This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News & Trends, March 27, 2014

In this week’s news: Google lets us compare apples to oranges (nutrition-wise); “real food” wins the latest diet smackdown; and Bittman says butter is back.

Virtual Food Fights
Google’s new-ish nutrition comparison tool got a soak in the spotlight this week. The idea’s rather nifty: Type “compare” followed by, oh, “bacon and kale,” and let the search engine work its magic. Drawing on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database, the search tool presents everything from fat and calorie to vitamin and mineral content. Be forewarned: Because Google’s algorithm is always set up to send you results it thinks will be relevant, you’ll also get plenty of mouthwatering recipes and images of your foods together (bacon and kale salad, for instance).

Speaking of Showdowns
Low-carb, low-fat, low-glycemic, DASH, vegan — the number of diets out there reads like the ingredient list of the back of a cereal box. And the offerings can be just as confusing. Ergo, in its newest issue, the journal Annual Reviews has published a paper it commissioned from Yale University’s David Katz, MD, who compared all of the diets, head to head (or health benefit to health benefit). The conclusion? There was no winner, but there was a common good. Namely, the kind of real, varied, and minimally processed foods you see in Mediterranean diets emerged as the most beneficial. Something to watch for, too: the NuVal food rating system Katz is involved in developing. It aims to boil nutrition information down to a single number. To keep that fortified foods from landing at the top of the healthy heap, it accounts for things like nutrients that are intrinsic (vitamin A in a carrot) versus added (vitamin A in cereal).

Butter: Keeping it Real
Last week, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a meta-analysis of 72 studies showing no evidence to support a link between saturated fat and heart disease — and the New York Times’ Mark Bittman is still celebrating. In the paper’s Opinion pages this week, he proclaimed the death of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, or, more seriously, the demise of processed food and the return of a real, balanced diet. The recent news, he wrote, ” … doesn’t mean you abandon fruit for beef and cheese; you just abandon fake food for real food, and in that category of real food you can include good meat and dairy. I would argue, however, that you might not include most industrially produced animal products; stand by.”

Sara Reistad-Long writes about science, wellness and lifestyle. She is the co-author of The Big New York Sandwich Book and can be followed on Twitter: @sarareistadlong

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