Thursday, May 23, 2019

Batch of links - Eating healthy

Here’s another mix of old and new links, on the theme of trying to eat healthy.

- Some studies showed that when compared to regular produce, organic produce has more antioxidants compounds linked to better health and that the difference is statistically significant. I’m really not sure how much stock to put into that, but wouldn’t it be nice if it were true?

- Here are 10 pictures of the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, because sometimes, it’s easier to understand it when you see it.

- As far as sodium is concerned, moderation is best, because it turns out that eating too little salt actually increase one’s risk of mortality more than eating too much of it. This is true of so many foods that used to be demonized – fat is the first example that comes to mind!

- It turns out that there’s very little evidence that consumption of dairy is doing any good to adults. I have now given up my formerly quasi-daily chocolate milk, which has cut some sugar out of my diet as well… This is hard for most North Americans to accept, because we’ve been trained to think that only dairy can get us enough calcium, but there are also many vegetable sources of calcium, most of which seem to be more easily absorbed by the body!

- I enjoyed this article about the legal ramification of the wording on food packages, particularly the word “natural” (which does not legally mean anything and is therefore not synonymous with “healthy”, despite what many consumers would like to think).

- Coca-Cola sales have declined over health concerns, and the brand keeps making healthy changes to remain competitive (which seems to be working). Like buying an Australian beverage brand and Vitaminwater, though in both cases, health aspects were exaggerated. Coca-Cola isn’t going away anytime soon, though, thanks to its ingrained feel-good messaging. Heck, because of nostalgia (and Stranger Things), even New Coke is making a comeback. Here’s the recipe for the original flavor, though it doesn’t specify how to carbonate it.

- Emulsifiers may not be safe: a study done on mice shows that “these ingredients may also be contributing to the rising incidence of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease by interfering with microbes in the gastrointestinal tract.”

- Not that I would always recommend drawing quick conclusions. Six-year-olds may have the lowest death rate, but I wouldn’t conclude theirs is the safest diet! (Of course, I would dispute that subject’s particular interpretation of a six-year-old’s diet in the first place…)

- The FDA had mandated that calorie counts of each food item had to be written on menus in restaurant chains with at least 20 locations and on vending machines, effective by 2016. I don’t go out much, but I’ve started seeing the calorie counts and paying more attention to them. On the one hand, no one is pretending most restaurants are healthy, but on the other hand, we usually didn’t know just how many calories those meals contained… Perhaps diners will gravitate toward meals lower in calories, and restaurants will adapt by making their original best-selling dishes healthier? Or maybe most diners don’t care? This will be interesting to watch. (I’ve read that diners now reduce their calorie intake by 40 calories on average, but that seems pretty trivial.) I also wonder what will happen with popcorn at the movies! In parallel, the FDA also commissioned a lost-pleasure analysis as consumers will avoid some junk food. This lost pleasure is due in part to “healthier foods [being] worse off on other dimensions such as taste, price, and convenience” and it is estimated to cost between 2 and 5 billion dollars over 20 years.

- An interesting article titled The growth of Wal-Mart may have made America’s obesity epidemic worse. It contains the following gem: “These estimates imply that the proliferation of Wal-Mart Supercenters explains 10.5 percent of the rise in obesity since the late 1980s.” Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration recent efforts by the chain to make nutritious food more affordable and available in so-called food deserts.

- It can also be helpful to learn about supermarket psychology. Bon Appétit wrote a great in-depth article on the subject (Part 1 and Part 2). Some spoilers: it turns out that many modern grocery stores are designed in such a way that you have to move through them counterclockwise, because that means you’d pick stuff up with your right hand as you move along, and since most people are right-handed, that strategy is more lucrative for store owners. But apparently, the perimeter rule isn’t always valid anymore… And you know how stores offer you bite-sized samples of various products? It’s not actually just to get you to buy the product, it’s to make you hungry so you’ll buy more food, period. Go in there with a game plan!

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