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Neko

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Purex Let’s Be Honest campaign 


The fine folks at Purex gave me the following insider info:

"On April 30th Purex will launch our new Let’s Be Honest promotional campaign featuring Second City Comedian Molly Erdman. We’ve created a funny series of short video vignettes sharing honest moments that reflect the ironic truths of everyday Life, Laundry, and Whatever.

Through mid July, there will be new funny videos uploaded every few days at

www.purex.com

plus posts on Facebook and promotional tweets on Twitter. The daily sweepstakes will run through July 24th."

Be sure to check it out!! For now, I can show you the Let’s Be Honest logo:




Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"How to Unjunk Your Junk Food" 


(NB: I received a free copy of "Unjunk Your Junk Food—Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks" (Gallery Books, 2011) from Naturally Savvy to review... but they didn't put any words in my mouth.)

In an email from the book's author Andrea Donsky, who is also the co-founder of NaturallySavvy.com

http://www.naturallysavvy.com/

came the following statement:

"Why We Wrote Unjunk Your Junk Food

The purpose of the book is to provide better options. We want people to know that if they are going to
indulge in a treat, they can choose from products that don’t contain any chemical additives—which are
responsible for serious issues including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Most of us read the Nutrition Facts panel when deciding which products to buy. However, in Unjunk
Your Junk Food, our approach to eating is very different. We start by reading the ingredients and then
we look at the Nutrition Facts panel. We do this because we believe if a product contains harmful
ingredients, it doesn’t matter how much fat and calories it has—it is considered a “Bad Choice”."

Their manifesto is here:

http://www.naturallysavvy.com/forum/unjunk-your-junk-food

"You don’t have to give up the foods you love, just give up the toxic ingredients. Take the junk out of your junk food. Here’s how:
The Edible (R)evolution is a 4 step process:
Step 1: Take the ‘Worst Ingredients’ chart along with your shopping list on your next trip to the grocery store
Step 2: Before you blindly toss a food product into your cart, read its entire list of ingredients (even before you read the nutrition panel)
Step 3: Refer to the ‘Worst Ingredients’ chart as well as the glossary in Unjunk Your Junk Food to make sure you understand the meaning of EVERY single ingredient listed on the label
Step 4: Decide whether or not the ingredients in the product you’re holding are what you want to purchase and put into your body. If not, use Unjunk Your Junk Food to help guide you to comparable products with cleaner ingredients"

You can read about the book here:

http://www.naturallysavvy.com/book/unjunk-your-junk-food

Before I dive into the review, let me make my take on this topic clear: If there is any food or ingredient that is problematic for you, obviously your #1 priority must be to avoid it, or at least minimize it (as is the case with sodium, since you can't live without it), unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Beyond that: The #1 health crisis in this country is not consuming too many questionable food additives, it's OBESITY, so it is literally a matter of life and death for you to be VERY concerned with the calories that you are consuming. I hear far too many people these days expressing confusion as to why their weight is going up when they're "eating healthy"; the reason for that is that healthiness in no way counteracts the calories in food!! A hidden part of this is that junk food satisfies our biological cravings for salt, sweet and fat, and the healthier alternatives, which typically contain less of these things, are thus less satisfying, leading people to consume more "healthy junk" than they would of the regular variety to achieve satisfaction, leading directly to weight gain... even more so when, as is the case with many healthier options in this book, the healthier version has significantly more calories than, even DOUBLE the calories of, the regular version.

The purpose of this book, as I see it, is to help you make the right choice for YOU, not for you to blindly make the less-chemical choice any more than you should blindly make the lowest-calorie choice, but for you to consciously decide each time you shop whether your BMI is more or less problematic than the long-term effects of consuming substances that we were not designed to digest... and you might want to ask your doctor about this one, because (s)he can tell you what your health risks are based on your weight, medical conditions if any, and family health history.

And about those substances: There have been no studies done to determine the possible bad results of eating "unnatural" substances over the course of a lifetime; nothing even remotely close to that has ever been studied. We simply don't know. Scary, right? They might not be doing us any harm at all, or there might be significant harm, or anywhere in between; there is no science to even allow us a guess, other than that these chemicals have been proven safe for consumption in the shorter term before being approved for use in our food... but how much does that count for over a 75 year lifespan? If they cause even a slight increase in that health issue that we never heard about until a few years ago and now know creates or worsens every ailment known to man, INFLAMMATION, as foreign substances could easily be imagined to do, that would be terrible... we can only hope that some research gets done in this area soon. Some people attribute the increases in all sorts of health problems in this country to the chemical bombardment we're undergoing, in our food and otherwise, and a valid case can be made for that... but an equally valid case can be made for other reasons too, so until we have PROOF, we need to take ALL claims in this area, both + and -, with a grain of salt. With that said, here's what's in the book:

The primary focus is on the ‘The Scary Seven’ food ingredients:

· HFCS: High-Fructose Corn Syrup (AKA glucose-fructose in Canada);
· TRANS-FATS: Anything listed as ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ‘hydrogenated’ (includes
vegetable shortening);
· MSG: Monosodium glutamate;
· ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS: Any artificial flavoring;
· ARTIFICIAL COLORS: Any type of artificial dyes;
· ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: Chemical sweeteners including Aspartame, Splenda
(sucralose), Ace-K (Acesulfame Potassium), Saccharine, etc.
· PRESERVATIVES: Polysorbate 60, 65 & 80, TBHQ, Sodium Benzoate, BHA, BHT,
Sulfur Dioxide (sulfites).

My personal analysis of the 7: There is ample evidence that trans fats, which, unlike most additives, which exist in food in tiny amounts, are typically a significant % of the bulk of the foods that contain them, are bad for us; there seems to be no gray area here. I have always said to be wary of them; see this post from over 5 years ago:

http://omniverse.blogspot.com/2007_01_01_archive.html#117015030068105110

For High-Fructose Corn Syrup, wildly conflicting reports are still being bandied about.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_effects_of_high-fructose_corn_syrup

"Based on a 2009 AMA review there was no scientific consensus regarding high-fructose corn syrup and its dangers to health compared to common sugar. However the most recent and conclusive research published in February 2012 and done at Princeton University indicates there is reason to suspect HFCS may in fact be harmful."

There have been studies showing that consuming fructose, the primary sugar in fruit, causes the body to form FAR more fat from the same amount of calories; see my post about one such study here

http://omniverse.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_archive.html#112342149158202842

They don't like to talk about that bit of science much, though, because they don't want to put people off from eating fruit. If fructose IS the bugaboo that studies suggest, however, then fruit must be deemed just as harmful to us as HFCS; the additional nutrients found in fruit would NOT counteract the weight gain, and, again, obesity is this country's #1 health concern.

The real eye-opener about HFCS can be found here

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-fructose_corn_syrup#Honey

"Honey typically has a fructose/glucose ratio similar to HFCS 55, as well as containing some sucrose and other sugars. Like HFCS, honey contains water and has approximately 3 kcal per gram. Because of its similar sugar profile and lower price, HFCS has been used illegally to "stretch" honey. As a result, checks for adulteration of honey no longer test for higher-than-normal levels of sucrose, which HFCS does not contain, but instead test for small quantities of proteins that can be used to differentiate between HFCS and honey. Consumers should be aware, however, that some honey available in supermarkets contain HFCS or utilized HFCS in its production. Consumer awareness through label-reading is important for those aiming to avoid high-fructose corn syrup."

I don't see anyone warning against consuming HONEY, though, do you? Or fruit either. Fructose is either harmful or not, and if it is then ALL sources of it must be avoided; time will tell.

And about MSG: This is NOT some lab-created chemical, but a naturally-occurring part of some seaweeds, such as kombo

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kombu#Nutrition_and_health_effects

The Japanese have been eating seaweed, and using MSG as a flavoring, in large amounts forever, and report no health issues from it, AND they've always been healthier than us, so... my opinion is that it's safe. But, don't some people have bad reactions to it? Absolutely. And people also have bad reactions to dairy, peanuts, grains, I even found out that some folks are allergic to LETTUCE... and we don't label any of those things "bad," do we? It's possible to have an allergy, intolerance or sensitivity to almost ANYTHING, and if you do you should avoid that thing, but it doesn't mean that that thing is objectively bad or that other people have to avoid it when it doesn't affect them.

As to the other additives on the list; there's no science showing that they're harmful, nor any science showing that it's safe to eat them your entire life, so it's up to you to decide what the risk might be and how it compares to the risk of obesity, or even whether foods without those things are tasty enough, and affordable enough, for you to switch to them.

So; what's in the book? Mostly facing-page comparisons of very similar junk foods, regular junk on the left and "healthier" on the right. As was made clear in my quote from the author, they're using a different measurement of "junkiness" than we're used to, so many of their picks are higher in fat, calories, sodium and sugars than the 'bad" options, sometimes MUCH higher. They're not indifferent to the sodium issue, though: Somewhat hypocritically, when the approved pick has LESS sodium, such as the Nestle vs Q.bel milk chocolate rice bars (pages 110-111), or Cheetos vs Barbara's Cheez Puff Bakes (pages 40-41), this is pointed to as a wonderful thing, but in the cases where the approved pick has MORE sodium, mum's the word. Sorry, lol, either sodium is bad or it's not; they need to take a stand and either point out the sodium winner for each pairing, including where their pick is the loser, or not bring it up. And they're not totally indifferent to the calories, either: in the case of Fla-Vor-Ice vs Cool Fruits (pages 66-67), they make a big issue about how the latter isn't really triple the calories because the portion sizes are different... and they make it sound like they're actually the same, but when you do the math you see that their pick has .83 calories/gram compared to .58 calories/gram, still much higher. Meanwhile, on pages 178-179, Bazooka and Glee gums are compared, with no mention of the fact that Glee's wildly lower calorie count is mostly due to a far lower portion size. Again, you can't apply different standards to the picks and the pans, or you lose all credibility.

And I found at least one area where their nutrition expert goofed; page 78 lambastes Murray's Sugar-free Chocolate Chip Cookies, in part because they contain artificial sweeteners... but their approved pick, Joseph's Sugar-free Chocolate Chip Cookies, are sweetened with maltitol, which is, you guessed it, an artificial sweetener!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltitol#Production_and_uses

"Maltitol is a disaccharide produced by Corn Products Specialty Ingredients (formerly SPI Polyols), Cargill, Roquette, and Mitsubishi Shoji Foodtech, among other companies. Maltitol is made by hydrogenation of maltose obtained from starch."

This chemical is known to cause serious laxative effects in some people, including my husband, just fyi. On page 123, maltitol is excused from being "bad" due to being approved by the FDA and considered safe... but the exact same thing can be said about EVERY artificial sweetener that is used in this country, and I do mean EVERY SINGLE ONE-look it up!! And the same goes for EVERY other chemical additive in our food; they have all been tested, approved, and deemed safe by the best science we've got. Sorry, but maltitol is an artificially created chemical; either all such "approved" chemicals are ok because they're approved or they're all bad despite the approval... you can't voodoo chosen ones in when it's convenient because you can't find any equivalent products sweetened only with natural sugars.

So; the book has some flaws, which I hope will be rectified in the next edition. I'd also like to see price comparisons, so folks don't drive an hour to get to the nearest store that sells these often obscure natural brands, with gas being as pricey as it is, only to discover that this stuff will double their grocery bills. In general, though, this book is a useful resource, allowing you to easily get a feel for what's on some of these labels without having to spend all day in the grocery aisles with a magnifying glass trying to read them. The book has an attractive layout, with bright, cheerful colors, and there's a great deal of interesting info and food for thought... and we SHOULD think more about what we're eating, let's face it.

It's a nice little book, overall; pick up a copy for yourself and see. :-)

PS

Here are the questions they'd like me to answer about my experiences with the book:

a. What was/were the biggest surprise(s) you found in your cupboard that you thought was/were ‘healthy’ product(s) but actually contained some of ‘The Scary Seven’ ingredients?

None. I've been a label-reader for many years, and I already knew what was in all my food.

b. What would you say was your biggest ‘take-away’ from reading the book?

There are some interesting-looking foods that I've never heard of that I might like to try, assuming they're not too expensive.

c. Have you made any changes as to how you shop now that you have read the book?

No; I'll always be a label-reader, and will continue to stay abreast of the latest discoveries in food science.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

RIP Dick Clark 


America has lost a man who has been integral to our culture for over half a century. Is it possible to have grown up in this country, or to have lived here any length of time, or even to have been here for a single New Year's Eve, and not know who Dick Clark was? Is there anyone in the entire country who didn't like and admire him? I read that he was apparently one of the wealthiest people in Hollywood; how many folks with that sort of savvy and success remain likable? And did you ever hear one whiff of scandal about him in all those years? So much as a drunk driving arrest or... anything?

Dick Clark represented much of what is best about the United States, from the time of our innocence in the 50's, when he helped midwife rock and roll, right through to the present, difficult years of the recession, when he inspired us with his strength and courage following the stroke that he only allowed to steal one New Year's broadcast from him despite the horrible damage it had done. We will go on without him, but his influence will always be felt, and he will be sorely missed.


Monday, April 02, 2012

The BEST frozen pizza 


I did NOT get a freebie or even a coupon for this product; this is just fyi:

Digiorno's Ultimate Toppings Four Meat Pizza

http://www.digiorno.com/Products.aspx/Four-Meat/30370d5d-c1fa-4d97-b0a8-57feb914e88a

has by far the most meat and cheese of any frozen pizza I've ever had, and is extremely tasty. It's a little more expensive, but this is the rare circumstance where paying more actually gets you more. If you're not into all that meat, it also comes in Supreme, Pepperoni and Cheese; I haven't tried any of those varieties, so I don't speak from experience, but I'm guessing they're of a similar quality.

Enjoy!! :-)





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