The Sour side of Sweet

Everyone knows that a piece of chocolate can help you boost your mood when things are looking gloomy, but don’t bring refined sugars into this circle. The British Journal of Psychiatry published a cross-cultural analysis in 2011 that showed a ‘strong correlation between refined sugar consumption and mental illness’.

“What could cause this?’, you maybe asking yourself. Well, we have got the breakdown, it involves some neurological terms, but bare with us, it’s important. What you need to understand is that our brain requires a chemical called ‘brain-derived neurotrophic factor‘ (BDNF) which serves as a growth hormone in the brain. It helps maintain the health of the millions of neurons working in our brain muscle by helping them make new connections between each other and aid with memory function.

Refined sugar consumption suppresses the release of this hormone, which has a potential to increase depression and schizophrenia. In fact, individuals that suffered from these mental illnesses, were shown to have low levels of the BDNF hormone.  Aside from causing a risk for mental illnesses, consuming high dosage of refined sugar leads to inflammation in the body and prevents our immune system from properly functioning. This chronic inflammation can lead to arthritis, different forms of cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, and other illnesses, which includes depression and schizophrenia.

Professor of University of Kansas, Dr. Illardi, said that there is a solution for this, and all it requires of you is a diet change. His patients, suffering from mental illnesses, have shown that their new diet high in whole grains and low in refined foods and sugar, significantly improved their mental health and clarity. So the next time you are having a bad day, remember to stick to natural sugars and chocolates, and leave those refined sugars and food to the side, they will only worsen your mental state.

The truth about Low Fat produce.

 With the growth of the amount of obese people in America and across the world food producers started to look for solutions. The low fat produce revolution started in the mid 80‘ offering the consumers more and more varieties, 30% less fat, 35% less fat. Today you can find in grocery stores a turkey breast ham with 97% less fat. How is that even possible? I would like to present you what are the actual results of following such a diet.

Besides ham, nowadays in american supermarkets you can find any kind of products that have less fat: butter, chips, ham, cheese, hummus, soda, turkey, orange juice or any other product you can think of. Most of us think that what makes us fat is actually fat. Even the word is the same, however from a nutritional point of view it is quite different. People tend to forget that fat is one of the three essential macronutrients. Moreover we have to remember that there are different kinds of fat, some are healthy others are less. Annemarie Colbin, founder and CEO of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts said:

“Together with protein and carbohydrate, fat is an important source of calories. We need essential fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic acid, or Omega 6 and Omega 3 for many important functions, namely:

1. To keep us warm, especially in the winter, as the breakdown of fats creates heat. The diet of the Eskimos gets about 60% of its calories from fat, and on their native diets they don’t have heart disease.

2. For proper hormone function, especially for women.

3. To keep our cell walls strong.

4. To absorb and store the fat-soluble vitamins, especially Vitamin D, needed to help absorb calcium from the intestines. Women who don’t get enough good quality fatty acids may end up with low Vitamin D stores and therefore bone thinning.”

Eating products with less fat, creates a danger that we will end up consuming much more products because the lack of fat oils makes us feel less full. It is much healthier to eat a spoon of real peanut butter than a fake one. I mentioned before that some fats are unhealthy, but are there any good ones? Annemarie Colbin has a response:

“Among the best are extra virgin olive oil, unrefined sesame and sunflower oil, unrefined flax seed oil, walnut oil, organic butter and clarified butter or ghee. Omega 3 fatty acids are in fresh dark cold water fish like salmon and mackerel, as well as in flax seed oil. Omega 6’s are in the sesame and sunflower oil. Fresh organic butter from healthy cows fed green grass can be an excellent source of natural Vitamin A.”

Moreover, a lot of scientists believe that low fat produce may increase the risk of heart disease. Nutritionist Natasha Campbell-McBride, who runs the Cambridge Nutrition Clinic, believes that “The whole notion of saturated fat as some kind of bete noire is simply wrong, as is the existence of so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol. Fats and cholesterol help create and protect the white blood cells and millions of other cells that repair the wall linings when damaged.”

When you remove fat from food you need to replace it with other substances. Often producers of such food add sugars or salt. They don’t contain fat, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have calories and that they don’t make us fat. Moreover some of the sugars that are added might be a little bit addictive. For example diet soda contains NutraSweet “which is often found in different types of diet sodas, is known to cause excessive hunger or thirst. Another reason that you will probably find yourself feeling thirsty after you have drank diet soda is because it contains so much sodium, which is known to cause constant thirst.”

I believe that we need to come back to what our grandparents called food (which now is called bio or eco food), when all the produce contained real fat, sugar and proteins. In some cases low fat food can actually lead to obesity, which is a kind of a paradox. Unfortunately it is one of thousands of paradoxes we are surrounded with.





Posted by Piotr Wielezynski

Our increasing caloric intake

When we think about food waste, our thoughts often ends at the moment when we realize that a given produce has been thrown away. We tend to forget about all other derivatives that are also thrown away at the same moment. A few weeks ago I posted an entry about how food waste also leads to land misuse or mismanagement. Today I would like to reveal results from a study that I found extremely interesting.

“The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact” was carried out by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The study gives you a very important piece of information, i.e. food waste leads to wastage of all the energy that was put into the production of food. According to the research  “in 1974 approximately 900 kcal per person per day was wasted whereas in 2003 Americans wasted, 1400 kcal per person per day or, 150 trillion kcal per year.” The rise of the energy input is directly correlated to the annual per capita rise in municipal solid food waste. “Municipal solid food waste accounts for approx. 30% of the total wasted food energy assuming that solid food from the US diet has an energy density of 1.9 kcal/g”. Figures show that food waste has grown from 30% in 1974 to over 40% in recent years, and is still growing. We also need to remember that serving portions still continue to grow. I will post a blog entry about serving portions in today’s world later.

Agriculture in the US uses around 70% of the freshwater supply. Taking into account that 40% of all food is wasted it means that around 30% of all freshwater goes to waste. In a book “How sustainable agriculture can address the environmental and human harms of industrial agriculture.” written by Horrigan L., Lawrence R.S. and Walker P. we get the information that an average farm requires 3 kcal of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 kcal of food before counting in energy required for transportation and processing. It means that food waste accounts for around 300 million barrels of oil per year, which represents approx. 4% of total US oil consumption.

I believe that it is very important to understand the immense negative impacts of  the food waste problem. To be aware that food waste exist is one thing, but to know about all of its implications and impacts on the society and the environment is another, and more important one. If people don’t understand the problem the idea might not stick with them and the message won’t spread. After all, the ones that know the most can explain a given issue better.

Posted by Piotr Wielezynski

About Micheal Pollan

Today you will get to know about another expert of the food industry, Michael Pollan. Pollan is an American author, activist, journalist and professor of Journalism at the UC Berkley Graduate School. For the past 25 years he has been writing books and articles about places where nature and culture meet, i.e. on our plates, in our gardens and our farms.He is an author of a couple of bestsellers, a brief description of which you can find in ourliterature section: Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (2010); In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008); The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006) and The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World (2001).

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals is his best-known work. It is written in an easy to read language, which helps you to get through this topic that for some may seem not that interesting. The book gives you the big picture of what are our (western civilization) habits related to food and what stands behind these habits. In my opinion it is an issue that we don’t think about but is crucial to our daily life.

Micheal Pollan’s passion is gardening and this is how he finds a lot of inspiration for his books. He believes that the contact a human being has with nature is fundamental to understand processes that are being undertaken on our planet. Without direct experience and physical contact you are simply unable to understand it. His books are written with a very simple language. Pollan writes his books as if they were stories that he tells to people. His purpose is to make people think in a more ecological way, and to have more respect for nature.

The latest book he has published is the illustrated version of food rules. It is a get together of more than 80 rules that every single person in the world should know about. It is an easy read and because of its style you can put it away and get back to it anytime you want. We want to share a couple of them with you to energize you for the read:

1. It is better to eat something that stands on one leg, than something that stands on two legs, than something that stand on four legs.

2. The 3 S rule: Sweets and Salt only on S days

3. Sometimes you need to break some rules.

Every type of food is good for you, considering it is healthy and your diet is well balanced. It is important to make sure that your diet is full of color and that there’s a bit of everything on your plate. So head to your local store and explore!!


posted by Piotr Wielezynski

Starbucks cares

In an effort to help reduce, or at least put to good use, the tons of organic waste that Starbucks produces, the company is supporting researchers in Hong Kong that want to utilize this organic waste for something useful.

The City University of Hong Kong are working on a ‘biorefinery‘ project, which uses fungi that help breakdown carbohydrates into simple sugar. Once this sugar begins to ferment, it becomes a succinic acid. This acid can be used in various products, including:  detergents, bio-plastics, and medicines.

Though the company does not yet use this method for its waste, or incorporate it into its silverware products, it is a great start. Also, it is always nice to see a corporation that not only recognizes its carbon footprint, but tries to do something about it.