Your Container is Making You Fat…Or Is It?

This post was originally written in 2009. (Source: “the Nutrition Action Healthletter, April, 2008) Apparently it’s not WHAT you eat, it’s the container you eat it in, that’s making you fat. So postulate researchers convened by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, who worry that the changes seen in animals exposed to BPA – the “bad” chemical in “bad” plastic containers (i.e. pop bottles, water bottles, the lining of cans used in tinned food, etc.) – may be linked to increased rates of obesity. They also wonder if this chemical could also be linked to increased rates of Type 2 diabetes, ADHD, early onset of puberty in girls, a decline in semen quality, and a host of cancers and other abnormalities. BPA is an “endocrine disruptor” and an “estrogen mimic”.  Apparently BPA was first studied in the 1930’s as a synthetic estrogen for women. But there’s no conclusive evidence the same is responsible. A second panel found the opposite and faulted the first panel’s research methods (injecting BPA into mice, which is not the way adults would ingest BPA). However, one thing both panels agreed on: BPA may cause brain and behavioral disturbances in young animals. Even though the jury’s still out on what this chemical does to humans, if you are concerned, ways to reduce your exposure to BPA include:

  • Avoid buying canned food;
  • Don’t microwave food in plastic containers;
  • Prepare or store food, particularly hot foods and liquids in glass, porcelain or stainless steel dishes or containers;
  • Don’t wash polycarbonate plastic containers (#7 on the bottom of the bottle or container inside the recycling symbol – if it’s labeled at all);
  • Use Tetra paks of soups, and other shelf stable products or buy fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.

(adapted from The US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences).

It’s possible that young children and babies that are exposed to BPA may have brain and behavioral abnormalities; however this is based solely on research done on young mice.It’s possible that BPA increases the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, contributes to obesity or other health problems but other studies found no effect.“To play it safe women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, infants, young children and adolescents should try to avoid BPA.” Again, this is great advice for a pregnant woman, or the young; however for anyone older who have already been exposed, and, if this chemical does cause all the health problems mentioned, it may be too late. I guess it’s like the saying goes “when we know better, we do better” but in this case, doing better may have come too late to do any good.

Chemically Crafted

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There’s a food item out that appears to contain no actual food – a beverage called Orange Cream Soda by a particular manufacturer. I knew it was coming; there is less and less “real” food in purchased food items these days unless one eats organic or all natural. It’s all modified this (such as modified milk ingredients and modified starch) and additive that (such as caramel color).

I rarely drink soda, but, wanting a change, I ordered this soda at dinner. Curious, since it was $4, I looked at the ingredients label, expecting to see it was made from all natural, organic ingredients. What I found was anything but, despite the sales pitch on the label which states:

“A rich, Orange Cream Soda, hand-crafted with the freshest and highest quality ingredients, with the complexity and character of lemon, lime, Chinese Ginger, nutmeg and botanicals. We proudly present our Orange Cream Soda, hand-crafted with only the freshest and highest quality ingredients, including a blend of select oranges, mandarins, and real vanilla. This recipe’s added complexity and character comes from a blend of lemon, lime, Chinese Ginger, nutmeg and botanical extracts including lemon grass and angelica root. Enjoy this truly classic Orange Cream Soda recipe, originally crafted by our master brewers”.

Here are the ingredients:

Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and/or Sugar, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (to Protect Taste)Natural and Artificial Flavor, Modified Food Starch, Erythorbic Acid, Yellow 6, Glycerol Ester of Wood Rosin, Brominated Vegetable Oil.
Um, if it contains oranges, mandarins, vanilla, lemon, lime, ginger, nutmeg etc. should it not say that on the ingredient list?

Let’s break this “hand crafted with the finest quality ingredients” beverage down, shall we?

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
According to http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2008/11/19/f-fructosecornsyrup.html:

“High-fructose corn syrup is made from corn. After it’s milled, the resulting starch is processed into a syrup. By adding enzymes, the syrup is converted into fructose. Glucose syrup is then added to the mix to make high-fructose corn syrup. The most common form of the syrup contains 45 per cent glucose and 55 per cent fructose.”
There are some studies, listed on the cbc.ca link, that suggest consumption of HFCS plays a role in elevating triglycerides, as well as contributes to liver disease, diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease.

Modified food starch
According to research done by
http://katieskitchen1.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/what-is-modified-food-starch/
modified food starch is
“prepared by treating the native starch to change the properties of the ingredient in order to enhance their performance in different applications (increase stability against heat, acid, to change texture, etc.)”
Yellow No. 6 is a synthetic (i.e. man-made) food dye.
Citric Acid
is
“manufactured by a submerged fermentation process from a glucose and/or sucrose carbohydrate substrate”.
http://www.cargillfoods.com/wcm/groups/public/@cseg/@food/@all/documents/document/na3014920.pdf
Basically it sounds bacteria (like mold) is added to glucose or sucrose to ferment it. Yum!
Glycerol Ester of Wood Rosin
I wonder what glycerol ester of wood rosin is and if I will get a splinter drinking or eating something that contains it. Also known as “ester gum” it is
“an effective weighting agent for adjusting the density of citrus oils and improves stability in beverages.” http://www.ticgums.com/products.html?page=shop.browse&category_id=17
Brominated Vegetable Oil
Finally, there is “brominated vegetable oil” (BVO) which has been “patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant, and banned in food throughout Europe and Japan, BVO has been added to sodas for decades in North America. Now some scientists have a renewed interest in this little-known ingredient, found in 10 percent of sodas in the United States”.

For more info: http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2011/brominated-battle-in-sodas

Does that mean by drinking something with this in it, I won’t spontaneously combust?

I’d like to see another label added to commercially prepared foodstuffs:

No real food was harmed in the making of this item.

At least that label would be an accurate one.

(For a delicious, refreshing alternative to this and other sodas, cut up limes, lemons, oranges or cucumber and place in a pitcher of water. Refrigerate overnight.)

Ham Pasta Toss

Fast and delicious

2 c. cooked ham, chopped

2 c. cooked pasta

2 c. fresh spinach

1 large (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained

1/2 c. water

1 T. dried dill

1 T. Italian herb blend

Parmesan cheese, sprinkle

Combine all ingredients except Parmesan cheese in a large pot.  Heat and stir over medium-low heat until heated through and spinach is wilted.  To make this #glutenfree and/or #lowfodmap,  ensure ham and pasta are gluten free. Makes about 3 cups.  Sprinkle individual servings with Parmesan cheese.

Summer Pasta Salad

This is very versatile; any combination of vegetables you have on hand can be used.  You can also add cooked chicken or shrimp or, if you are vegetarian, TVP, for a complete meal.

3 c. cooked pasta such as penne (gluten free or other)

1/2 medium zucchini, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

3 mushrooms, chopped

1 c. diced cucumber

1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed

1 T. each walnut pieces and sliced almonds

2 T. sunflower seeds

1/4 c. raisins

Dressing

1 – 2 T. dried dill

1/3 c. plain Greek yogurt, thinned with a little milk

1/2 package Simply Organic Ranch dip

1 T. creamy cucumber dressing

 

Combine pasta and remaining ingredients except dressing in a large bowl.  Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl and pour over pasta salad.  Stir well.  Refrigerate until chilled.

Why I Do What I Do

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A beautiful comment yesterday left by a new reader to my blog made my day.

I’m so glad I found this. Trying to find advice for cooking (and eating) while chronically ill seems downright hopeless somedays. I can’t really eat out and there are veryfew storebought convenience meals I can eat due to my allergies, yet making a full course meal usually ends in me collapsing 1-3 times. My boyfriend is so used to finding me on the kitchen floor at this point that he doesn’t bat an eye. I really do love cooking, though, so it’s awesome finding someone else out there facing similar challenges with wisdom to share.

Thank you so much.

This is why I started my food blog.

*Note some of the recipes do take longer to prep.  Save those for days when you aren’t flaring, or can enlist help.

Easy Three Vegetable Salad

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1 pepper, seeded and sliced

1 – 1 1/2 c. green beans

1 c. corn

Steam pepper and beans together until tender, about 10 minutes.  Cook corn (I microwaved it). Dice pepper and cut beans into small pieces.

Dressing ingredients:

1 T. olive oil

1/2 T. balsamic vinegar

1 T. dried dill

1 T. italian spice mix

Salt and pepper

Place cooked vegetables in medium size bowl.

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Add dressing ingredients, stir to combine. Enjoy!  Great with any meat.

Chocolate-Walnut Spread / Truffles

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AKA “Healthy Nutella”

Gluten free, egg-free, dairy-free, sugar free no-bake, and yummy

1.5 cups walnuts, or hazelnuts, ground

1/4 c. liquid – milk, juice, water

8 dates, pitted

1/4 c. cocoa powder

dash salt

1 tsp. vanilla

Grind the nuts in a food processor. Add liquid, process some more. Add dates, process some more.  Add remainder of ingredients and process until completely blended.  Can use as a spread or roll into balls and roll the balls in nuts, coconut, etc. for truffles.