Don’t Let Food Labels Give You Indigestion
When you are cruising the grocery store aisles, you probably flip over a few items to scrutinize their nutrition labels. But do you understand what you’re looking at? The government is working on updating the label to reflect today’s nutritional concerns and include more realistic serving sizes, but until that happens, use the diagram included with this article to help make quick, informed food choices that contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. Also, remember these helpful tips:
- Nutrition information is provided for one serving of a food or beverage. Many products contain more than one serving. If a serving size is one cup, and you eat two cups, then you must double the calories, fat, sugar, and other ingredients to get an accurate estimate of how much you’ve eaten. If you’ve eaten a smaller portion than what is on the label, calculate accordingly.
- Pay special attention to the amount of sugars (including carbohydrates) in one serving. This is especially important if you have diabetes (or other health concerns) that require you to monitor sugar intake or the glycemic index of foods.
- Check out the amount of fat, especially saturated fat, in one serving. Fats contribute to many chronic health problems. Trans fats are also labeled because they are known to contribute to “bad cholesterol,” which contributes to heart disease. Choose foods that are low in these fats. However, some foods, like nuts, have high fat content, but the source of fat is actually good for the body–it’s not a saturated or a trans fat.
- Be aware that “0” does not mean zero! It means less than 5% per serving!
- In addition to understanding the nutrition label, take a look at the list of ingredients. If you cannot pronounce the words that are listed on a food label, it’s likely coming from chemicals and processed (unnatural) elements that are not healthy for the body. Some of the items you want to avoid include:
- Preservatives including BHA, BHT, brominated products
- GMO – genetically modified organisms, common in corn and soy derivatives
- Xanthan gum
- Hydrocarbons (pesticides PCB, DDE, DDT)
- Soy and cottonseed oil
- Dyes (e.g., yellow dye no. 5, tartrazine)
- MSG – monosodium glutamate (common in canned foods and Asian cooking)
- Food allergens – if you or family members have a known allergy to peanuts, wheat, soy, or gluten
If you are in a hurry and can’t take the time to read labels, be sure to avoid packaged (bag, box, or bottle) foods. Instead, buy fresh foods and “eat a rainbow everyday” (e.g., fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt). Also, choose water, tea, or juices with no sugar added.
Finally, pay attention to what’s happening in the news … in July 2015 the government proposed a new nutrition information panel for food labeling. The public is invited to provide comment.
Food for Thought. . .
“Variability is the law of life, and as no two faces are the same, so no two bodies are alike, and no two individuals react alike and behave alike under the abnormal conditions which we know as disease.”
– William Osler
From Shakespeare’s reference to “pumpion” in The Merry Wives of Windsor to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, pumpkin is woven into the fabric of history and cuisine. Native Americans roasted long strips of pumpkin over an open flame and ate them. Colonists made pumpkin pie by slicing off the pumpkin top; removing the seeds; filling the rind with milk, spices, and honey; and then baking the pumpkin over hot ashes. And we all know pumpkin transforms into Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween decor. Today, we appreciate pumpkin not just for culinary traditions, but also for its abundance of nutrients and versatility in healthy meal preparation, such as soufflés, soups, bread, jam, butter, and desserts.
A member of the Cucurbitaceae family of vegetables (along with cucumber and squash), pumpkin is cultivated around the world for both its fleshy vibrant orange meat and seeds. It is a naturally low calorie (49 calories per one cup serving), yet filling food that offers the following health benefits:
- Pumpkin contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. It is rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and many antioxidant vitamins, including A, C, and E.
- It is also an excellent source of many natural polyphenolic flavonoid compounds such as beta-carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body. Zeaxanthin is a natural antioxidant that may offer protection from age-related macular disease.
- Pumpkin is a good source of the B-complex group of vitamins including niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid.
- It is a rich source of copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.
- Pumpkin seeds provide dietary fiber and pack a powerful mix of protein, minerals, and vitamins: 100 g (1 cup) of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 gm of protein, plus folate, iron, niacin, selenium, and zinc.
Spiced Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Bon Appétit Fast, Easy and Fresh cookbook
Yield: 2 loaves
Preheat oven to 350°F
Butter and flour two 9x5x3 inch loaf pans
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour mix)
- 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour (or gluten-free flour mix)
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 c. raw sugar (or raw honey)
- 1 c. sunflower oil
- 3 large eggs (room temp)
- 15 oz. (1 can) pure pumpkin
- 1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
Sift first eight ingredients into a large bowl. In second bowl, beat sugar and oil to blend, and then add eggs and pumpkin. Mix well. Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture in two additions, just until blended. Add nuts, if desired.
Divide between loaf pans. Bake approximately 1 hour 10 minutes, or until tester inserted into center comes out clean. Transfer to racks and cool in pans for 10 minutes. Cut around sides of pan with a knife to loosen. Turn loaves onto rack to cool completely.