US moves to ban trans fats in foods


US food safety officials have taken steps to ban the use of trans fats, saying they are a threat to health.

Trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, are no longer “generally recognised as safe“, said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The regulator said a ban could prevent 7,000 deaths and 20,000 heart attacks in the US each year.

The FDA is opening a 60-day consultation period on the plan, which would gradually phase out trans fats.

“While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement.

“The FDA’s action today is an important step toward protecting more Americans from the potential dangers of trans fat.”

‘Industrially produced ingredient’

If the agency’s plan is successful, the heart-clogging oils would be considered food additives and could not be used in food unless officially approved.

The ruling does not affect foods with naturally occurring trans fats, which are present in small amounts in certain meat and dairy products.

Foods containing trans fat

Trans fat label
  • Some processed baked goods such as cakes, cookies, pies
  • Microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, some fast food
  • Margarine and other spreads, coffee creamer
  • Refrigerator dough products such as cinnamon rolls

Source: US Food and Drug Administration

Artificial trans fats are used both in processed food and in restaurants as a way to improve the shelf life or flavour of foods. The fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, making it a solid.

Nutritionists have long criticised their use, saying they contribute to heart disease more than saturated fat.

Some companies have already phased out trans fats, prompted by new nutritional labels introduced in 2006 requiring it to be listed on food packaging.

New York City and some other local governments have also banned it.

But trans fats persist primarily in processed foods – including some microwave popcorns and frozen pizzas – and in restaurants that use the oils for frying.

According to the FDA, trans fat intake among Americans declined from 4.6g per day in 2003 to around 1g per day in 2012.

Generic picture of overweight man

The American Heart Association said the FDA’s proposal was a step forward in the battle against heart disease.

“We commend the FDA for responding to the numerous concerns and evidence submitted over the years about the dangers of this industrially produced ingredient,” said its chief executive, Nancy Brown.

Outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who led the charge to ban trans fats in that city, said the FDA plan “deserves great credit”.

“The groundbreaking public health policies we have adopted here in New York City have become a model for the nation for one reason: they’ve worked,” he said.

Researcher Files Lawsuit vs. FDA After His Petition Calling for Ban on Artificial Trans Fats Was Ignored.


Story at-a-glance

  • Dr. Fred Kummerow filed a petition to ban synthetic trans fats with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2009
  • The FDA did not issue a final response, so Dr. Kummerow has filed a lawsuit against them for failing to ban synthetic trans fats as well as their delay in responding to the original petition
  • Research has shown that heart disease is often the result of synthetic trans fat deposited in the veins and arteries, which can cause sudden death due to blockage
  • Many processed foods on the market still contain trans fats; to avoid them, skip processed foods or check the ingredients and look for partially hydrogenated oil. If the product lists this ingredient, it contains trans fat.
  • trans-fat

In 2009, Dr. Fred Kummerow, who has studied heart disease for more than 60 years, filed a citizen petition with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling for a ban on synthetic trans fats.1

In the petition, he noted that heart disease is often the result of trans fat deposited in veins and arteries, which can cause sudden death due to blockage. He stated:

“Trans fat calcifies both the arteries and veins and causes blood clots. Trans fat leads to the reduction of pro stacyclin that is needed to prevent blood clots in the arteries. A blood clot in any of the coronary arteries can result in sudden death.”

The FDA is required to respond to such petitions within 180 days, but Dr. Kummerow has yet to receive a final response even four years later. So, he’s taking matters a step further …

FDA Slammed with Lawsuit for Ignoring Petition to Ban Artificial Trans Fats

Dr. Kummerow, now 98, has filed a lawsuit against the FDA, which alleges that the agency’s failure to ban partially hydrogenated oils (which contain synthetic trans fats) along with their unreasonable delay in responding to his 2009 petition, violate the Administrative Procedure Act and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits the sale of foods containing poisonous or deleterious substances, and an extensive body of research has linked synthetic trans fats to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and even violent behavior.

The FDA has not commented on the pending lawsuit, although Dr. Kummerow pointed out that it would be simple for the FDA to ban synthetic trans fats while leaving natural trans fats, which may actually have health benefits, unregulated.

The FDA has a history of siding with industry, however, and so far has caved to industry pressure in allowing synthetic trans fats to remain on the market — despite their proven, and significant, risks to public health.

Why Are Trans Fats so Deadly?

Trans fats are formed when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil during food processing in order to make it solidify. This process, known as hydrogenation, makes fats less likely to spoil, so foods appear to remain fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and also have a less greasy feel.

Trans fats are common in fried foods like French fries, fried chicken, and doughnuts — as well as cookies, pastries and crackers. Food manufacturers love them because they’re cheap and they significantly reduce perishability and remain stable even at room temperature. But these completely unnatural man-made fats cause dysfunction and chaos in your body on a cellular level. Studies have linked trans fats to:

Cancer: They interfere with enzymes your body uses to fight cancer Diabetes: They interfere with the insulin receptors in your cell membranes
Decreased immune function: They reduce your immune response Problems with reproduction: They interfere with enzymes needed to produce sex hormones
Trans fats interfere with your body’s use of beneficial omega-3 fats Heart disease: Trans fats can cause major clogging of your arteries. (Among women with underlying coronary heart disease, eating trans fats increased the risk of sudden cardiac arrest three-fold)
Obesity Asthma
Alzheimer’s disease Aggressive and violent behavior

Progress Is Slowing in the Removal of Trans Fats from Foods

After it became widespread knowledge that trans fats are dangerous, the industry responded by reformulating many products. It’s estimated that 66 percent of foods that formerly contained trans fats have been reformulated, although one study suggested that many synthetic trans-fat–laden foods still remain on the market.2 The researchers concluded:

“Some US products and food manufacturers have made progress in reducing TFA [trans fatty acids], but substantial variation exists by food type and by parent company, and overall progress has significantly slowed over time.  Because TFA consumption is harmful even at low levels, our results emphasize the need for continued efforts toward reformulating or discontinuing foods to eliminate PHVO [partially hydrogenated vegetable oils].”

Even if a product claims to be free from trans fats, it may actually contain up to 0.5 grams per serving. If you eat a few servings, you’re quickly ingesting a physiologically significant amount of this deadly fat. So to truly avoid trans fats, you need to read the label and look for more than just 0 grams of trans fat. Check the ingredients and look for partially hydrogenated oil. If the product lists this ingredient, it contains trans fat. It’s important to keep your intake of trans fat as low as possible, if you eat it at all, as very small amounts pose health risks. In fact, increasing your daily consumption of trans fats from 2 grams to 4.67 grams increases your risk of heart disease by 30 percent!3

Trans Fats’ Replacement May Also Be Harmful

It’s worth noting that many processed food manufacturers are swapping out trans fats for what’s known as interesterified fats. The interesterification process hardens fat, similar to the hydrogenation process, but without producing oils that contain trans fats. The end product, like trans fat, is less likely to go rancid and is stable enough to use to fry foods. However, while the highly industrialized process of interesterification may result in a product that is trans fat-free, that product will still contain chemical residues, hexanes (crude oil derivatives), and other hazardous waste products full of free radicals that cause cell damage.

Studies show that interesterified fat raises your blood glucose and depresses insulin production.4 These conditions are common precursors to diabetes, and can present an even more immediate danger if you already have the disease. Interesterified fats are in virtually all the foods that trans fats are, so by avoiding trans fat, and processed foods in general, you will also avoid interesterified fats. If a processed food product is labeled “0 grams trans-fats” or “no trans-fats” but is made from vegetable oils, you can be certain it probably contains either interesterified fats or fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, both of which you’ll want to avoid in addition to the partially hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats.

Examples of Healthy Fats to Eat More Of

There’s no telling how long it will be before the FDA wisens up and bans synthetic trans fats from the market… if they ever do. So when it comes to fats, remember the simple ground rule, that natural, not man-made, is best. This includes saturated fats found in animal products as well as natural trans fats like trans vaccenic acid (VA) — a natural animal omega-7 fat found in dairy and beef products – which can actually reduce risk factors associated with heart disease, diabetes and obesity.5 The tips that follow can help ensure you’re eating the right fats for your health. You can also use the chart at the end of the article to help you select healthy fats.

  • Use organic butter preferably made from raw milk) instead of margarines and vegetable oil spreads. Butter is a healthy whole food that has received an unwarranted bad rap.
  • Use coconut oil for cooking. It is far superior to any other cooking oil and is loaded with health benefits. (Remember that olive oil should be used COLD, drizzled over salad or fish, for example, not to cook with.)
  • Following my nutrition plan will automatically reduce your modified fat intake, as it will teach you to focus on healthy whole foods instead of processed junk food.
  • To round out your healthy fat intake, be sure to eat raw fats, such as those from avocados, raw nuts, raw dairy products, and olive oil, and also take a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fat, such as krill oil.

Examples of healthy natural fats include:

Olives and Olive oil Coconuts and coconut oil Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
Raw nuts, such as almonds or pecans Organic pastured egg yolks Avocados
Grass-fed meats Unprocessed palm oil Unheated organic nut oils

Source: mercola.com

 

 

 

Soybean Oil: One of the Most Harmful Ingredients in Processed Foods.


Processed food is perhaps the most damaging aspect of most people’s diet, contributing to poor health and chronic disease. One of the primary culprits is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the dangers of which I touch on in virtually every article on diet I write.

The second culprit is partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

These two ingredients, either alone or in combination, can be found in virtually all processed foods and one can make a compelling argument that the reliance on these two foods is a primary contributing factor for most of the degenerative diseases attacking Americans today.

Part of the problem with partially hydrogenated soybean oil is the trans fat it contains. The other part relates to the health hazards of soy itself. And an added hazard factor is the fact that the majority of both corn and soybeans are genetically engineered.

As the negative health effects from trans fats have been identified and recognized, the agricultural- and food industry have scrambled to come up with new alternatives.

Partially hydrogenated soybean oil has been identified as the main culprit, and for good reason. Unfortunately, saturated fats are still mistakenly considered unhealthy by many health “experts,” so rather than embracing truly healthful tropical fats like coconut oil, which is mostly grown outside the US. The food industry has instead turned to domestic US alternatives offered by companies like Monsanto, which has developed modified soybeans that don’t require hydrogenation.

Why Hydrogenate?

Americans consume more than 28 billion pounds of edible oils annually, and soybean oil accounts for about 65 percent of it. About half of it is hydrogenated, as soybean oil is too unstable otherwise to be used in food manufacturing. One of the primary reasons for hydrogenating oil is to prolong its shelf life. Raw butter, for example, is likely to go rancid far quicker than margarine.

The process also makes the oil more stable and raises its melting point, which allows it to be used in various types of food processing that uses high temperatures.

Hydrogenated oil1 is made by forcing hydrogen gas into the oil at high pressure. Virtually any oil can be hydrogenated. Margarine is a good example, in which nearly half of the fat content is trans fat. The process that creates partially hydrogenated oil alters the chemical composition of essential fatty acids, such as reducing or removing linolenic acid, a highly reactive triunsaturated fatty acid, transforming it into the far less reactive linoleic acid, thereby greatly preventing oxidative rancidity when used in cooking.

In the late 1990’s, researchers began realizing this chemical alteration might actually have adverse health effects. Since then, scientists have verified this to the point of no dispute.

Beware that there’s a difference between “fully hydrogenated” and “partially hydrogenated” oils. Whereas partially hydrogenated oil contains trans fat, fully hydrogenated oil does not, as taking the hydrogenation process “all the way” continues the molecular transformation of the fatty acids from trans fat into saturated fatty acids. Fully hydrogenated soybean oil is still not a healthy choice however, for reasons I’ll explain below. The following slide presentation explains the technical aspects relating to the hydrogenation process.

The Health Hazards of Trans Fats Found in Partially Hydrogenated Oil

The completely unnatural man-made fats created through the partial hydrogenation process cause dysfunction and chaos in your body on a cellular level, and studies have linked trans-fats to:

Cancer, by interfering with enzymes your body uses to fight cancer Chronic health problems such as obesity, asthma, auto-immune disease, cancer, and bone degeneration
Diabetes, by interfering with the insulin receptors in your cell membranes Heart disease, by clogging your arteries (Among women with underlying coronary heart disease, eating trans-fats increased the risk of sudden cardiac arrest three-fold!)
Decreased immune function, by reducing your immune response Increase blood levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, while lowering levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol
Reproductive problems by interfering with enzymes needed to produce sex hormones Interfering with your body’s use of beneficial omega-3 fats

 

As usual, it took many years before conventional health recommendations caught up and began warning about the use of trans fats. Not surprisingly, as soon as the FDA required food manufacturers to list trans fat content on the label — which took effect on January 1, 2006 — the industry began searching for viable alternatives to appeal to consumers who increasingly began looking for the “No Trans Fat” designation. It didn’t take long before Monsanto had tinkered forth a genetically engineered soybean that is low in linolenic acid, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Beware that some food manufacturers have opted to simply fool buyers — a tactic allowed by the FDA as any product containing up to half a gram of trans fat per serving can still legally claim to have zero trans fat2. The trick is to reduce the serving size to bring it below this threshold. At times, this will result in unreasonably tiny serving sizes, so any time you check a label and a serving is something like 10 chips or one cookie, it probably contains trans fats.

The Health Hazards of Soybeans

Besides the health hazards related to the trans fats created by the partial hydrogenation process, soybean oil is, in and of itself, NOT a healthy oil. Add to that the fact that the majority of soy grown in the US is genetically engineered, which may have additional health consequences. When taken together, partially hydrogenated GE soybean oil becomes one of the absolute worst types of oils you can consume.

Years ago, tropical oils, such as palm and coconut oil, were commonly used in American food production. However, these are obviously not grown in the US. With the exception of Hawaii, our climate isn’t tropical enough. Spurred on by financial incentives, the industry devised a plan to shift the market from tropical oils to something more “home grown.” As a result, a movement was created to demonize and vilify tropical oils in order to replace them with domestically grown oils such as corn and soy.

The fat in soybean oil is primarily omega-6 fat. And while we do need some, it is rare for anyone to be deficient as it is pervasive in our diet. Americans in general consume FAR too much omega-6 in relation to omega-3 fat, primarily due to the excessive amount of omega-6 found in processed foods. Omega-6 fats are in nearly every animal food and many plants, so deficiencies are very rare. This omega-6 fat is also highly processed and therefore damaged, which compounds the problem of getting so much of it in your diet. The omega-6 found in soybean oil promotes chronic inflammation in your body, which is an underlying issue for virtually all chronic diseases.

What About Organic Soybean Oil?

Even if you were fortunate enough to find organic soybean oil, there are still several significant concerns that make it far from attractive from a health standpoint. Soy in and of itself, organically grown or not, contains a number of problematic components that can wreak havoc with your health, such as:

  • Goitrogens – Goitrogens, found in all unfermented soy whether it’s organic or not, are substances that block the synthesis of thyroid hormones and interfere with iodine metabolism, thereby interfering with your thyroid function.
  • Isoflavones: genistein and daidzein – Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen, which is a plant compound resembling human estrogen, which is why some recommend using soy therapeutically to treat symptoms of menopause. I believe the evidence is highly controversial and doubt it works. Typically, most of us are exposed to too much estrogen compounds and have a lower testosterone level than ideal, so it really is important to limit exposure to feminizing phytoestrogens. Even more importantly, there’s evidence it may disturb endocrine function, cause infertility, and promote breast cancer, which is definitely a significant concern.
  • Phytic acid — Phytates (phytic acid) bind to metal ions, preventing the absorption of certain minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc — all of which are co-factors for optimal biochemistry in your body. This is particularly problematic for vegetarians, because eating meat reduces the mineral-blocking effects of these phytates.

Sometimes it can be beneficial, especially in postmenopausal women and in most adult men because we tend to have levels of iron that are too high which can be a very potent oxidant and cause biological stress. However, phytic acid does not necessarily selectively inhibit just iron absorption; it inhibits all minerals. This is very important to remember, as many already suffer from mineral deficiencies from inadequate diets.

The soybean has one of the highest phytate levels of any grain or legume, and the phytates in soy are highly resistant to normal phytate-reducing techniques such as long, slow cooking. Only a long period of fermentation will significantly reduce the phytate content of soybeans.

  • Natural toxins known as “anti-nutrients” — Soy also contains other anti-nutritional factors such as saponins, soyatoxin, protease inhibitors, and oxalates. Some of these factors interfere with the enzymes you need to digest protein. While a small amount of anti-nutrients would not likely cause a problem, the amount of soy that many Americans are now eating is extremely high.
  • Hemagglutinin — Hemagglutinin is a clot-promoting substance that causes your red blood cells to clump together. These clumped cells are unable to properly absorb and distribute oxygen to your tissues.

Worst of All — Genetically Engineered Soybean Oil

The genetically engineered (GE) variety planted on over 90 percent of US soy acres is Roundup Ready — engineered to survive being doused with otherwise lethal amounts of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The logic behind Roundup Ready crops such as soy is that you can decrease the cost of production by killing off everything except the actual soy plant.

However, animal studies reveal there may be significant adverse health effects from these GE soybeans, including progressively increased rates of infertility with each passing generation. By the third generation, virtually all the hamsters in one feeding study were found to be infertile. Second-generation hamsters raised on GE soy also had a five-fold higher infant mortality rate.

Are Low-Linolenic Soybeans the Answer?

We now also have other Monsanto-made soy crops to contend with. Responding to the growing demand for healthier diets, Monsanto launched Vistive low-linolenic soybeans in 2005. Most soybeans contain roughly seven percent linolenic acid. The new varieties contain one to three percent. As explained by Monsanto3:

“The oil from these beans can reduce or virtually eliminate trans fat in processed soybean oil… Vistive low-linolenic soybeans have lower levels of linolenic acid. Because of these lower levels, which were achieved through traditional breeding practices4, the oil produced by Vistive low-linolenic seeds does not require hydrogenation, the process that is used to increase shelf life and flavor stability in fried foods, baked goods, snack products and other processed foods.”

Yet another soybean variety created by Monsanto is the high stearate soybean, which also has the properties of margarine and shortening without hydrogenation. But are these soybeans any better or safer than either conventional soybeans or Roundup Ready soybeans, even though they don’t have to go through partial hydrogenation, and therefore do not contain trans fat? No one knows.

Another Hazard of GE Soybeans: Glyphosate

I keep stacking health risks upon health risks, and here’s another one: Research has shown that soybean oil from Roundup Ready soy is loaded with glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup — the broad-spectrum herbicide created by Monsanto.

According to a report in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, the highest MRL for glyphosate in food and feed products in the EU is 20 mg/kg. GE soybeans have been found to contain residue levels as high as 17 mg/kg, and malformations in frog and chicken embryos occurred at 2.03 mg/kg.5 That’s 10 times lower than the MRL.

This is an alarming finding because glyphosate is easily one of the world’s most overlooked poisons. Research published in 2010 showed that the chemical, which works by inhibiting an enzyme called EPSP synthase that is necessary for plants to grow, causes birth defects in frogs and chicken embryos at far lower levels than used in agricultural and garden applications.6 The malformations primarily affected the:

  • Skull
  • Face
  • Midline and developing brain
  • Spinal cord

When applied to crops, glyphosate becomes systemic throughout the plant, so it cannot be washed off. And once you eat this crop, the glyphosate ends up in your gut where it can decimate your beneficial bacteria. This can wreak havoc with your health as 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut (GALT – Gut Associated Lymph Tissue) and is dependent on a healthy ratio of good and bad bacteria. Separate research has also uncovered the following effects from glyphosate:

Endocrine disruption DNA damage
Developmental toxicity Neurotoxicity
Reproductive toxicity Cancer

To Avoid Harmful Fats of All Kinds, Ditch Processed Foods

If you want to avoid dangerous fats of all kinds, your best bet is to eliminate processed foods from your diet. From there, use these tips to make sure you’re eating the right fats for your health:

  • Use organic butter (preferably made from raw milk) instead of margarines and vegetable oil spreads. Butter is a healthy whole food that has received an unwarranted bad rap.
  • Use coconut oil for cooking. It is far superior to any other cooking oil and is loaded with health benefits.
  • Be sure to eat raw fats, such as those from avocados, raw dairy products, olive oil, olives, organic pastured eggs, and raw nuts, especially macadamia nuts which are relatively low in protein. Also take a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fat, such as krill oil.

Following my comprehensive nutrition plan will automatically reduce

your trans-fat intake, as it will give you a guide to focus on healthy whole foods instead of processed junk food. Remember, virtually all processed foods will contain either HFCS (probably made from genetically engineered corn) and/or soybean oil — either in the form of partially hydrogenated soybean oil, which is likely made from GE soybeans, loaded with glyphosate, or from one of the newer soybean varieties that were created such that they do not need to be hydrogenated. They’re ALL bad news, if you value your health.

Source: mercola.comsoybean-oil

Top 5 lifestyle changes to reduce cholesterol.


Lifestyle changes can help reduce cholesterol, keep you off cholesterol-lowering medications or enhance the effect of your medications. Here are five lifestyle changes to get you started.

High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease and heart attacks. You can reduce cholesterol with medications, but if you’d rather make lifestyle changes to reduce cholesterol, you can try these five healthy lifestyle changes. If you’re already taking medications, these changes can also improve their cholesterol-lowering effect.

1. Lose weight

Carrying some extra pounds — even just a few — contributes to high cholesterol. Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help significantly reduce cholesterol levels.

Start by taking an honest, thorough look at your eating habits and daily routine. Consider your challenges to weight loss and ways to overcome them.

If you eat when you’re bored or frustrated, take a walk instead. If you pick up fast food for lunch every day, pack something healthier from home. If you’re sitting in front of the television, try munching on carrot sticks instead of potato chips as you watch. Take time and enjoy rather than “devouring” your food. Don’t eat mindlessly.

And look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, such as using the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Take stock of what you currently eat and your physical activity level and slowly work in changes.

2. Eat heart-healthy foods

Even if you have years of unhealthy eating under your belt, making a few changes in your diet can reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health.

  • Choose healthier fats. Saturated fats, found in red meat and dairy products, raise your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol. As a general rule, you should get less than 7 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat. Instead, choose leaner cuts of meat, low-fat dairy and monounsaturated fats — found in olive, peanut and canola oils — for a healthier option.
  • Eliminate trans fats. Trans fat can be found in fried foods and many commercial baked products, such as cookies, crackers and snack cakes. But don’t rely on packages that are labeled “trans fat-free.” In the United States, if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, it can be labeled “trans fat-free.” Even though those amounts seem small, they can add up quickly if you eat a lot of foods that have a small amount of trans fat in them. Instead, read the ingredients list. You can tell if a food has trans fat in it if it contains partially hydrogenated oil.
  • Limit the cholesterol in your food. Aim for no more than 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day — less than 200 mg if you have heart disease or diabetes. The most concentrated sources of cholesterol include organ meats, egg yolks and whole milk products. Use lean cuts of meat, egg substitutes and skim milk instead.
  • Select whole grains. Various nutrients found in whole grains promote heart health. Choose whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat flour and brown rice.
  • Stock up on fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, which can help lower cholesterol. Snack on seasonal fruits. Experiment with veggie-based casseroles, soups and stir-fries. If you prefer dried fruit to fresh fruit, limit yourself to no more than a handful (about an ounce or two). Dried fruit tends to have more calories than does fresh fruit.
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Some types of fish — such as salmon, mackerel and herring — are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, almonds and ground flaxseeds.

3. Exercise on most days of the week

Whether you’re overweight or not, exercise can reduce cholesterol. Better yet, moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. With your doctor’s OK, work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Remember that adding physical activity, even in 10-minute intervals several times a day, can help you begin to lose weight. Just be sure that you can keep up the changes you decide to make. Consider:

  • Taking a brisk daily walk during your lunch hour
  • Riding your bike to work
  • Swimming laps
  • Playing a favorite sport

To stay motivated, find an exercise buddy or join an exercise group. And remember, any activity is helpful. Even taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing a few situps while watching television can make a difference.

4. Quit smoking

If you smoke, stop. Quitting may improve your HDL cholesterol level. And the benefits don’t end there. Just 20 minutes after quitting, your blood pressure decreases. Within 24 hours, your risk of a heart attack decreases. Within one year, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker. Within 15 years, your risk of heart disease is similar to someone who never smoked.

5. Drink alcohol only in moderation

Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol — but the benefits aren’t strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn’t already drink. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.

If lifestyle changes aren’t enough …

Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower cholesterol levels. Make sure the changes you choose to make are ones that you can continue, and don’t be disappointed if you don’t see results immediately. If your doctor recommends medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed, but continue your lifestyle changes.

Source: Mayo clinic house call

 

 

Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious?

Discover the real difference between organic foods and their traditionally grown counterparts when it comes to nutrition, safety and price.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Once found only in health food stores, organic food is now a regular feature at most supermarkets. And that’s created a bit of a dilemma in the produce aisle. On one hand, you have a conventionally grown apple. On the other, you have one that’s organic. Both apples are firm, shiny and red. Both provide vitamins and fiber, and both are free of fat, sodium and cholesterol. Which should you choose?

Conventionally grown produce generally costs less, but is organic food safer or more nutritious? Get the facts before you shop.

Conventional vs. organic farming

The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don’t use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. For example, rather than using chemical weedkillers, organic farmers may conduct more sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay.

Here are some key differences between conventional farming and organic farming:

Conventional

Organic

Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth. Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.
Spray synthetic insecticides to reduce pests and disease. Spray pesticides from natural sources; use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.
Use synthetic herbicides to manage weeds. Use environmentally-generated plant-killing compounds; rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.
Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth. Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

Organic or not? Check the label

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed.

Any product labeled as organic must be USDA certified. Only producers who sell less than $5,000 a year in organic foods are exempt from this certification; however, they’re still required to follow the USDA’s standards for organic foods.

If a food bears a USDA Organic label, it means it’s produced and processed according to the USDA standards. The seal is voluntary, but many organic producers use it.

Products that are completely organic — such as fruits, vegetables, eggs or other single-ingredient foods — are labeled 100 percent organic and can carry the USDA seal.

Foods that have more than one ingredient, such as breakfast cereal, can use the USDA organic seal plus the following wording, depending on the number of organic ingredients:

  • 100 percent organic. To use this phrase, products must be either completely organic or made of all organic ingredients.
  • Organic. Products must be at least 95 percent organic to use this term.

Products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients may say “made with organic ingredients” on the label, but may not use the seal. Foods containing less than 70 percent organic ingredients can’t use the seal or the word “organic” on their product labels. They can include the organic items in their ingredient list, however.

Do ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ mean the same thing?

No, “natural” and “organic” are not interchangeable terms. You may see “natural” and other terms such as “all natural,” “free-range” or “hormone-free” on food labels. These descriptions must be truthful, but don’t confuse them with the term “organic.” Only foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled organic.

Organic food: Is it more nutritious?

The answer isn’t yet clear. A recent study examined the past 50 years’ worth of scientific articles about the nutrient content of organic and conventional foods. The researchers concluded that organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs are comparable in their nutrient content. Research in this area is ongoing.

Organic food: Other considerations

Many factors influence the decision to choose organic food. Some people choose organic food because they prefer the taste. Yet others opt for organic because of concerns such as:

  • Pesticides. Conventional growers use pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. When farmers spray pesticides, this can leave residue on produce. Some people buy organic food to limit their exposure to these residues. According to the USDA, organic produce carries significantly fewer pesticide residues than does conventional produce. However, residues on most products — both organic and nonorganic — don’t exceed government safety thresholds.
  • Food additives. Organic regulations ban or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing aids (substances used during processing, but not added directly to food) and fortifying agents commonly used in nonorganic foods, including preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings and flavorings, and monosodium glutamate.
  • Environment. Some people buy organic food for environmental reasons. Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality.

Are there downsides to buying organic?

One common concern with organic food is cost. Organic foods typically cost more than do their conventional counterparts. Higher prices are due, in part, to more expensive farming practices.

Because organic fruits and vegetables aren’t treated with waxes or preservatives, they may spoil faster. Also, some organic produce may look less than perfect — odd shapes, varying colors or smaller sizes. However, organic foods must meet the same quality and safety standards as those of conventional foods.

Food safety tips

Whether you go totally organic or opt to mix conventional and organic foods, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

  • Select a variety of foods from a variety of sources. This will give you a better mix of nutrients and reduce your likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables in season when possible. To get the freshest produce, ask your grocer what day new produce arrives. Or check your local farmers market.
  • Read food labels carefully. Just because a product says it’s organic or contains organic ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthier alternative. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat or calories.
  • Wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water. Washing helps remove dirt, bacteria and traces of chemicals from the surface of fruits and vegetables. Not all pesticide residues can be removed by washing, though. You can also peel fruits and vegetables, but peeling can mean losing some fiber and nutrients.

 

  • Source: Mayo clinic house call

Are Organic Foods Better For You?


Processed foods have become a staple in the U.S., making up as much as 90 percent of American diets. Pre-prepared meals are often less expensive, and save working, busy people time at the end of a long day.

However, research from the Organic Trade Association shows that trends are beginning to change. Sales of organic products grew by about 5 percent in 2009, reaching a total of $26.6 billion. And fruits and vegetables, the most popular corner of the organic market, increased sales by 11 percent, or $9.5 billion.

Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, senior clinical nutritionist at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, points out some important truths about organic foods.

Myth 1: Organic foods are better for your health.

Reality: There is no scientific evidence that eating organic foods increases health benefits, Kennedy says. All of the studies that point to the cancer preventative benefits of a produce-rich died are based on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables found at the typical grocery store. The American Institute for Cancer Research says that while organic might be the preference for some individuals, eating more fruits and vegetables – regardless of how they are grown – outweighs any potential risks of pesticides used on non-organic fruits and vegetables. Kennedy recommends washing produce thoroughly with water, and even using a very small amount of vinegar – (1 part white vinegar : 3 parts water then rinsing in fresh water). Never use dish soap.

“It makes sense that we pay attention to where our food comes from and how it’s produced,” Kennedy says. “But the conversation should be around local foods. The sooner you eat a fruit or vegetable after it’s picked, the more nutrients it has. If the organic apples at the market are from New Zealand, it’s clear that the locally grown apple is the better choice.”

Kennedy recommends www.massfarmersmarkets.org or http://www.localharvest.org for a list of Massachusetts farmers who sell locally grown produce throughout the year, even during the winter months.

Myth 2: Chemicals used to make foods must be okay to digest because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows them.

Reality: Processed foods may be convenient, but many of the chemicals and synthetic products found on the label have been linked to cancer, obesity, and heart disease. Some of the worst ingredients are trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, white (bleached) grains, and anything with a high sodium content.

“Trans fats are like barbed wire in your body,” says Kennedy. “Trans fat is made to extend the shelf life of products so when ingested, it becomes rigid and jagged in the body and causes inflammation and irritation that can be disruptive to cells.” Even a product labeled as having 0 grams trans fats per serving may contain some because the labeling law states that less than half gram per serving can be listed as zero.  If a product has 3 servings and 0.4 grams trans fat per serving, you could be ingesting 1.2 grams, not zero. Look at the ingredient list and avoid anything that has partially hydrogenated oils, which is another way of saying trans fats.

Kennedy recommends eating fresh foods whenever possible and swapping salt for spices like oregano or thyme. Make your holiday chocolate chip cookies healthier by using half whole-wheat flour and add wheat germ. Also, skip the shortening and instead use a mixture of olive or canola oil and apple sauce.

Limiting sugar-infused, empty-calorie, and highly processed foods will leave more room in your diet for healthy options and also help with weight management and cancer prevention, Kennedy says. For a list of healthy recipes, visit www.dana-farber.org/nutrition; and visit Fighting Cancer With Your Fork for a full presentation from Dana-Farber nutritionist Hillary Wright.

Do you buy organic foods more than you used to? Which organic foods are always in your kitchen?

Source: Dana Faber cancer Institute.