bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Optimyz edits

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I recently participated in my first Mud Run. It was more fun, and more challenging than I expected. But, this is beside the point. In our swag bags there was a copy of the magazine Optimyz. Why these magazines seem to pander to pseudo-healthcare professionals is beyond me. Actually, no, it’s not. It’s because good solid advice isn’t “sexy”. It’s the same reason that people would rather buy green coffee bean extract and visit a holistic healer than to listen to a dietitian. So… In this magazine were a couple of sentences that bothered me. One was in an article about “Wicked wheat” and good old Dr William Davis’s Wheat Belly agenda. While the author actually reached the same conclusion as most sensible people “I see no magical elixir within the pages and practices of the “Wheat Belly Diet”” she also made a couple of  statements that made her seem completely clueless about the topic.

…I found it far-fetched that the Cheerios that got me out of bed in the morning back then were the cause of my current belly bulge battle.

The idea of giving up my treat of a bowl of oatmeal post workout seemed like the Everest of cold turkey quits. But I guess that dramatic reaction may indicate that I may have a problem with wheat.

Um… Neither of these statements indicate that you have a problem with wheat as Cheerios are made from oats and oatmeal is made from, you guessed it, oats! Sigh.

My other issue was with an article by a “certified nutrition coach” who said: “Post-workout carbs should come from… low sugar fruits such as blueberries and papaya.” I wondered to myself “are these low-sugar fruits?” To answer the question, let’s look at the sugar content of these and some other commonly consumed fruits (all quantities are based on a one-cup serving of fruit):

apple = 13 g sugar

orange = 17 g

strawberries = 7 g

banana = 18 g

blueberries = 15 g

papaya = 8 g

Yes, papaya is relatively low in sugar compared to some of these other fruits. However, blueberries are not. My point is that all fruits have nutritional benefits, no need to limit yourself to blueberries and papaya.


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Are wild plants more nutritious than cultivated plants?

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According to a recent article in the New York Times, we’ve been breeding the nutrients out of our food since we first started growing our own fruits and vegetables. Apparently when you compare cultivated plants to wild plants the wild plants come out ahead, by leaps and bounds, for phytonutrient content. Now, not having seen nutrient comparisons of these foods I can’t comment on whether or not this is the case. Perhaps it is true. It’s entirely possible, and not really all that surprising considering the state of modern mass agriculture, that wild plants would contain more nutrients than cultivated plants. However, there are a couple of other concerns I have regarding the content of this article.

Firstly, you may be wondering what phytonutrients are. Essentially, they’re the nutrients in plants that give them their colours and provide you with health benefits (1). They’re things like anthocyanin in beets, lycopene in tomatoes, catechins in teas, etc. While no one phytonutrient (also known as phytochemical) has been proven to be responsible for a specific health benefit they are all widely regarded to be beneficial and provide protection from certain diseases such as cancers.

While phytonutrients provide many benefits, they are not the only form of nutrients present in plant foods. Even if, as the article states, these nutrients are vanishing from our food supply, there are other essential vitamins and minerals, as well as things like fibre and water, present in fruits and vegetables. Are we also breeding these nutrients out of our foods? Hard to say, as the article does not address this at all and there has been little, if any, sound research on this subject.

Lastly, the author of the article (Jo Robinson) is selling a book on the merits of consuming a “wild” food diet. Thus, she has a vested interest in convincing us that our fruits and vegetables are nutritionally lacking and the article itself lacks a balanced approach. I’m not saying that she’s wrong, I’m just saying that there is more to the story of nutrition than phytonutrients and I would like to see some unbiased research before I draw any conclusions myself.


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Grocery store lessons: Graduates for toddlers Juice Treats

Not having kids myself, I’ve somehow managed to remain blissfully unaware of the proliferation of horrendous packaged foods available in the baby food section. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as it provided me with blogspiration) the other day I took a closer look at some of the items being sold to parents for their young children. There were the usual jars of visually unappealing pureed foods. Alongside those, there were also a number of snack items and microwavable meals for toddlers. One snack in particular caught my eye: Graduates for Toddlers Juice Treats.

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These Juice Treats are being marketed as “real fruit” snacks for toddlers. Call me crazy, but real fruit does not generally come in a box in the form of gummy candy. Why do we need to teach children that treats are candy? Why can’t we teach them that fresh apples, for example, are treats? And don’t for one second think that these gummies have anything in common with actual fruit. Nope, one 28 gram packet has 100 calories, 25 mg of sodium, no fibre, 17 g sugar, 0.1 g protein, and 4% DV of vitamin C. “But they have vitamin C” you might argue. Yep, that’s not from fruit, it’s from the added ascorbic acid. It’s also not very much vitamin C. A small orange has 85% DV of vitamin C. It, as well as other fruits, also contains other vitamins and minerals, Juice Treats do not. The first ingredient in these snacks is corn syrup. The second is sugar. The “fruit” is a bit of pureed fruit and a bit of fruit juice (read: more sugar). Let’s also not forget the oral health nightmare that feeding your toddler gummy treats can create.

What more is there to say? These Juice Treats are no substitute for actual fruit.

 


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Grocery Store Lessons: Mr. Christie’s Fruit Krisps

I recently saw a poster for these “Fruit Krisps” from Mr. Christie. Naturally I was skeptical regarding their health value and fruit content so I examined a few boxes. Overall, they’re not the worst snack you could have. Each pouch contains 100 calories worth, has 3 g of fat, 15 mg of sodium, 3 g of fibre, 7 g of sugar, and 1 g of protein.

They come in three flavours: mixed berry, blueberry, and banana. Surprisingly, dried fruit is the first ingredient in all of them. But don’t get too excited about them counting as a serving of fruit just yet. For one thing, the amount of fruit in them is not anywhere near an actual serving. For another, they don’t actually contain any of the actual benefits you would obtain from eating actual fruit; no vitamins (none of the Krisps contain any vitamin C), no water, less fibre.

I’d also like to point out that the “mixed berry” variety of “Fruit Krisp” contains only cranberries. I’m not sure where the “mixed” comes into that.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy cracker or cookie you could definitely do worse. But if you’re looking for a nutritious snack containing fruit you’d be better off checking the produce section.


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A realist’s view on the antioxidant and optimism study

I’ve recently seen a few references to a study about vegetable consumption and optimism. Full disclosure: I am not an optimist; I’m a realist. As such, there are a few things about this study that bother me:

1. I’m unsure how much this study really tells us about the relationship between vegetable consumption and optimism. The researchers measured blood levels of antioxidants in 982 men and women and compared them to self-reported optimism (as assessed with the revised Life Orientation Test). We all know that self-reports tend to be inaccurate. I also wonder how accurate a marker of fruit and vegetable consumption blood levels of antioxidants is. As the researchers point out, there is no way to determine causality. Thus, eating more fruit and vegetables is not necessarily going to make your disposition any more positive.

Please, don’t think that I’m implying you shouldn’t eat your fruits and vegetables. Nearly all of us could stand to eat more veggies. I suppose if the belief that eating more of these foods is going to improve your outlook on the world then I really shouldn’t complain.

2. What’s so great about being an optimist anyway? Personally, I think that those who are blindly optimistic are delusional.

3. Why are research dollars being wasted on such banal topics? I’d much rather see funding going to research that is going to improve the healthspan of the population.

 

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