Tasty links

Seems to be all about nutrition this week:

Picture 4Sodium patrol: Making salt saltier (so you eat less)–Little Stomaks




Picture 3Would-be urban gardener: I have the rooftop, but not the garden. Maybe this will inspire my not-so-green thumb.–The New York Times



Are Americans will to pay the cost of good nutrition? Eh, maybe, according to a new survey–NutraIngedients-USA.com

Some people won’t lose weight, even if you pay them. Or, at least, money ain’t a great weight-loss motivator.–Cornell University

Picture 9Beware the box: Lia Huber, founder of the Nourish Network, has a terrific weekly “Nibble to Noodle” newsletter in which she offers tidbits about nutrition, food, and good eats. Visit Lia’s site to sign up for her e-newsletter (with recipes!). This week, she tackles overblown nutrition claims found on packaged food claims:

I walked up and down the supermarket aisles last week with a keen eye towards what packages were promising and I found that, for the most part, the bolder a product proclaimed its virtues the less likely it was to be good for me. 
Take Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers, for instance. The green stripe at the bottom of the box draws my eye towards a sunny icon proclaiming the snack to be a “sensible solution.” They have half the fat of original Ritz, no cholesterol and little saturated fat; more than enough to convince a busy shopper to lob that box into their cart and feel good about it. But let’s take a closer look at those claims, shall we?
  • No Cholesterol and Low in Saturated Fat — These phrases typically appeal to those looking out for their cardiovascular health (and bravo to you for doing so!). Where it gets misleading is that dietary cholesterol has turned out to have much less effect on our bodies than previously thought; it’s the types of fat we consume, and their respective impact on LDL and HDL cholesterol, that matter. Saturated fat raises harmful LDL, but it also raises helpful HDL so the net effect isn’t too terribly awful. Trans fat–identified either by gram in the nutritional panel or by the term partially hydrogenated in the ingredients list–is by far the worst type of fat because it both raises LDL and lowers HDL. So let’s flip the box over and see what’s there. The nutritional panel lists trans fat at 0 grams, but because a product can contain up to .5 grams of trans fat and still list the amount at 0, I like to double-check the ingredients list for partially-hydrogenated oils. And there, right in the middle of the list, is partially-hydrogenated cottonseed oil. So much for those benefits.  

  • Half the Fat — True, at 2 grams per serving these Ritzes contain half the fat of normal Ritzes which weigh in at 4 grams. But what does that really tell us? If we’re concerned about the fat itself, we already know that these are made with a less-than-ideal type. And if we’re equating fat grams with whether or not the crackers will make us fat, we’re looking in the wrong place. Calories (or more specifically, an excess of calories) cause weight gain, not total fat grams. These Reduced Fat Ritz have 70 calories per serving–not bad, until you consider that a serving is only 5 crackers. Up that to a more realistic 10 and you’re looking at 140 calories, roughly seven percent of an average daily “calorie budget” of 2,000.

So here you have a snack with virtually no value for your body that gobbles up close to a tenth of your allotted calories for the day and includes a downright dangerous type of fat. This is a sensible solution? For whom . . . us or Nabisco?

2 thoughts on “Tasty links

  1. Thanks for linking to my post on salt. I think this is going to be a major area of innovation in future since salt is so difficult to reduce in packaged foods. The best thing of course is to reduce our reliance on packaged foods, but we should also recognize that these foods are not going to disappear because of the convenience factor. In this regard, I find these trends encouraging. The thing to watch out is all sorts of health claims about low salt or reduced salt that will start appearing once these technologies are commercialized. Consumers should stay alert and read the nutritional label carefully before falling for these claims.

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