Thursday, March 31, 2016

Doughnuts to Doughnuts

I hope everyone out there is making it through their day today without having their shoes tied together, or finding Vaseline on all their doorknobs. That's right; in case you neglected to flip your calendar last night, it's April Fool's Day today. Ah, now it aaaall makes sense, doesn't it?

To be honest, though, doesn't it sometimes feel like every day is April Fool's Day on the Internet? So often, you come across something that makes you say, "You've GOT to be kidding me!"

I came across an info-graphic recently that had me hoping it WAS an April Fool's Day prank.

It shows, in pictures, how many grams of sugar certain food items have compared to a Kripsy Kreme doughnut. Some of the numbers won't surprise you, of course. For instance, this sample below shows that a single Sprinkles Red Velvet cupcake is equivalent to four and a half Kripsy Kreme doughnuts, having 45 grams of sugar. 

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are 37.5 grams if you are a man, and only 25 grams if you are a woman. In other words, by eating just this one cupcake, you've blown your quota for the day, no matter who you are.

That's okay, though. Nobody thought a cupcake was a healthy choice, did they? It's a given that some things are just loaded with sugar and calories; the yummier they are, the worse they are for you, that's just life. It's not fair, but we get it.

It's when sugar is in the most unexpected places that it is a real problem. 

Here's you. You're out doing your thing, being good, avoiding sugary sodas, even the chemical-filled diet versions. You're doing the right thing by keeping hydrated during the day, but for crying out loud, a person can only take so much water, am I right? You pick yourself up a bottle of Snapple, specifically, a Snapple Peach Tea. So delicious and refreshing! What the heck, we'll take a look where that falls on the Kripsy Kreme doughnut meter:

As the infographic shows, an unbelievable  39 grams of sugar is in this 16-oz. drink—more added sugar than anybody should have in an entire day, and the head-slapping equivalent of four Kripsy Kreme doughnuts, only a half a doughnut less than the freaking cupcake!


For more astonishing doughnut equivalencies, check out this link to see the full list. 

And, in other apparently-not-a-hoax news, Krispy Kreme has announced on its Facebook page that they are giving away FREE doughnuts today! Not sure if it's an April Fools or whatonly one way to find out, I guess!

Because this is just mean!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Breakfast Epiphanies, Part 2: Whither Bacon?

Mmm, mush!
Last time, we took a look at the history of breakfast. We learned that breakfast had always been a fairly light affair, considered rather unimportant, as meals go, to our foreparents. We asked, if this was the case for most of human history, why do we Americans eat like lumberjacks in the morning? You know, pancakes, smothered in syrup. Eggs, potatoes, and bacon. Especially bacon.

No, not you!
It seems there was this company called Beech-Nut. Today you may know it as the premier maker of baby food. Way back when, they made all kinds of stuff. Peanut butter, chewing gum, candy, ham, ketchup, pork and beans, coffee, chewing tobaccoif it could go in a container, Beech-Nut put it there and sold it to the public. After all, they had patented the first vacuum jar, the kind with the gasket at the top, which kept food fresh longer and also made it easier to transport. One product they were especially proud of in the early 1900's was their bacon. Bacon, in a jar!

Hand-packedwith loving care!

The trouble was, people just didn't eat all that much bacon back then. It was used to add flavor to other dishes, and sometimes on its own as a side dish, but it just wasn't a regular thing. This, Beech-Nut felt, was a problem. Something had to be done.

Fortunately for them, there was a guy who had just what they needed. 

This guy.
Edward Bernays
Edward Bernays was a whiz at getting people to do things they didn't want to do. He was pretty familiar with psychology, (being the nephew of Sigmund Freud) and he had gotten famous inventing what he called "public relations." Beech-Nut hired him to create a public demand for bacon.

A now familiar technique, and one that he pioneered for manipulating public opinion, was the indirect use of "third party authorities" to plead his clients' causes. 

"If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway," he said. He used this to perfection in the cause of Beech-Nut's jarred bacon. He went to a doctor and posed the question: which is better for health, to have a light breakfast or a heartier one? The doctor (who worked for … Beech-Nut … ) said he supposed a heartier breakfast would be healthier. He asked the physician if he would be willing to write 5,000 physicians and ask them whether their opinion was the same. About 4,500 answered back, all concurring that a bigger breakfast was better for the health of the American people than a light breakfast. Which is a little like saying "more money is better than less money," but whatever. Bernays then arranged for this finding to be published in newspapers throughout the country. I'm not talking about paid advertising—I'm talking about articles that looked like legit reportage, with headlines such as "4,500 Physicians Urge Bigger Breakfast." Other articles he placed at the same time, seemingly unrelated, stated that bacon and eggs should be a central part of breakfast—a one-two punch that resulted in? a rise in the sale of bacon. 

Pretty hard to imagine a time when people had to be buffaloed into eating bacon, isn't it?

This manufactured love affair has never really stopped, but in 1955, something happened that put the brakes on it, for a little while, at least.

Let's call it the "Eisenhower Effect."

When President Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower suffered his heart attack, not only was it front page news, but a real turning point in the American diet. Having a heart attack is not really at the top of anyone's "to do" list; however, today, there are many medical interventions to make it survivable, under certain conditions, and having a normal life after the fact completely do-able. However, back in the '50's, surviving a heart attack was regarded as something that took you out of the game; the only thing prescribed was bed rest, for the rest of your life. Any amount of excitement, it was felt, put the patient at risk. 

Eisenhower, former Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, however, was not the guy who was going to take such a prognosis lying down. He had a re-election to win in 1955, and had no time or patience for bed rest. Ike also wanted to do everything he could to prevent being thought of as an invalid. He decided to publicize the steps he was taking to recover, particularly the dietary changes he was making on the advice of his doctors. They had been ordered by the President to come up with a treatment that would both keep him on his feet and improve his health. Their solution (based on very little scientific evidence, it seems, from what I've been reading) was to create a radical new remedy: the low-fat diet. 

Happier days ...
Naturally, after rigorous adherence to this diet, the President was able to maintain a healthy weight and never suffered another heart attack, living to the ripe old age of 102!

Actually, no, that's not what happened. Eisenhower suffered seven heart attacks in total from 1955 until his death by congestive heart failure in 1969, at the age of 78. An autopsy unexpectedly revealed an adrenal pheochromocytoma, a benign adrenaline-secreting tumor that may have made the President more vulnerable to heart disease. Which is really sad to think about. It probably didn't matter at all what the poor guy ate. He could've been using the time he had left stuffing himself full of his favorites, like beef stew, corn pudding, and Mamie's Million Dollar Fudge. 
Mamie and Ike, post-heart attack, presumably.
Which brings us back to breakfast.

The low-fat diet has been, perhaps, the most persistent of weight loss fads. It sounds like logic: eat fat, BE fat! Oh, the artery-clogging, infarction-causing eggs and bacon! Grains, we are told, are the ticket. Whole grains and multi-grains, "heart healthy" grains. The problem is, too often the benefits of whole grainsfiber— is lost to the incredible amount of sugar that is added to make something this good for you taste like candy. And sugar, in the amounts we are unsuspectedly consuming it, is poison.
Unless you are the ones profiting from throwing it into the food supply, then it's the opposite of poison; it's life-sustaining mana from Heaven.

Of course I'm talking about you, McDonalds.

Join us next time for more "Breakfast Epiphanies."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Don't Be Afraid of the DARK

Almost exactly one year ago, we posted this article about the so-called DARK Actlegislation that would overturn existing laws, and ban any new onesthat would mandate labeling of GMO foods in the US.

Those who are anti-GMO foods and pesticides are often accused of being just a bunch of hippie freaks, luddites who cannot accept that we've embarked upon a new and beautiful age of scientific dominance over Nature, the benefits of which far exceed the negatives. If that is so, then the vast majority of Americans are, in fact, hippie freaks (click on the image to enlarge, and you'll see what I mean):

Our post was a call to actionliterally, contact info was provided for your Representative’s office in Washington. And while that bill passed the Congress, we are pleased to report that last week it was defeated in the Senate. Good on you, US Senate, for standing up for the will of the people.

Regrettably, no major news outlet (that I could find) has reported on this very important story. Here's a link to the best source I've found:

From The Environmental Working Group:
"In a major win for consumers, [Senators who sponsored the pro-GMO legislation] yesterday [March 16, 2016] failed to attract the votes ... needed to end debate on a bill known to opponents as the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act. It fell far short of the 60-vote threshold required to advance the bill."
" ... The defeat of the DARK Act gives Congress the opportunity to craft a national mandatory GMO-labeling compromise that works for consumers and the food industry."

So it seems that the DARK Act, with your help, is done for now. 

Would you like to know how your representative voted? Follow this link to find out!

In the meantime, if you did contact your lawmaker over this, give yourself a pat on the back!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Breakfast Epiphanies

Let's talk about breakfast. Not everybody does it. Either they don't have time for it or they just don't wake up hungry. Personally, it's always been my favorite meal of the day (more about that later). Any diet plan will tell you that it's also the most important meal of the day, providing your body with nutrients and energy, and helping to keep your metabolism at an even keel to help loose weight.

That said, what's the best kind of breakfast (for those who do breakfast) to have? It's a question that's had its share of discussion over time. For centuries, beer was considered a healthy breakfast. Yes, beer! Affordable, filling, and commonplace, as well as far less risky than water itself, the malted beverage was just the thing to start your day, back in the day, for man, woman, and child. FYI, what they consumed wouldn't be something our taste buds would recognize as beer; it was also far more nutritious, and did not have a fraction of the alcohol content.

Wait ...
... is she giving that baby ...
... BEER?!
So what happened? Why do we not still enjoy a brew for breakfast (college days notwithstanding)?

This. This happened.

That's okay, take your time. I'll wait.

It seems coffee as a beverage was first discovered in Africa around the 15th century CE. It arrived in Europe in the 17th century, where it quickly became popular, spreading from there to the Americas. Coffee became especially sought after in the US during the tea boycotts of the Revolution. Coffee replaced beer as the drinkable meal, or, at least, as the center piece of the first meal of the day.

Obviously, breakfast was, traditionally, a pretty light affair. This idea that breakfast should be small, mostly grain- and coffee-based, and meatless, sustained our ancestors for generations. Then, somewhere along the line, we got the idea that we shouldn't do that anymore, and that we should, in fact, eat like lumberjacks in the morning. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, washed down with juice, coffee or milk, probably all three. How, and why, did this happen?

I'm glad you asked! Tune in next time for "Breakfast Epiphanies, Part 2."