, the developed countries are eating a lot more processed foods than anyone else.  As I’ve mentioned before, processed foods can prevent you from losing weight and they aren’t good for you if you are hypoglycemic.

I know how much I spend on groceries, but I wonder, if I laid out my groceries on the table and took photographs, would I be happy with the results? Would you?  It might be an interesting experiment.

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