Greetings! It is Friday again, which means it is time for the usual Five for Fridays! If you are just joining, this is where I highlight some of the recent food and nutrition related stories. This is also my soapbox where I offer my rants and not-so-scientific personal opinions! Sometimes, I also highlight the work of some of my favorite nutrition bloggers. Your comments and personal opinions, especially if you disagree with me, are most welcome and highly valued!

So, here are this Friday’s five! Enjoy and let me know what is on your mind.

Fruits and vegetables do not reduce cancer risk, but that’s no reason to give up on them

It appears that eating fruits and vegetables only slightly reduces your risk of getting cancer according to a recent study analyzed by Dr Ayala in her very insightful article “Another apple-a-day may save more lives than the Toyota recall“. Does it mean that we should ignore the advice of 5 fruits and veggies a day and bypass the produce aisle in the grocery store?

Absolutely not argues Dr Ayala and I agree completely. A diet rich in fruits and veggies has many benefits for your overall health and well-being. If there is anything you should ignore, it is studies like this and the sensational headlines that inevitably follow in the mass media.

I have a real problem with such studies and I am amazed they get funded in the first place! I doubt if they offer any value to the common public, except probably to the media machine hungry for anything that can be labeled as health related.

By the way, check out the long list of authors who wrote the original paper in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Granted that everyone has to make a living, but come on, this is crazy! Work on better hypotheses and solve some real problems!

To lose weight, take a cold shower

This may sound totally insane, but new research is suggesting that you can train your body to burn more calories simply by getting used to a cold environment! Turns out that exposure to cold activates brown fat inside your body, which is known to produce heat (which means burning calories) in contrast to the insulating nature of the regular fat. Believe it or not, researchers are discovering that obese mice are able to burn off half of their fat within a week simply by living in a cold environment even if they eat more than 1.5 times their usual diet.

It appears that our bodies have a built-in heat producing mechanism to offer protection against cold. Babies are born with brown fat which helps them keep warm long before they learn how to shiver. Even adults have this brown fat but it is not active. Cold environment activates the brown fat, and so does a special protein discovered by researchers at Harvard. Some are now thinking about developing a drug to encourage production of brown fat to solve our obesity problem!

Don’t get too excited though! Keep in mind, that a healthy weight is a result of achieving and maintaining the right energy balance your body needs. Energy in minus energy out equals weight gain (or loss) – it is that simple. You don’t have to torture yourself by taking a cold shower every day, or wait for a fancy anti-obesity drug!

Don’t fall for the low fat label, you may actually eat more calories

Would you believe that putting a low fat label on snacks causes people, especially those who are overweight,  to underestimate the calories and actually eat more? There is a devilish effect from this health halo, writes registered dietitian Janet Helms on her blog Nutrition Unplugged this week.

I found this research quite fascinating, although, not really surprising. This is the result of clever marketing messages on the package, which are designed to lower the resistance and enhance the urge to eat. This is no different from advertising for other products which often targets the hidden desires and aspirations of consumers. Brand associations are powerful, and once they stick, consumer choice is nearly automatic. Why is it that you always pick the same brand of toothpaste, shampoo and laundry detergent even though other options, including cheaper store brands, are available on the same shelf? It is the job of the marketer to make the product irresistible by serving consumer needs at many different levels. And some of them are very good at what they do!

The problem, I think, is not with the marketing slogans on food products. Although this notion is quite popular among today’s experts who propose imposing limits on food marketing, even to the extent of imposing a twinkie tax! The problem is in a total lack of awareness and self-empowerment on the part of the common consumer.

How can you fight the influence of such powerful marketing? Not by banning these products, but by making smart choices. Consider a mix of an offensive-defensive strategy by building your family’s personal brand. That will be your anchor which can offer some strength against the currents of powerful brand marketing. Also check out Janet’s insightful suggestions on how to enjoy real foods and practice mindful eating.

Many ways to enjoy vegetables, give it a try

More people are trying to include veggies in their diet and that is great news! Even better, there are so many ways to enjoy vegetables whether you like them raw, medium or well done according to the Fooducate blog, which offers helpful tips for making smart choices in the supermarket. There are many useful tips in this particular article, but this one resonated with me the most:

If you are thinking about incorporating more vegetables into meals, worry less about the healthiest preparation method, and figure out the tastiest and most convenient use case for you.

I think this is great advice. A large variety of vegetables are available in a typical supermarket today, whether in the fresh produce section or in the frozen foods aisle. Plus there is no shortage of recipes – you can check out our own simple recipes section for ideas! So go ahead, give it a try and share your vegetable story!

Calling all recovering picky eaters

My blogger friend Jenna of KidAppeal is on a mission! Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, she wants to register 1000 recovering picky eaters in a month and help them develop a taste for a wide range of wholesome food. Interesting idea; so I am supporting her by spreading the word out. Now, you might be considered a recovering picky eater if:

  • there are foods you don’t eat simply because you don’t like them even though they are good for your health; and
  • you want to shrink the list of objectionable foods because you want to eat better and set a good example

If this is you, check out her blog and sign up! You got nothing to lose except a few bad habits!

Enjoy and let me know what is on your mind.

Photo Source: robbie jim on Flickr

©2010 Littlestomaks.com

4 comments

  1. What a great post and summary for the week. I saw an article on the brown fat in the WSJ and think it’s a really interesting area for future research. I totally concur regarding the “anti” fruit and vegetable studies, we can file those away with Time magazines story that exercise doesn’t help weight loss and many other reports that simply help people justify not adopting healthy habits. Can common sense please enter the conversation? Glad I found your blog, can’t wait to see next Friday’s round up.

  2. What a great post and summary for the week. I saw an article on the brown fat in the WSJ and think it’s a really interesting area for future research. I totally concur regarding the “anti” fruit and vegetable studies, we can file those away with Time magazines story that exercise doesn’t help weight loss and many other reports that simply help people justify not adopting healthy habits. Can common sense please enter the conversation? Glad I found your blog, can’t wait to see next Friday’s round up.

  3. thanks for sharing the 1000 picky eater challenge here. by the way, how goes eating salad for you??

  4. thanks for sharing the 1000 picky eater challenge here. by the way, how goes eating salad for you??

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