How healthy is your favorite cereal, bread, frozen pizza or go-to snack? And how does it compare with other brands crowding the supermarket shelves? Trying to figure that out can be daunting, but it just got a little less so. The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization that has helped consumers parse everything from farm subsidies to cosmetics and cleaning-product toxicity, has just released a database of ratings, Food Scores: Rate Your Plate, for more than 80,000 commonly sold grocery items, aimed at helping shoppers make “healthier, greener and cleaner food choices.”
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In addition to its natural caramely sweetness, there’s one more reason to pour on the maple syrup: it’s actually good for you. Yes, pure maple syrup is not only high in antioxidants, but every spoonful offers nutrients like riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium. According to Helen Thomas of the New York State Maple Association, maple syrup has a higher concentration of minerals and antioxidants, yet fewer calories than honey.
There’s nothing new about fermenting food. In fact, it may be one of the oldest food preparation techniques around. Long before we were sipping pricy Kombuchas at the local café, our ancestors were using this process as a means of keeping their food from spoiling in age without refrigeration. “Fermentation was one of the earliest forms of food preservation,” says Kathie Swift, RDN, author of The Swift Diet (Hudson Street Press, 2014). “Traditional cultures were intentionally fermenting fruits, vegetables and grains well over 10,000 years ago, but they lost popularity when modern conveniences came into use.”
Lately, despite our ability to preserve and refrigerate food, fermentation is all the rage again. So what exactly are fermented foods (and beverages)? And why should we make a point of including them in our diets? We asked Swift — a huge fan of fermenting — for some answers.
In this week’s news: Gluten-free diets spark a grain of concern; slow and steady may not win the weight-loss race; and that regrettably fattening lunch may have been your brain’s fault.
In this week’s news: Restaurant items shed calories; USDA sprinkles on sobering news about salt intake from sandwiches; and a study sleuths out sugar’s effects on memory and the brain. Read more
Lots of external factors can throw us off our game when it comes to making healthy food choices and keeping our portions under control. We know, for instance, that the size and even the color of our plates can influence our perceptions of serving size and, consequently, the amount of food we eat. Now a new study, published in the journal Appetite, has found that the size of our dining companions can dramatically affect the amount of food we pile onto our plates and dig into as well.
In this week’s news: Scientists give us the skinny on apples; olive oil earns another hearty endorsement; and local farms and organic research get some green.
Cold Comfort for Comfort Food Fans
What’s your go-to food when you’re feeling down? Carbs? Ice cream? You might as well reach for the carrot sticks and celery — or not snack at all. A new study has found that scarfing down comfort foods doesn’t actually boost mood more than eating healthier foods — or no food — does. Bad moods go away, the researchers determined, whether we eat that big pile of cookies or not. “We found no justification for people to choose comfort foods when they are distressed,” the researchers concluded, adding that they hoped their findings would lead people to skip the high-cal indulgences and “focus on other, food-free methods of improving their mood.” Read more
The name sounds strangely antiseptic, and the powdery flakes look suspiciously like what you’d sprinkle into the goldfish tank. But that does not deter certain cooks and bloggers (mostly vegetarian and vegan ones) from singing the praises of nutritional yeast. So what exactly is this supplement and what has it done to deserve a spot on the health food hot list? Read more
Does the One Percent Eat More Kale?
A 12-year study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health has determined that, although there’s still room for improvement, many Americans have bettered their eating habits over the past decade, upping their consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. That’s the good news. The bad? That positive trend was true only among those higher on the socioeconomic ladder and didn’t hold for lower-income individuals, making them vulnerable to health conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. “Declining diet quality over time may actually widen the gap between the poor and the rich,” study co-author Frank Hu told the Associated Press. Read more