Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Which Food Additives are Safe? Which Aren't? (from the Center for Science in the Public Interest)

There has been much speculation in recent months about all that goes into our foods. We at Fit For All Now did some digging to come up with some real and factual information on all of those chemicals that you ingest or question ingesting. Read for yourself and let us know what you think.  

Which Food Additives Are Safe? Which Aren’t?

Nutrition Action Healthletter Revisits “Chemical Cuisine,” the Classic A-to-Z Guide
April 29, 2008
WASHINGTON—Would you like some butylated hydroxytoluene with that?
If a waiter offered you some BHT in a restaurant, you’d probably decline. Yet that chemical is one of scores of hard-to-pronounce additives that routinely show up in the fine print on packaged foods’ ingredients lists. Is BHT safe? For the record, food manufacturers use it to keep oils from going rancid, but animal studies differ on whether in promotes or prevents cancer. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, publisher of Nutrition Action Healthletter, says it warrants caution.Nutrition Action’s revised “Chemical Cuisine,” its classic guide to food additives, is the cover story in the May issue.
“Just because an additive is artificial doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, who began researching food additives in 1971. “That said, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t done nearly enough to police the preservatives, dyes, emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, sweeteners and other chemicals many of us eat every day.”
Chemical Cuisine ranks additives as “safe,” “cut back,” “caution,” “certain people should avoid,” and “everyone should avoid.” Some additives that fall in the latter category include:
• Acesulfame potassium, Aspartame, Saccharin. Those artificial sweeteners are either unsafe or poorly tested. The only artificial sweetener to get a “safe” grade is sucralose (Splenda).
Partially hydrogenated oil. This is one artificial food ingredient that CSPI has asked the FDA to get out of the food supply, since its trans fat component is a potent cause of heart disease and possibly other health problems. Yet Burger King and many other restaurants still deep fry with it; many manufacturers of frozen foods par fry with it; and some manufacturers, restaurant chains, and bakeries still use it in pie crusts, pastries, and other foods.
• Potassium bromate. This chemical strengthens dough, and most of it breaks down harmlessly. But bromate itself does cause cancer in animals, and isn’t worth the small risk it poses to humans. Many bakers have stopped using bromated flour.
An example of an additive that “certain people should avoid” is:
Mycoprotein. Fortunately, this substance—a vat-grown fungus—is only in the Quorn line of meat substitutes. Several percent of people who eat it will experience nausea, severe vomiting, or dangerous anaphylactic reactions. (If you are one of them, report your symptoms here.) Despite CSPI’s warnings, FDA refuses to take it off the market or require labeling.
CSPI says these food additives are safe:
• Maltodextrin. This thickening agent and sweetener is made from starch. You might find it in canned fruit, salad dressings, and instant puddings.
• Sodium Carboxymethyl-Cellulose. This thickening and stabilizing agent prevents sugar from crystallizing and is used in ice cream, beer, pie fillings, icings, diet foods, and candy. Studies indicate it is safe.
• Thiamin Mononitrate. Scary name, perfectly safe ingredient. It’s a form of vitamin B-1 used to fortify cereals and flour.
• Sucralose. Don’t believe the manufacturer’s claim that this sweetener is “natural” or “tastes like sugar since it’s made from sugar.” But also don’t believe the Internet conspiracy theories that it’s toxic; it appears to be safe. Used as a tabletop sweetener (Splenda) and in some baked goods, frozen desserts, and diet soft drinks. Unfortunately, it’s often used with acesulfame.
Jacobson says that while it’s important to pay attention to the presence of many of these food additives, one shouldn’t fetishize them at the expense of several ingredients whose presence we take for granted in foods, namely sugar—in both its naturally occurring forms and in high-fructose corn syrup—and salt.
“Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure are such problems in this country in part because Americans are eating way much more sugar and salt than our bodies can handle,” said Jacobson. “They’re both perfectly ‘natural’ ingredients but everyone should cut back.”


Saturday, February 4, 2012

10 Tips (from March-April 2009/La Mode Magazine Dallas)

La Mode Dallas Magazine

We asked Stephen Volcik, one of Dallas' best personal trainers, to give us some good ideas to stay fit and healthy in 2009. His tips on nutrition and exercise are sure to keep you on track to get that perfect swimsuit figure. 

1. Don't fall victim to the latest fad diets. These may give them short term results, but be aware that you must live with this diet, or a modified version of it, in order to keep your results. People who achieve lasting weight loss do so through modification of eating habits and finding ways to make better choices on what we eat.

2. Make a food log listing everything you eat on a daily basis. This will allow you to research better choices for some of the problem foods you may have eaten and find ways to fill gaps where you are too long without eating. Once again, it is still true what you have heard for so many years now: it is better to eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than two or three big ones.

3. When embarking on an exercise program, if you can't hire a Personal Trainer, do your research and learn proper form for the exercises you plan to do.

4. When planning your workout routine, try to learn several different exercises (mixing both machines and free weights) that work a particular muscle, and rotate these exercises as you do your workouts throughout the week. This will ensure that you continue to progress, in that your muscles will constantly have to adapt to changing exercises. Also, it will help to prevent boredom caused by a regular routine.

5. Know that circuit training can be a very effective form of exercise for people who want to tone up and lose weight. By this I mean that you have two or three exercises that you work back-to-back rather than just three sets of one exercises and rest in between.

6. Incorporate pieces of equipment that will change your balance, such as a Resist-A-Ball or the BOSU. These are not only excellent tools for working the core, but are also very beneficial to maintaining strong joints.

7.  Before you begin your exercise routine, have your measurements, body fat percentage, weight and photos taken. It is very important that you have a clear benchmark reading of where you are when you start your program, so when you start achieving your results you have concerete proof that your hard work is paying off. Pictures are my favorite because percentages of body fat are one thing, but to actually see visual proof of the new and the old is the greatest motivation in the world.

8. Another good motivational tool is to create a journal, and write whenever you feel a positive change in your body (i.e. more energy, a little more definition in a certain area, etc.) Also, when someone pays you a compliment, you can make an entry of this. Then when you are tempted to let your workout slack because of life's other challenges, you can refer to your journal and see what exercise has really done for you.

9. If the job and home life are stressing you out, know that the best release for this is the gym. Either by lifting weights or joining a kickboxing class, there is no healthier release than exercise.

10. Don't fall victim to the latest TV "Guaranteed Six Pack" abdominal exerciser. Know that unless you modify your diet and lise the body fat covering the abs, you will never see them.  A combination of diet and exercise (meaning weights and cardio) is the only true ticket to great abs.

Stephen Volcik, Fit For All Now
(Personal Trainer in Richardson, Texas)
Story by Lauren Kent of La Mode Magazine, Dallas 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

(Repost) 15 Ways To Eat Healthy Without Breaking The Bank

This is a great article we are reposting from Positively Positive with some great tips and wonderful insight. 

I am very committed to eating really healthfully and feeding my family as much nutritious food as possible. Many people complain to me that they can’t buy fresh, organic food because it’s too expensive. It’s interesting to me that 100 years ago we spent twenty-five percent of our disposable income on food and now we only spend ten percent. Furthermore, we’re actually consuming more food than before, while getting fatter and sicker. But I do think we’re starting to make the connection that we have a lot of cheap food in this country, and that cheap food has hidden costs—to our physical bodies, as well as the environment.
How can we eat healthfully without breaking the bank? Although they may not work for everyone, here are the strategies I have used over the years to allow me to eat the way I want and stay within my budget:

1. Cook from Scratch

Fast food and convenience food come with a hefty price tag. Someone’s got to pay for all that packaging and marketing! We have got to get back in the kitchen and learn how to cook some simple basic meals and staples. Making a pot of soup with vegetables and beans, homemade salad dressing or an omelet are not only easy and inexpensive, but they will almost always be higher in quality than what you get from outside your kitchen. Even if you just swap out ridiculously expensive boxed cereals with steel cut oats or homemade muesli, over time you’ll save more than you think.

2. Have a Plan

Americans waste about 25% of the food they buy. Not only are we piling more into our landfills, but we are throwing money in the garbage. The most important thing I do every week to help make sure I am organized to actually cook every night is to make a menu for the week and shop accordingly. This means everything I buy has a purpose and I rarely put anything into my cart that’s not on my list. This cuts waste dramatically. If you do nothing else, shopping with a meal plan in mind will save you tons of time and money.

3. Bulk Bins

The bulk bins at my supermarket sometimes offer savings over buying the same item in a package. This is also a good idea if you want to try out a food and you’re unsure of buying a whole bag of it which could end up going to waste.

4. Case Discounts

My local Whole Foods will offer a discount of 10-20% when buying a case of an item, typically in quantities of 12. This is great for things that I go through quickly like olive oil, or for non-perishables such as packets of frozen acai puree. However, this isn’t a great strategy for foods with a short shelf life like nuts or cheese.

5. Shop the Salad Bar

Don’t supermarkets mark up items on the salad bar? Not everything! Normally, there is a flat price for all the items at the salad bar, for example $6.99 pound, so there are deals to be found. Foods like grilled chicken, nuts, seeds and cheeses are usually cheaper at the salad bar than if you bought them separately on their own.

6. Eat Seasonally

You’ve heard it a million times, but there’s a reason for that! Produce purchased in season is almost always less expensive than out of season because it’s usually locally grown and also fresher and tastes better, too. Sometimes you can even stock up during the season and freeze it for later. We use a lot of berries in smoothies, pancakes and muffins, so at the end of the summer, I will buy many flats of them and freeze them for the “off-season.”

7. Great Deals on the Web

Everyone knows that warehouse clubs like Costco and BJ’s offer great deals on bulk items and many of them are starting to carry foods like organic quinoa and wild fish. But also think about websites like amazon.com,vitacost.com and mountainrose.com for great deals on many more items – and you don’t need to leave your house to do it! I save lots of money on Amazon buying everything from cases of Eden Organic canned beans toCeltic sea salt to seaweed.

8. Farmers Markets

Buying directly from the farmer can offer lower prices than the supermarkets on locally grown, seasonal produce, eggs and meat. This certainly depends on where you live, but I also find that farmers sometimes cut their prices a little half an hour before the market closes.

9. Cut Back on Meat

We all need protein (although many of us consume more than necessary), but animal protein is usually the highest ticket item on the grocery bill. And organic or pastured meat is even more expensive than non-organic, but it’s an area where I am not willing to compromise. The key is to have enough high-quality protein, while staying on budget. When I do buy meat, I plan for 3-4 ounces per person, 3-4 days per week. The rest of the week we eat vegetarian meals that rely on quinoa, eggs, beans and lentils which are a nutritional bargain especially if you cook them from scratch.

10. Prioritize What is Important to Buy Organic

Very few people can afford to buy everything organic, so prioritize. In this order due to higher amounts of pesticide contamination, I focus on organic meats and wild fish, butter, dairy, foods we eat a lot of (oats, eggs, olive oil, nut butters) and then I follow the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen for produce.

11. Nutritional Bangs for the Buck

Just because $5/bunch purple heirloom carrots and at $12/pound shiitake mushrooms are out of my budget, doesn’t mean I have to throw in the towel. There are nutritional bargains to be found. Try canned wild fish instead of fresh, dried beans, free-range eggs, bananas, Russet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, rolled oats, brown rice, and frozen vegetables which all pack a lot of nutrients for less money.

12. Skip Prewashed Salad, Precut Vegetables

Again, these come with a price for the convenience of having someone else do the prep work. If finding time to prep vegetables before dinner is an issue, try doing this work in the morning before you leave for the office or the night before.

13. Drop the Canned and Bottled Beverages

It goes without saying that sodas and sweetened beverages offer you nothing in the way of health benefits, and all that plastic and glass don’t do the environment any good either. But these drinks are just wildly expensive for no nutrition. Water is all you really need, so invest in a water filter if you can and BPA-free water bottles for everyone in your house.

14. Ethnic Markets

Local, ethnic markets can offer an amazing array of affordable produce and specialty items. In my area, I have been to Japanese markets with incredibly fresh fish at a fraction of the price at my supermarket. The same is true for produce that I have found at local Middle Eastern markets. I’ve also found some really cool, inexpensive spices and condiments that I’ve never seen in my local supermarket.

15. Purchase Store Brands

Many supermarkets carry their own brands which are of comparable quality to name brands and offer a big discount. Look to see if the store has calculated the unit price on the display so you can make a educated decision about which brand is a better value.

Pamela Salzman is a certified holistic health counselor.  She shares her approach to nutrition through her natural foods cooking classes and website, a resource for her healthful, family-friendly recipes and nutrition tips.  She was recently profiled in Elle Magazine. Please visit Pamela’s website or Facebook page for more information and great resources.