Can 'Negative-Calorie' Foods Help You Lose Weight?


Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, CNS: Can 'Negative-Calorie' Foods Help You Lose Weight?

Well, yes and no. Digesting food burns calories. And it's true that a few foods, such as grapefruit and celery, contain fewer calories than it takes to digest them. So, when you eat these foods, you actually burn more calories than you take in. Thus, the term "negative-calorie foods."

Theoretically, the more negative-calorie foods I eat, the more weight I lose! How great is that? Now all I need is a job that pays me more the less I do, and a bank account that gets bigger the more I spend!

Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Here's why: When nutritionists estimate how many calories you should eat, we're already taking into consideration how many calories you burn chewing and digesting your food. The "negative-calorie diet" essentially subtracts those calories twice. That's the kind of accounting that will make you bounce checks (or get you a really good job on Wall Street).

How Negative-Calorie Foods Help You Lose Weight

But will eating a whole bunch of celery and grapefruit speed your weight loss? Only if you eat them instead of brownies and potato chips. In other words, you can't eat a brownie and then burn off the calories by chasing it with a hundred sticks of celery. The only way to make this work is to eat the hundred sticks of celery first. Then, with any luck, you'll be too full to eat the brownie.

Replacing high-calorie foods with low-calorie foods will help you lose weight because it reduces your overall calorie intake. Of course, you can also lose weight by exercising, which burns calories. But digesting negative-calorie foods does not constitute an exercise program. Take it from me: A half-hour spent on the treadmill or bike is going to burn a lot more calories than a half-hour spent digesting celery.

Those lists of negative-calorie foods you'll find on the Internet are simply lists of low-calorie foods. And, if you're dieting, these kinds of foods are your friends. To that end, here's a list of "negative-calorie foods." But take this list with a grain of salt: I'm afraid that a negative-calorie diet is, indeed, to good to be true.

via Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, CNS: Can 'Negative-Calorie' Foods Help You Lose Weight?.

Discovery Fit & Health Insider

While reading this I have a bowl of pumpkin with some cinnamon, stevia and ff whip on top. Mmmm! eat up!

6 Things You Didn’t Know About Pumpkin


Halloween is right around the corner, and for some of us, we’re prepping by picking our own pumpkins to become jack-o-lanterns in our haunted homes. But pumpkins also make tasty treats. So in this often high calorie season, here are six reasons why you should indulge in your favorite pumpkin treats!

Remember: You are what you eat, and in this case, that's a good thing!

#6 – Pumpkins are actually low-calorie

Most people associate pumpkins with their delicious Thanksgiving time treat – pumpkin pie. However, what people don’t know is that one cup of pumpkin is only 49 calories. The fiber content of the veggie is also extremely high which, in addition to other health benefits, helps dieters lose those extra pounds.

#5 - It can make your skin look better

The “meat” of the pumpkin contains vitamins A, C and E which help keep skin healthy and glowing. Pumpkin also contains carotenoids, or colorful plant pigments that the body converts into vitamin A, which helps prevent wrinkles and keeps your complexion radiant.

#4 -- Pumpkin consumption can decrease your likelihood for cancer

The same carotenoids are great in helping to prevent cancer and heart disease. These combined with other antioxidants make pumpkins an excellent food to consume if you have a family history of cancer or reason to be concerned.

#3 -- Pumpkins are good for your eyes

Pumpkins are packed with fiber, magnesium, potassium (more so than bananas!), zinc, iron and lutein – all of which work to improve individuals’ eyesight. Move over carrots, there’s a new orange veggie in town!

#2 -- Pumpkins have anti-inflammatory properties

High in beta carotene, pumpkins exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. This is great for people suffering from arthritis, muscle sprains, painful periods, and other conditions that may be treated with painkillers.

#1 -- Pumpkin is a superfood

There isn’t really any one definition for what a superfood is, other than the idea that superfoods are a type of food that offer more than just basic nutrition.Because pumpkins are packed with nutrients and vitamins, they are considered an important veggie to work into your diet. Just be sure not to load yours up with butter, salt, or sugar!

By: Jen Wolfe

via Discovery Fit & Health Insider.

Why You Should Drink Warm Water & Lemon

(excerpts from it.. it got a bit too unscientific for me for me at some points). I drink water with lemon everyday. I have to say, despite being in crowded subways, I haven't had a cold since I started the practice. Probably a total coincidence, but our mind is a lot of how we feel!

Start the day out with a mug of warm water and the juice of half a lemon.

It's so simple and the benefits are just too good to ignore. Warm water with lemon:

1. Boosts you're immune system

Lemons are high in Vitamin C and potassium. Vitamin C is great for fighting colds and potassium stimulates brain and nerve function and helps control blood pressure.

2. Balances pH

Lemons are an incredibly alkaline food, believe it or not. Yes, they are acidic on their own, but inside our bodies they're alkaline (the citric acid does not create acidity in the body once metabolized). As you wellness warriors know, an alkaline body is really the key to good health.

3. Helps with weight loss

Lemons are high in pectin fiber, which helps fight hunger cravings. It also has been shown that people who maintain a more alkaline diet lose weight faster. And, my experience is that when I start the day off right, it's easier to make the best choices for myself the rest of the day.

4. Aids digestion

The warm water serves to stimulate the gastrointestinal tract and peristalsis—the waves of muscle contractions within the intestinal walls that keep things moving. Lemons and limes are also high in minerals and vitamins and help loosen ama, or toxins, in the digestive tract.

5. Acts as a gentle, natural diuretic

Lemon juice helps flush out unwanted materials because lemons increase the rate of urination in the body. Toxins are, therefore, released at a faster rate which helps keep your urinary tract healthy.

6. Clears skin

The vitamin C helps decrease wrinkles and blemishes. Lemon water purges toxins from the blood which helps keep skin clear as well.

7. Hydrates the lymph system

This cup of goodness helps start the day on a hydrated note, which helps prevent dehydration (obviously) and adrenal fatigue. When your body is dehydrated, or deeply dehydrated (adrenal fatigue) it can't perform all of it's proper functions, which leads to toxic buildup, stress, constipation, and the list goes on. Your adrenals happen to be two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys, and along with your thyroid, create energy. They also secrete important hormones, including aldosterone. Aldosterone is a hormone secreted by your adrenals that regulates water levels and the concentration of minerals, like sodium, in your body, helping you stay hydrated. Your adrenals are also responsible for regulating your stress response. So, the bottom line is that you really don't want to mess with a deep state of dehydration!

Adopting just this one practice of drinking a cup of warm water with lemon in the morning for a month can radically alter your experience of the day. Don't be surprised if you begin to view mornings in a new light.

Like I said, the recipe is really simple—a cup of warm (not hot) water and the juice from half a lemon.

via Why You Should Drink Warm Water & Lemon.

9 of the Healthiest Fall Fruits and Veggies | Healthy Eating | Washingtonian

Happy Fall today everyone!!!!  


It's time for fall foods, and pumpkins, apples, and other delicious fruits and vegetables are great sources of vital nutrients. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Autumn is just around the corner, and we’re already loving the cooler weather. But there are a few things we will miss: summer produce, like a ripe avocado and juicy berries. Luckily, fall has its own bounty, with crisp apples and colorful squash. Local nutrition experts gave us the lowdown on what fall fruits and vegetables to stock up on this season and their favorite ways to eat them.


This early fall vegetable is packed with heart-protective nutrients and cancer-fighting antioxidants, including anthocyanins, cynarin, and silymarin. In fact, the USDA ranked it seventh in its listing of produce with the highest antioxidant levels. Says GW Medical Faculty associate senior nutritionist and registered dietitian Claire Lebrun, “Artichokes are great for weight loss, as they take time to eat and pack ten grams of fiber each.”

How to eat: Try them steamed with garlic, lemon, and olive oil. Or, try them pureed into a nutritious dip with spinach, parmesan, garlic and Greek yogurt.

Nutritionists and dietitians dish about why these summer foods are their favorites.

Everything You Need to Know About Buying Frozen Produce

Expert Katie Heddleston shares tips for selecting and preparing frozen fruits and vegetables.


A favorite of registered dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield, parsnips have more vitamins and minerals than carrots, a relative. Scritchfield, who specializes in sports nutrition and weight management, says parsnips are great for runners and endurance athletes, thanks to their nutrient profile: 50 calories and 300 milligrams of potassium in just half a cup.

How to eat: Try roasting them or cooking them in a zesty vegetable chili.

Brussels Sprouts

Sure, they’re not always popular with kids, but “Brussels sprouts provide a boatload of nutrients and are especially high in vitamins K and C,” explains dietitian Rima Kleiner.

How to eat: She recommends sautéing them with a little olive oil, sage, cinnamon, and chopped walnuts. Or serve them on salads, with scrambled eggs, or alongside oven-baked fish and chips.

Butternut Squash

“The taste just makes me think of autumn,” says Cheryl Harris of Harris Whole Health. It’s a great source of vitamin A, C, fiber, potassium, and magnesium and can decrease your chances of catching a cold or flu.

How to eat: It goes well with seasonal spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Also try it roasted, tossed into a stew, lasagna, bread, or butternut pie.

Honeycrisp Apple

This is a top vote for almost all of the nutrition experts. Says Danielle Omar, “Crispy and sweet with a hint of tart, it’s nature’s perfect afternoon pick-me-up!”

How to eat: For some extra spice, sprinkle on some cinnamon and bake for a healthy dessert, says Elana Natker.

Acorn Squash

“It’s so naturally sweet!” says Robyn Webb of her favorite fall vegetable. It’s extremely low in saturated fat and high in fiber, vitamins A and B6, folate, and magnesium, making it great for weight loss.

How to eat: Webb loves it roasted in chunks lightly coated in honey and walnut oil.


Pumpkin’s reputation has increased by leaps and bounds over the years, thanks to its tasty take on a latte. Stephanie Mull says its slightly sweet flavor makes it versatile, which is why it works as an addition to so many recipes. So whether you bake it in muffins, bread, pie, or pancakes, you’ll be adding vitamins A and C, fiber, magnesium, and zinc to your diet.

How to eat: Another good tip from Kait Fortunato: Add a can of pumpkin to a chili or soup to “give it a thick, hearty flavor without adding creams and other high-calorie sauces.”


These little guys are available year round, but their peak season is fall and winter. They’re packed with nutrition, including B vitamins, the essential mineral selenium, and antioxidants.

How to eat: Try white button or portobello mushrooms, says Joy Dubost.


Endive don’t just make a pretty appetizer; they’re also rich in folate, which is highly recommended for pregnant women.

How to eat: Try Shelley Alspaugh’s endive salad, which includes chopped endive, blue cheese, pecans, olive oil, vinegar, and another favorite fall fruit of hers, pears.

via 9 of the Healthiest Fall Fruits and Veggies | Healthy Eating | Washingtonian.

The Healthiest Foods at the Grocery Store | Women's Health Magazine

Your Groceries Are About to Get A Whole Lot Healthier These supermarket finds are convenient and time-saving, but not at the expense of your abs or your taste buds. Here, sneak a peak at some of this year's 125 Best Packaged Foods:

(click through below to women's health's website)

via The Healthiest Foods at the Grocery Store | Women's Health Magazine.

ANOTHER organic benefits article...

I'm mostly posting it again because.. Human sludge??? I feel like there's some new interesting (and sometimes disgusting) facts here.

organic foodA recent organic foods study out of Stanford University elicited news headlines like this: Organic Food No More Nutritious Than Non-OrganicStudy Questions How Much Better Organic Food Is, and Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce. Those headlines alone may make you wonder, “Is organic really worth it?”

While the study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, could sway some people to bypass the organic aisle during their next supermarket trip, critics of the study say it fails to address the huge public health perks associated with organic food. “The study highlighted the lack of nutritional differences between organic and conventional foods. We think this is a misleading framework for evaluating the benefits of organic foods,”explains Sonya Lunder, senior research analyst at Environmental Working Group, a consumer watchdog group focused on protecting human and environmental health. “The nutritional component is not the reason most consumers choose organic.”

See all of the nasty stuff you avoid when you choose organic…

1. Pesticides in the Food Chain The facts: While not a main point of the Stanford study, researchers did conclude that organic food contained significantly lower levels of pesticide residues, something previous research suggests could help protect kids from autism and ADHD, among other ills. United States Department of Agriculture testing routinely finds pesticide residues considered unsafe for children on conventionally grown—not organic—produce samples, including apples, peaches, plums, pears, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and raisins. “Parents don’t want their children to serve as human guinea pigs for chemical corporations,” says Charlotte Vallaeys, director of farm and food policy for The Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog group.

The organic advantage: Eating organic coincides with a massive drop in disease-causing pesticides in your body. “The enormous benefit of eating organic produce is that it reduces pesticide exposure by 90 percent. This has been proven in studies conducted at Harvard, the University of Washington, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” explains pediatrician Phil Landrigan, MD, professor and chair of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. “Reduction of exposure to pesticides reduces risk of neurological injury and certain cancers. I advise my patients to choose organic whenever possible.”

2. Killer Superbug Infections The facts: Antibiotic-resistant superbugs kill more than 90,000 people a year, with MRSA alone killing more people in American than AIDS. The overuse of antibiotics in farming helps spur the growth of these hard-to-kill and sometimes-fatal infections. Tests of supermarket meats routinely find superbug germs, meaning that improperly cooking the meat or failing to wipe off your countertop correctly could put you in a life-threatening situation.

The organic advantage: Antibiotic-resistant superbug germs are far less likely to be found on organic meat because organic bans the use of antibiotics. You’re more than 30 percent less likely to come in contact with superbugs in the meat supply when you choose organic.

3. Poisonous Rain The facts: More than 17,000 pesticide products are on the market, yet the Environmental Protection Agency has required testing for less than 1 percent of the chemicals currently used in commerce. Even tiny amounts of America’s most popular weed killer glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, can damage DNA and kill cells, and have been linked to infertility and certain cancers. Farmers spray so much glyphosate that it’s taken up into the air and returns to the soil in chemical-laced rain, according to U.S. Geological Service research.

The organic advantage: Organic bans the use of chemical pesticides, keeping them not just out of your food, but also your community’s water, air, and rain.

4. Human Sewage Sludge The facts: It’s perfectly legal for nonorganic farmers to douse human sewage sludge taken from municipal water treatment plants to fertilize nonorganic fields. The sludge could contain whatever morgues, residences, and industrial parks decide to put down the drain. Scientists have detected shampoo chemicals in nonorganic tomatoes and hypothesize that sewage sludge is partly to blame.

The organic advantage: Organic certification bans the use of sewage sludge. Organic fertilizing methods rely more on regulated compost or cover crops—plants grown during the off season and tilled or crimped back onto the soil.

5. GMOs The facts: Scientists have never studied the long-term health effects of eating genetically engineered material, but that hasn’t stopped nonorganic farmers from planting GMO crops since the 1990s. Most GMOs are manipulated to withstand high doses of chemical pesticides—some of which wind up inside of the food we eat. Currently, up to 90 percent of nonorganic processed foods contain GMO material.

The organic advantage: Preliminary research suggests GMOs could be causing digestive disease, accelerated aging, obesity, and a rise in food allergies. Organic explicitly bans the use of GMOs.

6. The Drugged Meat Market The facts: About 80 percent of all antibiotics used in this country go to feed conventional livestock because it not only prevents disease, but helps fatten the animals up faster. North Carolina livestock alone ingest more antibiotics annually than the entire U.S. human population. USDA researchers routinely detect antibiotics in meat, and new science suggests that could be making humans gain weight, too.

The organic advantage: Organic bans the use of antibiotics. It also bans the use of feeding animal byproducts to livestock, and requires that farm animals eat food grown without pesticides and GMO seeds.

7. Freaky Food Additives The facts: Conventional processed foods are little packaged science experiments, and your family members are guinea pigs. We could be paying a big price for flashy foods—certain food dyes are linked to brain cell damage and ADHD.

The organic advantage: Instead of using chemicals derived from petrochemicals, organic manufacturers often turn to natural colorants like beet juice.

8. Unstable Food Prices The facts: The worst drought to hit America in a half decade is decimating U.S. crops, particularly corn, causing unstable food prices. Although chemically dependent GMO crops are advertised as being drought tolerant, researchers have found that adding chemicals to the soil actually makes it harder for plants to get through extended dry periods unscathed.

The organic advantage: Long-term experiments at the Rodale Institute, an organic research farm in Pennsylvania, found that, during normal weather, organic and conventional farming produce about the same amount of food [Editor's note: Rodale is the publisher of Women's Health]. But when weather starts to act up, organic wins out, producing 30 percent more in years of drought. That’s because organic soil is alive with beneficial bacteria, and the soil acts like a sponge to hold water in reserve during drought. (The healthy soil also helps prevent flooding.)

cure colds and flu | 25 Foods That Fight Cold & Flu | Rodale News

As the seasons change we start getting those obnoxious bugs! Click through for some ideas of what to add to your diet to prevent them. I squeeze a lemon in my water everyday. It's packed with vitamin C, makes the water taste yummier, and is low in calories.

cure colds and flu | 25 Foods That Fight Cold & Flu | Rodale News

25 Foods That Fight Cold & Flu

Millions of Americans get the cold or flu each year. But you can combat both with a knife and your spice grinder.

Citrus Fruits

Vitamin C, most commonly found in citrus fruits, is an antioxidant that can reduce cold symptoms by 23 percent, studies have found. A review of 21 studies found that just 1 to 8 grams (1,000 to 8,000 milligrams) of the vitamin will do the trick, which you can get from supplements or from citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, papaya, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. For some people, high amounts of vitamin C can cause digestive problems, so cut back on your dose if symptoms arise.

via cure colds and flu | 25 Foods That Fight Cold & Flu | Rodale News.

One Small Change: Eat Better and Eat More at the Same Time | Healthy Eats

One Small Change: Eat Better and Eat More at the Same Time

by jmachowsky in Healthy TipsComments (3)

Ever wonder how some people can just eat  all day and never gain weight? While some are just born with a naturally high metabolism (thank your parents), the vast majority of us frequent eaters must choose foods that give us the nutrients and energy we need to function throughout the day for less calories.

Notice it’s not about less food, but less calories. “Nutrient density” represents a food’s nutrient bang for its calorie buck. Understanding nutrient density and learning how to choose nutrient dense foods is the key to eating better . . . and more.

An example: Let’s say you want a snack. Consider one of these three options:

A candy bar

A low-fat yogurt, medium peach and a few almonds

15 baby carrots, a whole 10 oz. package of cherry tomatoes, a full bunch of celery and a couple tablespoons of hummus or low-fat dressing

You could eat the first option very easily and possibly still be hungry (or crash) an hour later. You’d probably be satisfied with the second.  How about the third option, sound like a bit much? Sound like it’s impossible to eat at one sitting? That’s the point.

All three of these snacks have one thing in common: the calories; each has about 250-275.  But the second two options provide you with a lot more food to eat than the first. Which means you can eat a bunch more throughout the day and have the same or fewer calories. And when you eat fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight.

Furthermore, nutrient dense foods provide you with tons of nutrients (i.e. water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc.) that help keep you full and prevent you from “crashing” during the day. And you get to eat more of them every few hours to boot. You can truly never go hungry again, as long as you choose the right foods.

So what are the most nutrient dense foods?  That’s right, fruits and veggies (maybe the example gave it away?).  For some of my clients, our initial goal is to eat more fruits and veggies, rather than eliminating any foods. By eating more produce, you will likely eat better anyways since they:

Displace other, higher-calorie foods from your diet.

Leave more food over at meals because you got full sooner.

Are less affected by temptations and cravings since the fruits and veggies help stabilize your blood sugars and reduce hunger pangs.

Even if you don’t want to eat fruits and vegetables all the time, ask yourself at every meal: “What can I get more nutrients in for fewer calories?” Sometimes it’s as simple as ordering a leaner cut of meat or getting a baked potato without as much butter, sour cream or bacon.

My challenge to you: For the next month, have at least one fruit- or vegetable-based snack every day. Some example would be celery and hummus, an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter, carrots and low-fat dressing or low-fat yogurt with some berries.

Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, author of Savor Fitness & Nutrition wellness blog and avid proponent of MyBodyTutor, a health coaching website dedicated to helping people stay consistent with their healthy eating and exercise goals.

via One Small Change: Eat Better and Eat More at the Same Time | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy Living Blog.

6 reasons to give up diet soda | Well+Good NYC

Do you have a dirty little dietary secret? And is it called Diet Coke?

For lots of healthy types, the frequently stated fact that Diet Coke might be “empty calories” actually goes down just fine compared to office cupcakes, which they’re not regularly scarfing.

And reaching for a diet soda fits nicely into the “allowable-exceptions” category of a healthy New York lifestyle. You know, along with a glass of Sancerre, the occasional dinner at Eataly, and watching the Real Housewives.

But should you allow Diet Coke a free pass? (Ditto: Housewives.)

Studies abound that caution against drinking diet soda

While sipping diet soda seems harmless, especially in the context of a generally healthy life, a surprising number of substantial studies show the opposite, that drinking Diet Coke and Aspartame can greatly interfere with your health.

As Dr. Helen Hazuda, professor of medicine at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, found last year, “[Diet soda] may be free of calories, but not of consequences.” And she wasn’t talking about the caffeine.

Interpreting the data of two studies, Dr. Hazuda pointed out that it caused a blood sugar spike in mice, and suggested that diet sodas may inhibit the signal that tells you when you’re full.

Here are 6 more reasons to give up diet soda:

1. It messes with your skin. Diet Coke lowers your pH levels, which can cause acne, and zap you of radiance. We need a high level of alkalinity for our bodies to be healthy and expressed in our glowing complexion, explains Dr. Jeanette Graf, author of Stop Aging, Start Living: The Revolutionary 2-Week pH Diet. As Dr. Graf told us recently, “If there’s one thing you should never consume, it’s soda. Soda is an extreme acid-forming substance which will lower your pH level dramatically.”

2. It alters your mood. The mood-food connection is ever-rising, and Aspartame in Diet Coke can really do a doozey on those with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Aspartame is also on an EPA list of potentially dangerous chemicals contributing to neurotoxicity, right under Arsenic. So that’s kind of saying it could alter your brain, too.

3. Weight gain and belly fat. Ironically, we actually gain weight from Diet Coke. Two servings or more a day increases waistline by 500%, found two 2011 studies conducted by the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

4. It causes diabetes and heart disease. When waist circumference (belly fat) increases, this contributes to diabetes and heart disease, which a 2010 study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine confirmed.

5. It makes your kidneys sluggish. Diet soda may interfere with the kidneys, found the Harvard Nurse’s Study, which reported a 30% drop in kidney function with just two servings of diet soda each day.

6. Aspartame’s been linked to cancer. A lot. Aspartame is “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA while substantial data has shown its link to cancer. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) cautions against Aspartame because it’s poorly tested, and contains three well-recognized neurotoxins. Aspartame was found to increase cancer risk if exposure begins in the womb, reported a study at the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center. And various studies have linked lymphoma and tumors in rats. And beware the BPA of cans and caramel coloring, reports Grist.

Kind of takes the fizz out of it, right?

Do the best experiment out there—the one on your own body. We dare you to lower your soda intake for a week and see if you notice any changes in skin, weight, or mood. Report back in the Comments! —Jennifer Kass and Melisse Gelula

via 6 reasons to give up diet soda | Well+Good NYC.

Top 10 Worst GMO Foods for Your GMO Foods List

Personal note - while I post about reducing pesticides and GMOs in your diet, and I do try myself, I can't say I'm perfect. Still I think it's good to have these things in the back of your mind. For me I'm moving slowly with the change as I find ways that work for myself.

by Elizabeth Renter

Genetically modified foods have been shown to cause harm to humans, animals, and the environment, and despite growing opposition, more and more foods continue to be genetically altered. It’s important to note that steering clear of these foods completely may be difficult, and you should merely try to find other sources than your big chain grocer. If produce is certified USDA-organic, it’s non-GMO (or supposed to be!) Also, seek out local farmers and booths at farmer’s markets where you can be ensured that the crops aren’t GMO. Even better, if you are so inclined: Start organic gardening and grow them yourself. Until then, here are the top 10 worst GMO foods for your “do not eat” GMO foods list.

Top 10 Worst GMO Foods for Your GMO Foods List

1. Corn: This is a no-brainer. If you’ve watched any food documentary, you know corn is highly modified. “As many as half of all U.S. farms growing corn for Monsanto are using genetically modified corn,” and much of it is intended for human consumption. Monsanto’s GMO corn has been tied to numerous health issues, including weight gain and organ disruption.

2. Soy: Found in tofu, vegetarian products, soybean oil, soy flour, and numerous other products, soy is also modified to resist herbicides. As of now, biotech giant Monsanto still has a tight grasp on the soybean market, with approximately 90 percent of soy being genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. In one single year, 2006, there was 96.7 million pounds of glyphosate sprayed on soybeans alone.

3. Sugar: According to NaturalNews, genetically-modified sugar beets were introduced to the U.S. market in 2009. Like others, they’ve been modified by Monsanto to resist herbicides. Monsanto has even had USDA and court-related issues with the planting of it’s sugarbeets, being ordered to remove seeds from the soil due to illegal approval.

4. Aspartame: Aspartame is a toxic additive used in numerous food products, and should be avoided for numerous reasons, including the fact that it is created with genetically modified bacteria.

5. Papayas: This one may come as a surprise to all of you tropical-fruit lovers. GMO papayas have been grown in Hawaii for consumption since 1999. Though they can’t be sold to countries in the European Union, they are welcome with open arms in the U.S. and Canada.

6. Canola: One of the most chemically altered foods in the U.S. diet, canola oil is obtained from rapeseed through a series of chemical actions.

7. Cotton: Found in cotton oil, cotton originating in India and China in particular has serious risks.

8. Dairy: Your dairy products may contain growth hormones, since as many as one-fifth of all dairy cows in America are pumped with these hormones. In fact, Monasnto’s health-hazardous rBGH has been banned in 27 countries, but is still in most US cows. If you must drink milk, buy organic.

9. and 10. Zucchini and Yellow Squash: Closely related, these two squash varieties are modified to resist viruses.

The dangers of some of these foods are well-known. The Bt toxin being used in GMO corn, for example, was recently detected in the blood of pregnant women and their babies. But perhaps more frightening are the risks that are still unknown.

With little regulation and safety tests performed by the companies doing the genetic modifications themselves, we have no way of knowing for certain what risks these lab-created foods pose to us outside of what we already know.

The best advice: steer clear of them altogether.

via Top 10 Worst GMO Foods for Your GMO Foods List.

Why We Shouldn’t Label Foods As “Good” and “Bad” | Sarah Remmer Nutrition Coaching

Why We Shouldn’t Label Foods As “Good” and “Bad” Written on August 2, 2012 by Sarah Remmer in Healthy Weight Loss, Moms

When we label foods as ”good”or “bad”, we often feel that WE are bad if we eat the “bad” foods, and vice versa. As soon as we label foods as such, we often restrict or deprive ourselves from any “bad” foods. Especially if we are trying to lose weight. Our society plays a huge role in labelling foods. What we’ve learned from our society, marketing, our well- meaning parents etc. is that foods that are high in fat or sugar are “bad” and that fruits and veggies, lean meats and low fat dairy products are “good”.

I disagree.

Some foods may be healthier than others, there is no doubt about it. But there are no “good” or “bad” foods. The biggest problem with food labelling is that we almost always grow up somewhat deprived of the “bad” foods and trying our darndest to eat more of the “good” foods. The extent of this varies from person to person, but what I see is that MOST people struggle with it. When you deprive or restrict yourself of something, your body instinctually wants more of it. Note: this is not because of a lack of willpower or that you’re weak…

Some experts refer to this phenomenon as the “Last Supper Mentality”. You may think “I’ve gotta get it in while I can, because tomorrow I’m back on a diet!”

Deprivation and restriction is the cornerstones of the diet industry. No matter what diet you’re on, there is almost ALWAYS some form of deprivation or restriction. It may be calories or even whole foods groups. This is why diets don’t work long term. You have to KEEP going back to the diet plan or move on to the next diet because you’re always set up for failure.  We don’t do well with deprivation or restriction- we rebel and overeat most of the time.

To be clear, you are not a failure if you cannot follow a restrictive diet plan. In fact, in my opinion, it’s almost physically, mentally and emotionally impossible to succeed. No wonder the diet industry is a billion dollar industry!

It’s important to recognize that certain foods are healthier than others (and it’s important to eat a balanced healthy diet most of the time), but banning less-than-healthy foods is NOT the answer. It’s not until you stop labelling foods as “good” or “bad” and allow yourself to enjoy a variety of foods that you love without guilt, that you stop feeling deprived, start enjoying food again and start eating intuitively and mindfully.

via Why We Shouldn’t Label Foods As “Good” and “Bad” | Sarah Remmer Nutrition Coaching.

7 Economical Superfoods for Everyone | Rodale News

The media and food marketers often make a big deal out of the latest superfoods. Take goji berries or pomegranates as two recent examples. But trendy superfoods are usually pricey, unfamiliar, and unavailable locally, making them inaccessible to the masses.

In a post appearing in Food, Nutrition & Science, food expert Sharon Palmer, RD, suggests more familiar, readily available, and affordable superfood options. The best part? You can snag many of these items in organic form and on the cheap at a local farmer's market (or in your own backyard garden!)

Here's here list of affordable superfood choices:

1. Oats. Oats are rich in avenanthramide, an antioxidant that protects the heart. Other oat accolades? The superfood lowers cholesterol and has been shown to possess disease-zapping antimicrobial activity, making organic oatmeal the perfect affordable breakfast item for cold and flu season.

More details: The Grain Guide: Easy Recipes for the Healthiest Whole Grains.

2. Dry beans. Forget expensive steak and sausage. Dry beans and dry lentils pack a healthy low-fat, plant-based protein punch. Known as a "perfect food," just one cooked cupful can provide as much as 17 grams of fiber. Beans are also loaded with protein and dozens of key nutrients, including a few most people fall short on—calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Studies tie beans to a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colon cancers.

Soak beans overnight and rinse them well to eliminate most of the flatulence-causing compounds.

3. Garlic. This onion relative contains more than 70 active phytochemicals, including allicin, which studies show may decrease high blood pressure by as much as 30 points. High consumption of garlic lowered rates of ovarian, colorectal, and other cancers, according to a research review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. To boost garlic's health effects, be sure to crush the cloves and let them stand for up to 30 minutes before heating them.

4. Cayenne pepper. If you can handle the heat, this powerhouse pepper is worth your while. The heat in cayenne peppers come from a phytochemical called capsaicin, which can help clear congestion, fight cholesterol, melt away body fat, and jump-start your metabolism. Sprinkle it over veggies and beans to sneak it into your diet.

5. Celery. Eating four sticks of celery a day can produce modest reductions in blood pressure, thanks to the vegetable's rich supply of phthalides, phytochemicals linked to cardiovascular health.

Bonus: Celery is loaded with androstenone and androstenol, pheromones that help attract women.

6. Tomatoes. Tomatoes are our most common source of lycopene, an antioxidant that may protect against heart disease and breast cancer. Avoid canned tomatoes when possible: The epoxy can coating usually contains the harmful plastic chemical BPA. Instead, load up on in-season, organic tomatoes in bulk and preserve them for year-round enjoyment.

7. Onions. This bulb boasts far-reaching health benefits, including immunity-boosting compounds that can help prevent everything from the common cold to cancer. Onions are also rich in quercetin, a flavonoid shown to keep your blood healthy. It's also a must-have for natural allergy prevention.

via 7 Economical Superfoods for Everyone | Rodale News.

What to Buy At the Farmers' Market | Women's Health Magazine

Where I'll be before anatomy and organic chem today! Farmers' Market Tips: How to Stretch Your Bounty


Stretch Your Bounty

"One of the great things about farmers' markets is that the food isn't packaged," says Ford. "You can buy, say, just a few cherry tomatoes instead of a whole basket." Here, his guidelines for making sure you use all the veggies you buy:

1. If it has a peel, you can stockpile it.

Items like carrots, beets, potatoes, and citrus fruits will last at least a week.

2. Keep herbs fresh longer.

Quickly rinse with cold water, shake off liquid, then roll the herbs in a paper towel. Put in a plastic bag or container and store in the fridge.

3. Make stock.

A big pot of it is always bubbling away on the stove at Ford's Filling Station. Make your own with a few cups of veggie scraps, a few quarts of water, and any fresh herbs you have on hand. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, let cool, strain, then freeze in ice-cube trays. Use the cubes to give an instant flavor boost to soups, grains, and beans.

Ripe with Possibilities

Bursting with antioxidants, fiber, and juicy flavor, berries may be the ideal food. Sure, you can eat them by the handful, but here are two ways to save them for later:

1. Frozen: Rinse berries and pat them dry, then spread them on a shallow dish or baking sheet. Freeze, then transfer to a freezer bag. You can easily scoop out a handful to toss into a smoothie or to thaw for a yogurt topping.

2. Preserved: In a heavy-bottomed pot, mix four cups of crushed berries and a few tablespoons each of sugar and lemon juice (to taste). Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring often, until it reaches 220ºF (105ºC). Transfer to hot sterile jars, leaving a quarter inch to half inch headspace, and seal.

The Roughage Stuff

When it comes to greens, get on board with the warming trend.

If you're not quite in the mood for salad, try this super-easy trick for prepping delicate spring finds like frilly mustard greens: Hold a heatproof bowl with a dish towel or pot holder and rotate it over a burner set to medium for 30 seconds or so, until the bowl just begins to feel warm to the touch. Pour in the greens, squeeze a lemon wedge on top, sprinkle with sea salt, toss, and voila! You have all the nutritional punch of raw greens, but the subtle warmth opens up the flavors, says Ford.

Flower Power

Blooms can be more than just eye candy.

Some bouquets are as palatable as they are pretty. Ford saves young chamomile blossoms, which resemble daisies, after brewing the leaves into tea, and uses them to make this lemon-flavored simple syrup: Boil equal parts sugar and water until the sugar dissolves, add chamomile flowers, cool, and strain. Try it in iced tea, cocktails, or drizzled over berries. (If you plan on cooking with flowers, make sure they haven't been treated with chemicals.)

Snap Decisions

Sugar snap peas are a near-perfect vegetable: high in fiber and vitamin C, and low in calories (about 60 per cup) with, says Ford, "a sweeter, more consistent taste than other peas" and no need for shucking. Eat them raw, pod and all, when you want a quick, no-hassle snack. Or slice them on a bias, blanch, and add to a salad of radishes and baby greens. Ford also likes them pureed into a sweet-pea remoulade for crab cakes.

via What to Buy At the Farmers' Market | Women's Health Magazine.

7 Foods That Help Protect Your Skin from Harmful UV Rays

Before you soak up some sun now through Labor Day, maybe try munching on a few from the article below!

You know that a lot of foods are really good for you, but did you know that several actually have properties that can help protect your skin from the sun? Considering the intense rays many of us are exposed to this summer, everything helps, right?

Here’s a little more about how this works, and what foods to add to your diet for a little extra skin protection.

Science Indicates Foods Can be Skin Protective

According to the University of Maryland Medical System, eating certain foods can help protect against skin cancer. Though we don’t yet have scientific tests that have measured and compared various foods and their ability to protect the skin, research has shown that antioxidants may offer protection.

A study published in 2010 also came to similar conclusions, though it added that food nutrients can protect not only against skin cancer, but photo-oxidative damage that leads to skin aging. Scientists noted in the study that antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, in addition to essential fatty acids, have demonstrated protective properties. They added that the presence of these nutrients in the traditional Greek-style Mediterranean diet may have contributed to the low levels of melanoma there, despite the population’s exposure to high levels of solar radiation.

“The increasing incidence of skin cancer despite the use of externally applied sun protection strategies,” said Niva Shapira, lead author, “alongside research showing that nutrients reduce photo-oxidative damage, suggest nutritional approaches could play a beneficial role in skin cancer prevention.”

Some of the Best Choices

Though many foods may offer sun protection, below are a few of those with the most promise so far, though we’re always finding out about new super foods.

1. Apples. Surprised? A Japanese study actually found that apple polyphenol extracts, particularly flavonids called “procyanidins,” inhibit skin cancer in mice. Another polyphenol, quercetin, protected DNA from human skin cancer cells.

2. Green Tea. Yes, it’s a beverage, but it’s got powerful antioxidants. The University of Maryland Medical Center says it contains polyphenols, potent antioxidants that have shown in studies to help prevent skin tumors from starting or growing.

3. Dark Chocolate. Another reason to indulge now and then, dark chocolate has powerful antioxidants that may help protect from sunburn.

4 and 5. Olive Oil and Tomato Paste. Did you need another reason for using these health-filled goodies, often critical in flavorful pasta sauces? Here it is. German studies found that those subjects consuming about 2 teaspoons of olive oil and about ¼ cup of tomato paste daily for 10 weeks experienced 35 percent less reddening when exposed to sunlamps than those who didn’t eat these items. In addition, research from the University of Michigan found that lycopene and other antioxidants in tomatoes can help prevent the skin from becoming sunburned.

6. Broccoli. Research from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine exposed areas of volunteers’ skin to intense ultraviolet light one to three days after applying a broccoli-sprout extract to the same area. The extract was all but rubbed away by the time of the exposure, but those areas had, on average, 37 percent less redness and inflammation. Simultaneous animal studies showed that mice treated with the extract had significantly fewer and smaller skin tumors after exposure to UV rays. Scientists say that broccoli turns on the body’s natural cancer-fighting machinery, and once turned on, it works for days. The lead researcher of the study recommended eating one-half cup of broccoli each day to protect against skin cancer.

7. Green, Leafy Vegetables. This includes kale, spinach, and chard. According to an Australian study, these could decrease skin cancer risk. Scientists studied over 1,000 adults living in Australia over an 11-year period, and found that increasing intakes of green leafy vegetables was associated with a 41 percent decreased risk of skin cancer. These vegetables are rich in folic acid, which plays a key role in DNA synthesis and repair. In addition, researchers also examined those participants that previously had skin cancer, and found that those who did had a 55 percent decrease in skin cancer with increasing intakes of green leafy vegetables. “Our findings show that higher intakes of green leafy vegetables may help prevent Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) tumors among people who have prior skin cancers,” the researchers stated.

via 7 Foods That Help Protect Your Skin from Harmful UV Rays / Cinco Vidas.

The Top 10 Best Cooking Oils ...

We were talking about cooking oils and which ones are best before. I was just eyeing up some almond oil I bought and thought - hey ... Can I cook with this? Some googling later and I found this. I think it's a great list because instead of just saying "____ has a low smoking point", it actually tells you the temperature that happens so you can work with it.

If you like to be a chef every once and a while, you may be confused about what cooking oils to use. (Especially, if you are on a diet). With so many skeptics and critics analyzing this oil and that, one of our leading dietitians, Christy, and one of our chefs, Chef Krishna, are telling you which oils to use while you cook and which ones to avoid completely.

10. Grapeseed Oil

Christy: “This oil contains polyunsaturated fats, and is low in saturated fat, making it very heart healthy.”

Chef K: “Grapeseed oil is very versatile, and can be used to add a very mild, nutty flavor to almost any dish. It’s great for salads, and can make for a nice drizzle over toasted bread.”

9. Sunflower Oil

Christy: “Sunflower oil is also heart healthy, and contains polyunsaturated fats and is low in saturated fats. It’s definitely a good ‘all purpose’ oil.”

Chef K: “Sunflower oil has a high smoke point of about 460 degrees F. This oil is great for high-heat cooking like sautéing. It's actually great for sautéing vegetables.”

8. Safflower Oil

Christy: “Also low in saturated fat, using safflower oil to cook with can help lower your cholesterol. A lower cholesterol also means a reduced risk of cardiovascular and heart diseases.”

Chef K: “Safflower oil also has a high smoke point of about 450 degrees F. This makes it good for high-heat cooking, like sautéing or frying. It has such a distinct flavor and it’s great for cooking foods like chicken and pasta.”

7. Avocado Oil

Christy: “Avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fats, and vitamin E. It’s a great oil to use if you are on a diet, or if you are diabetic. In certain studies, monounsaturated fats have been shown to help control insulin levels and blood sugar.”

Chef K: “Avocado oil also has a high smoke point of about 510 degrees F. This makes it a good oil for high heat cooking, like sautéing and frying. It’s great in salads, and can be used to add a little extra flavor to chicken, beef, pork or fish.”

6. Peanut Oil

Christy: “Peanut oil also contains monounsaturated fats, and is low in saturated fat, making it a heart healthy option.”

Chef K: “Peanut oil has a medium smoke point of about 350 degrees F. This is a good oil for light sautéing and frying. It’s great to use in Thai and Asian recipes, and is a great addition to sauces and salad dressings.”

5. Almond Oil

Christy: “Almond oil also contains monounsaturated fats, which makes it good for your cholesterol. It's also an ideal cooking choice if you are diabetic.”

Chef K: “Almond oil has a high smoke point of about 495 degrees F, and is good for high heat cooking, like sautéing. It’s great flavor also works well as a healthier substitute in dessert recipes, like whipped cream.”

4. Olive Oil

Christy: “Olive oil is healthy because it contains monounsaturated fats, which makes it very heart healthy—it’s a great oil to use if you are diabetic, or if you have high cholesterol.”

Chef K: “Olive oil has a medium smoke point of about 350 degrees F. It’s a great, flavorful oil for foods like pesto sauce and salad dressings. It’s also great for sautéing vegetables, and is a great choice for cooking chicken."

3. Flaxseed Oil

Christy: “Flaxseed oil contains polyunsaturated fats, and has a good source of omega-3’s. Omega 3 fatty acids help improve brain function and promote heart health.”

Chef K: “Flaxseed oil has a low smoke point of about 225 degrees F, so it should not be used for cooking over heat. Instead, it’s great for mixing into meals after heating, or it can be added to salad dressings or used in certain smoothies.”

2. Walnut Oil

Christy: “Walnut oil contains polyunsaturated fats, and is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. This is a very heart-healthy oil, and is a great cooking oil to use if you are diabetic.”

Chef K: “Walnut oil has a very high smoke point of about 400 degrees F, which makes it a great oil to use for baking. It’s also great for sautéing at low-medium heat. It can also make your salad pop, simply by drizzling it over the top.”

1. Canola Oil

Christy: “As far as healthy nutrition goes, canola oil is probably the best. It has monounsaturated fats, which makes it heart healthy, and is appropriate for someone with diabetes,or who is on a diet.”

Chef K: “Canola oil has a medium-high smoke point of about 425 degrees F. It is great for sautéing, baking, and stir-fry. Of all the oils, it can be used to create the most variety of recipes.”

via The Top 10 Best Cooking Oils | BistroMD. » If Almonds Bring You Joy, Enjoy More For Fewer Calories

If Almonds Bring You Joy, Enjoy More For Fewer Calories

by Allison Aubrey

Scientists are starting to discover that the standard way of measuring calories, established more than 100 years ago, may not be terribly accurate when it comes to higher fat, high-fiber foods like nuts. But when it comes to almonds, the count may be off by a whole lot.

Food scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently published a new study that finds almonds have about 20 percent fewer calories than previously documented.

That's off by a lot more than an earlier British study showing pistachios have about 5 percent fewer calories than we thought, says USDA researcher David Baer, who worked on both studies.

"We were surprised," he says.

Baer and his colleagues compared the feces (poop, if you prefer) of people eating a controlled diet with almonds to ones who were eating a diet without any nuts. What they found was that "when people are consuming nuts, the amount of fat in the feces goes up," Bear says. "And that suggests that we're not absorbing all the fat or calories that's in the nut."

In essence, the fat in the feces shows there's a disconnect between the gross energy found in an almond and the energy our bodies actually absorb.

So what does this mean for the almond lovers among us? It's not a license to overindulge. But perhaps this energy dense, satiating snack will be more appealing to people scared off by the calorie count.

And, here's another tip. How you eat a nut, it seems, can make a difference. One important factor is chewing.

Baer explains that lots of the the nutrients are trapped inside the plant's cell walls. "So by chewing you can fracture the cell wall and get access to the fat that's stored inside the cell."

Needless to say, the Almond Board of California is pretty excited about the calorie study. It has not directly petitioned the federal government to adjust the official USDA calorie database, but the group is talking informally with federal officials, Almond Board's Chief Scientific Officer Karen Lapsley tells The Salt. "If we can improve the information that's on a food label, I think everybody is better off," Lapsley says.

So, is it just almonds that may need a new calorie count? Or are all nuts up for a calorie review? Stay tuned to this space. Next month I'll be taking a trip to David Baer's lab, where we will burn some nuts — and maybe some chocolate — in his Bomb Calorimeter to learn more. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

via » If Almonds Bring You Joy, Enjoy More For Fewer Calories.

A Reason to Choose Organic Tomatoes Year-Round - Shape Magazine

A Reason to Choose Organic Tomatoes Year-Round

Monday, 7/23/2012 at 11:56:30 AM

By Jennipher Walters

Ah, summertime. When the living is easy, flip-flops are the norm, weekends are spent at the pool, and the tomatoes are extra fresh and delicious. Seriously, is there anything tastier than a tomato straight from the garden? While many of us are more likely to enjoy food from the garden or Farmer's market in the summer (especially those in areas with cold winters!), new research suggests that farm-fresh organics may be the way to go year-round.

A recent study out of the University of Barcelona found that organic tomatoes contain higher levels of phenolic compounds —organic molecules found in many veggies that have health benefits — than conventional tomatoes. Previous research has found that organic tomato juice and ketchup contain higher polyphenol content than juice and ketchup made from conventionally grown tomatoes, but this was the first time tomatoes were studied before being processed for tomato products. Polyphenols have been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular and degenerative diseases, and even some forms of cancer.

So why are the organic tomatoes so much better than traditionally farmed ones? It comes down to fertilizer, according to the study. Organic farming doesn't use nitrogenous fertilizers, and as a result, plants respond by activating their own defense mechanisms, which increases the levels of all antioxidants, study author Anna Vallverdú Queralt told ScienceDaily.

While interesting, registered dietitian and nutrition coach Alicia Rodriguez wasn't really surprised at what the researchers found, she says. However, the research is a good reminder of the importance of eating our fruits and vegetables.

"I recommend high-quality multivitamins to all my clients, but I remind them this is supplementing what we are missing in our diet," Rodriquez says. "I encourage them to eat a variety of colors and to consume nine to 11 servings of vegetables and fruit...mostly vegetables."

In fact, Rodriguez encourages her clients to buy and consume organic products as much as they can. Organic meat, eggs, and dairy, with no added hormones or antibiotics, will contain more "good" fats, such as two to four times more omega-3, which helps to reduce inflammation and is good for heart health and three to five times more CLA, which has been linked to long-term weight management and reduced cancer risks, than non-organic produce. In addition, organic produce is richer in antioxidant, including vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, she says.

Besides being higher in nutrients and antioxidants, Rodriguez also recommends going organic to avoid pesticides and toxins.

"These pesticides and toxins can store in our fats cells and cause additional metabolic dysfunction, especially related to weight loss, thyroid, and sex hormones," she says.

If you don't have a lot of money to spend on organic foods, Rodriguez recommends starting by looking at the "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits and vegetables. Then choose the foods from the list that you eat the most.

"For example, I love peppers and spinach, and these are on my weekly shopping list," she says. "I always purchase these vegetables organic. The foods not listed on the Dirty Dozen list I buy conventional, but I always wash my vegetables and fruit before consumption. Make it a priority to invest in a $2 vegetable's worth the investment."

How much of the food you eat is organic? Do you buy according to the Dirty Dozen list? Do tell!

via A Reason to Choose Organic Tomatoes Year-Round - Shape Magazine.

High-Tech Shortcut To Greek Yogurt Leaves Purists Fuming : \ NPR

My takeaway - I buy greek yogurt because it's a simple food. If you agree, always check the back of the label to make sure there are no weird additives. EnlargeBenjamin Morris/NPR

America's food companies are masters of technology. They massage tastes and textures to tickle our palates. They find ways to imitate expensive foods with cheaper ingredients.

And sometimes, that technological genius leads to controversy.

A case in point: Greek yogurt, one of the trendiest foods in the country right now — "the Jeremy Lin of food products," says the Los Angeles Times. Some yogurt companies are climbing onboard the Greek yogurt bandwagon with new ways to achieve that characteristically thick Greek yogurt texture. And traditional makers of Greek yogurt don't like it one bit.

Among the critics is Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of the company Chobani and perhaps the country's No. 1 cheerleader for Greek yogurt.

Ulukaya is Turkish, but Greece and Turkey share a common tradition of yogurt-making, as it turns out. Seven years ago, he founded Chobani. Today, it's America's biggest maker of Greek yogurt.

Ulukaya says the secret of his success is simplicity. "We want to make yogurt the way it was meant to be," he says. His yogurt, he says, is exactly the same as what his mother made by hand back home in Turkey.

Except that now, he's making 1 million pounds of it every day in a factory in upstate New York.

Dan Charles/NPR

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of the yogurt company Chobani, says making Greek yogurt using thickening agents is cheating.

He takes me to the factory, a jungle gym of stainless steel pipes and tanks and loud machinery. One room is full of machines that spin the yogurt and squeeze out the liquid to strain it.

Ulukaya treats these machines like trade secrets. He won't let me take a picture of them. They're a critical piece of his booming business, "and it's not easy to get them," he says. "It takes a year to get them. So you have to plan ahead in order to make it."

Which brings us to the problem facing the rest of the industry. Other companies have watched Greek yogurt take over nearly a quarter of the total yogurt market in just the past five years. They wanted to get into this profitable market segment, too, but they didn't have those machines.

So they called in food scientists like Erhan Yildiz, who is head of research on dairy products at a company called Ingredion. He knows yogurt — he's Turkish, too. Yildiz and his colleagues set about finding a way to make it without those expensive straining machines.

They measured the firmness and thickness of those Greek yogurts, and also some attributes that you may not have heard of — "residual mouth coating," "meltaway" and "jiggle."

"This is almost like fingerprinting a product. That combination of key attributes really identifies what that product is all about," he says.

To duplicate the Greek yogurt, they started with regular yogurt, then added different versions of starch, obtained from corn or tapioca. As they tweaked the quality and quantity of added starch, they kept measuring those key attributes. "If you can measure something, you can manipulate it," says Yildiz.

They arrived at a solution, a "formulated" Greek yogurt that Yildiz says comes pretty close to the original strained version. It's on store shelves now, although Yildiz isn't allowed to say exactly which yogurt manufacturers use his new ingredient.

But you can figure it out. During a recent visit to Safeway, I found that Fage's plain Greek yogurt contained no added thickeners. Safeway's Lucerne brand of Greek yogurt, however, contained milk protein concentrate (something that's commonly obtained from the leftover whey at cheese factories) and organic cornstarch. Yoplait's Greek yogurt also contained milk protein concentrate.

Yildiz sees nothing wrong with this. Authentic Greek yogurt, he says, is what you make of it.

But Chobani's Ulukaya calls such products cheap imitations. "That ruins the expectation in the consumer's mind of how pure and simple this product is."

He says the problem is there's no legal definition of Greek yogurt, any more than there's a legal definition of, say, a Greek wedding. "There's no protection around it. You could make a bowl of macaroni, call it Greek yogurt, and nobody could do anything to you. Which is sad!"

Now, there is a legal definition of yogurt. It's a "standard of identity" of yogurt, put out by the Food and Drug Administration.

It says, for instance,that yogurt has to be made from milk and bacterial culture. But that standard is 30 years old, and its interpretation has been the subject of debate. The version that was originally published in 1981 did not allow the addition of thickening agents. But after the industry protested, the FDA "stayed" that section of the regulation.

Most yogurt companies say that you can add starch or concentrated milk protein to their product and still legally call it yogurt, although a newly filed class-action lawsuit disputes this interpretation.

As for whether the yogurt is Greek, though — that seems to be a question for the philosophers.

via High-Tech Shortcut To Greek Yogurt Leaves Purists Fuming : The Salt : NPR.

Watching your salt? Check the ingredients in your chicken!

20120731-183434.jpgSomething I wasn't aware of until a couple of years ago was just made very visibly apparent. Sometimes brands will 'plump' up chicken breasts by injecting saline solution. Once I found out about this practice I always have made a point to buy my frozen chicken at Trader Joe's, but grabbed a bag at Costco when I had run out the other day.

I was marinating some chicken breast when I noticed all of these holes. Kinda creepy, isn't it?

For more information, here's a great article from Cooking Light -

The Hidden Sodium in Chicken

One chicken breast could eat up 20% of your sodium limit—before you even start to cook.


  • NONENHANCED POULTRY (per 4 ounces raw) Sodium: 45 to 70mg Fine print says: "Contains 1 to 5% retained water." (This is water that may be absorbed during the chilling process; it's not injected, and no salt is added.)   ENHANCED POULTRY (per 4 ounces raw) Sodium: 330 to 440mg Fine print says: "Enhanced with up to 15% chicken broth, salt, and carrageenan."

"As American as boneless, skinless chicken breast" doesn't have quite the same ring to it as "American as apple pie," but it's far more appropriate: We eat an average of 87 pounds of chicken per year, up 81% from 48 pounds in 1980. This makes the plumping practice in poultry processing even more troubling.

About one-third of the fresh chicken found in supermarket meat cases has been synthetically saturated with a mix of water, salt, and other additives via needle injections and high-pressure vacuum tumbling. The process is designed to make naturally lean poultry meat juicier and more tender. A 4-ounce serving of what the industry calls "enhanced" poultry can contain as much as 440mg sodium. That's nearly one-fifth of the current 2,300mg daily sodium allotment—from a source you'd never suspect.

Worse, it's 500% more sodium than is found naturally in untreated chicken. Yet the word "natural" can be used on the labels of these injected birds. USDA labeling policies give poultry companies a green light to label their enhanced products "100% natural" or "all natural," even though they've been injected with ingredients in concentrations that do not naturally occur in a chicken. (Like many foods, chicken contains trace amounts of sodium and other minerals.)

With injections totaling 15% or more of the meat's weight, a 7-pound enhanced chicken might net only 6 pounds of meat. Do the math: At $2.99 per pound, you've paid a premium of up to $0.45 per pound for added salt and water. Each year, this costs Americans about $2 billion, according to the Truthful Labeling Coalition, a trade group started by poultry producers who want to put an end to misleading labels on enhanced products.

At a time when sodium consumption has risen to the top of public health issues—and when at press time we expected to hear soon about a government move to lower sodium recommendations—here's an example of salt being needlessly added to fresh, whole foods.

Processors are required to disclose the injections, but the lettering on the packaging can be small and inconspicuous. To know if you're picking up an enhanced product, squint at the fine print, which will list something like, "contains up to 15% chicken broth." You can also check the ingredient list, and, of course, look for the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label. If the chicken is truly natural, the sodium content won't stray higher than 70mg per serving.

What you do with your chicken or turkey once you get it home is another story. However, at that point you are consciously choosing to add sodium, and you can control the amount you use. Seasoning a chicken breast with 1/8 teaspoon salt will add 250mg sodium—a healthier choice that you'll be much happier making if that same chicken breast doesn't come preloaded with 440mg of the salty stuff.

Janet Helm, MS, RD|From the January/February 2011 Issue