Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Battle of the baked beans: how supplements are winning the war on food

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By Linda Spashett Storye book (Own work) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Did you hear about Heinz being found in breach of advertising guidelines? This in response to a commercial in which apparently (I can’t see the actual ad as they had to retract it) a man is drinking a beverage that’s “supercharged with high protein, high fibre, and minimal fat” after a run. A woman eating beans tells him that she’s having the same. Presumably a protein powder/beverage manufacturer took exception to this comparison and filed a complaint indicating that the Heinz was making the nutritional claim that beans contain the same amount of protein as a protein shake. And I’m just left smh about what a time this is to be alive.

I get that a serving of baked beans doesn’t have the same amount of protein as (most) protein shakes. The average protein shake contains about 25 grams of protein while a serving of Heinz baked beans contains about 9 grams (depending on the brand and how much you actually eat).

I’m not especially keen to promote canned baked beans and I can’t say that I’ve ever eaten them myself. However, I’m a little saddened that we live in a world in which the promotion of a whole food such as baked beans can be discouraged by the notion that an ultra-processed protein shake is somehow nutritionally superior by way of it’s higher protein content.

As we should have figured out by now, nutrition is greater than the sum of it’s parts. This is why most dietitians and other nutrition experts promote the consumption of whole foods to obtain nutrients. Supplements have a time and a place but for the average healthy human the majority of our nutrition should be coming from whole foods. This is why it’s depressing to see a protein shake win-out over a whole food in a marketing battle. How can naturally nutritious whole foods ever win a competition with ultra-processed supplements and food products with added micronutrients. It’s like putting a bunch of highly trained athletes up against some doped-up Russian team. It’s not a fair contest. But more of something isn’t always better, especially when it comes at the expense of something else.

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More bull… from Bulletproof

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Ugh. Why won’t Bulletproof bullshit just go away?? Earlier this week I saw this article about the new Bulletproof “Fatwater” which supposedly is more hydrating than regular old water because of the oil in the water. According to the creator, Asprey, “People have been talking for many years about how our bodies are dehydrated and how we need even more water in the body and not just more water in the mouth. This is our contribution to help people solve that problem.” Who’s been talking about this for years? Why, after water sustaining life on earth for at least 3.5 billion years is it suddenly not good enough? No, this is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. This is just an opportunity for Asprey and his company to make more money off unwitting people who buy into his self-proclaimed status as a biohacker.

As if that ridiculous product didn’t get me riled up enough, then my friend sent me a link to this Bulletproof article about how beans are deadly. Which, as it turns out, is several years old, and one of many in the paleo world proclaiming beans, and other lectin containing foods to be deadly. Oh crap, because I’ve unwittingly been eating beans and legumes for about 37 years. Who knew that I was committing suicide all this time? I guess my days are numbered.

What is lectin you might be asking? It’s a protein found in many foods, but at the highest levels in beans, legumes, and grains. And, it’s true, it can make you quite illBUT cooking, or sprouting, the foods that contain lectin destroys most, if not all of it (1, 2). So, unless you’re chowing down on raw kidney beans, it’s a non-issue.

There also seems to be some confusion in the article, and the comments (yes, I know, I broke the cardinal rule and read them), about lectin and the difficulty that people have digesting beans. Lectin is not why you get gas after eating beans. It’s actually the oligosaccharides raffinose and stachyose that are indigestible by humans that cause some people to become gassy after eating beans. This is not a sign that beans are toxic. It’s actually a good thing because the bacteria in your intestine are happily feeding away on these complexes, and we are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the human microbiome on many aspects of health.

In defense of beans, as they seem to bear the brunt of this anti-lectin movement; they are affordable sources of protein, fibre, calcium, and magnesium, among other nutrients. You can buy many cans of beans (30 at $0.99 each) for the $29.95 price of 160 ml of fatty water.


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Why you should eat these 6 “fat-burning” snacks (clickbait)

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While Dr Oz is supposedly going to dial down his “enthusiasm” for useless weight loss supplements, it seems that he’s not going to dial down his enthusiasm for “fat-burning” foods. Sigh.

I wasn’t even going to blog about this post on his website. I didn’t even bother clicking through to see all of the magical “fat-burning snacks”. I mean, we all know that this is a load of bunk, right? Food will not “burn fat”. End of story.

Instead of going through each food in his list and saying why the claims that they are fat-burners are foolish, I’m going to go through each food and provide you with the real deal about them.

Figs

One large fresh fig is a good source of fibre (just shy of 2 grams). It’s also got some potassium, calcium, vitamin B6, and magnesium*. They’re also delicious.

Beans

Well, I don’t really know anyone who snacks on beans. Maybe some bean salad or chickpea blondies or something. Regardless, beans are one of the most underrated foods. One half cup of cooked kidney beans is an excellent source of fibre with over 5 grams and protein with over 7 grams! They’re also a great source of folate, vitamin K, thiamine, potassium, magnesium, iron, and more. They’re also very affordable and are a great meat alternative in a meal. If you buy dried beans, make sure that you soak them well, and change the water a few times before cooking to remove as many of the gas-causing oligosaccharides as possible. If you buy canned beans, make sure you rinse them well, for the same reason, and if there’s added salt, to remove up to 40% of the sodium.

Licorice

We’re not talking about candy here. We’re talking about pure licorice root. Which, according to Oz, is available at health food stores. It’s not something I’ve seen here. I can’t vouch for it as a tasty, nor as a healthy snack. In fact, there are some cautions against it as a dietary supplement for some individuals. It may increase blood pressure, lower potassium levels, and induce labour in pregnant women. Another case of the naturalistic fallacy. Just because a food/supplement is “natural” does not mean that it’s a wise or safe choice.

Watermelon

Ooh! I love watermelon! I don’t have air conditioning so my favourite way to cool off when my apartment gets hot in the summer is to snack on frozen watermelon cubes. It’s pretty much like eating sweet water with a few vitamins thrown in for good measure. One cup, is a great source of vitamin C and vitamin A. It’s also a source of potassium.

Pistachios

Another one that I love. Pistachios are easy to over-do though. Make sure you portion them out so you don’t wind-up eating the better part of a large bag in one sitting! One ounce is a great source of protein (6 grams), and fibre (just shy of 3 grams). They’re also a good source of Vitamin K, thiamine, Vitamin B6, folate, and lots of minerals; including, iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper.

Pine nuts

These suckers are expensive! Not something I can afford to snack on. I sometimes replace them in pesto with other nuts to save money. They’re also not that spectacular on their own so I wouldn’t waste my money (or my calories) snacking on them. That being said, one ounce contains just under 4 grams of protein, and are a good source of Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Niacin, iron, magnesium, zinc, and manganese (124% of the %DV!!!).

*I used SELF Nutrition Data for all of the nutrient information contained in this post


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Should you be fighting phytic acid?

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I’ve had a few people ask me about the merits of soaking grains overnight to remove phytic acid. “What is phytic acid and why would I want to get rid of it?” you might ask.

Phytic acid is an antioxidant present in nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Many people are adamant that it be removed from foods before consuming as it binds to minerals such as calcium, zinc, and iron, minimizing the amount that you’re able to absorb from that food. It’s been suggested that grains should be soaked or sprouted before cooking in order to remove the phytic acid.

The issue: it’s uncertain how much phytic acid is actually removed by soaking grains and beans. It seems that only about 10% of phytic acid is removed through overnight soaking (1). Also, it’s unlikely that, if you’re consuming a healthy diet including a variety of foods, you’re going to experience any malnutrition due to the presence of phytic acid in your oatmeal or bean salad.

Finally, it’s possible that there may be benefits to the consumption of phytic acid of which we’re unaware. For example, some research (admittedly not the greatest study, nonetheless) has indicated that phytic acid may actually be of benefit in Alzheimer’s disease prevention/slowing of progression. Even if this research proves to be meaningless it helps to illustrate how little we know about the individual components of food. This is one reason we dietitians are always harping on about obtaining as many nutrients as possible from whole foods. We don’t know precisely how all of these nutrients are interacting with each other in food and we don’t know how that impacts the benefits we obtain from foods.

While there’s no harm in soaking your grains, or sprouting them, there’s probably little benefit as far as phytic acid removal is concerned. And who knows, that may not be such a bad thing.


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Lentils; lovely legumes

I forgot to write a post yesterday. My apologies to any of you who noticed. Fortunately, it appears that the world did not come grinding to a sudden halt.

I was going to blog about chickpeas today but apparently I already did that last year. So, lentils it is. Lentils are part of the bean/pulse family. Did you know that Canada is the world’s largest exporter of lentils? The majority of our lentils are grown in Saskatchewan. There are a number of varieties of lentils: red, green, black… Split red lentils will cook very quickly and become quite mushy while whole green lentils take longer to cook and tend to retain their shape quite well. You don’t want to add salt to the cooking water as this will make your lentils tough.

175 ml of (generic) cooked lentils contains 170 calories, only 0.56 g of fat, 13.21 g protein, an impressive 6.2 g fibre, 28 mg calcium, 4.88 mg iron, 53 mg magnesium, 540 mg potassium, and 265 mcg folate. Not too shabby for an inexpensive little pulse.

Lentils are a great addition to soups, stews, casseroles, and salads. While I’m not sold on this website, it was the only link I could find to the simple, delicious, and nutritious Spicy Red Lentils with Spinach recipe from the Nutrition Action Newsletter. I also love this recipe for curried lentil potato soup from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters.