I am an avid reader. I love to devour books, magazines and online articles. I’ve strategically placed a few books around the house to always have an opportunity to read. One in the upstairs bathroom while I’m brushing my teeth. Another on the nightstand for reading before bed and occasionally after I wake up. And there’s one on the kitchen countertop to keep me company when I eat alone. In the living room, I peruse through a stack of magazines while watching TV. This past week I found a number of interesting articles about food from a couple of magazines. From Salad Cakes to Health Halos to Michelle Obama’s old eating habits, these are some of the topics I am sharing with you for this week’s Friday Five.
Apparently, this is the latest craze in Japan. A Japanese food stylist Mitsuki Moriyasu developed the ‘Vegedeco Salad’, a trademarked brand of Vegetable Decoration Salad. You look at the cake and it makes you think you’re going to eat a sweet treat. But you’re in for a surprise when you discover the cake is made out of vegetables. The sponge base is composed of soybean flour with whole vegetables as the middle layer and a tofu or cream cheese icing. Is your mouth watering yet?… I love my vegetables but this cake is not for me.
MUSHROOMS AND VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is an important micronutrient necessary for calcium absorption to develop and maintain strong bones. Our skin does most of the job absorbing the vitamin naturally from sunlight. However, during winter in regions where the sun rarely makes an appearance, eating food rich in Vitamin D is the best alternative. I know mushrooms are a good source of Vitamin D, but I wasn’t aware of their ability to convert a type of cholesterol into Vitamin D through sun exposure.
The brand Monterey Mushrooms actually expose their mushrooms to UV-B light to make precise levels of Vitamin D. In fact, three ounces of mushrooms eaten daily provides 400 IU of Vitamin D – 100% of the recommended daily value. Fortunately, these mushrooms are available at our local Sprouts and they’re always in my shopping cart every time I go. However, if you don’t have this brand at your local store, you can get regular mushrooms and set them outside in a sunny location to produce the same effect.
NUTRITION FACTS LABEL CHANGES
The side-by-side comparison of the old (left) and the new (right) nutrition facts label reflects several changes after recent scientific research revealed the link between diet and chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. I like that it takes the guesswork out of determining the amount of added sugars. The average amount of added sugars Americans consume is about 13% mostly from sugar-sweetened drinks, snacks, and sweets. Research upon research has revealed the detrimental effect of added sugars to our body. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines now recommend to limit added-sugar intake to less than 10% of daily calories. Per the FDA, “it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie requirements if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugars.“ Hopefully the new label will help consumers to make better decisions when purchasing packaged and processed foods.
And speaking of Vitamin D, this has become a mandatory listing requirement under the list of micronutrients. Vitamin D, along with potassium are lacking in the average American diet. When you’re deficient in Vitamin D, it affects your bone health, while potassium plays a role in lowering blood pressure. In the early 90’s, the issue was a lack of Vitamins A and C, however that is no longer the case. Therefore, these vitamins are no longer required to be listed.
More information about the food labels can be found on this link. You will start seeing the new labels in 2018.
THE FIRST LADY’S OLD EATING HABITS
As the heart and soul of the Let’s Move! initiative, Michelle Obama is the last person I would imagine to have bad eating habits. In this month’s issue of Rachel Ray’s Every Day magazine, the First Lady revealed her family’s frequent consumption of convenience foods – “Back before we lived in the White House, we were busy working parents, raising two young girls, and we often went for convenience – takeout, microwave meals, fast food – rather than focusing on nutrition.”
What was the catalyst that made the First Lady rethink and overhaul her family’s eating habits? A recommendation from their pediatrician to change the way they were eating. From this moment, they started to eat more fruits and vegetables, cooked more meals at home and watched portion sizes. They established better eating habits that followed them all the way to the White House.Many parents can relate to the Obama’s reliance on convenience foods. When both parents are working, it could be challenging to prepare home-cooked meals. However, it needs to become a priority to ensure children are getting sufficient amount of nutrients to promote their growth and well-being. And this is what Michelle Obama did for her family and now for the country.
BEWARE OF THE HEALTH HALOS
“Gluten-free, Fat-free, Full of Antioxidants, GMO-free, Probiotic-infused” – sounds healthy right? Yet these are terms used by marketers to ploy consumers into purchasing processed foods that are full of unhealthy ingredients. I mentioned Brian Wansink in my blog post, The Mindless (Over)Eater. He is the director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab where they extensively study the phenomenon known as ‘the health halo effect’. Wansink pointed out that these front-of-package claims lead us to believe the food is healthful and cause us to overeat. Another researcher also found that ‘the least healthy products tend to have the most nutrition claims on the front’.
A great example is an article about probiotics in Men’s Journal. You can now find chocolate bars, ice creams, crackers and frozen foods with probiotics. However, the probiotic benefits of these products have not been proven. If you want the benefits, get them from whole foods like kimchi, yogurt and sauerkraut. The same concept also applies to other types of healthful benefits. Keep it simple and choose whole foods instead. However, if you opt to purchase packaged foods, the best advice is to read the Nutrition Facts label and the list of ingredients on the back.
Do any of these topics interest you? I think the salad cakes are a bit outrageous, but I wonder how it tastes?