Saturday, 28 February 2015

Fat. It's Still an Obsession

You have to hand it to the folks who managed to convince the whole world that fat was bad. Even now as the truth is beginning to trickle down, people are still not convinced.

I think the biggest eye opener for me was people I would have considered relatively well-up in relation to food. Increasingly, I have become convinced that the vast majority of people know nothing about food and even less about nutrition; even those that think they do. It's actually really scary.

I am skeptical about any industry that has profit as it's bottom line. Don't get me wrong. Big business has to make a profit to survive. But when the great unwashed have got to the stage that they believe big business over common sense then I think it's not unreasonable to be concerned.

I drew a comparison the other day on a white board between butter and margarine. At the end of it, the class, who let's face it are completely uneducated about food and nutrition were looking at me with their eyes wide open, asking why. 

Butter is made from cream that is beaten, salt is added and it's pressed into a shape. That's it.

Margarine is made from vegetable oil that is chemically hardened by bombarding it with hydrogen in a process known as hydrogenation, (vegetable oil is naturally liquid at room temperature.) Then water is added to add weight. Because oil or the now hardened fat and water don't mix they need to add emulsifiers and stabilisers. Then to add back some flavour (because the oil has been deodorised) they need to stick some milk solids in to the mix. Then because they have heated the bejaysus out of the oil and destroyed all the nutrients they add back some fat soluble vitamins.

So now which do you think is better for you? Even the artifical one with the claims that it's "heart healthy" or has the power to reduce your cholesterol?

But I can guarantee you there will be still people who will buy "Low Low" over butter because it's lower calorie. The fact that the whole calorie measurement is now open to debate will have escaped them because they are still listening to nonsense from WeightWatchers or Slimming World. Both of whom are multi million euro businesses who make their money out of people losing weight and then failing miserably and having to go back to them.

It really doesn't take a multitude of grey matter or common sense to tell the difference between a natural product that has been villified and a product that is the result of science and big money.

I just hope that the farmer outlives the chemist.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Calories on Menus

The calorie on menu debacle has raised it's ugly head again as our nanny state tries to put a sticky plaster on the obesity epidemic. But does anyone know what calories are or how they are calculated?

The original formula was calculated by a Mr. Atwater at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth. Without going into a lengthy scientific explanation, he essentially burned different food groups and measured the heat output. Not very scientific eh? His system fails to differentiate between different carbohydrates (sugars, starches and fibre) the latter being indigestible.

Fats for example must be broken down into their component fatty acids by the digestive system. To do this requires energy expenditure. Considerably more energy expenditure than metabolising sugars for example which can be quickly converted into energy for the cells and then the excess mopped up and converted to glycogen for storage in the liver for later use. This is all enabled by insulin production. Fats therefore make you feel full for longer, speed up your metabolism and helps you lose weight and you are less likely to overeat. Whereas high sugar foods give you a fast fix but lead to more cravings for sugars as you are not satisfied. This is the basis of the diet industry's success as their mantra is decrease fat and replace the fat with sugar.

There is a theory that modern day sugar formats such as high fructose corn starch (HFCS) which has only been in existance for the last forty years, have confused our bodies metabolism.

Read the whole article here

"HFCS and cane sugar are NOT biochemically identical or processed the same way by the body. High fructose corn syrup is an industrial food product and far from “natural” or a naturally occurring substance. It is extracted from corn stalks through a process so secret that Archer Daniels Midland and Carghill would not allow the investigative journalist Michael Pollan to observe it for his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The sugars are extracted through a chemical enzymatic process resulting in a chemically and biologically novel compound called HFCS. Some basic biochemistry will help you understand this. Regular cane sugar (sucrose) is made of two-sugar molecules bound tightly together– glucose and fructose in equal amounts.The enzymes in your digestive tract must break down the sucrose into glucose and fructose, which are then absorbed into the body. HFCS also consists of glucose and fructose, not in a 50-50 ratio, but a 55-45 fructose to glucose ratio in an unbound form. Fructose is sweeter than glucose. And HFCS is cheaper than sugar because of the government farm bill corn subsidies. Products with HFCS are sweeter and cheaper than products made with cane sugar. This allowed for the average soda size to balloon from 8 ounces to 20 ounces with little financial costs to manufacturers but great human costs of increased obesity, diabetes, and chronic disease.Now back to biochemistry. Since there is there is no chemical bond between them, no digestion is required so they are more rapidly absorbed into your blood stream. Fructose goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol) this is why it is the major cause of liver damage in this country and causes a condition called “fatty liver” which affects 70 million people.
The rapidly absorbed glucose triggers big spikes in insulin–our body’s major fat storage hormone. Both these features of HFCS lead to increased metabolic disturbances that drive increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and more."

This product was not even in existance when Mr. Atwater formulated his calculation and yet it is found in almost every processed food. I'd hazard a guess you'd have a job to find it in a restaurant that is cooking a fresh, varied, seasonal menu daily.

So calories are not all the same. There are less calories in a Mars Bar than in an avocado but the Mars Bar is full of HFCS.  There may be more calories in a steak served with a Bearnaise sauce made with butter and organic egg yolk than in a Big Mac meal but the calories in the latter are beneficial calories and may actually speed up your metabolism.

If the government is serious about educating the population about healthy eating then it should begin in primary schools. Anyone who has or has had children will know all about the "pester power" of children. I used teach small children how to cook and they were always fascinated at how easy it was to make their favourite fast foods. They learned how to make healthy fish fingers, chicken goujons, sausage rolls, chow mein, spring rolls, pizza, lemonade and Nutella. I heard from a few parents that because of this they now make all these foods at home with their children and they wouldn't dream of buying a frozen pizza again.

Similarly, I now teach adults a nutrition and menu planning module as part of a professional cookery course. They all now understand how to read a label, how many different names are used for sugars and what the different additives are used for. This is a much more beneficial skill to have than relying on a nanny state forcing a restaurant to calculate calories for a dish. In this respect they can now make an informed decision on what foods they buy or what foods they eat when out for a meal.

Incidentally, when Mr. Atwater calculated the calories in alcohol, he threw it on the fire and it emitted a huge amount of heat. If you throw coal on the fire you will also get a load of heat but that doesn't mean we can metabolise coal.The nanny state would do well to throw this bill on the fire and see how much hot air is emitted because it won't make a whit of difference to the obesity epidemic.