Ask the Expert
Sudeep Sodhi, MD
Affinity Medical Group Gastroenterologist
Q: What should I look for when reading food labels?
A: In the early 13th century, the king of England proclaimed the first food regulatory law, the Assize of Bread, which prohibited bakers from mixing ground peas and beans into bread dough. Ever since, it has been a cat and mouse game between the food industry and the public. In the U.S., food regulation dates back to early colonial times. In 1862, President Lincoln launched the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Chemistry, the predecessor of the Food and Drug Administration. Fast forward to 2011 - the Grocery Manufacturers Association announces Nutrition Keys, a new front-of-pack labeling system. The problem is that with so much information, first causality is common sense.
Increasingly, the food with technological manipulation becomes more complicated, and to decipher what is in it is getting more difficult to comprehend. This causes decision paralysis, and we end up with either a wrong choice or familiar default.
Lets us train ourselves to be better label detectives.
What is in a name?
Sugar is labeled under different names. High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, sucrose, dextrose, evaporated sugar cane, cane sugar, and evaporated cane juice (which is refined sugar and not actual nutritious cane juice) are all the same thing - a fast-acting sugar that is devoid of nutrients, but these sugars can be present in the same product and listed as separate ingredients under all of those names and more. Ingredients have to be listed with the highest concentrations first according to FDA regulations, so spacing them out in this way lets them be shifted further down the list and thus appear to be present in lower quantities.
Solution: Avoid processed food as much as possible.
Having our cake and eating it too?
Another problem arises when food manufacturers understate the serving size. Breyer's ice-cream serving size is half a cup (calories: 130). Who eats half a cup of ice-cream?
Solution: Look at the serving size carefully.
Find me if you can!
FDA regulations allow labels to say 0% trans fat as long as trans fat is less than 0.5 gm. Eating different processed foods can add up trans fat quickly.
Fiber imposters like chicory root in fiber bars do not have the same beneficial effects as whole grain and soluble fibers. Instead, food makers are adding something called "isolated fibers" made from chicory root or purified powders of polydextrose and other substances that haven't been shown to lower blood sugar or cholesterol.
Solution: Smart label reading; opt for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as your fiber source.
Looks can be deceptive
Whole wheat and whole grain. Many whole wheat breads are brown due to the addition of ammonium sulphate, which nourishes yeast and makes bread look more brown. Many products make a whole grain claim even though they often contain refined flour as the first ingredient and the amount of whole grains are minimal.
Solution: Unless you see grains on the bread, it is low-fiber bread.
Strengthens your immune system
Through "clever wordsmithing," food companies can skirt FDA rules about health claims and give consumers the impression that a product will ward off disease.
Made with real fruit
Often the "real fruit" is found in small quantities and isn't even the same kind of fruit pictured on the package. You may see lots of pictures of fresh oranges and pineapple. But the main ingredients are corn syrup, sugar, and white grape juice concentrate.
Solution: Buy a juicer, it will pay its cost in a few weeks.
What's next for food labels?
Have a question for our experts? Click here.
Dr. Sodhi is a gastroenterologist with Affinity Medical Group in Appleton. His interest is in nutrition and integrative medicine. He is a graduate of Dr. Andrew Weil's two-year fellowship in integrative medicine from the University of Arizona. Dr. Sodhi is board-certified in gastroenterology, integrative medicine and nutrition.
Healthy eating and fitness are always hot topics. In this edition of Health e-News, we're sharing some of the latest tips and realistic recommendations on what to eat (or what not to eat), how to burn extra calories without
exercise (no kidding!), and how your company can shed pounds together with the help of a new program called Live LEAN.
As always, this information is just too good to keep to yourself. Please be sure to pass it on to your employees. Their version of today's edition can be found here: http://conta.cc/hCMULC
We welcome your feedback
and wish you all a healthy, productive month of March!
In good health,
Director, Employer Solutions and Urgent Care
Good News About "Bad" Foods
Eat carbs. Don't eat carbs. Dairy foods are bad. Dairy foods are good. It seems the rules for healthy eating change with the wind. How can we know what advice to follow?
"Steer clear of labeling foods as good or bad. When it comes to nutrition, variety and moderation are keys to healthy eating," says Lori Deering, registered dietitian with Affinity Health System. "Making gradual changes in food selection allows time to develop preferences for healthier choices that are easier to maintain over the long run. Overly restrictive diets are often a set-up for overeating."
Here's the real scoop on some of the most debated foods.
Carbohydrates - We need carbohydrates like our cars need gas. They are the body's fuel. The key to carbs, however, is knowing which kind you're eating. Complex carbohydrates - whole grains, vegetables and beans - provide minerals and fiber and are an important part of a healthy diet. Beware of simple or refined carbohydrates, including white bread, white rice, and processed snacks such as cookies and chips. These offer fewer nutrition benefits.
Fat - Not all fats are harmful. In fact, the body needs a certain amount of fat consumption to function properly. Most of our fat should come from monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 sources, such as salmon, nuts, olive oil or canola oil. Lori advises limiting saturated and trans fats found in fatty meats, butter, margarine, shortening, lard and processed baked goods.
Eggs - Yes, eggs are high in cholesterol. But they're also one of nature's best sources of high-quality protein. In addition, eggs are packed with choline, a nutrient that aids fetal development and adult brain function, as well as the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which play a major role in preventing vision loss as we age. Ready for more eggstraordinary news? The average-size egg is just 70 calories, and because eggs are satisfying, helping you feel fuller longer, they may actually aid in your quest to maintain weight. Boiled or baked is best, or opt for frying eggs in olive or canola oil rather than butter.
Dairy Foods- Dairy foods have gotten a bad rap in recent years. Some types of milk and cheese are high in fat, but dairy products are also an excellent source of calcium, which is vital for strong bones. And did you know calcium raises the body's level of calcitrol, a hormone that causes your body to store less fat? Studies suggest this is true especially when the calcium comes from food rather than supplements. So unless your doctor advises otherwise, make low-fat dairy products a part of your well-balanced diet.
Chocolate - Is chocolate all bad? Surprisingly, no. Cocoa is high in flavanols, a natural substance with antioxidant power. Flavanols can help prevent cell damage and may have certain vascular health benefits. The trouble is, flavanols can be lost during cocoa processing. Many major chocolate manufacturers are researching ways to keep more flavanols in their finished products. For now, you don't need to feel guilty about enjoying a small piece of chocolate on occasion. Just watch out for added ingredients. Plain dark chocolate is fine. That super gooey peanut cluster marshmallow bar is better left on the shelf.
|NEAT Way to Burn Calories
Not all exercise happens at the gym. If you're an active person, you just might be onto the latest discovery in weight management, called NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). The idea is to burn calories through body motions as part of your daily activities. Studies done by the Mayo Clinic suggest the cumulative effects of NEAT are more important than workouts for nearly everyone.
Some examples of activities that burn calories without exercise include taking the stairs, shoveling snow, washing dishes and hanging laundry out to dry. Modern conveniences such as elevators, snow blowers, dishwashers and dryers have eliminated the need to exert energy for daily living. According to NEAT researcher James Levine, MD, this accounts for a deficit in burned calories, which leads to weight gain.
How can we infuse more NEAT activities into our day? It's simple. Get up. Walk around. Wash the pots by hand. Change the television channel manually instead of using the remote - or better yet, skip that sitcom altogether and kick a ball in the back yard with the kids. Even fidgeting and using gestures when talking can help burn more calories than sitting still.
The next time you're at a crossroads between the elevator and the stairs, ask yourself, is convenience more important than my health at this moment? Start making some NEAT choices today.
Introducing Live LEAN (Lessons in Attitudes, Exercise and Nutrition), a hands-on, 52-week worksite campaign designed to promote healthy attitudes toward weight management. Affinity Occupational Health offers this innovative program to help employees grow healthier and more confident in their ability to meet nutrition and exercise challenges.
Programming focuses on the primary factors of maintaining a healthy weight: nutrition, exercise and stress management. Fun, interactive activities include:
- Quarterly Weigh-ins
- Can the Soda
- Bite It and Write It
- Healthy Crock Pot Cooking
- Fun with Pedometers
- Resistance Bands
- Staying Fit on the Go
- Relaxation Techniques
- On The Spot Stress Relief
Miles Kimball - Success Story!
We're pleased to share the encouraging results of our pilot Live LEAN program with Miles Kimball, where 95 participants shed a collective total of 358 pounds! The average weight loss was 3.76 pounds per person, boosting the company's HRA data. From 2010 to 2011, obesity rates dropped by 2.6 percent, and healthy BMI increased by 2.6 percent.
What do employees like about Live LEAN? Feedback included praise for a wide variety of fun and motivating activities, including healthy food and fitness challenges (with prizes!), lunch and learns, sharing stories and encouragement with fellow participants, accountability and convenience.
Congratulations to Miles Kimball for recognizing the need for effective employee wellness tools and doing something about it with Live LEAN. For information on how you can implement Live LEAN in your workplace, call Riley Leja, employer health and wellness consultant for Affinity Occupational Health, at (920) 628-1533.
Workplace Wellness Tip:
Pedometers are a simple and fun way to keep track of your activity level throughout the day. Have a "step challenge" with another department at your work site. Whoever clocks the most steps in a week wins a healthy lunch celebration.
Affinity Occupational Health can provide medical-grade digital Omron pedometers for your team. Each device comes with an attachment strap or clip, battery, health management software to track your progress, and USB cord for downloading data directly to your computer.
- counts and separates aerobic steps from regular steps
- calculates distance (steps/miles)
- calculates calories and fat grams burned
- stores seven days of information on display, 41 days stored in memory
- resets at midnight automatically so it is ready to go every morning
- displays time on a digital clock.
For information on how you can snag these handy pedometers for your work site, ask your wellness team to call the Affinity Occupational Health Sales team at (920) 727-8700.
What's Happening at Affinity?
Spring is on the way... but cold and flu season is still upon us. Affinity's Urgent Care physicians are available seven days a week to care for you and your family members of all ages.
Urgent Care is available at these Affinity Medical Group locations:
- Appleton - 3329 N. Richmond Street
- Oshkosh - 1855 S. Koeller Street
Urgent Care hours at both clinics:
Monday - Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to noon
Your primary care co-pay applies, regardless of your insurer.
For more information, visit us online