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Trend Alert

Watch Out! Junk food peddlers are starting to claim their unhealthy fare is good for you.

New studies published almost daily show alarming links between poor diets and chronic illnesses. As health-awareness slowly becomes more prevalent, fast food and grocery companies are starting to react.

Federal, state and local legislators are starting to enact laws requiring manufacturers and chain restaurants (of 20 or more) to disclose more nutritional information on food labels and menus.

Likewise, leading federal health agencies’ officials are campaigning to raise public awareness. They actively bring attention to startling statistics about sharp increases in obesity, which is often the underlying cause of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Although current studies show that increasing numbers of Americans continue to become obese, that children are being fed sugary and fattening foods, and that the number one health threat in the U.S. is obesity, more Americans are gradually becoming health conscious. People are learning about the correlation between food and health.

It may seem like a contradiction to believe that Americans are both heavier than ever and more health-conscious at the same time. The short explanation boils down to, on the one hand, the natural reaction to the widespread pandemic of diet related illnesses we’re witnessing in our society and on the other hand, our ever so Amira Elganprominent sedentary life styles, most often a byproduct of our busy schedules. In other words, yes, we’re becoming better informed and are beginning to make wiser food choices but we still we don’t exercise enough. The new healthy food movement is barely beginning—we’re just scratching the surface.

In the mean time, our attitude and behavior toward nutrition is without a question changing and making waves. As a result, major health food store chains are growing rapidly and taking a significant share of the market. Giant food manufacturers consider organic and natural food producers major competition. Organic food and products sales are skyrocketing and the fastest growing magazines in the publishing world are about healthy food and living.

Even Dr. Phil, a clinical psychologist who became well-known on the TV show Oprah, is now portraying himself as a weight loss and nutrition expert in his syndicated talk show. Lately he has drawn much criticism for endorsing a line of nutritional supplements for a nice lump of cash. According to the New York Times, “few talk-show hosts have so closely associated products they endorse with contents of their television programs; deal crosses previously sacred barrier by involving products that can directly affect viewer’s health”. The fact that Dr. Phil carries the title of “doctor,” critics believe, gives him more credibility in the eyes of uninformed consumers in the area of health and diet.

In my opinion, Dr. Phil is abusing his access to the media and position as honorific “doctor,” and unethically cashing in on what is known to be one of the most lucrative markets: The multi billion-dollar weight loss industry.

Now, conventional food manufacturers and fast food restaurants are feeling the effects of the newly found health awareness among consumers. Declining revenues are prompting them to take desperate measures. Some food giants are coming up with organic and natural lines of products. Others are simply adding labels on their products using words such as “healthy” “natural” and “low-fat”, “real fruit”, “light”, “fat-free”, “cholesterol free”, etc., blatantly trying to mislead unsuspecting consumers into believing they’re buying something wholesome and healthful. But in taking a closer look at the label one might be more than disappointed to see all the refined and artificial ingredients packed in some these so called “healthy foods”.

The latest example of this appalling practice is KFC’s sleazy new marketing strategy designed to alter our perception. KFC has launched a new ad campaign to persuade the public that its deep fried chicken is a “healthy choice.” Of course, their argument is ridiculous: They compare two pieces of deep fried chicken to a Burger King Whopper, which contains 43 grams of fat and 710 calories. (Why not just claim that two pieces of chicken are healthy because they're lower in calories than a handful of pork lard?).

In reality, a typical KFC customer eats something like two pieces of chicken, cole slaw, instant mashed potatoes with gravy, and a biscuit. I've calculated the rough nutritional information on such a meal, and has about 1,300 calories, 75 grams of fat and about 19 grams of saturated fat. (Note that this calculation does not include a soft drink or desert.)
 

Calories

Total Fat

Saturated Fat

KFC Item

370

26

7

Thigh

380

19

6

Breast

232

14

2

Cole Slaw

120

6

1

Potatoes, Gravy

180

10

3

Biscuit

 

In the commercial, a woman and her initially skeptical husband sit in front of the TV with a whole bucket of chicken -- that's KFC's vision for your healthy new lifestyle.


And what about trans fats that result from the deep-frying process of KFC's chicken? What about the pesticides, GMOs and other unhealthy processes used in the production of KFC plant foods? What about drugs and other toxins in the chickens? What about the preservatives and other unhealthy additives in many of the food items? What about the total absence of fresh, nutritive vegetables?

 

Some chains, such as McDonalds, are investing heavily in the slightly healthier "fast casual" category of restaurant chains that includes the Chipotle Mexican food chain and others. Most of the big fast food vendors have recently added salads to their menu in a desperate attempt to pander to the growing public awareness about healthy eating.

 

KFC isn't even trying to change their food, only your perception. That's their solution: To convince you that their greasy junk food is healthy.


KFC thinks the public is so uninformed that we'll ignore all common nutrition knowledge because two pieces of fried chicken are lower in calories than a hamburger from a rival fast food joint. They even suggest removing the batter dipped skin to make it less fattening. But that's what makes it fried chicken. Who will go to KFC, eat only two pieces of chicken (no vegetables or other side dishes) with skin removed, just so it will contain slightly less fat than a gigantic fattening greasy hamburger?

What's happening is that junk food giants can read the writing on the wall. Slowly, Americans are learning more about nutrition—and about the relationship between fast food and obesity, heart disease and other debilitating and fatal diseases caused mainly by bad food like KFC’s fried chicken.
 

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Reader Q&A 

Q: Q: Do you know a natural way to end sugar craving? My wife is a diabetic, but she is drawn to sweet things like a bee to a flower. Thanks.
R. L.

A: I don’t know your wife’s specific circumstances or why she has such strong sugar cravings but she could probably benefit greatly by consulting a clinical dietitian if she's not already done so.

Having said that, I have some general suggestions, which I recommend she discuss with her doctor before trying, as I don’t know if they are appropriate for her specific health conditions.

I strongly believe that a healthy, wholesome diet coupled with daily exercise is key in helping the body function at its best.

A well-balanced diet and daily exercise could very well boost your wife's natural defense system not only lessening the effects of diabetes and reducing her insulin or medication dependency but also naturally regulating her metabolism, appetite and sugar cravings.

There are some deficiencies associated with the typical diabetic diet. A common recommendation is to avoid carbohydrates, and no real distinction is made between simple (refined sugars and processed starches) and complex (legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, whole grain cereals) carbohydrates. Elimination of complex carbohydrates, the most important source of energy for the body to function, may result in increased sugar cravings.

Consumption of complex carbohydrates is beneficial and even crucial in all diets and although they ultimately break down into glucose they do not go directly into the bloodstream whereas simple carbohydrates (simple sugars) do. Complex carbs are slowly digested releasing sugar into the blood very gradually without causing sharp increases or high levels of sugar in the blood like simple carbs do.

Complex carbohydrates help regulate and stabilize the metabolism and appetite, which in turn helps reduce, or stop sugar cravings resulting in better overall health. Diabetics are usually told to avoid carbohydrates increasing their intake of protein and fat by default. Eating a diet high in complex carbohydrates actually helps blood glucose regulation.

Excessive intake of protein and fat represents an unbalanced diet contributing to higher cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. High fat content in the bloodstream can interfere and even block the body's natural sensors that normally detect insulin. This may cause a rise in the blood sugar level, which makes the body require more insulin or other medications to stabilize it.

Diabetics often develop kidney problems. A high protein diet can be detrimental, as it can precipitate kidney damage. Protein must be processed by the body immediately, which puts added stress on cells that filter toxins in the body. Avoiding meat therefore may help prevent or reverse kidney damage.

There is not one ideal diet that perfectly suits all individuals. In your wife’s case, I don’t know how much restriction is required to control her blood glucose and fat values but in general, a healthy well-balanced diet should be varied and diverse every day. It should be very low in added fat and animal protein. Generally speaking, a nutritious diet for a diabetic with no allergies could include 3 to 4 servings of fresh organic vegetables (leafy greens, asparagus, zucchini, cucumber, spinach, broccoli, carrots, etc.), raw or steamed, 2 to 4 servings of different color fruit, 1 to 2 servings of legumes, grains, seeds and nuts and 2 to 3 servings of tofu, tempeh and seitan. Pasta, corn, peas, corn, potatoes and squash have a high content of complex carbohydrates but can be eaten in moderation and without added fat.

As I mentioned on my recent sugar articles, refined sugars should be avoided, especially people with diabetes. However, desserts made with wholesome ingredients such as whole grain flours and sweetened with sucanat, rapadura or fruit sauce can be eaten occasionally and in moderation are okay as part of a healthy diet for physically active person.

Again, I can’t stress enough how vital it is to eat healthfully and exercise daily, especially for diabetics. A good diet and regular exercise alone will not only reduce or even eliminate sugar cravings but also minimize the negative effects of diabetes. When you truly understand what too much sugar actually does to you, it doesn't taste so good anymore.

Education on the subject is empowering, so learning and getting excited about healthy food and exercise, makes good food taste better and physical activity feel blissful.

A lot of people who try to reduce their consumption of this or increase their intake of that based solely on doctors orders often fail to control their diets. They're not internalizing the information or taking ownership of and responsibility for their own health. Careful reading about one's own medical and dietary situation is the first step in taking control.



Words of Wisdom

“You don’t just stumble into the future. You create your own future”.

Roger Smith


Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week


Click on the picture for a closer look!

Spaghetti with Tempeh and Broccoli (vegan)
Serves 4

This scrumptious and nutritious pasta dish contains a lot of garlic, which offers many health benefits, especially during cold and flu season. The garlic flavor is not really detectable or overpowering at all and you can’t even see it—it just gives it more taste. Even those who say they don’t like garlic would enjoy this dish.

Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Equipment: Food processor or blender

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
Boiling water for pasta (large pot, half full to cover pasta)
8 ounces dried spaghetti pasta (½ of regular 16 oz package)
2 tablespoons unrefined safflower or canola oil
12 fresh garlic cloves
½ small onion peeled and cut in 2 pieces
8 ounces tempeh, finely crumbled (about 2 cups)
3 tablespoons raw pine nuts (pignolias)
3 cups fresh broccoli florets, lightly steamed
1½ teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Reduced fat Veggy Parmesan cheese alternative (optional)

1. Cook pasta in boiling water as indicated on package instructions, stirring occasionally. Set timer. When pasta is done, drain then toss well with one tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.

2. On a separate large pot, heat safflower of canola oil over low heat. In the meantime, process garlic and onions in the food processor or blender until finely chopped. Add garlic and onion mixture to oil and sauté for 5 minutes or until lightly browned over medium heat stirring constantly.

3. Stir in tempeh and pine nuts sautéing for 5 more minutes. Add broccoli, basil, thyme, red pepper flakes and remaining one tablespoon of olive oil stirring well over low heat. Add pasta, black pepper and salt mixing thoroughly and sautéing for 3 minutes. Serve and sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese alternative. Leftovers will last a couple of days in the fridge.
 

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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.

Copyright© 2003 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.