Why I Will Not Feel Bad About Feeding People Whole-Wheat Chocolate Cupcakes

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Using data from the Women’s Health Study, researchers found that women who consumed diets rich in whole grains had a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, with the protective effect holding even with other factors like weight, smoking and exercise habits in play.

This is interesting because whole grains’ benefits have been demonstrated in preventing heart disease and stroke, but this is new research on blood pressure.

(And I also don’t feel bad because the cupcakes are tasty, too.  If you want to make them, my whole-wheat chocolate cake recipe is here and my vegan chocolate frosting recipe is here.  Bake the cupcakes at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.)

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Study: More Benefit from Food-Based Calcium Than Supplements

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Today I ran across a story about results from a study at the Washington University School of Medicine that I found very interesting. The study found that women who get most of their calcium from food have healthier bones and higher bone density than those who get most of their calcium from supplements – even though the women who got most of their calcium from supplements had higher calcium intake.

From the story:

The “diet group” took in the least calcium, an average of 830 milligrams per day. Yet this group had higher bone density in their spines and hipbones than women in the “supplement group,” who consumed about 1,030 milligrams per day. Women in the “diet plus supplement group” tended to have the highest bone mineral density as well as the highest calcium intake at 1,620 milligrams per day.

So the combination seemed to have the most benefit. What I found so interesting was that the dietary calcium only group had higher bone density than the supplement group, even though their overall intake was lower. Remember the studies that came out a while back that found little benefit or actual harm from vitamin supplementation?

(I’ll say here, before I say this, that I am not an expert in nutrition.) I had fully expected to see more results like that. We know so little, comparatively, about what’s in the foods we eat and how our body uses it. We know that protein/fat/carbohydrate isn’t the end of the story as far as what the body needs. Vitamins in isolation are clearly not at all the end of the story either.

So I’m going to keep eating my produce-rich diet and encouraging others to do the same: Get lots of color in your diet. Use unsaturated fats. Choose whole grains. We don’t know what all the compounds are that are making the difference, but they’re doing us good, even if we haven’t identified them or explained their purpose yet.

Drunk and Spicy

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I ran across articles about two very interesting studies recently that had something important in common: both focused on items that when included as part of a meal, reduce the post-meal increase in blood sugar. The hope is that using such items in the diets of diabetics will help their blood sugar control.

The first study found that adding cinnamon to rice pudding reduced eaters’ post-meal blood sugar rise.

The next day, I came across another study that found having an alcoholic drink with a meal might help reduce eaters’ post-meal blood sugar rise.

Some would say further research is needed, but I think the implications for better health are clear: shots of Goldschlager for everyone!

Up With Spinach

Spinach Today in the food press, another one of the occasional stories noting the enormous growth in the spinach category – 66% from 1992 to 2002. If you’re not a close observer of the produce industry, the reasons for this are 1) bagged salad and 2) flat-leaf/baby spinach.

This is inspirational to everyone I know in produce, I think – it’s real proof that if you make something that’s healthy easy for people to do, they will do it. Until we get everyone’s minds changed about how easy it actually is to eat a healthy, fruit and vegetable-rich diet (we’ll be a while at that), packaged produce is where we can make the most impact to start.

This reminds me of one of my favorite studies I’ve seen, one that replaced the near-crunchy-water-and-nothing-else iceberg lettuce in fast-food sandwiches with spinach and found that consumers couldn’t tell the difference. What a great way to get more nutrients into people. Since then, Subway has added baby spinach to its menu.

Annual per capita consumption of spinach is now 2.4 lbs. per person, according to the USDA. I think my consumption is probably around four times that, hopefully making up for how badly I’m doing on my per capita consumption of soda, hot dogs and pizza.

Soda consumption down; first time in 20 years

There was this story making the rounds today about the beverage recommendations of a batch of experts. A recommendation that Americans drink less soda is prominent among them. It turns out they were heavily financed by Unilever, (parent company of Lipton Tea) and though one of the researchers says they were not swayed by the contribution, there have been complaints from the American Beverage Association that the recommendations give short shrift to milk and show too much acceptance for alcohol. (The ABA, of course, represents the manufacturers of non-alcoholic beverages. It’s hilarious to watch the carefully indignant press releases fly sometimes.)

At any rate, the natural companion to this piece is an article in the Times with the news that soda sales fell last year for the first time in 20 years. They don’t say with figures where the shift is going, though I think most people could tell you much of it is bottled water.

That Times article mentions a study in Pediatrics that found a direct correlation between the consumption of soda and other sweetened beverages and weight gain in teenagers. They delivered cases of low-calorie drinks to the teens and the teens lost weight.

Cue the previously-mentioned American Beverage Association:

The American Beverage Association, the trade and lobbying group for the beverage industry, criticized the study, saying that the weight loss occurred only among a “small, select group” and that the teenagers lost weight because of the loss of calories, not the absence of sweetened soda.

Uh, the absence of sweetened soda was the absence of calories.

“It stands to reason that anyone could lose weight if calories from any certain food or beverage are removed and not replaced by other calories,” the association said in a statement.

Of course they would. It’s just really easy to remove a lot of calories by removing sweetened soda.