Category Archives: Healthy Living

Transparent Cleaning Products

Whole Foods Logo
I love shopping at Whole Foods, primarily because the have no products with MSG in them. That’s right – none. Actually, they have a long list of unacceptable ingredients.

Does that mean everything there is healthy? Maybe, maybe not. I took a friend on a tour recently trying to help her find healthier snacking options. Surprisingly, there were a lot of snack foods (cookies and crackers) that were not made with whole grain flour. That may not mean much to you, but it does mean that they contain little to no fiber and fewer nutrients than their whole grain counterparts. So just like any place else you shop, you have to read the labels.

Whole Foods Eco-Scale
Beginning on Earth Day 2012 (April 22nd), Whole Foods will implement their Eco-Scale™ Rating System for cleaning products. There are no regulations for labeling of cleaning products, which can be a real issue for many of us. So, Whole Foods is implement their own rating system which will allow all of us to make better choices.

They have four different ratings – Red, Orange, Yellow and Green. You can read about them on their Eco-Scale™ Rating System page. Here’s a brief description of each category:

  • Red – Not be carried by Whole Foods
  • Orange – No phosphates, chlorine or fake colors
  • Yellow – No phosphates, chlorine or fake colors – PLUS – 100% natural fragrances and minimal safety concerns
  • Green – No phosphates, chlorine or fake colors – PLUS – 100% natural fragrances and minimal safety concerns – PLUS – 100% natural, non-petroleum ingredients

I love it. I’ll be shopping and buying only Yellow and Green rated products.

I applaud Whole Foods for implement this system. In the absence of government regulations, they are (once again) setting standards for what they carry in their stores. This is how it should work. It sends a message to the manufacturers about what the people want.

I Could’ve had a V8

Fruit Juice Not Whole NutritionI rarely watch TV commercials, mainly because they tend to enrage me. Sometimes, one enrages me to the point that I have to talk about it. Recently, this has happened with the V8 V-Fusion commercials.

They show the people, children and adults, drinking this juice and magically having consumed a serving of fruit and vegetables. Really? Is it the same thing?

My initial suspicion is that it just wasn’t possible. So I did my homework.

What should your first check be? Read the ingredients! You’ll find things like reconstituted vegetable juice blend and reconstituted fruit juice blend. Sounds yummy!

So it’s really only the juice – not the fruits and vegetables. What have you lost?

  1. The skin – an excellent source of fiber, carotenoids and flavonoids.
  2. The pulp – another excellent source of flavonoids and fiber. Plus, the pulp
    and Vitamin C act together in the body. So you get a much better benefit if
    you get them together.
  3. Other nutrients.

What’s left? Really what you’re getting is concentrated fructose. Unless you’re unfortunate enough to get a juice with added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

My conclusion? Convenience comes at a cost. In this case, the cost is a much less nutritious food than the original. You can’t fool Mother Nature. If she had wanted you to drink just the juice, she would have presented it that way.

Photo Courtesy Erik Forsberg via Flickr

Zero May Not Mean Zero

Trans Fat
You’ve no doubt heard about trans fat. If you’re like most of us, you only have a vague idea of what it is and why you should avoid it, right?

What is trans fat? Trans fat is a man-made fat made by a process called hydrogenation. Which simply means that hydrogen molecules are added to vegetable oil. This results in hydrogenated unsaturated fats.

(Aside: Trans fat occurs naturally, although in small amounts, in some meat and dairy products. However, the man-made trans fat seems to be the more harmful.)

Why are trans fats used? Trans fat doesn’t spoil as quickly so it improves the shelf life of foods made with it. It is solid at room temperature. Foods made with trans fat also tend to have a less greasy feel to them. Trans fat was once found in nearly all commercial baked goods, but is becoming less common as more is learned about the bad effects of it.

What’s wrong with trans fat? Trans fat does a double-whammy on your cholesterol. Not only does it increase your LDL (aka “bad” cholesterol) but it also decreases you HDL (“good” cholesterol). It has also been shown to increase triglycerides and inflammation.

How do you avoid trans fat? Become a label reader. If you see partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, this is another term for trans fat. Products that contain “hydrogenated vegetable oil” may also contain some trans fat. Also, shortening contains some trans fat. When eating out, you may need to ask the restaurant if they use trans fat. Unless you live in New York City, which has banned the use of trans fat by restaurants.

When is zero not zero? Nutrition labels in the United States list the amount of trans fat in them. According to the Mayo Clinic’s web site:

For example, in the United States if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the food label can read 0 grams trans fat. Though that’s a small amount of trans fat, if you eat multiple
servings of foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, you could
exceed recommended limits.

Like anything else in today’s world, it’s caveat emptor (Buyer beware). If you buy products with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in them, consider how much of those products you consume in a day. There is no determined daily value for trans fat, but the AHA recommends that it should be less than 1 percent of your daily caloric intake from fat.

Ask your favorite restaurants about the use of trans fat. Perhaps if enough people ask, they’ll decide to not use it.

Photo Courtesy cbgrfx123 via Flickr

From Pyramids to Plates

USDA MyPlate
Last Thursday, the USDA introduced the replacement for their Pyramid, MyPlate. My first observation is they appear to have gone to great pains to ensure that it didn’t look like a Pie Chart! Although it might have made as much sense.

MyPlate has some good and bad points:

  • Pro: It finally gives fruits and vegetables more emphasis, suggesting that they should be half of what is on your plate.
  • Con: What the USDA considers grains encompasses everything from pasta to corn chips. This should really emphasize Whole Grains more and processed foods less.
  • Pro: The plate concept is a good one, even if the suggested proportions are not ideal.
  • Con: While the plate concept is more logical than the pyramid, there’s not enough information about the size of the plate or the portion sizes.
  • Con: The suggestions for dairy are excessive, perhaps influenced by the dairy industry? If you dig deeper on the website, you’ll find a PDF that tells you that children ages 2-3 need 2 cups of dairy per day, ages 4-8 need 2 1/2 cups per day and everyone else (older children, teens and adults) need 3 cups per day. The reality is different. Most of us need no dairy at all. The suggestion is that we need it for calcium and Vitamin D. But be real. Dairy products are fortified with Vitamin D. And calcium? You’re better off getting that from the same source as cows – vegetables!
  • Pro: If you read through all of the website, it does suggest that you limit sugary drinks.
  • Con: There is no emphasis on either water – the one liquid we should consume most – or exercise – which is critical in controlling weight.

MyPlate is definitely a step in the right direction. But Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at NYU, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “It’s better than the pyramid, but that’s not saying a lot.”

Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

Blood Pressure
Recently, I visited my doctor and they took my blood pressure. It measured a tad bit on the high side. Nothing to worry about that because it’s just one measurement, possibly an anomaly. It got me to thinking about what measures one can take to lower blood pressure. Used to be, your doctor would give you a list, but too often now they find it easier to write a prescription. So I researched some things that you might do to try to lower border-line blood pressure. Please be advised: I am not advising that you go against your doctor’s advice. These are just some things to think about to help you control your blood pressure naturally.

The Obvious:

  • Quit Smoking
  • Lose Weight
  • Reduce your sodium intake – read your labels. Try to keep it under 2,500 mg / day
  • Reduce your caffeine intake
  • Increase Aerobic Exercise – go for power walks

The Not So Obvious:

  • Insulin can play a role in blood pressure so reduce your intake of sugar and refined or processed foods
  • Increase whole grains
  • Avoid heavily processed or refined oils
  • Consume potassium rich foods – sweet potatoes, nuts, beans, legumes, etc.
  • Breathe deeply. Yes, breathe. Take 5 minutes every morning and every evening to breathe deeply.

Photo Courtesy isafmedia via Flickr