Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Why you shouldn’t invite an RD to an Arbonne party

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Bat illustration by Ali Haines on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence 

I recently attended an Arbonne party. In my defence, I was lured by the rare opportunity to socialize in this small city. I also had managed to confuse Arbonne with Avon. Expecting an evening of apps, chats, and maybe buying a token lipstick or something, I showed up with a batch of choco coco clusters and blissful ignorance of what was to come. I was greeted with an offer of wine (so far so good) and then we were “treated” to protein shake samples. I’m not a fan of protein shakes; the flavour and texture completely turn me off. The only way I’ve ever managed to find protein powder palatable is if it’s hidden in a smoothie. Fortunately, the samples were small but I got my first red flag when the seller (or whatever they’re called) told us that their protein powder formulation is ideal for women because we don’t absorb protein as well as men. Funny, I never learned that in my 4 year nutrition degree. Even more interesting is that their protein powder is a blend of pea protein, brown rice protein, and cranberry (??) protein, providing a modest 10 grams of protein per serving (compare that to the standard 20+ grams of protein for most whey (and even other commercially available vegan) protein powders. (Note: an Arbonne rep brought it to my attention that this product is actually their “protein boost” not protein powder which does contain 20 grams of protein per serving. My apologies for this error. That extra protein also comes with a cost; $85 for a bag containing 30 servings.)

We followed up our protein shots with a salt scrub on our hands which I really have no issue with.

Following this we sat around a table and were given a spiel about a number of the products available for purchase through Arbonne. Because I didn’t want to create an incredibly uncomfortable situation I (hope) I managed to plaster a neutral expression on my face while screaming “THIS IS BULLSHIT” inside my head. Oh man. There was a big deal made about how only a few (nine I think it was) substances are banned from cosmetics in North America while there’s a huge list in Europe and that’s the list that Arbonne uses. In case you were wondering, there are a lot more ingredients banned from use in Canadian cosmetics than nine. I can’t be bothered to count them all (that’s how many) but you can see them for yourself if you doubt me or are so inclined as to count them. I try to be conscientious about buying products without ingredients that are potential carcinogens and hormone disrupters, better safe than sorry. As such, I know that it’s possible to find affordable opens at many grocery stores. You do not have to spend $67 for lotion just to avoid parabens and pthalates and whatever. We were told that vaseline is bad but she couldn’t tell us why, instead we were told to “google it, educate yourself”. Well, I googled it and it seems to me that the consensus is that vaseline (aka petroleum jelly) is safe for use. The real debate is whether it does much more than to protect your skin by creating a barrier between it and the elements. She really got me when she told us that all the other mascaras contain bat poop. Yep, bat poop, in a product that you put right by your eye. I googled that one too because I was curious where that idea would come from considering that bat guano can cause illness. Apparently the myth came from the similarity between “guano” and “guanine”. Guanine is actually derived from fish scales (which may or may not be of comfort to you but seems much preferable to me). It kind of blew my mind that we would be told such blatant and easily disprovable facts. Does Arbonne feed their sellers these lies in the hopes that gullible shoppers buy into the fear? I also found it a little odd that for a company that prides itself on “clean” ingredients none of the skincare products seemed to have the ingredients on the containers.

Okay, next up the supplements. For a company that prides itself on “clean” ingredients I was pretty shocked by the crap they were selling us. An omega3 supplement that was derived from flax so was actually very low in omega3 but was presented as being equivalent to fish oil derived omega3 supplements. There were these energizing powders (to be used like Crystal Light) which were apparently much better than coffee. The first two ingredients were green coffee bean extract and green tea extract and then a bunch of other junk. You’d be better off sticking to coffee; cheaper, safer, and (probably) tastier. There was a detox supplement that contained a variety of laxatives and diuretics. Unnecessary and potentially harmful.

I couldn’t even bring myself to buy a product to be polite after hearing all the nonsense about what they were selling and seeing the obscene prices. As if all this isn’t enough reason to avoid Arbonne, they’re essentially a pyramid scheme.

If you believe in science and not wasting your money then I’d recommend learning from my experience and avoiding Arbonne “parties”.

 

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Rocco’s dispiriting diet

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Okay, I have to go and be all unsexy again and tell you that a healthy diet doesn’t have to consist of ridiculously overpriced supplements and complicated recipes made from rare ingredients scavenged by sherpas from the top of mountains in Peru, or whatever. I know that it’s boring and basic but you can eat only easily identifiable foods, available at your local grocery store, simply prepared and be healthy.

What prompted this? Have you seen the news about celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito’s “unbelievable amounts of food” diet? You know what it reminded me of when I was reading it? That moon juice lady’s diet.

I think it’s fantastic that Rocco is feeling healthy on his diet. That doesn’t mean that it’s for everyone. Just because he’s lost weight doesn’t mean he’s suddenly an expert on weight management or nutrition. Just like how everyone who eats seems to fancy themselves nutrition experts, it seems like everyone who’s lost weight fancies themselves to be weight loss gurus. It’s like that time my boyfriend’s knee was mysteriously swollen and I told him it was probably bursitis and he went to emerg and waited a quadrillion hours to have the doctor take a cursory glance at him and reach the same diagnosis. So, basically, I’m a doctor now and if you tell me your ailments I’ll diagnose you. Save you a bunch of time in emerg.*

Anyway… Rocco’s diet honestly doesn’t sound like all that much food to me. I do manage to put away quite a bit myself but if he’s starting his day with an almond milk protein shake (more about this later) he’s probably not starting off with many calories. His next “meal” was cantaloupe with stevia and his homegrown herb puree “sugar-free” of course which is very important when you’re pairing it with a fruit that’s calories pretty much 100% come from sugar. Next was pickled mackerel (fresh from the boat; don’t even bother if you don’t have your own personal fisherperson). Afternoon snack was: Bluefish Tacomole. ‘It’s a taco shell that we make from fiber and protein and it had guacamole and local bluefish made on our 700 degree plancha.'” Second afternoon snack was a bar and a shake (both products available for purchase on his website, more on this later as well). Supper was taste-testing some food he prepared for an event. No wonder he found himself “starving” when he got home at 3 am and promptly scarfed: “Berry Beignets, Stuffed Green Peppers with Turkey and Tomato, Chocolate Protein Bar”. Pretty much the closest thing to a proper meal he ate all day.

Because Rocco has become a weight loss expert simply by shedding 30 pounds he now sells a line of affordable outrageously overpriced nutritional supplements so that we can all benefit from this expertise he can make money. Links in the article (which leave me wondering, is this really an article or a thinly veiled advertisement?) take you to his product website. Naturally, there is no information on the size of each product, nor the nutrition information, but these are minor details when you’re buying the perfect body. Rocco’s “Just Shakes” boast home delivery (which is apparently unique when Internet shopping) and, “contain 28 grams or more protein, are dairy free, sugar free, gluten free, non-GMO, lactose & whey free, soy free and contain at least 8 grams fiber.” A steal at $299 USD ($389.67 CAD plus an arm and a leg and your first born in shipping and duties) for an unspecified quantity. His bars are: “made with only eight 100% all organic ingredients: organic puffed brown rice, cocoa powder, freeze dried strawberries, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, coconut nectar and stevia. No preservatives, stabilizers or additives of any kind. At only 102 calories and a gram of fat THIS BAR IS A REAL TREAT—it is Reduced calorie / Low fat / Saturated fat free / Cholesterol free / Low sodium / No added sugar.” Apparently coconut nectar doesn’t qualify as “sugar” because Rocco and his marketers are hoping we’re too stupid to realize that coconut nectar = sugar. At only $48.95 for a box of 12, $63.79 CAD, that’s $4.08 per bar ($5.32 CAD). That’s a pricey 102 calories.

I think it’s great that Rocco is so pleased with his current diet that he feels the need to share it with the world. I think it’s a shame that he’s profiting from the sale of outrageously overpriced products and that his diet is being packaged as a healthy weight loss choice for all. We’re all different, our nutritional needs, likes, and body shapes and sizes vary considerably. Just because a celebrity, chef or otherwise, has lost weight eating a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s the way we should all be eating.

*Please note, I do not in any way fancy myself to be a doctor. Do not come to me for diagnosis. Go to your family doc or emerg as the situation warrants.


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Grocery store lessons: Catelli “SuperGreens” pasta

I was getting some groceries last week when I saw a new product in the pasta aisle. Catelli SuperGreens”.

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Immediately I said, “I feel a blog post coming on!”.

Remember that vegetable bread? Total scam, right? And, according to my sources, pretty revolting to boot. Well, this pasta is no different (at least in the scam regard, I presume it tastes much like regular pasta).

How did Catelli get the vegetables in the pasta? Well, they added some vegetable powders (spinach, zucchini, broccoli, parsley, and kale). Super! Green! Hold-up though, before you decide your plate of pasta counts as your vegetables for the day think about how that compares to actual vegetables. Well, because of the processing that the veggies have undergone to become powders, and because the quantities added are likely negligible, there’s no comparing the two. You’re not getting any of the vitamins and minerals that you would by eating any of those actual vegetables.

I was curious how this “SuperGreens” pasta would compare to regular pasta. Catelli didn’t seem to have a plain old pasta option in the same format so I opted to look at their “Smart” pasta which is just regular pasta with added fibre.

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As you can see, nutritionally the “SuperGreens” is nearly identical to the “Smart” pasta. In fact, the “Smart” pasta may be slightly better from a nutritional standpoint as it’s got more B vitamins, more fibre, and less sodium (although these differences are fairly minuscule).

If you like this new “SuperGreens” pasta, there’s nothing wrong with eating it. Just know that it doesn’t contribute to your vegetable servings. There’s nothing “super” about this, except maybe the marketing tactic. There’s nothing green about it either, except maybe the cash Catelli will be pulling in from the ridiculous representation of this product. You know what goes great with pasta though? A vegetable-rich sauce.

 


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Detoxify yourself, for real

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Back to that sage magazine for blogspiration… There’s a two page ad for an “herbal cleanse” entitled: Why do we need to cleanse?

It follows a Q & A format. The first question:

Doesn’t my body cleanse itself?

It’s true that our bodies are meant to naturally cleanse themselves…

If only it could have stopped right there and been like, “and they do!” But, that wouldn’t make them any money. Instead, the ad goes on to say that we’re bombarded with so many “toxic chemicals” which can lead to a “toxic overload”. Clearly, our bodies need help removing those toxins from our bodies <insert eye roll here>.

The thing is, your body does cleanse itself. What do you think your kidneys and liver are up to all day? Of course, your body can’t rid itself of all toxins but a cleanse can’t improve upon what your body’s already doing for free.

The ad goes on to instil a little more fear into all of us…

Every second, 310 kilograms of toxic chemicals are released into our air, land and water by industrial factories worldwide. These wastes enter our body, where they undermine its ability to function effectively, leading to symptoms including: fatigue, headache, gas and bloating, body odour, constipation, skin irritation and rashes, and sleeplessness.

Conveniently, these are all conditions that are extremely common and most of us can probably identify with them. This is how they get people to think “I’m tired! It must be toxins! I’d better do a cleanse!” Never stopping to consider that the reason they’re so tired may be as simple as they don’t go to bed early enough or they get woken up during the night by a crying baby, snoring partner, or obnoxious lovely kitty. Far easier to splash out $16 (or whatever the cost is) on a bottle of herbal cleanse than to improve current habits.

How does this magical cleanse purport to work?

Using cleansing herbs helps counteract this accumulation of toxins and wastes… The following “great eight” herbs are excellent for cleansing: Blessed thistle, Burdock, Kelp, Sheep sorrel, Slippery elm, Turkish rhubarb, Red clover and Watercress

Ignoring the fact that these are not all technically herbs, this is still a load of bullshit. Unless you consider pooping to be cleansing, as many of these plants are known for their laxative properties. Others are known for their diuretic properties. I hate to break it to you, going to the bathroom more frequently doesn’t mean you’re expelling more toxins from your body than you otherwise would.

The really great thing about their product is that you don’t have to adjust your lifestyle at all to reap the benefits.

You’ll often hear people say that they’re doing a cleanse or a detox, and then complaining about the difficult meal plan or extreme food restrictions. Cleansing your body doesn’t have to be a chore or disrupt your daily life. It can be as simple as making it a part of a daily ritual of drinking tea.

That’s right, you don’t have to follow some ridiculous diet to “cleanse” or “detox”. You also don’t have to drink an expensive herbal laxative diuretic tea. Of course, you’ll be healthier and probably feel better if you do just make healthy choices like eating more vegetables, getting exercise, going outside, and getting more sleep.

Instead of buying into cleanses, detoxify your life by removing unnecessary products and ignoring false marketing tactics.

 


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Don’t go with the Flow

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The above promoted tweet showed-up in my feed recently. Ugh. Can we get any more ridiculous? We don’t need special alkaline water and the benefits spouted by Flow are unsubstantiated.

In case you were wondering, the normal pH value of “raw” water ranges from 6.5-9.5. It’s generally somewhere in the middle of this range. According to the WHO, while there’s no health-based guideline proposed for pH, at values higher than 11 eye irritation and exacerbation of skin disorders may occur. At values under 4 redness and irritation of the eyes may occur, and at values less than 2.5 severe and irreversible damage to the skin occurs.

The pH of tap water has to be controlled to avoid damaging the pipes through which it travels. It also needs to be less than 8 for disinfection with chlorine to be effective. Hence, tap water usually has a pH between 7.1 and 8.0, neutral-slightly alkaline.

Despite it’s pH being its claim to fame, Flow doesn’t list the pH value of its water on the website. However, according to an article in the National Post, the founder of the company says it’s “about 8.1”. Essentially, a touch more alkaline than tap water. At slightly over $2 for a 500 ml bottle, it’s considerably more expensive than tap water though.

As I’ve discussed before, your body does an excellent job of “balancing acidity levels” all on its own. You don’t need to spend money on overpriced water to maintain a healthy pH.