October 2015 will be remembered as a bad month for bacon-lovers; that’s the time when the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that processed red meat—like that found in sausage, bacon, hot dogs, and salami—causes an increased risk of cancer. The report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer puts eating processed red meat in the same risk category as inhaling asbestos or smoking tobacco; that is, it is designated “carcinogenic for humans.”
The report, which was published in British medical journal The Lancet Oncology, defines processed meat as “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.” Just 50 grams of processed meat per day—equivalent to two slices of smoked ham—raises the risk of colorectal (colon) cancer by 18%. However, it is important to note that the risk is not very high to start with, and while smoking, asbestos, and processed meat all carry the same label, they are not all equally dangerous.
In a move that has the meat industry up in arms, the report also cites unprocessed red meat (steak, lamb chops, etc.) as being “probably carcinogenic for humans.” While the correlation to cancer from processed meat is mainly to colorectal cancer, the correlation to cancer from unprocessed meats is to pancreatic and advanced prostate cancer.
Of course, as spokespeople from the meat industry were quick to rebut the report, saying that the IARC “tortured” the data and cherry-picked results. As most of us know, red meat is not only an important source of protein, but also one of the most reliable and robust sources of iron. As with most dietary recommendations, the same advice probably pertains to red meats; eat a balanced diet that is low in fat and high in nutrients and protein, and you probably won’t go far wrong.
One of the benefits of living in the South is enjoying fresh produce all year long. Different items are available at different times, of course, but then again, variety is the spice of life. Read on to discover how to make the most out of fall’s best produce.
- Apples, those most quintessential of fall fruits, are filled with antioxidants that have been proven to fight cancer and other diseases. An apple a day may truly keep the doctor away!
- Cranberries are harvested in the fall, creating beautiful pools of deep red berries in a sea of golden grasses. Their beauty is not only skin-deep: cranberries are high in Vitamins C and A, as well as phytonutrients and manganese.
- We’ve grown accustomed to having access to grapes all year round, but they are freshest in the fall. They are a good source of Vitamins K and C, and an anti-inflammatory compound called resveratrol. As with many fruits and vegetables, the darker they are, the more antioxidants they have.
- Winter squash come in all varieties, including butternut, acorn, and spaghetti. This sweet, hearty fruit lends itself to roasting and is a good source of Vitamin C and carotenoids, which help prevent heart disease.
- As their dark color indicates, beets are absolutely chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. These include: folic acid, potassium, beta carotene, magnesium, iron, fiber, phosphorus, and Vitamins A, B, & C.
- Have you ever tried fresh Brussels sprouts? They bear little relation to the bitter mini-cabbages that you might have shunned as a kid. Fresh Brussels sprouts have a bright, rich flavor that can be improved through roasting, grilling, or sautéing. Brussels are part of the family of Cruciferous vegetables, which also include broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, and cauliflower. Cruciferous vegetables are all high in glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that have been linked to reduced cancer risks.
- The rich, sweet flavor of yams belies their healthfulness. Like squash, they’re full of carotenoids as well as potassium, Vitamin E, and copper.
Just a few hundred years ago, humans had very few choices when it came to sweeteners. Cane sugar was cultivated as early as 500 BCE, but it didn’t make its way to Europe until 1400, where it was a luxury available to only an elite few. In the mid-1800s, it was discovered that sugar beets contained more sucrose than sugar cane, and since they grew better in northern climates, they eventually replaced sugar cane as the primary source of sugar for the western world.
A chemist named Constantin Fahlberg invented the first sugar substitute, saccharin, in 1884. However, it didn’t gain popularity until the shortages of World War I brought it to the nation’s attention. During the 1950s and 1960s, dieters embraced the calorie-free sweetener as an aid for weight loss. Since that time, dozens of sweeteners have become available as the threat of obesity has grown. Read on to learn about the four major classes of sweeteners and the differences among them.
Natural sweeteners usually undergo less processing than artificial sweeteners. They often have as many calories as sugar, but provide a different taste. Natural sweeteners include the following:
- Fruit juice
- Maple syrup
- Agave nectar
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes. They are often extremely sweet, so only a little is needed. They have virtually no calories. These are examples of artificial sweeteners:
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
- Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
Novel sweeteners are created from naturally occurring ingredients, but they are not wholly natural. They are generally considered safe for general use, and they have few to no calories. Novel sweeteners include the following:
- Stevia extracts (Pure Via, Truvia)
- Tagatose (Naturlose)
Finally, sugar alcohols are naturally occurring carbohydrates that can be almost as sweet as sugar. They have fewer calories than sugar, so they are frequently used in the formulation of many processed foods. Look for the following names on ingredient lists:
- Hydrogenated starch hydrolysate
The food and foodservice industries are like cruise ships; they’re huge, and they turn very slowly. Unlike fashion trends, which change with each season, food trends change slowly over time, with new products gaining a niche market before expanding more broadly.
That being said, this fall’s food trends follow the large-scale shift that we’ve been experiencing for the past few years: a focus on healthier food and a willingness to pay more for it. In fact, the 2015 Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Survey indicates that 90 percent of 30,000 respondents are willing to pay more for healthier food. Organic food sales have tripled in the past decade and continue to rise, and consumers are looking more closely than ever at their food’s labels to get a clearer sense of what they’re putting into their bodies.
This fall, we’re seeing the healthy food trend continue, with many traditionally unhealthy foods trying to clean up their acts. Competing with candy bars, dark chocolate-covered fruit and nuts are gaining popularity due to the anti-oxidants in dark chocolate and the vitamins and nutrients in fruits and nuts. Gummy fruit candy is now available with 20 grams of whey protein.
Consumers are keeping an eye on what they eat, and they’re more likely than ever to want clear, readable labels. The “clean label” movement focuses on ingredient lists that sound like consumers could find them in their own kitchens. The movement has even spawned its own conference and a growing consulting industry! Businesses are also increasingly “freeing” their foods of ingredients that consumers view as being undesirable; thus, look for more products bearing “gluten-free,” “GMO-free,” “nut-free,” or other “-free” labels.
The market for local food also continues to grow, with more consumers than ever being willing to pay more for locally source food or ingredients. Local sourcing can be a headache for companies, and many are responding with a mix of local and regional ingredients. This increases the freshness of the food, supports the local economy, and reduces the environmental impact of the supply chain: all factors that influence consumer purchasing.