What is a serving size?
This is usually the amount that people typically eat at one time.
- Notice when the serving size listed on the back is too small. Pop-Tarts come two to a package. The label says one serving is 200 calories. The that is for “one pastry”. Normal break-fast cereal bowls hold two to three times the recommended serving size.
- If the serving size is one cup and you would normally eat two, double the calories and nutrients listed on the label.
- Higher caloric food IS worth eating if it also contains lots of nutrients!
Nutrition labels are required to include ingredient lists and to provide those lists in order of quantity. The first ingredient in tomato sauce ought to be tomatoes.
- Limit ingredients you can’t pronounce and don’t buy food containing high-fructose corn syrup.
- Manufacturers must make it easy for you to recognize chemical preservatives by not only listing the name of the preservative but also by listing its purpose, according to the FDA. For example, a food label might list “potassium sorbate, used as a preservative” on the ingredients label. Any name you don’t recognize on a food label could denote a preservative. However, even familiar names, such as “ascorbic acid,” another name for vitamin C, or “alpha- tocopherol,” another name for vitamin E, denote preservatives in many cases. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants, meaning that they prevent food from spoiling quickly or losing its color after exposure to the air.
Other preservatives of this type have names that include variations of the word “butylated”. Avoid these as they are being investigated for links to cancer.
Antimicrobials prevent bacterial or fungal growth in food. Some preservatives of this type have names that include “sulfite” or “sulfur” in their name. Foods containing more than 10 parts per million of sulfite must list this fact on the label, since about 1 percent of Americans have sulfite sensitivity. The name “proprionic acid” identifies a preservative which prevents mold growth in baked goods such as bread. Names that include “nitrate” or “nitrite” describe preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria that cause botulism. Names containing “sorbate” or “benzoate” also identify antimicrobial preservatives.
Sodium is a preservative, anything you actually pick up off a shelf will likely have some amount of sodium. The goal is to keep your sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams (the recommended daily total).
What are the daily values of the nutrients listed?
The Daily Values (DV) are an average level of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day. The Daily Value is the amount of each nutrient that is considered sufficient for most healthy adults.
- Compare a couple of brands of the same product.
- Thankfully, manufactures standardize serving sizes making it easy to see which packs more of the nutrients you want and less of what you don’t want.
Look for products with most of the fat content coming from health unsaturated fat.
- If the fat is mainly saturated and/or the product has any trans fat, put it back on the shelf!
- Food manufacturers used artificial trans fat to enhance the flavor, texture, and shelf life of processed foods. Artificial trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid
- Trans fat is often listed as “partially hydrogenated oils”.
- If you are suspicious of a product that lists 0 grams (g) trans fat, don’t be fooled. In a labeling loophole, a product can contain up to 0.5g of trans fat per serving and say it has none.
~ Check the ingredient list and if it includes partially hydrogenated oil, then, there IS trans fat in the product.
The number listed on a label doesn’t distinguish between naturally occurring sugars (like lactose in milk or fructose in fruit) and added sugar (like high-fructose corn syrup or brown rice syrup).
- A better move is to look at the ingredients for the sources of sugar
- Look for the words “sugar”, “palm sugar”, or “inverted sugar”
- Look for “sweetener” like corn sweetener
- Look for syrup like brown rice syrup or malt syrup
- Watch for words ending in -ose like fructose or glucose
AN EASY WAY TO SPOT FOODS THAT ADD SUGAR
- If sugar is one of the first two ingredients listed, don’t buy it. Ingredients are ordered by volume, so the higher up on the list an ingredient is, the more of it in the product.
- Naturally occurring sugars will NOT be listed here.
- Manufacturers trick: split up sugar into dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, cane crystals so that none of them are the first ingredient!
- Avoid a product if there is more than one sugar listed.
WATCH OUT FOR
- Fortified, enriched, added, extra, and plus. This means nutrients such as minerals and fiber have been removed and vitamins added in processing. Look for 100% whole-wheat bread, and high-fiber, low-sugar cereals.
- Fruit drink. This means there’s probably little or no real fruit and a lot of sugar. Instead look for products that say “100% Fruit Juice.”
- Made with wheat, rye, or multigrains. These products have very little whole grain. Look for the word “whole” before the grain to ensure that you’re getting a 100% whole-grain product.
- Natural. The manufacturer started with a natural source, but once it’s processed the food may not resemble anything natural. Look for “100% All Natural” and “No Preservatives.” Organically grown, pesticide-free, or no artificial ingredients. Trust only labels that say “Certified Organically Grown.”
- Sugar-free or fat-free. Don’t assume the product is low-calorie. The manufacturer compensated with unhealthy ingredients that don’t taste very good and do not have fewer calories than the real thing.
Preservatives in foods are designed to prevent bacteria growth and spoilage, but sometimes they can also prevent you from enjoying good health. One of the harmful effects of preservatives in foods is the potential to cause breathing difficulties. According to MayoClinic.com, eliminating foods with preservatives from the diet can reduce the symptoms and severity of asthma. MayoClinic.com identified aspartame, sulfites, benzoates and yellow dye No. 5 as preservatives that could exacerbate breathing problems in asthmatics and others, while Medical News Today linked sulfites with shortness of breath and other breathing problems.
Another harmful effect of preservatives in foods is behavioral changes, especially in young children. According to the Archives of Disease in Children, in a 2003 double-blind study of 1,873 children the consumption of food additives and preservatives led to significant increase in hyperactive behavior. Studies of heart tissue reviewed by InChem have shown that food preservatives can weaken heart tissues. According to laboratory research, rats who consumed the highest levels of food preservatives showed the highest levels of heart damage over time.
One of the most seriously harmful effects of preservatives in foods is their ability to transform into carcinogens when digested. According to InChem, nitrosamines, which include nitrites and nitrates, interact with stomach and gastric acids to form cancer-causing agents.
Tiny but mighty, flaxseed is one of the most nutrient-dense foods. The seeds come from flax, one of the oldest crops in the world.
Flaxseed was first cultivated in Babylon in 3000 BC, followed by Egypt and China. King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flax seeds that he passed a law to make sure his subjects ate flaxseeds.
Flaxseeds are one of the best sources of lignan, an estrogen-like chemical compound that scavenges the free radicals in the body. It contains 750-800 times more lignans than other plant-based foods. A 100 grams serving provides 0.3 grams of lignan. Lignans promote fertility and reduce the peri-menopausal syndrome.
Flaxseeds have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
The antioxidants in flaxseeds provide protection from cancer and heart diseases. Recent studies have concluded that flaxseeds can significantly lower the risk of developing breast, prostate and colon cancer.
* Highest plant source of omega-3 oils – The lignans present in flaxseeds have antigenic properties. They prevent the tumors from forming new blood cells. The seeds contain ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid that inhibits tumor incidence and interferes with the growth and spread of cancer. Consumption of flaxseeds can also increase survival in breast cancer patients.
* Latin name (Linum usitatissimum) means “most useful”.
* Benefits heart, arteries, skin, hair, and brain health – The amino and omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds can significantly lower high blood pressure. A diet rich in flaxseeds can prevent hardening of the arteries. It also prevents the deposition of plaque in the arteries by keeping white blood cells from sticking to the blood vessels’ inner linings. Lignans in flaxseed reduce the atherosclerotic plaque buildup by 75%. It is also useful in treating irregular heartbeat. The alpha linolenic acid in flaxseeds protects the blood vessels from inflammatory damage.
* Great for gut because of the abundance of dietary fiber – Flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber present in flaxseeds improves the movement of food through the intestines. The mucilaginous fiber in flaxseeds also improves the intestinal absorption of nutrients. The soluble fiber dissolves in the water and creates a gel-like substance, keeping the stomach full for a longer time.
* Flax reduces hot flashes – A study published in 2007 found that consuming 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds in women could reduce their hot flashes by half. Flaxseed is a potential aid in managing peri-menopausal and post-menopausal symptoms.
* Dry skin can lead to several skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and other signs of ageing. The essential fatty acids in flaxseed keep the skin hydrated and moisturized. Regular intake of flaxseeds increases the body’s natural oil production, keeping the skin baby soft. A daily massage with flaxseed oil prevents irritants from entering the pores. It also locks moisture into the skin, keeping dryness at bay. A diet rich in flaxseeds may also protect the skin tissues from radiation. Researchers have found that flaxseeds significantly reduce skin damage after sun exposure. The antioxidants present in flaxseeds fight the free radicals, preventing skin cancer.
**There are conditions when you should avoid flax!**
* Flaxseeds may block the normal absorption of medicines.
Take medicines an hour or two before consuming flaxseeds. The seed and oil may react with painkillers, blood thinners and medicines for high blood pressure.
* Flaxseeds are extremely high in calories and can have a laxative effect if consumed in large quantities. People with irritable bowel syndrome can have a strong reaction to flax.
* People suffering from a seizure disorder should avoid flaxseed supplements as it can aggravate the condition.
* People taking blood thinning, blood sugar, topical steroids, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering medications should avoid eating flaxseeds.
* Flaxseeds contain small amounts of cyanide compounds, which can have neurotoxic effects in the body. They should not be consumed in large quantities. Heating the flax seeds can help break these compounds. Our body can also neutralize a certain amounts of these compounds. One or two tablespoons of ground flax seed is well within a normal, safe range.
* Pregnant and lactating mothers should not supplement their diet with ground flaxseed. It has estrogen-like properties that can affect the pregnancy outcome. It may also cause birth defects and spontaneous abortion in pregnant women.
* Drink plenty of water while consuming flaxseed, so that it does not swell up or obstruct the throat or digestive tract.
How to Buy
Flax comes in a variety of forms – whole flax seed, crushed and milled seeds. It also comes in an oil extracted from the seeds. Flax meal is ground flaxseeds. I like using the meal because the full seeds and oil do not absorb very well and your benefits will be limited.
* Use whole flax seeds in breading, or a tablespoon in smoothies, or mixed into cereals
* Milled flaxseed is used as a flour substitute or a thickening agent. It can be mixed into bread dough, pancake batter, in place of eggs in baking (one tablespoon of ground flax in three tablespoons water = one egg).
* Consume the oil as a daily health supplement added to smoothies, soups, drizzle on vegetables. (Do NOT cook with flax oil.)
There are two types of flax seeds, yellow and brown. The brown is typically used in animal feeds as the texture is rougher. The golden flax seed is widely considered to be the best for human consumption. The bulk flax that you find in the market should be in the cooler. You want to avoid flax that has been exposed to too much light or air.
I buy a sprouted ground flax seed. (I will discuss sprouting in a later posting. Sprouting gives you more nutritional value and better bio-availability than other forms.)
Flax can be found on the shelves in your local co-op in bags or in the cooler section of bulk products.
How to Store
How to Cook
* Never heat flax oil and always refrigerate.
* Flaxseeds are often used as an egg substitute in baked goods.
1 tablespoon of ground flax mixed into 3 tablespoons of water = 1 egg. The soluble fiber in this seed adds structure to the cake and muffins.
* Sprinkle ground flaxseeds over oats, cereals, yoghurt and smoothies.
* You can cook flaxseeds in casseroles, meatball and curries. Use 4 to 8 tablespoons of flaxseeds in a dish serving 6 to 8 people.
* Flaxseed also goes well with dosa, chapatti dough, buttermilk, chutney and upma.
* Add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to your cheese spread or mayonnaise when making a sandwich.
No-Bake Granola Bars
Adapted from the Nutty Scoop
Makes 8 Bars
Makes 8 Bars
1 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 dried tart cherries
1/2 cup soaked pistachios
1/4 cup sprouted flaxseed
1/2 cup soaked walnuts
1/2 cup sprouted pumpkins seeds
1/4 cup sprouted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana
1. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with unbleached parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, or a stand mixer, add all the ingredients. Mix thoroughly until combined.
3. Press the mixture firmly into the prepared baking pan.
4. Place in the fridge until the mixture sets. about 3-4 hours.
5. Cut into 8 bars and serve.
6. Cover leftovers and store them in the fridge for up to one week.
*If you’d like, drizzle 2 tablespoons of melted dark chocolate over the bars before you place them in the fridge.
*Substitute any preferred nut butter for the peanut butter.
*Tart cherries can be replaced by raisins, or currants.
*Exchange pistachios for crushed almonds or cashews.
*Add 1 teaspoon chia seeds to the mashed fruit 5 minutes before mixing together.
Bauman, Ed, Bauman College;