Thursday, August 27, 2009

#foodfact - a Twitter food reference for @foodchat and beyond.

For those that wish to follow all things food, @foodchat is a great place to start on Twitter. Every Tuesday night from 8pm-10pm Eastern, #agchat engages people in the issues of farming and commercial ag. Every 3rd of those Tuesday evenings are dedicated to food by tagging #foodchat on the end of your statements. Keep both of these as saved searches in Twitter to see what the latest musings are. Twitter has started to become a faster source of news than the rest of the internet. Where people used to see what searches were popular on Yahoo! and Google, they now can simply look at the top trending topics. Twitter, love it or loathe it, has become an invaluable marketing and public relations tool. Every Thursday is #foodfact Thursday on Twitter for followers of #foodchat. I thought I would put my food facts in blog form...

The perfect diet beverage, Unsweetened Iced Tea has zero calories, is chock full of antioxidants, and has a little caffeine as well. I suggest using Lipton's Cold Brew, which is available in both pint and 2 quart pitcher sized pouches.

Eggs are the perfect protein, containing every essential amino acid. This is important, because our body doesn't stockpile amino acids and won't synthesize new proteins unless all required amino acids are available. So if you eat a combination of foods that is missing one or two, then you get zero protein benefit. In developing countries, this leads to a protein deficiency called,

One gram of protein = 3kcal. One gram of fat = 9kcal.

The most efficient forms of protein are as follows; 1. milk proteins (Caseins) 2. eggs, 3. beef, 4. soy, 5. chicken

Spam stands for SPiced hAM and consists of the ham and picnic shoulder cuts of pork.

The original flavor of Twinkies was banana. This all changed during WWII when bananas were hard to come by due to fighting in the Pacific theater.

Mountain Dew was originally intended to be a dry whiskey mixer when they discovered that it was pretty good when mixed with club soda.

Daily recommended amounts for proteins are actually overestimated by a third, counting on some of that protein being passed through the body as waste.

3500 calories = 1 pound. Therefore, someone who cuts 500 calories a day from their diets will lose about 1 pound a week until their weight corresponds to the number of calories they consume. For instance, a 200lb man needs about 2400 calories a day to maintain that weight. A 120lb woman needs 1320calories to stay at 120lbs. This all changes though, with increases in activity. If you run, lift weights, compete in sports, then you need considerably more calories.

An egg has 6-8 grams of protein while a glass of milk has 8, and a slice of bread has 4. A can of tuna has half the daily recommended allowance of protein and only 110 calories.

Clostridium Botulinum spores are very hardy. samples taken from a honey bee that was encased in tree sap contained these spores and they were successfully reactivated. The bee was estimated to be 40,000 years old. These are the same spores that can form during improper hoime canning. It takes temperatures of 251 degrees for more than 19 minutes to kill them. which is why the FDA standard for canning in food plants is 251 for 20 minutes.

Speaking of honey, it has the odd quality of never spoiling. If you have honey, it is still good.

All of this food talk has made me hungry. I think I'll have me some steak and eggs.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Science, our fair weather friend.

Remember the guys over the last few years that had been on death row for years for crimes they didn't commit, only to be found innocent through DNA testing?

Remember a couple years back when people wanted to teach creationism in schools because Evolution was 'only' a theory? What did you say to that? You said, 'look at the science'.

Remember back when people were claiming that climate change was a farce? What did you say to that? You said, 'look at the science'.
When someone tells you that your meat has fecal matter on it, that high-fructose corn syrup is the cause of obesity, that processed foods cause cancer, that organic is obviously better...what do you say? You say, 'ok'.

What? What about science? What about testing hypothesis, running experiments, publishing studies in peer reviewed journals, replicating and verifying results? Why are you not giving science the same credit for food that you give for climate change and evolution? Do you not like the answer you get?

An example:
Let's say that we want to examine whether high-fructose corn syrup(hfcs) is a bigger contributor to obesity than cane sugar. Ok. We would probably need to select two groups; one that drinks a beverage containing hfcs with their meals for a given time, and a second that drinks a sugar beverage with each of the same meals that the first group received. So now our variable, hfcs and cane sugar, are isolated. We monitor the weight of each group at the beginning and end of the experiment(which lasts for more than a few days). Would doing that experiment help put your minds at ease?

Well, that experiment was done, and found that neither was any worse for you. They were both sugar. Calories lead to obesity, not an ingredient.

'Yeah, but those studies are rigged by the big corporations.' It's a big world out there and I'd bet that some companies would risk their integrity by fudging a study, but that is what peer review journals are for. Someone can read what was done, reproduce the experiment, and compare the results. Also, much of the research in food science is done by Master's and PHD students. I've worked among these people, and trust me, there is no corporate entity watching over them.

Today, I read a blog by Mrs. Dawn Ellis-Lopez that asserts that certain things are unhealthy and should be kept from your kids, while at the same time, admitting that there aren't studies to support her claims.

"While good public studies are hard to come by (follow the money to explain that one), there are a number of people who believe they have plenty of good reasons not to trust aspartame, Splenda, or saccharin."

She then goes on to dispatch some sage(organically grown) like wisdom to all of us...
"The verdict: Step away from the soda pop. No matter how tasty you think it is, it doesn't love you back."

Now I'm not saying pop is a health drink by any means, but it isn't a poison. Like all things, pop should be consumed in moderation. Facts? Citrus pop like Mountain Dew and Vault contain about 180 calories per can. Pepsi and Coke are not too far off from that. They contain very low sodium and no fat, but the excess carbs will be stored as fat if you consume too many calories.

This is taken directly from the site she uses to cite as evidence that saccharin is bad:

Studies in laboratory rats during the early 1970s linked saccharin with the development of bladder cancer. For this reason, Congress mandated that further studies of saccharin be performed and required that all food containing saccharin bear the following warning label: "Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals." Subsequent studies in rats showed an increased incidence of urinary bladder cancer at high doses of saccharin consumption, especially in male rats. However, mechanistic studies (studies that examine how a substance works in the body) have shown that these results apply only to rats. Human epidemiology studies (studies of patterns, causes, and control of diseases in groups of people) have shown no consistent evidence that saccharin is associated with bladder cancer incidence.

Because the bladder tumors seen in rats are due to a mechanism not relevant to humans, and because there is no clear evidence that saccharin causes cancer in humans, saccharin was delisted in 2000 from the U.S. National Toxicology Program's Report on Carcinogens , where it had been listed since 1981 as a substance reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen (a substance known to cause cancer). More information about the delisting of saccharin is available at on the Internet. The delisting led to legislation, which was signed into law on December 21, 2000, repealing the warning label requirement for products containing saccharin."


The sites she lists for Splenda and Aspartame are biased sites that are anti-sweetener.

For those interested, Cargill and Coca-Cola have teamed up to develop a natural sweetener based on Stevia that they call Truvia. Coca-Cola is expected to debut a version of Diet Coke or Coke Zero containing this in the near future.

She makes a mind numbing statement about kid's drinks like Kool-Aid:

"white sugar is treated with chlorine, and that creates an addictive response since the body doesn't recognize it as real food."

No. Sorry. Not even remotely true. Number one, our water is treated with chlorine...anybody out there water addicts? What about pools? Anybody have prune hands because you can't get out of the pool? Here is her Coup De Grace to the section on kid's drinks:

"The verdict: Just don't do it. Don't do it to yourself or to your kids."

How many parents robbed their kids of the occasional Hawaiian Punch or Kool-Aid because they listened to this lady and freaked out? Why do we do this when it comes to food? Is it guilt? Are we guilty about what we have, our abundance, our gluttony, our expanding waistlines that we have to believe that there are evil forces afoot that poisoned us.

It's come to this, an all or nothing society, feast or famine, good vs evil. At some point it stopped being about the choices we make. We like to dog the Republicans for a lot of things, but they get at least one thing right, personal responsibility. I have a large midsection, but it isn't Coke's fault, it's mine. I know how many calories are in whatever and I overspent. Too many calories over an extended period of time = a lot of extra weight and fat. I know exactly how to take all the weight off, yet I don't do it. It isn't the corporation's job to police what I consume, it's mine. They can't possibly know what else I eat and drink during the day, so how can they be responsible if I over do it?

This need to have an enemy has lead to a willful ignorance of science and facts about food. It leads people to believe the words of an uneducated writer over the scientists. It leads to documentaries that food scientists scoff at while the rest of the world excepts it as fact. Facts cannot be made up, they can only be discovered. Facts are not conservative or liberal or Republican or Democratic. Facts are a cold splash of water in our disillusioned faces, waking us up and in the case of food, calibrating our paranoia. Facts are important, but they are meaningless if we remain ignorant to them. That's a fact.

The blog Referenced in mine belongs to Dawn Ellis-Lopez and can be found here:

I will provide you some other useful links as well.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

An educated foodie's plea to a naive world.

It's been a while since I last blogged on here, so I figure it's time to do something. Assoon as I get a hold of a copy, I will be watching Food Inc. and fact checking the whole movie. I've seen parts of the movie through clips and I've also watched/heard several Michael Pollan and Robert Kenner interviews about the movie. From what I gather, I might need to break the fact checking into several parts as it will most likely take a while to go through everything.

I think I might do a hodgepodge of various food musings for this post...

Pepsico is trying to buy out some of it's larger independent bottlers, a move that will save Pepsico around $300 million by 2012 through supply chain integration. This is sort of vertical integration, except that these entities were alread a part of Pepsi a decade ago. It would be like Pillsbury buying it's flour supplier if that supplier only supplied flour to Pillsbury in the first place.

Has anyone gotten to know a food scientist lately? Many of you probably live near a place that manufactures food products, so you have access. Some of you reading this either go to school or live near one and many of those colleges have a food science program. I ask because regardless of whether they are a liberal or conservative, their knowledge of food is the same. Science is apolitical. Facts are facts. If you are curious about how many eggs have salmonella on them or whether or not the pesticide residues on an apple will harm you, they can help. Just for the record, the answers are: 1 in 20,000 and not if the residues are under the gov established limits.

"Fortifying processed foods with missing nutrients is surely better than leaving them out, but food science can add back only the small handful of nutrients that food science recognizes as important today" - 'In Defense of Food', Michael Pollan.

Just a quick example of a fortified food... Enriched flour. The process of making the flour destroys some of four nutrients, so to make up for it, we add ten. So. we lose parts of four, but we add ten. I'll give another example... Pasteurized and homogenized milk. The pasteurization process sees the milk heated to 161 degrees F for about 16 seconds. In that time, a statistically insignificant amount of some enzymes and vitamins can be destroyed. To make up for it, we tend to add vitamins A and D. Mr. Pollan did not take a course in Dairy Processing and get an A. Oddly enough, Mr. Pollan is granted credibility for writing about food in a sort of New York Post page 6 he said-she said manner.