It’s not difficult to find a bottle labeled “extra virgin olive oil” — a term that’s not only ubiquitous, but that is also synonymous in most people’s minds with a high-quality product. Unfortunately, like many other words that end up on food labels, those don’t necessarily mean what they say. In fact, an estimated 70 percent of imported extra virgin olive oil isn’t actually extra virgin at all. It’s been refined and processed or made from poor-quality (possibly even rotten) olives.
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It’s what’s inside that counts.
When it comes to fruit and vegetables, maybe they should say that the best things come in ugly packages. A growing body of research indicates that produce with signs of stress — pockmarks, scales, dimples, strange shapes — may actually be nutritionally superior and taste better than perfect-looking produce. The scars on ugly fruits and veggies may be signs they have successfully battled environmental threats such as an insect or an infection and may indicate high antioxidant content, NPR’s The Salt reports. “There is some interesting data that when plants are stressed by insects or disease, they produce metabolites that are good for us,” Clemson University environmental biologist Brian Ward tells the site. Embrace the unsightly! Read more
Ever since the dawn of the low-carb craze, bread has been on the outs. Diners ask for the breadbasket to be removed from their tables at restaurants, sandwiches are shunned, and toast is … well, toast. But new research may help prove that bread has been unfairly demonized, and that the loaf languishing in your kitchen is not the enemy you once thought.
Getting the most out of your cuppa joe
Coffee — it not only wakes us up and elevates our mood, but, research suggests, may also protect us against dementia and boost our memory and metabolism. However, Fox News warns, we may be unintentionally undercutting some of coffee’s benefits. The site lists eight caffeine-consumption mistakes to avoid, including buying coffee preground and storing it in its original bag, which increase the level of free radicals, using up the health-promoting antioxidants, as well as drinking it too early, drinking too much, overdoing it with the sugar and drinking the wrong roast. Also, if you’re the sort of person who lets your coffee sit there forever, which increases its acidity, you may be upping your risk of heartburn and indigestion. Plus, if you drink your cuppa joe within 20 minutes of brewing — when, let’s face it, it tastes best anyway — you maximize the antioxidant benefits as well.
Fries with that hormone disrupter?
Yet another reason to skip fast food if you want to eat healthy: A new study indicates that fast food may expose those who consume it to chemicals called phthalates, which can disrupt hormones and even lower sperm count in men. Researchers at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health found that people who had consumed more than 35 percent of their calories from fast food in the previous 24 hours had significantly higher levels of two phthalate byproducts, DEHP and DiNP. The authors suggest that the phthalates may have gotten into food — possibly from sources like plastic gloves or conveyor belts — during preparation or packaging, and that the heat from cooking may exacerbate the issue.
Nutrition News: Healthy-Eating Insurance Discount, “Activity Equivalent” Calorie Labeling and Walmart’s Cage-Free Eggsby Amy Reiter in Food News, April 15, 2016
Healthy Eaters and Financial Incentives
Why didn’t anyone do this before? The insurance company John Hancock is now offering its life insurance policyholders financial incentives — lower premiums, grocery-store discounts and cash back deals — for consuming healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. The company’s president, Michael Doughty, told USA Today that the program, the first of its kind, involves a loyalty card policyholders swipe at the supermarket register and is “designed to recognize that nutrition, and particularly nutrition combined with exercise, is really the best recipe for living a long and healthy life.” And he said, “If we can play a role in helping our customers in doing that, it’s going to be good for them and good for us as a company.” Right on.
If you do a Google search for “apple cider vinegar,” you will undoubtedly come away with hundreds of articles touting its myriad magical powers. Depending on whom you believe, downing regular shots of vinegar will do everything from helping you drop pounds to improving your digestion and even preventing diabetes. “Vinegar has been used medicinally for thousands of years, but evidence supporting its use for health outcomes is limited and quite recent,” says Carol Johnston, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of nutrition at Arizona State University who studies the impact of vinegar on diabetes.
You may think that — thanks in large part to the Starbucks-ization of the latte industry — that coffee has already been made into every conceivable form. But in its latest incarnation, you’ll be more likely baking with it than brewing it. That’s because it’s turning up in a trendy new ingredient called coffee flour.
Arsenic in rice cereal
One of the first foods many parents feed their babies is about to get safer and healthier. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a cap on the amount of inorganic arsenic (a potentially toxic and carcinogenic substance in some pesticides and insecticides) in infant rice cereals to 100 parts per billion, similar to Europe’s recommended limit. Rice cereal is the chief source of arsenic exposure for babies, the FDA said, noting that its testing determined that many U.S. retail brands are in already compliance with the new recommended guidelines, according to the Associated Press. Although the FDA has not recommended that parents avoid feeding their babies rice cereal altogether, the agency advised not relying on it exclusively and offering infants other iron-fortified baby cereals — such as oatmeal, barley or multigrain ones — as well. “The proposed limit is a prudent and achievable step,” the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s Susan Mayne told the AP.
The truth about juice
Sure, “100% fruit juice” sounds healthy, but guess what? Just one serving of many kid-targeted fruit juices, juice drinks or smoothies contains a full day’s worth of sugar, or more, according to new research published in BMJ Open. “Most people assume, wrongly, that fruit juice is healthy and contains little free sugar,” study author Dr. Simon Capewell, of the University of Liverpool, told Time, referring to added sugars, including glucose, fructose, sucrose and table sugar as well as honey and syrup. However, many of the products Capewell and his colleagues tested “contained up to six teaspoons of sugar in a standard 200 ml serving, twice the daily recommended limit for a young child,” he said. Smoothies were often even worse, containing as much as eight teaspoons of sugar — three times the U.K.’s recommended daily amount — in the standard serving. Whoa.