66% of Packaged Foods Have Sugar

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Think you are eating healthy? Think again.

A team of researchers went through ALL products sold in a typical north american food retailer. What they found was a surprise: 66% of packaged foods had sugar as an ingredient. (see reference #1 below for more)

This excluded such as vegetables, fruits, or other raw foods such as water, rice and grains.

Sugar was found as an ingredient in 86% of snacks and 79% of beverages. It also showed up unexpectedly in foods generally seen as healthy such as yoghurt (73%) or baby infant formula (47%).

What does it tell us?

First, it tells us that if you pick an item randomly at a food retailer, it most likely has sugar. That’s what will happen next time you are going to a grocery store, if you are not careful.

Second, even if you pick “healthy” foods with nice big labels on it (such as whole wheat, 0% fat, fortified etc.), it most likely has sugar or an equivalent in it. Read the ingredients list to confirm. Even organic food have sugar in them.

Third, this also means that if you buy food on the go, it most likely has sugar in it. Fast food restaurants have the same suppliers as food retailers. The difference is that you won’t get to read the ingredients label.

Finally, this shows that our society is ADDICTED to sugar. We are relying on an industrial food industry that likes to sprinkle large amounts of sugar on any food it produces, and not just sweets, in order to sell more. This addiction leads to inflammation. 10 years or 20 years later, it leads to obesity, and then chronic diseases.

Eating sugar continuously is equivalent to a permanent attack on our body’s system. Whenever we eat sugar, cells around our intestines produce Interleukin-1beta, a messenger substance that can cause chronic inflammation, increase insulin production and also causes insulin-producing beta cells to die off in patients with diabetes. (See reference #2 below)

 

What should we do?

As long as it is impossible to identify the presence of added sugars using nutrition labels and impossible to identify amounts of added sugars in packaged foods, a general guideline is to stay away as much as possible from packaged foods. Get raw foods – vegetables, fruits, whole grains, simple water etc. Those are the foods without any paper or plastic packaging. This way, you also stay away from food chemicals, additives and emulsifiers. If you really have to pick a packaged food, take 30 sec to read the ingredients list. Pick the ones that have ingredients you know (and not an unpronounceable chemical), with the least amount of sugar, corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.

If we all do this together, perhaps it will encourage a few food suppliers to actually care and offer healthy prepared foods!

References:

  1. Rachel B. Acton, Lana Vanderlee, Erin P. Hobin, David Hammond. Added sugar in the packaged foods and beverages available at a major Canadian retailer in 2015: a descriptive analysis. CMAJ Open, 2017; 5 (1): E1 DOI: 10.9778/cmajo.20160076
  2. Erez Dror, Elise Dalmas, Daniel T Meier, Stephan Wueest, Julien Thévenet, Constanze Thienel, Katharina Timper, Thierry M Nordmann, Shuyang Traub, Friederike Schulze, Flurin Item, David Vallois, Francois Pattou, Julie Kerr-Conte, Vanessa Lavallard, Thierry Berney, Bernard Thorens, Daniel Konrad, Marianne Böni-Schnetzler & Marc Y Donath. Postprandial macrophage-derived IL-1β stimulates insulin and both synergistically promote glucose disposal and inflammation. Nature Immunology, January 2017 DOI: 10.1038/ni.3659

“The Blue Zones, Second Edition” book review

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Is there a recipe to live past 100, and at the same time have a good quality of life?

That’s what Dan Bruettner tries to investigate in his book entitled “The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest”.

With his team, Dan went to Barbagia in Sardinia (Italy), Ikaria (Greece), Okinawa (Japan), Loma Linda (California, United States), Nicoya (Costa Rica). These have relatively a high percentage of centenarians, and low occurrences of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or COPD. Dan interviewed them on their diet, daily lifestyle, social networks and various habits. His findings are then discussed with doctors and health experts.

So how do you live a good life past 100?

Continue reading ““The Blue Zones, Second Edition” book review”

Meal planning with Mealime

How a meal app reconciled me with healthy cooking

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This was my typical work day a year ago:

  • Grab a bowl of cereal or whatever there is in the fridge for breakfast.
  • Run to the subway and grab a coffee on my way to work.
  • A bagel with cream cheese, a shawarma, a muffin or whatever I could find at lunch. This would coincide with my third cup of coffee of the day. Other times, I went to a restaurant for a business meeting and this would be my main meal of the day.
  • Go to a networking evening event and eat whatever they have. Pretzels, beers, coffee, chips, you name it. If there is no event, I would otherwise pick up a hefty meal from a neighboring restaurant on my way home.

Repeat this five days a week and you have a recipe for disaster. It is a diet composed of processed foods, refined carbs and inflammatory foods that lead to obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, or worse.

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The Whole Grains Robbery

Or how the industrial food system transformed a healthy food into a cardiovascular and diabetes risk factor

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The picture above shows state of the art steel roller mills. Wheat comes from above and the mill grinds it into white flour.

Those steel roller mills were invented in the 1870s and were a revolution, similar to the electric car in our current days. It was a fast and efficient method that allows the production of the purest and finest white flour at low cost. Even the poorest citizen could now buy white bread, a food reserved previously to the richest. As you can see from above, it is a nice, clean, efficient and modern environment.

By seeing all the benefits, the steel roller mill became so popular that within 10 years most mills in the western world had been replaced. The mechanics of the steel roller mill was soon extended to other grains, such as rice, oats and barley. And thus was born the first processed food and the beginning of our industrial food system.

So what’s not to like?

Continue reading “The Whole Grains Robbery”

Can cooking skills be the key to health?

Cooking could prevent chronic diseases and improve your overall well-being.

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Nutrition is a major component of health but far too often, most go for easy solutions.

This goes from eating out at lunch breaks, picking up frozen dinners or prepared food at the grocery store, and eating chicken in buckets in the evening.

In fact, it’s easy and practical in modern times no to cook at all and only use the fridge to stock up on prepared food. That goes from adolescents, busy professionals to ambitious mums. And when there is cooking, it involves convenience food such as canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables and ready-made ingredients.

Continue reading “Can cooking skills be the key to health?”

Healthier alternatives to coffee

Brewed coffee, black or green tea are the healthier alternatives to your espresso.

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Like cars, work schedules and taxes, coffee is ever so present in modern daily lives. Many cannot work without it, let alone start their day. Big and small fortunes are built in delivering espressos or brewed coffee to workers on weekdays. As such, I consider coffee as the biggest recreationally available drug of our times.

Yet health impacts of coffee and are not well-known.

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Eating slightly less than you need

10 to 15% caloric restriction increases life expectancy.

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In an ideal world, everyone would know exactly daily calories requirements. Each body cell would get exactly enough energy and nutrients for use.

Practically, this is impossible. Physical activity, digestion, exercise, weather conditions, stress, psychology and many other factors change calorie requirements. Most of us end up eating more than needed, due to easy and cheap availability of high caloric food.

A paying strategy is to eat 10 to 15% less than you need. Based on your weight, daily physical activity, many online tools and applications will advise a daily calorie intake to maintain your weight. Subtract 10 to 15% from the figure shown.

Continue reading “Eating slightly less than you need”