Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Omega 3 and Omega 6

Omega 3 and Omega 6 are unsaturated fats. Many people would say if they are fats just cut them out of my diet completely.Cutting them out of your diet does a lot of harm. It turns out these fats are necessary to our health but we may not be consuming them in the right way. In this blog I am going to explain: What they are, health benefits, problems with the way americans consume them and how to make your intake of these fats more balanced. 

Omega 3: 

Foods that contain Omega 3

Omega 3 is a necessary nutrient for a good healthy body. It helps control and 
regulate blood clotting. It also helps build cell membranes and is very good for your brain.New studies show it also may potentially help with the symptoms of cancer and autoimmune diseases. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center omega 3s are very important for the memory and behavior part of your brain. They are also suspected to help lower the risk of heart disease, arthritis and cancer and help reduce inflammation. The source below has a great list of the different suspected benefits a diet high in omega 3 has: 
This is a really great list. Just a couple of the things they talk about are: ADHD, schizophrenia, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, asthma and high cholesterol.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid 

deficiency include:

1) fatigue

2)poor memory 

3)dry skin

4) heart problems

5)mood swings or depression

6) poor circulation.

Omega 6: 

Foods that contain Omega 6

Omega 6 fatty acids are similar to Omega 3 in many ways:

1) They are necessary to good health but your body does not produce them on its own to it is necessary to acquire them through food.  
2) Like Omega 3s they are good for the brain and 
3) They also play a role in the growth and health of skin, hair and bones.

Unlike Omega threes which are expected to help reduce inflammation some types of Omega 6s are expected  are expected to increase it. Not all types are. Here is a great link with a more detailed overview and a list of what Omega 6s are expected to affect:

From the information above we can tell that they are both important. Some argue that Omega 3s are more important but that is a whole nother blog post. The important thing is the balance  between the two fatty acids in your diet. A lot of our ancestors had a more healthy balance between the acids when the caught their own seafood and ate a more balanced diet. The diet many americans eat today (often referred to as the western diet) contains not nearly enough Omega 3s and way too many Omega 6s. 

Western diet: "Public health A diet loosely defined as one high in saturated fats, red meats, 'empty' carbohydrates–junk food, and low in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafoods, poultry. "-McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Western Diet 

According to a study done by the national library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health the very high ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 in the Western diet can increase the risk of diseases like: Cardiovascular diseases, Inflammatory diseases, autoimmune diseases and certain cancers.  This study also showed the decreased amounts of omega 6 and increased amounts of Omega 3 created opposite results therefore decreasing the risk of diseases like: Cardiovascular diseases, Inflammatory diseases, autoimmune diseases and certain cancers. This is a big discovery. This study still shows that both Omega 3s and Omega 6s are necessary fro health but the western diet is getting the ratio wrong.   The study tested the effect of different ration on different cancers, arthritis, cardiovascualr diseases etc. They concluded in the end a lower ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 was desirable for anybody thou the ratios may vary when dealing with certain diseases. Below is the link to the study's abstract if you are interested in reading more:

So with all this information about how are diets have way to much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 we need to figure out how to fix it. The important thing is not t confuse the information above and try to cut Omega 6 out of your diet. Both are necessary and  important and you can have too much of both.  The balance is what is important. Below I am going talk about good sources of both Omega 3 and Omega 6:

Omega 6: Omega 6 can be found in many oils including: Safflower, Corn and Soybean oil. These are oils commonly found in processed foods. As I have talked about in previous blogs many americans consume way to much processed food meaning they are also consuming way to much omega 6 fatty acid. 

Omega 3: Omega 3s can be found in many foods including:
- Some oils
- Flax seeds
- Sardines
- Kale
- Brussel sprouts  


Flax Seed 


Many Americans are not getting enough of these foods and it is effecting their health. In conclusion we need to change the ratio of these to fatty acids.  As the CDC says eating more Omega 3s can simply be eating a few walnuts a day, putting flax seed on oatmeal  or eating fish a couple times a week. Kale is also a great source of Omega 3.Some people also choose to take fish oil pills which have very high levels of Omega 3s. Cutting down on Omega 6 can mean cutting down on using some of the oils like soybean oil, safflower oil and corn oil and eating less of the processed foods that contain large quantities of these oils. Its really important to remember that both are important, we just need to change the amounts we consume. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Sugar

So which is healthier? Which should I eat? Should I eat either of them?

                                                                            According to research done by Princeton University  sugar and high fructose corn syrup are have different effects when it comes to weight gain. A study was performed on rats.  It was proven that rats that consumed high fructose corn syrup gained more weight than the rats who consumed table sugar. The calorie intake of the two groups of rats was the same. In the long term the rats that consumed high fructose corn syrup gained much more bodyweight. Scientist Bart Hoebel says they have never seen rats gain so much even on a very high fat diet. The rat consuming high fructose corn syrup gained 48% more weight than they did on a normal diet.  They believe this proves that there is a difference between the two. Below is the link to the study:

According To the CDC since high fructose corn syrup was introduced into the food market the obesity levels in America have gone up immensely in 1970 around 15% of the people in the United states were obese today it's around 33.3%. It's estimated that Americans consume 60 pounds of high fructose corn syrup each year.
Obesity Rates in Ameri

  This much corn syrup according to the study will lead to obesity. Obesity then can lead to other problems including heart disease, type two diabetes and many other issues caused by being overweight. According to the fructose which is what causes obesity is close to the same level 50% in sugar and 55% in high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup and sugar have a lot in common but they also have quite a few differences. According to the rat study done by Princeton University high fructose corn syrup is worse for you than sugar because of the fact that it contributes to obesity and obesity contributes too many other diseases. One of the theories right now is that high fructose corn syrup is more chemically unbound then sugar. This might explain why high fructose corn syrup seems to cause obesity faster than sugar thou the fructose levels are close to the same. Another theory is that high fructose corn syrup can cause health issues because of its synthetic makeup.  If we look at the makeup of high fructose corn syrup different concerns arise. Some say that because of the ways our bodies handle high fructose corn syrup it limits the amount of the hormone Leptin, which tells the body meet had enough to eat, therefore causing us to eat more than necessary. Another issue caused by high fructose corn syrup is that  it is sweeter than most other sweeteners so eating large quantities of it causes people to be addicted therefore the eat more sugar than their bodies need. This leads to health problems.

It's still debated whether or not high fructose corn syrup and sugar are that different but one thing that is not debated is it Americans consume way too much sugar. Everybody fusses over high fructose corn syrup but really a major part of the problem is just the sugar. It's estimated that  the average American consumes 150 pounds of sugar per year. That is almost 2 1/2 pounds per day.We don't eat that all in sugar former sugar is a ton of things we eat: Jams, bread, drinks, salad dressing, cookies, crackers and even foods like frozen dinners. 


 I believe one of the most important things to do if you try to consume healthier food is cut down on white sugar. Sugar leads to obesity as well which causes many health issues. Americans have started to get a sweet tooth because of all of the sweet stuff we consume. It is become an addiction for many Americans. I believe the most important thing right now is for us to cut down on the amount of sugar, high fructose corn syrup and any other sweetener we are eating. None of it is good for you. Mark Bittman has a great article about this:

In conclusion we have a reason to fuss about high fructose corn syrup but we also need to fuss about sugar. The best thing you can do right now is cut down on all of it. The little things make the difference. Do you put sugar in your tea? Put honey instead.  Do you eat really sweet yogurts? Flavor plain yogurt yourself with honey, maple syrup or jam. Do you eat dessert when you are not hungry? Don’t do it!  Try to cut down; it is not just the high fructose corn syrup causing it! 

I would really appreciate any comments or feedback you have!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Refined Grains

After talking about all the consequences processed food has on America we need to think about what is actually bad about processed food. In the next couple blogs I am going to talk about some of the  bad ingredients and processing techniques and why they are harmful. Today I will start with one word: Refinement. To refine a food is to strip it of some or all of its nutrients. When we talk about refinement we often think about refined grains. Refinement is another form of processing food. When you refine wheat the  germ and bran are stripped off resulting in the flour having a finer texture (white flour), a different taste and  a longer shelf life.

When grains are refined all that is left is the endosperm. The endosperm only contains carbohydrates, starch, protein and very small amounts of vitamins and nutrients. After the refining process a grain has lost about 25% of its original proteins and many nutrients. Below is a link to a great chart about the loss of nutrients by the Whole Grains Council: 
Once most of the nutrients are taken out of wheat there is not much left worth eating. As well as losing many nutrients a lot of fiber is lost in the refinement process. Below are three examples of ways that wheat is being treated. Two of them are refined wheat. 

1) Whole Grains (the grain is never refined). You want to make sure never you never confuse whole wheat bread with wheat bread. Any bread made out of refined or whole wheat flour is wheat bread because it contains wheat. Even some whole wheat breads contain unnecessary additives and preservatives. You want to read the ingredients of bread before you buy it. Ideally you would make it (I will blog about this later) but everyone does not always have time for that. 

Whole wheat bread with added seeds and grains 

Wheat before it has been ground into flour

2) Refined White Bread (germ and bran removed) 
Refined bread

3) Enriched Grains (refined grains with added nutrients).

Enriched bread

 The issue with enriched grains is when they add the nutrients back they also add other ingredients. Below is the ingredient list for Stroehmann King White Enriched Bread: 


As you can see they added more than nutrients and vitamins. They added High Fructose Corn Syrup (I will blog about this later), preservatives and many other unpronounceable additives (I will blog about these later as well).   

There is a big difference between these breads. If you look at the link to the table above you will see the difference in nutrients, vitamins and proteins in these breads. This difference is very drastic. Wheat is just an example of a refined grain. The one minute rice you buy at the grocery store is
refined grain. The rice has been stripped of a lot of its fiber and nutrients.  

As you can see  written on the package this rice is enriched

When buying grains you should always be thinking about whether the food you are buying is refined. Dont let the word "Enriched" fool you. I am not saying cut it out of your diet completely and never touch anything refined again. Its all about moderation (I will blog about this later). In the recipes I will work on later I plan to find ways around refined foods and try to make  the food we enjoy unrefined and whole.  
In conclusion the best bread you could buy would be whole grain and even then you have to read the ingredients to be sure. The worst you could buy would be either enriched (weird ingredients and weird levels of nutrients), white (no nutrients left), or "wheat" (white bread labeled wheat because it is made of wheat).  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why should we care about processed foods?

This is a question we all should ask. On the radio and in everyday conversations we hear people talk about processed food. We hear people talking about news year’s resolution and how they plan to cut down on the amount of processed food they consume. Before you can truly make good and informed decisions about the food you eat you need to understand what processed food is.

The definition of processed food is according to is: Food processing is any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat. According to this definition cooking food, chopping food and canning food is processing food.


There are different levels of processed foods. Below is a table from that explains different levels of processed food.
Type of Food
Foods that require little processing or production (also called “minimally processed”).
Washed and packaged fruits and vegetables; bagged salads; roasted and ground nuts and coffee beans
Foods processed to help preserve and enhance nutrients and freshness of foods at their peak
Canned tuna, beans and tomatoes; frozen fruits
and vegetables; pureed and jarred baby foods
Foods that combine ingredients such as sweeteners, spices, oils, flavors, colors, and preservatives to improve safety and taste and/or add visual appeal. (Does not include “ready-to-eat” foods listed below.)
Some packaged foods, such as instant potato mix, rice, cake mix, jarred tomato sauce, spice mixes, dressings and sauces, and gelatin
“Ready-to-eat” foods needing minimal or no preparation.
Breakfast cereal, flavored oatmeal, crackers, jams and jellies, nut butters, ice cream, yogurt, garlic bread, granola bars, cookies, fruit chews, rotisserie chicken, luncheon meats, honey-baked ham, cheese spreads, fruit drinks
and carbonated beverages
Foods packaged to stay fresh and save time
Prepared deli foods and frozen meals, entrées,
pot pies and pizzas

It is not as easy as saying these types of processed foods are good and these processed foods are not. It depends on who processes them and the ingredients put into them. The major problems that processed foods impose on America have to do with the ingredients and the way they are processed. As long as you do it safely making cookies in your kitchen is fine. This is what people should be doing, processing their own food. The problems are caused by the mass produced cookies that are made in huge factories with really cheap ingredients.

 In this blog post I am going to talk about three major problems with overly processed foods:

1) Processed foods are cheap calories. For the many many Americans who live in food desserts ( areas where fresh food is not available) or don’t have the money to buy good food for their family buy the cheapest thing available. At the moment this is processed food. It is made in large quantities and uses cheap ingredients which are grown in massive amounts on huge industrial farms. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) subsidizes a certain amount of money to the production of food. 85% of this money goes to commodities which are usually grown on huge massive farms. These are the ingredients that go into processed foods. Only 1% of this money goes to fruit and vegetable farms.

Since 1980 the cost of processed food has gone down 40% and the price of fresh fruits and vegetables has gone up. Therefore the many Americans lacking enough money to buy fresh fruits and vegetables buy overly processed foods that do not contain the necessary vitamins and minerals. Many people in the US are living on only processed chips, cakes etc. When your diet is composed of only overly processed foods this can lead to many health problems including obesity. More than 1/3 of the adults in the US are obese.  According to the CDC obesity it can lead to many more issues including: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. It is estimated that 147 billion dollars are spent in the US each year because of obesity. For more about obesity in America:

 This is not necessarily the peoples fault. As a country we need educate the public more and make healthier food available to the public at affordable prices. Think about what all that money could do to change our food system and instead it is being used to pay for the consequences of eating like we do.

2) Overly Processed food is often made in big factories and then transported across the country.  This uses lots of fuel and admits many pollutants into the air. The actual processing of the food does the same. 

We can thank the food we eat for a lot of the global warming our country is experiencing. Michael Pollan has a great video on eating local and the effects it has on the environment. If we ate local a lot of the energy used to make and transport process food would be saved.
Below is the link to the video:

3) So far we have talked about the health effect and the environmental effect but have neglected one more important reason. Families share recipes and have a connection around certain foods. In some families food is a big deal. As people have started to eat more and more processed foods people are starting to stop cooking as much and they don’t have the same knowledge of where their food comes from. They don’t have the same connection with food that people have had since the cavemen were on earth. Michael Pollan talks a lot about his in his book: The Omnivore’s Dilemma. One thing he mentions is that many Americans no longer eat around the table but eat fats food on their way to work or on their way home. We are losing our connection with food.     


As you can see processed food is a huge problem in America. The problem is many Americans cannot afford anything but processed foods. Our nation needs to make other food more available and accessible to more people. I watched a great movie recently that talked about this that I highly recommend called: A Place at our Table. Below is the link to the trailer:

This is a movie everybody needs to see that addresses all the problems above as well as many other flaws in America’s food system. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Navigating the food market in a nation of processed food
Do you think about what you eat? That may seem like an obvious answer: of course I think about what I eat. Unfortunately it is not always that simple. If your parents do most of the cooking you do not often know the ingredients in the food you are eating. You are eating an apparently healthy meal: pasta, meatballs and a salad. Unless you made it you do not know what was in those frozen meatballs. The jarred sauce, who cares? I believe everybody should care about what they eat. Not only does it affect your long and short term health but it affects the environment as well.
It seems like it might be easy to go into the grocery store and pick out what is processed and what is not and just buy the unprocessed food. Unfortunately changing life styles like this is a huge change. It takes more time to make food that is less processed and friendlier to your body and it often takes more money.  In this blog I want to help you understand:   How to navigate the food market (consumption, time, economically) in a nation of processed food
First of all you might think: Why does it matter? What does processed food do to our bodies? Who cares? All the preservatives and additives in the food people eat daily affect the function of our bodies and the way we feel.  How do we fix that? Before we can answer that question we need to think about what needs fixing.
Think about the energy used when processing and transporting all those meatballs to your freezer. According to Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture a recent study proved that in California more than 485,000 trucks full of fruits and vegetables leave each year to be taken to different places around the country. After leaving California the trucks full of fruits and vegetables travel anywhere from 100 to 3,100 miles to reach their final destination.  That is just a statistic for one state. Think about the other 49. All those truck release so many fossil fuels into the air. That statistic does not even include the processing of the food.   It only includes the transportation. Those fossil fuels effect the environment in so many ways. Think about how many fossil fuels would not be released into the air if we all try to eat some local food. I am not saying eat everything local. The key word is moderation. Take small steps. It would make a big difference. For further reading about fossil fuels check out this link:
Not only do you have to think about the effect of processed foods on the environment but you have to think about the effect of processed foods on your body.  One common ingredient in processed foods are trans fats. Trans fats are used by food companies to fry and process foods. Trans fats last a long time, they are cheap and have an addicting taste. These qualities appeal to many food processors. The issue with trans fats is that they can contribute and lead to heart disease and other health issues. This is just one example of harmful ingredients in processed foods. I am not suggesting that all processed food is cut of out your diet but I believe that Americans need to limit their processed foods to almost none.
These are some of the problems with the foods some Americans eat. Do you ever eat jarred tomato sauce? What about biscuits in a roll? Foods like these are OK in moderation but these are the foods causing the harm. They are overly processed and not whole foods. I want to provide you with an education about processed food. What is it? How do you recognize it? What does it do to your body? How can I avoid it? I would like to provide alternatives to the processed prepared foods you buy.
What if you can make a tomato sauce that tastes so much better and it so much better for you than that jarred one? What if you could freeze it and use it another time? What is that small change made a big difference?  What about these biscuits? What is you could freeze handmade dough? Would you feel better doing this? Cooking homemade food not only is good for you and the environment but is quite enjoyable. I have a passion for food and I want to spread that passion among other people my age.  
In this blog I am going to take foods that are often bought processed and packaged and find alternatives. These alternatives will use time and money wisely and find a healthier replacement for overly processed, packaged, store bought food. I will create recipes as an alternative to common processed foods. I am not saying a treat once in a while it not okay. It is all about moderation. The next posts will be about processed foods, local movements and how you can make small changes to your life that make a big difference.

I want all kids to be educated about the food they put in their body. It affects today and tomorrow.