Never Trust a Food Company’s Research on Sugar

Wow, time flies…just realized that it well over a year since I posted anything here, I bet you thought I had left this blog for dead. I have been posting things at my main site hungrymaneats.com, but life has been just annoying and challenging enough that posting here was not happening. I actually went over five months between postings at my main site, but am getting active again.

I was puttering around online today when I saw the following story: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/food-makers-pay-study-discredit-sugar-research-n698051

Linked within that story is the following story: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/sugar-industry-manipulated-heart-studies-review-finds-n646836

Go ahead and check them out, don’t worry about making me wait, I’ll be right here when you are done…

See, that didn’t take long.

So, to summarize, the second link is all about research performed back in the 1960’s and 1970’s that downplayed the effects of sugars and other carbohydrates on heart disease and emphasized the impact that fat and cholesterol had. Research since then has shown that excess sugar is just as bad for the heart as excess fat and cholesterol. One of the unfortunate things that resulted from this was that official government dietary guidance issues shortly thereafter emphasized reducing your intake of fat and cholesterol, but didn’t have so much to say about added sugar.

The first link is from today, apparently the food industry has published an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM) that says that there is no clear link between eating things that have added sugar in them (like soda) and negative impacts on one’s health. A quote from the executive director of the organization that funded the paper was quoted in an article on NPR stating: “This is not an industry attempt to undermine the science,” Eric Hentges, the executive director of ILSI, North America, told us. He says the aim of the paper is to examine the inconsistencies in sugar guidelines around the globe and to examine the science behind the specific recommendations. “The purpose of the paper was to investigate specifically the quality of methods and the quality of evidence,” Hentges told us.”

The problem with this is that the food industry/sugar lobby has gained a reputation for funding studies and supporting organizations that will support the practices of the food industry/sugar lobby, or at least try to challenge the general agreement among researchers and scientists that increased sugar consumption is unhealthy (see that second link). That first link also included some other dubious findings that the food industry/sugar lobby had funded the research for: “In 2014, the soda lobby funded a study that said diet sodas promote weight loss better than water. A 2011 study from the National Confectioners Association found that children and adolescents who eat candy tend to weigh less.”

The second problem is that this is not some esoteric concept like dark matter or quantum physics that hardly anybody has heard of, let alone grasp the concepts of. If you were to go and do a survey that asked people “Does added/excess sugar in one’s diet have a negative impact on one’s health?” I would bet that a majority of people would say yes. I don’t think the food industry/sugar lobby is aware that the general public is as educated on this matter as they are.

Does this concept of trying to introduce confusion and casting doubt upon the science sound familiar? If so, it is because this is the same sort of tactic that the people who try to deny climate change use to make it seem like something is less definitive than it actually is (usually to keep raking in money).

I also don’t think that it’s a coincidence that these sorts of studies keep appearing as localities and governments propose taxes on sugar and products with added sugar to try to get people to consume less of those products. I will have to write about my thoughts on that some other time as I actually agree with the food industry/sugar lobby and don’t think taxing those products is the right idea.

 

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Some Changes on the Main Site

If you have had the opportunity to visit my main site at www.hungrymaneats.com in the past week or so, you may have noticed some recent posts that had a bit of a different flavor. To summarize what I said on my main site in brief here, I paid a visit to a doctor for the first time in a while and discovered that I was rather unhealthy, I weighed too much, had high cholesterol and had blood pressure that was “through the roof” high. This means that in addition to the usual interesting and boring things I talk about, that I will also be talking about (perhaps most of the time, especially early on here) my efforts to lose weight and most importantly the food aspect of my attempt to lose weight. I am not as young as I used to be and there is a history of heart and blood pressure issues in my family, so the time for procrastination is rapidly drawing to a close.

So check it out at some point, I plan on providing some interesting insights as well as advice and recipes too in my attempt to lose weight, my goal is to shed 67 pounds so that I can get down to 200. I also hope to provide some more opinionated writing and other things on this site as well that don’t get the full write up treatment on the main site.

Until the next time, stay hungry my friends…

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Yes, You Can Screw Up a Hamburger

A homemade hamburger is one of the easier foods you can make, all you need to get started is some ground beef, a bun and the rest is left to your imagination. How hard can it be to mess up a meal as simple as this? Not hard at all actually…

I recently had a friend tell me about her dinner out at a co-workers home, the main dish was to be homemade hamburgers. A hamburger can range from something as complicated a stuffed burger or one with lots of assorted spices and things like this one to something as simple as a glob of ground beef stuffed into a patty shape and then cooked.

So what ended up going wrong here? Nothing was said regarding what went into the burgers, it was how they were prepared that was the issue. They were pan fried (not that there is anything wrong with that) but the “chef” wielding the spatula was squishing each burger down as it was flipped thus squishing out all of the flavor and juice as well. The finished product was a bland, dry hockey puck of a burger. This coworker and his wife also have the peculiar habit of not serving hot foods hot or cold foods cold, they let the food sit around until it is barely warm or cold and then serving it.

In the past, I have had my own bad burger experiences, a highly defective couple who I had the misfortune to have once called friends were the guilty party on both occasions. On the first occasion, I was informed that we were having burgers and was asked if I could bring down my mini Foreman grill. What then transpired was me working two mini Foreman grills on the kitchen countertop. Again, as mentioned above, squishing a burger while it is cooking causes all the juices and flavor to run out and be wasted. It didn’t help matters that these people liked their burgers well done, which though a bit more of an opinion then a mistake runs counter to what I consider a properly done burger, where I consider medium to be a job “well done”. The second occasion was not the burgers fault, the burgers were turkey burgers which had been acquired from a reputable source (though only after raving about how good the burger itself tasted did they admit that they were not homemade, I strongly suspect that had I not pressed the subject they would have happily passed them off as homemade) the issue was the condiment situation. Now a good hamburger can stand on its own with few condiments, but a burger that is lacking condiments seems naked and missing something. The right blend of condiments and add-ons can turn a good burger into a great one. So what went wrong this time? All of the condiments (ketchup, mustard and a single solitary packet of mayo) came from found packets found in drawers and the only add-on available was lettuce. Sigh…

Have I ever screwed up my own hamburgers, on a few occasions…. I once grilled up a batch of burgers that had the barely there taste of unlit lighter fluid due to an uncooperative grill and charcoal. If you can call cooking a burger well done by mistake a screw up, then there is another yes. On another occasion I over salted the meat and that is just one of those things that you cannot undo.

As long as you don’t squish a burger while it is cooking, you are well on your way to preparing a successful homemade burger.

 

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Why Yes, I Did Actually Try the Italiano Burger…

The Italiano Burger

I recently had the opportunity to dine out at the Olive Garden for lunch, and you know what that meant I had to do: Readers with a good memory will recall that one of my first entries involved me kind of mocking the concept of their new lunch hamburger, The Italiano Burger. I had also silently resolved to actually try out the wacky concept if I ever found myself at an Olive Garden at lunchtime. It took over seven months before the opportunity presented itself, and I was ever so slightly surprised that it was still on the menu, I thought that there would be a chance it would have vanished in the time it took for me to get around to trying it.

What’s in the Italiano Burger? It is a 6 ounce beef patty topped with crispy Italian prosciutto, mozzarella cheese, arugula, marinated tomatoes and a garlic aioli spread, with garlic parmesan fries on the side.

So how was it? It was not a fiasco or failure, it was quite edible, but I feel that it is a missed opportunity as it is presented. My number one issue with it was a lack of flavor, when I had some bites that had enough of all of the disparate ingredients coming together, it tasted good, the problem was those bites were few and far between. The burger needed more cheese (pictures I have seen online of other peoples burgers all seem to have had more cheese on them than mine did), more flavorful marinating on the tomatoes, more arugula, and a lot more of the garlic aioli spread. The burger patty itself was unremarkably pedestrian and more flavor elsewhere would have spruced things up greatly. The crispy prosciutto did not seem special, if anything it resembled bacon too much served crispy as it was.

On the other hand, the garlic parmesan fries on the side were very good with lots of flavor imparted by the garlic and parmesan. My brother, who was dining with our group, suggested that perhaps they should have used marinara sauce rather than ketchup for dipping the fries in (it certainly would have been good to add to the burger if that was the case) and it would have made it seem a bit more Italian as well.

If you must have a burger for lunch and you somehow ended up at an Olive Garden instead of some place known for burgers, by all means go ahead and get one, it is an acceptable choice, but I think you would be much better served by selecting any of their other sandwich options. My sister in-law had their Chicken Parmigiana Sandwich and enjoyed it greatly, the full sandwich being the same price as the burger and the half sandwich being two dollars less, and all of the other sandwich options come with the awesome garlic parmesan fries as well.

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I Laugh In the Face of Expiration Dates

Time Magazine recently published an article that discussed how European researchers are presenting a paper that argues that certain products that include a “best by” date should not actually have a best by date on them. There is a difference between “best by” and “use by”, “best by” dates are usually included to indicate that there may be a loss of quality in the food that the date is on. A “use by” date is usually on products that go bad or may make you sick if you eat them after that date, such as milk. Even those dates seem a bit suspect as I have never ever had milk go bad on me on or even a day or two past the use by date. Proper storage plays an important role though, I only have my milk out of the fridge while I am using it, a typical gallon of milk a purchase may only spend 5 minutes unrefrigerated from the moment I first place it in my fridge, I always immediately put it back after I use it.

One of the key takeaways from the article linked above as well as this article here is that people are tossing out perfectly good food all the time because the food has reached a best by or use/sell by date. The key numbers tossed around are that around a quarter of the food you buy and anywhere from a third to half of the food you find in the grocery is tossed because it gets to be past a best by or use/sell by date. Now you know how big the modern grocery is, just imagine taking one out of every three products off of the shelves and just tossing it right into a dumpster, all that waste should make you feel sick to your stomach, and not because you ate something a day or even a week past it’s best by date.

For any food or drink to get tossed out at my place, it needs to be either smelling bad, tasting bad or growing something on it. I’m not sure what my percentage of wasted food is but it is a heck of a lot less than 25%. Best would be 0% so there is still work to be done…

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Sofritas=Tofu, Coming Soon to a Chipotle Near You

Chipotle is well known for their quality ingredients and variety of delicious flavor combinations, and now there is another interesting ingredient coming soon to a Chipotle near you: tofu.

Yes I said tofu, but not just plain tofu, they are calling it Braised Tofu Sofritas and it is a new alternative filling for the vegans and vegetarians out there who previously had to content themselves with the pinto beans and/or black beans as their protein. They describe it as “Organic tofu from Hodo Soy that we shred and then braise with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos, and a blend of aromatic spices.”

Sounds delicious, but does it taste as good as it sounds? Yes, and with some real kick to it as well from the poblanos. See what else Chipotle has to say about it here…

Back last summer, greatist.com went rather in depth in their review and discussion about it, it has certainly expanded beyond the west coast, but it is still not a nationwide product.

Hopefully it will be, because even though I am no vegan or vegetarian, I found the Sofritas to be one of the more flavorful additions available to your burrito or burrito bowl and a nice healthy alternative that compliments rather than distracts from your enjoyment of your food. Alas, Sophia Breene who penned the article for greatist.com last year would be a bit disappointed to hear that the Sofritas is still rather salty, and if they have toned it down some since then it must have been quite the salt bomb.

Emily Cohn at the Huffington Post, however, is not so delighted, so be aware, your pocketbook may take more of a hit compared to getting a veggie bowl.

Looking forwards to trying it again, will be curious to see if it is available in the Chipotle location near my work.

 

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The Golden Corral Breakfast Buffet

I don’t get to the Golden Corral all that much these days, usually only when I come to visit the family for Saturday morning breakfast, and even then t is only maybe twice a year or so as we have other preferred breakfast options. The only real advantages they have over other breakfast options is that they are all you can eat and there is a wide variety of choices to choose from.

A while back I saw that they were talking about their new and improved breakfast items, so when the opportunity arose to try them out I had high hopes and their breakfast was a decent option before.

So what did I find out?

The good:

  • The fresh made omelet bar appears as good as ever with what appeared to be a few more filling options (I did not get one this time as an omelet is almost a meal in itself).
  • The French toast was much improved, they were using a Texas toast thickness of bread and the flavor seemed stronger in a good way.
  • Chocolate milk cartons were available in addition to the usual regular milk.
  • The doughnuts seemed to be a fresher, more homemade style.

The bad:

  • They were serving something called “bacon candy” which were nuggets of bacon covered in a syrupy glaze. They tasted like sugared corned beef to me and were seriously disappointing.
  • The doughnuts did not taste as good even though they seemed fresher.
  • The sausage patties were less salty, but also much less flavorful.
  • Only one tray for scrambled eggs, this just may be a shortcoming of the location I was at, but just one spot on the line for a basic breakfast staple is poor logistics (and to make matters worse, I think the bacon candy had usurped the location of the second egg tray.

The ugly:

  • They have a little section for baked goods where the rolls and pastries go, but only one slot was occupied with a few muffins, it looked like they were out of a lot of stuff and not attempting to replenish the supply.
  • The chocolate milk tasted fine, but it was three days past its best by date. Now I am happy that the milk (which was perfectly fine to drink) did not go to waste and get tossed(so much food gets wasted when it goes past its best by date and is tossed) but that’s something you don’t expect to see at a restaurant.
  • The bacon. The bacon was a new thicker cut style of bacon and it was quite possibly the worst bacon I have had in my life. There was no consistency in how it was cooked, you either had a barely edible strip of meat that resembled a rawhide dog chew toy, or a floppy white strip of mostly fat that barely met the definition of cooked.

You can still find plenty good to eat at the Golden Corral for breakfast, but I doubt I will be back myself anytime soon.

You can find their breakfast items listed here, but you will need to select the breakfast buffet under the product nutrition information to actually get a listing, and even then I have a suspicion that it hasn’t been updated as I do not see some of the new items listed.

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