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.
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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.
Starting the Day Right
It’s a big week for breakfast news: A new study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, found that middle-school students who ate no breakfast or ate it only occasionally had double the risk of obesity as those who ate breakfast regularly. But students who ate “double-breakfast” — first at home and then at school — did not seem to be at any greater risk for obesity as those who ate only one breakfast, either at home or school. “It seems it’s a bigger problem to have kids skipping breakfast than to have these kids eating two breakfasts,” concluded study co-author Marlene Schwartz, of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Meanwhile, the Deseret News weighed whether cereal, the sales of which have declined in recent years, is a breakfast food worth rescuing, and Time offered an eye-opening look at 10 healthy breakfast options enjoyed in countries around the world.
Who farmed your food?
Curious about what’s in the packaged foods you eat, where the ingredients came from, and who produced them and how? More and more consumers are demanding this sort of information and transparency, and so companies big (Kellogg’s, Hershey, Wal-Mart and Campbell’s Soup, among others) and “niche” (Fish + People, The Real Co.) are responding through a variety of labeling initiatives. “Driving the efforts are consumers’ heightened concerns about health and the environmental and social impact of food production, as well as regulatory and safety worries,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Soon we’ll probably know a lot more about the people who produce our food — a development that is as sweet as it is empowering.
Raw milk or raw luck?
Oh, the irony! Just weeks after passing legislation making it legal to drink raw milk in West Virginia — despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration that unpasteurized milk may “pose a serious health risk” — members of the state’s House of Delegates celebrated by drinking raw milk. Guess what happened? A bunch of the lawmakers fell ill. Some of the delegates, including some of those who drank the milk and the guy who distributed it to his colleagues, insist that one had nothing to do with the other, blaming the illnesses on a stomach bug that was going around. “There’s nobody up there that got sick off that milk,” Delegate Scott Cadle, who sponsored the legislation and shared the milk, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. “It’s just bad timing, I guess.” The West Virginia Bureau of Public Health is investigating.
Bedtime Snack Do’s and Don’ts
A little nosh before you hit the hay — what can be the harm? The Wall Street Journal suggests that some bedtime snacks may be better than others. For instance, for a solid night’s sleep, it’s best to steer clear of high-energy — high-fat and high-protein — foods, which can give your body a jolt, just when you’d like it to be settling down, and boost inflammation (although eating foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids during the day may reduce this effect). The best bedtime snack choices, Texas A&M Health Science Center neuroscientist David Earnest tells the Journal, are high-magnesium foods, like leafy greens and pumpkin seeds, which can relax your muscles and diminish restless legs syndrome; high-tryptophan foods, like milk, unprocessed turkey and hazelnuts, which can speed the onset of REM sleep; and fruit, especially melatonin-triggering cherries, bananas and pineapples. “Unless you’re exceeding the normal calories in a day consistently,” Earnest told the Journal, “late-night fruit should not be a problem.”
Chances are when you hear the phrase “vegan meat,” you think of bland veggie burgers, mealy meatless sausages and the much-maligned Tofurky. But that’s about to change. Enter a new breed of meatless “meat” that’s carefully crafted and technologically engineered to truly replicate the tastes, smells and textures of the real thing — no animals required.
According to the dictionary, the word “natural” means “having undergone little or no processing and containing no chemical additives.” But when it comes to seeing the word “natural” on a food label, the definition gets much murkier — so much so, in fact, that the FDA (which is currently reviewing the term and how it can define and regulate it) has recently extended its public comment period on the meaning of this word until May 10, 2016.