Diets and Weight Loss, Foods

Lighter Macaroni Salad

macaronisalad

Lighter Macaroni Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry elbow macaroni, cooked, rinsed, and drained
  • 1/3 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup diced vine-ripened tomato (optional)
  • 1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise
  • 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large bowl combine the macaroni, celery, onion, parsley and tomato, if using. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream and salt. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve. Store covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.
Adding Tuna or Chicken to this recipe works great!

Lifestyle

Expose on Processed Foods

foodonshelf

You’ve probably heard that avoiding processed foods is one of the keys to staying healthy, but do you understand why, exactly?

Scottish author Joanna Blythman has written a behind-the-scenes exposé book, Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets, that delves into the details of what makes processed food the antithesis of a healthy diet.

If you have any concerns about the food you’re eating, this is a must-read book. It will radically increase your appreciation of just how processed your food really is and enlighten you to many of the deceptive tricks the industry uses to fool you.

It’s quite challenging to avoid processed foods as nearly all of us eat at restaurants occasionally. The only question is how much? After you read this book, I guarantee your motivation to avoid processed food will skyrocket.

Joanna is an award-winning investigative journalist, and that background served her well as she literally went undercover to get the inside scoop on what’s really going on in the processed food industry. She actually carefully worked her way in and became an insider able to attend many of the member-only conferences.

“I have been writing about food for over two decades,” Joanna says. “I’ve written six other books. They’ve dealt with the production side of food: how and what goes on in fields, what goes on in farms, how to tell a good chicken from a bad chicken, that kind of thing.

But I just knew that we weren’t getting the full story. It wasn’t about the production end. It was at the processing end.

We know quite a lot about how chickens are reared for our tables, but we don’t know very much, or anything really, about how chickens nuggets are produced in a factory. I knew that we had to get to this information about processed food.”

Going Undercover…

Getting such information is easier said than done, considering how the food industry has created a near-impenetrable wall of security around its manufacturing activities.

Companies hide behind the rationale that processing methods are trade secrets, and that they’re merely protecting proprietary information from competitors.

“They’ve gotten away with that for years. What that means is that unless you’re a food industry insider, you’re just not going to know what’s happening behind the scenes,” Joanna says.

So, to get the inside scoop, Joanna assumed a fake identity and managed to convince a smaller food manufacturer to provide her with a professional cover. Using that cover, she got an inside look into the “core” of the food manufacturing industry. And what she learned was surprising to say the least.

For starters, what non-insiders do not know is that there are a multitude of chemicals used in food that do not have to be in any way disclosed, as they’re considered “processing aids.” So besides preservatives, emulsifiers, colors, and flavors, which are generally listed, there are any number of others that you’ll never find out the details about.

“I realized that there’s so much going on behind the scenes of food manufacturing. Most consumers, we haven’t got a clue, and we are not allowed to know. You can’t even trust things that would seem to be the healthy choice,” she says.

This is disconcerting, as many health conscious consumers now take the time to carefully read food labels. But what Joanna’s research reveals that there’s an array of additives that will never make it onto the label.

Surprising Truths the Processed Food Industry Hides from You

Do you eat processed meats like hamburgers, thinking you’re eating mostly real beef? Chances are you’re way off in your assumption. One type of meat process involves soaking butchered carcasses in hot water with added enzymes. This has the effect of releasing about another five percent of meat-like substance from the carcass.

This is then added into cheap burgers, sausages, and other processed meat products. Enzyme-treated blood products are also routinely added to lower-end processed meat products.

“What really got me were the things that seemed to be really natural… For example, I was amazed to find that there is a kind of coloring known as the cloudifier. It makes your juice look as though it’s got more real fruit juice in it because it creates that hand-pressed, natural look,” she says.

Enzymes are used in a number of different ways in food processing. For example, when eggs are pasteurized, they lose their color. An enzyme is therefore added that brings back the color of the egg.

There are at least 150 enzymes being used in food manufacturing, and they’re rarely ever listed on the label. According to Joanna, there’s typically at least one enzyme-modified ingredient in every processed food. Breads usually have five enzyme-modified ingredients.

Enzymes by themselves aren’t intrinsically toxic. They’re merely functional proteins composed of natural amino acids. But what they do is they mask and deceive you about the underlying process, fooling you into believing that you’re buying something that you really aren’t.

“The classic one is a mature cheese flavor. If you matured cheese the proper way, then you have cheese. You keep it for three months or six months, even longer, to develop that nice, mature flavor. But you can do that in a few days with an enzyme. You can create a fake flavor.”

Most Processed Food Is an Imitation of the Real Thing

The goal of food technologists is to reduce the amount of real ingredients by finding cheap substitutes that mimic the authentic food. In doing so, chemicals and processes are used that turns the end product into something that looks, smells, and tastes like “good food,” but really is anything but. Rarely is real butter used for example, because it’s expensive. So they use additives that make the food taste like butter, but at a fraction of the cost.

“But they will still put in enough butter that they can put on the ‘made with butter’ label,” Joanna notes. “Another thing I discovered is that most processed food wouldn’t look at all attractive if it didn’t have colorings added. It would be gray and beige…

Flavorings do two jobs in processed food. They cover up the unpleasant taste that comes as a result of processing. Flavor masking is one of the main reasons why food industries use flavorings. But they also use flavorings to try and give food flavor when it’s been through a manufacturing process that has totally stripped it of flavor.

They have to try and add back something that sort of resembles the flavors that have gotten lost. Because food processing is high temperature and high pressure. Something has to be done to them to make them taste better again. That’s the logic of flavoring and coloring.”

What You Need to Know About the Clean Label Concept

She also exposed the industry concept of “Clean Label.” The food industry realizes that consumers don’t like long chemical-sounding names on the ingredients list. These names are known as “label polluters.”

To avoid having to list the chemical names of additives, they invented a Clean Label concept, which is aimed at removing all the old additives and long chemical names, and replacing them with ingredients that sound better. “Carrot concentrate” instead of “coloring” is one example of a Clean Label swap.

A related issue is the extraction methods used for these healthy-sounding extracts. While antioxidants are healthy, plant-derived antioxidants are typically extracted from the whole food using toxic organic solvents like hexane, which you cannot remove. Those solvents remain in the ingredient, and they’re not required to disclose any of this.

Perception Is Everything

The processed food industry is primarily driven by the perception of wholesomeness. The moment the food industry finds out that a labeled ingredient is perceived poorly, they will either rename it, or find an alternative that may be just as bad, or worse, that doesn’t have that negative association.

“Perception is a really good word for understanding what the food manufacturing industry is up to,” Joanna says. “They have this thing called perceived naturalness. Their whole job is to try give you ingredients that sound natural, but actually aren’t the same as natural. Another one is fresh-like quality. The industry doesn’t talk about fresh any longer. They talk about a fresh-like quality. 

There are number of technologies that they can use behind the scenes and mainly on labels that will give products this fresh-like quality. Everything [related] to naturalness and freshness is being manipulated constantly.On my desk, at the moment, I have some chocolate chip muffins that I bought six weeks ago. I’ve got them on my desk and they have not changed in any way. They look identical. I’m keeping them as a sort of science project to see how they eventually, if they ever, change.”

There’s actually a whole section in the book dedicated to processed baked goods. Many grocery stores now have bakeries, where fresh bread is baked every day. But what many do not realize is that nothing is baked from scratch.

As Joanna says, these bakeries are little more than “tanning salons” for processed frozen products pre-cooked in factories thousands of miles away. Another factoid: When baked goods are sold loose this way, they do not require an ingredient label. So that’s another way they can get away with not disclosing what the ingredients are.

“One of the reasons I started writing the book is because I knew that if I made a muffin at home, it didn’t taste anything like a bought one. I wanted to find out why. It’s really interesting to find out why because the ingredients are completely different and the processes are completely different. And these are great lies perpetuated by food manufacturers—that what goes on in the factory is just a scaled up fraction of home cooking. But that really is a lie. It’s quite a different activity.”

The Foxes Are Watching the Hen House

If you’re like most people, you probably think there’s someone somewhere looking out for the consumer’s best interest. If something is sold as food, it surely cannot be hazardous. Can it? In truth, it just might be… More often than not, government oversight committees are usually manned by members of the industry, who have a vested interest in commercializing these chemical ingredients; or they’re academics who appear on first glance to be independent but actually, in their day job, are getting a lot of funding from food companies.

Most of the research used to establish safety is also done by the industry itself, which structures the research to show that its products are safe. What’s worse, no one is really looking at the health effects of exposure to toxins from processed foods.

“What happens to people who eat large quantities of processed food, maybe people who really based their diets on that? No one is doing any research on that,” Joanna says. “There are all these assumptions that chemicals are fine in small quantities, but that’s not really looking at the cocktail effect for people, particularly children, who are obviously more prone to being affected by chemical overload. No one is looking at that at the moment.”

More Information

Avoiding processed foods is one of the most important changes you can make if you want to improve your health or prevent or address disease. If there’s any question in your mind at all as to the reasons for reverting back to whole, minimally processed foods, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Joanna’s book, Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets as it will radically increase your understanding, and secondarily your motivation and desire to avoid these toxic foods.

As an undercover insider, Joanna reveals details about the food processing industry that you simply cannot get anywhere else. Read it, and pass it around. Create awareness that will eventually, hopefully, inspire more people to make the switch to a more wholesome, health-preserving diet. If we don’t buy these foods, food manufacturers will have to stop producing it, and healthier whole foods will again become the norm.

As Joanna says, “we’ve got to catch up with the industry because they really bypass our comprehension of what they’re doing to our food. The take home message for me is that, in Europe, we have this idea that processed food is getting better. Everything is going a little bit not more natural, and actually, that’s wrong.

And we really can’t trust our regulators to get it right. We have to adopt our own, what I call PPP: Personal Precautionary Principle. You are the only person who’s going to really bother to think about these issues to deal with your food. You can’t rely on anyone else doing it for you.”

In the future, Joanna is considering writing another book on food processing, delving into newer processing technologies and synthetic biology, called SynBio. The use of completely artificial biology is also disconcerting, and an area that is as unregulated as the old Wild West.

Synthetic biology is basically like an extreme form of genetic engineering, which obviously carries a number of unknown risks. And, like genetically engineered foods, most people have no idea synthetic biology is even used, or that they may be eating it on a regular basis.

Diets and Weight Loss, Foods

Green Linked to Decreased Dementia

greentea

Aside from water, tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world.1 In the US, black tea is by far the most popular, but green tea (which accounted for just 15 percent of the tea consumed in America in 20142) may have particularly powerful health benefits.

Regardless of variety, black and green tea (as well as oolong, dark, and white teas) come from the same plant, an evergreen called Camellia sinensis. It is the processing method and degree of oxidization (exposure to oxygen) that creates the different tea types.

While black tea is oxidized, green tea is not oxidized at all after the leaves are harvested. This minimal oxidation may help to keep the beneficial antioxidants in green tea intact. As explained by the World of Tea:3

Controlled oxidation usually begins after tea leaves are rolled or macerated, two processes that break down the cell walls in tea leaves. Chemically speaking, oxidation occurs when the polyphenols in the cell’s vacuoles and the peroxidase in the cell’s peroxisomes come in contact with the polyphenol oxidase in the cell’s cytoplasm.

The resulting reaction converts tea catechins into theaflavins and thearubigins. Theaflavins provide tea with its briskness and bright taste as well as its yellow color, and thearubigins provide tea with depth and body and its orange-brown color.

This conversion of catechins to theaflavins and thearubigins means that the longer the oxidation, the lower the amount of catechins in the finished tea. Also, during oxidation chlorophylls are converted to pheophytin, a pigment that lends to the dark color of oxidized teas. Lipids, amino acids, and carotenoids also degrade during oxidation to produce some of tea’s flavor and aroma volatile compounds.”

Drinking Green Tea Every Week May Slow Mental Decline

Green tea shows promise for protecting brain health. In a study presented at the 2015 International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases, those who drank green tea one to six days a week had less mental decline than those who didn’t drink it.4

In addition, the researchers revealed that tea drinkers had a lower risk of dementia than non-tea drinkers. It’s not the first time green tea has been linked to brain health. In a study of 12 healthy volunteers, those who received a beverage containing 27.5 grams of green tea extract showed increased connectivity between the parietal and frontal cortex of the brain compared to those who drank a non-green tea beverage.5

The increased activity was correlated with improved performance on working memory tasks, and the researchers believe the results suggest green tea may be useful for treating cognitive impairments, including dementia. According to the study authors:6

Our findings provide first evidence for the putative beneficial effect of green tea on cognitive functioning, in particular, on working memory processing at the neural system level by suggesting changes in short-term plasticity of parieto-frontal brain connections.

Modeling effective connectivity among frontal and parietal brain regions during working memory processing might help to assess the efficacy of green tea for the treatment of cognitive impairments in psychiatric disorders such as dementia.”

What Gives Green Tea Its ‘Super Powers’?

Green tea is rich in naturally occurring plant compounds called polyphenols, which can account for up to 30 percent of the dry leaf weight of green tea. Within the group of polyphenols are flavonoids, which contain catechins. One of the most powerful catechins is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to positively impact a number of illnesses and conditions.

Green tea also contains theanine, an amino acid that crosses the blood-brain barrier and has psychoactive properties. Theanine increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin, dopamine, and alpha wave activity, and may reduce mental and physical stress and produce feelings of relaxation.7

Theanine may also help to prevent age-related memory decline8 and has been shown to affect areas of your brain involved in attention and complex problem-solving.9

Green Tea May Be a Whole-Body Health Tonic

Tea has been enjoyed for close to 5,000 years. It was reportedly discovered in 2737 BC when tea leaves accidentally blew into Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung’s pot of boiling water.10 Tea has been used traditionally as a beverage and healing tonic ever since. As reported by the University of Maryland Medical Center:11

“In traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, practitioners used green tea as a stimulant, a diuretic (to help rid the body of excess fluid), an astringent (to control bleeding and help heal wounds), and to improve heart health.

Other traditional uses of green tea include treating gas, regulating body temperature and blood sugar, promoting digestion, and improving mental processes.”

Modern-day research has also confirmed green tea’s myriad of health benefits, which extend even beyond brain health. What else is green tea good for?

Reduced Mortality and Chronic Inflammation

Drinking green tea is associated with reduced mortality due to all causes, as well as mortality due to heart disease. Research also shows holistic benefits to green tea consumption, including lower blood pressure, oxidative stress, and chronic inflammation.12

Heart Health

Green tea improves both blood flow and the ability of arteries to relax, with research suggesting a few cups of green tea each day may help prevent heart disease.13

Study results also show EGCG can be helpful for the prevention of arterio­sclerosis, cerebral thrombus, heart attack, and stroke—in part due to its ability to relax your arteries and improve blood flow.14

Type 2 Diabetes

One study found people who consume six or more cups of green tea daily had a 33 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who consumed less than one cup per week.15

Weight Loss

There is some evidence that long-term consumption of green tea catechins is beneficial for burning fat and may work with other chemicals to increase levels of fat oxidation and thermogenesis. According to research in Physiology & Behavior:

Positive effects on body-weight management have been shown using green tea mixtures. Green tea, by containing both tea catechins and caffeine, may act through inhibition of catechol O-methyl-transferase, and inhibition of phosphodiesterase. Here the mechanisms may also operate synergistically.

A green tea-caffeine mixture improves weight maintenance, through thermogenesis, fat oxidation, and sparing fat free mass… Taken together, these functional ingredients have the potential to produce significant effects on metabolic targets such as thermogenesis and fat oxidation.”

Bone Health

Green tea polyphenols combined with a form of vitamin D called alfacalcidol could boost bone structure and strength, according to a new study in mice. The mixture may reverse damage to bones caused by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced chronic inflammation, which could in turn reduce the risk of osteoporosis.16

Green tea is a relative newcomer in the bone-health arena, but previous studies have also found that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a component of green tea, blocks the activity of two molecules, IL-6 and cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2), which play a role in breaking down bone.

Vision Health

Catechins in green tea could help protect you against glaucoma and other eye diseases, as research found that the compounds travel from your digestive system into the tissues of your eyes. During the study, the catechins found in green tea were absorbed into various parts of the eyes anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours after rats were given tea.17

Cancer

Green tea components have been shown to downregulate the expression of proteins involved in inflammation, cell signalization, cell motility, and angiogenesis, while an association between green tea intake and decreased risk of cancers (including ovarian and breast18) have been reported.19

Previous research has shown that green tea polyphenols act on molecular pathways to shut down the production and spread of tumor cells.20 They also discourage the growth of the blood vessels that feed the tumors. EGCG even acts as an antiangiogenic and antitumor agent, and helps modulate tumor cell response to chemotherapy.21

Tea Readily Absorbs Pollutants from Soil

It’s difficult to find many drawbacks to tea, but there is one potential issue you should be aware of: pollutants. Green tea plants are known to be especially effective at absorbing lead from the soil, which is then taken up into the plants’ leaves. Areas with excessive industrial pollution, such as China (where nearly 90% of the world’s green tea is produced),22 may therefore contain substantial amounts of lead.23

According to the ConsumerLab.com analysis, tea from brands like Lipton and Bigelow contained up to 2.5 micrograms of lead per serving compared to no measurable amounts in Teavana brand, which gets its tea leaves from Japan. While the lead in the tea leaves is not thought to leach very effectively into the tea you end up drinking, if you’re consuming Matcha green tea, one of my favorites, it’s especially important that it comes from Japan instead of China.

Matcha tea contains the entire ground tealeaf, and can contain over 100 times the EGCG provided from regular brewed green tea. Both black and green teas are also naturally high in fluoride, even if organically grown without pesticides. This is because the plant readily absorbs fluoride thorough its root system, including naturally occurring fluoride in the soil.

According to fluoride expert Jeff Green, who sadly passed away unexpectedly last year,24 there are reports of people who have developed crippling skeletal fluorosis from drinking high amounts of iced tea alone.25 If you live in an area with fluoridated drinking water, as the majority of Americans do, then you could be getting a double dose of fluoride when you drink tea.

When selecting tea of any kind, it should preferably be organic (to avoid pesticides) and grown in a pristine environment because, as mentioned, tea is known to accumulate fluoride, heavy metals, and other toxins from soil and water. A clean growing environment is essential to producing a pure, high-quality tea.

A Quick Trick to Boost the Health Benefits of Your Tea

To boost the benefits of green tea, add a squirt of lemon juice to your cup. Previous research has demonstrated that vitamin C significantly increases the amount of catechins available for your body to absorb. In fact, citrus juice increased available catechin levels by more than five times, causing 80 percent of tea’s catechins to remain bioavailable.26

On the other hand, while adding lemon juice is beneficial, adding milk is not. The proteins in milk may bind to and neutralize the antioxidants in tea, such that its health benefits are significantly reduced. One study even found, All [beneficial vascular protective] effects were completely inhibited by the addition of milk to tea.”27

Finally, know what to look for in terms of quality. A telltale sign of high-quality green tea is that the tea is in fact green. If your green tea looks brown rather than green, it’s likely been oxidized, which can damage or destroy many of its most valuable compounds. Many enjoy using loose tea leaves, which ConsumerLab found may offer even more antioxidants (while also avoiding potential toxins in tea bags).

A cup of green tea will give you anywhere from 20-35 mg of EGCG, so three in a day will supply you with 60-105 mg. There are some studies that have used much higher doses than this — upwards of 1,500 mg a day — but as of now there’s now clear-cut evidence of exactly how much is best.

The good news is that much of the research on green tea has been based on about three cups daily, which is easily attainable, and enjoyable, for most people. Here are a few simple guidelines for making the “perfect” cup of tea:

  • Bring water to a boil in a tea kettle (avoid using a non-stick pot, as this can release harmful chemicals when heated)
  • Preheat your teapot or cup to prevent the water from cooling too quickly when transferred. Simply add a small amount of boiling water to the pot or tea up that you’re going to steep the tea in. Ceramic and porcelain retain heat well. Then cover the pot or cup with a lid. Add a tea cozy if you have one, or drape with a towel. Let stand until warm, then pour out the water
  • Put the tea into an infuser, strainer, or add loose into the tea pot. Steeping without an infuser or strainer will produce a more flavorful tea. Start with one heaped teaspoon per cup of tea, or follow the instructions on the tea package. The robustness of the flavor can be tweaked by using more or less tea
  • Add boiling water. Use the correct amount for the amount of tea you added (i.e. for four teaspoons of tea, add four cups of water). The ideal water temperature varies based on the type of tea being steeped:
    • White or green teas (full leaf): Well below boiling (170-185° Fahrenheit or 76-85° Celsius). Once the water has been brought to a boil, remove from heat and let the water cool for about 30 seconds for white tea and 60 seconds for green tea before pouring it over the leaves
    • Oolongs (full leaf): 185-210° F or 85-98° C
    • Black teas (full leaf) and Pu-erhs
  • Cover the pot with a cozy or towel and let steep. Follow steeping instructions on the package. If there are none, here are some general steeping guidelines. Taste frequently as you want it to be flavorful but not bitter:
    • Oolong teas: 4-7 minutes
    • Black teas: 3-5 minutes
    • Green teas: 2-3 minutes
  • Once the desired flavor has been achieved you need to remove the strainer or infuser. If you’re using loose leaves, pour the tea through a strainer into your cup and any leftover into another vessel (cover with a cozy to retain the heat)