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Hummus, the New Nutrient Rich Spread

No one knows for sure how far back the history of hummus goes, but traces of chickpea, the key ingredient, have turned up in Middle Eastern archeological sites dating to 7,500 B.C.  Made from the few ingredients of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), olive oil, lemon juice and salt hummus is a delectable, creamy, irresistibly tasty spread. Seasonings are added to taste and can be used to make different varieties like roasted pepper, roasted garlic, or stick with traditional and sprinkle some cumin on top.  The making of this dish is quite simple.  All the ingredients are simply ground down until they form a smooth paste.  These key ingredients come together beautifully and create a snack that is chock-full of nutrients that are linked to many health benefits.

Hummus-21-640x480Hummus is a great sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, iron, and fiber.  Beyond the nutritious benefits hummus is very satiating as well as rich in protein which helps you fight hunger cravings.  “Food satiety” is the scientific term used to describe our satisfaction with food—how full it leaves us feeling, and how effective it is in eliminating our sense of hunger and appetite.  Hummus can lower your risk of heart disease because it supports healthy cholesterol and blood pressure.  These nutrients also contribute to better regulation of blood sugar.

In a recent study, “two groups of participants received about 28 grams of fiber per day. But the two groups were very different in terms of their food sources for fiber. One group received dietary fiber primarily from garbanzo beans. The other group obtained dietary fiber from entirely different sources. The garbanzo bean group had better blood fat regulation, including lower levels of LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.”

The base of hummus is garbanzo beans.  Known by many names garbanzo beans are also commonly called chickpeas.  The name “chickpea” can be traced back through the French chiche, Latin for ‘chickpea’.  When found in the grocery store the name chickpeas and garbanzo beans are interchangeable, elsewhere there is subtle differences between the two.  The beans found in grocery stores are usually cream-colored and relatively round, known at the “kabuli-type”.  These beans come in many variety’s.  World wide the most common type of garbanzo been is the “desi-type” which is smaller, irregularly shaped, and varies in color.

Hummus’ popularity is on the rise because Americans are seeking more “healthy” snacks.  The sales of these types of spreads have gone up to $530 million in 2012, a 11 percent increase from a year earlier and a 25 percent jump over 2010, according to market-research firm Information Resources Inc.  Grocery isles have been filling up with many different brands of pre-made hummus.  Since this dish is so simply to make I highly suggest making it at home, which will also be more cost effective and you won’t have to worry about preservatives.

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“Health Halo” Effect

As rates of overweight and obese Americans have reached record-levels, advertising claims have become more common on the fronts of food packaging, creating concerns that they may lead consumers to see foods as healthier than they really are (Brownell & Horgen, 2004; Nestle, 2002; Pomeranz, 2001). The effects of marketing can be significant because nutrition claims made on packaging can create “health halos” that make foods appear healthier than they are, leading to higher consumption yet lower perceived calorie intake. It is important to understand that influence of nutrition claims (e.g. “low fat”, “high fiber”) on health-related judgments and decisions.   The effects of health claims on packaging is seen in a study done by Wansink and Chandon (2006) found that labeling both “healthy” and “unhealthy” food as “low fat” reduced calorie estimation by 20%-25%, and increased what was considered to be the “appropriate serving size” by 20%.

Chandon and Wansink introduced the “health halo” effect in 2007, referring to the findings that people tend to underestimate the calorie content of foods in restaurants where food choices are advertised as healthy, compared to restaurants that do not advertise a health image. One healthy attribute leads consumers to assume that foods offer other healthy but unclaimed attributes. Health claims on a product can produce a “halo effect” where consumers reported beneficial effects from the product beyond those specifically mentioned in the claim.  This shows that the way consumers are processing the information they seeing on packages is far more complex than them simply processing it, they use their own beliefs and ideas and therefor interpret the information in a different way than it may be presented. For instance many consumers may mistakenly think that low fat equates to low calorie.

The mere presence of a low-fat claim has been shown to lead to underestimation of calories and greater consumption (Wansink and Chandon 2006). In a study products with a half-the-fat claim and half-the-calorie claim 22 percent of the participants made a positive “health halo” inference and thought the product was “healthy” or “good for you.” Though the study found that the products that claimed to be “better-for-you” tended to be “healthier”. But this is not to say that “healthier” is synonymous with “healthy”.

“Labeling snacks as low fat increases food intake during a single consumption occasion by up to 50%. This is robust across both hedonic utilitarian snacks, across young and old consumers across self-reported nutrition experts and novices, in public and private consumption, and regardless of whether people serve themselves or not” Wansink and Chandon 2006.

Studies by Wanskin and Chandon 2006 suggested that low-fat nutrition claims increase consumption because they increase perception of the appropriate serving size and reduce anticipate consumption guilt. “Health halos influence consumption because people feel that they can eat more of healthy food, or can eat more unhealthy (but tasty) food after eating healthy food without suffering any adverse health consequences” (Ramanathan and Williams 2007).

The effect that marketing can have on consumers purchasing habits is shown in Kellogg’s decision to market its first health claim. In 1984, Kellogg worked with the National Cancer Institute to endorse a health claim for All-Bran cereal, within six months the products market share increased by 47%.   Kozup, Cyer, and Burton (2003) showed that “when a heart-healthy claim is on the package or menu, consumers generally judge the product to reduce the likelihood of heart disease or stroke, but favorable nutrition information lead to more positive attitudes toward the product, nutrition, and purchase intentions.” When unfavorable nutrition information is available, the heart-healthy claim has no influence on either the evaluations or disease risk perception.

This overall pattern results suggests that consumers may be somewhat wary of health claims and prefer instead to trust the information contained on the Nutrition Facts panel when it is available. Favorable nutrition information on Nutrition Facts panels have even stronger effects than health claims on product attitude and purchase intentions. Never the less, results showed that there were positive effects of the inclusion of a heart-healthy claim on a package or menu.

Processed Foods Through the Years

Packaged, pre-made food products have not always been as abundant as they are today.  The history of processed food has been directly affected by important moments of America’s history.  Industrialization provided food processors the capability to mass produce, mass market, and standardize.  This movement innovated the way meals were produced and gave way to the creation of processed, preserved, canned, and packaged a wide variety of foods.

Initially there were a few processed foods available in the early 1900’s like Oreo Celebrates 90th BirthdayOreos and Aunt Jemima syrup.  Cereal was one of the first widely marketed “health foods”.  In its original form the first cereal was made with a grain like wheat or rice and was similar to a corn flake with no added sugars.  One of the major driving forces for ready-to-cook foods was war time.  In conjunction with World War I canned and frozen foods became popular.  Shortly thereafter processed foods began to take over the nations diet.  Spam gained popularity because it was a perfect item to feed troops.  More than 100 million pounds of SPAM luncheon meat are shipped abroad to feed allied troops during World War II.  After World War II there was an increase in the supply of processed food items, therefore marketers needed to make a demand.  Military research had brought about many new “convenience foods” like dehydrated juice and cake mix.

These new ways of preparing food was advertised to women as a means of liberating them from the kitchen, saving them timetang-picture and giving them freedom to get out of the kitchen.  By the 1960’s televisions and microwaves become popular and were found in many American homes.  Products like Swanson TV dinners started to emerge alongside the rise of fast food restaurants.  The amount of food dollars that were spent outside of the home rose sharply in the 1970s when more women joined the work force.

The 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) required that all packaged foods include standard nutrition labeling information.  The 1990’s also saw the mass consumption of caloric sweeteners.

The increasing amounts of meals that Americans ate from fast food restaurants and premade meals wreaked havoc on their waistlines.  As response to this manufactures came out with new formulated products that were “low-fat,” “fat-free” and diet.  The creation of low fat product lines was more about getting consumers to keep buying products and less about their health.  Fat content was reduced by removing high-fat ingredients but the products still needed to taste good so artificial flavors and sweeteners were added in order to counterbalance the change as well as preservatives to extend shelve0901_010402 lives.

The amount of new food products, in 2000, that were marked “reduced/low fat” was 2,076 out of 16,890.  Which had been a peak at the time.  In the past years, marketers have become increasingly likely to make heavy use of nutrition claims (including “low fat”), health claims, and vague unregulated claims or health sales (“smart choice” or “good for you”).

In 2007 the recession had caused many people to begin to cook more foods at home and eat out less often.  There is a growing concern about nutrition.  About 80% of meals were prepared at home in November 2013, about the same as 2012, NPD data show. The percentage of meals prepared at home has risen steadily from 77.4% in 2008 at the beginning of the recession.  Consumers want more health food items conveniently available to them.  Popular movements such as the organic movement have caused consumers to question how and what our food is made of.

As an outcome of these movements “processed food” has become synonymous with unhealthy.  But processed foods should not holistically be seen as bad.  Products that are canned, frozen, or pasteurized can be very health.  By freezing vegetables farmers are able to harvest them at their peak and we can have a consistent supply of fresh vegetables.  There are also products that need to be processed for human consumption like oatmeal and coco-beans.

 

What’s in That Deli Meat, and is it Good For You?

Research  has shown a links between processed meat consumption and premature death.  This particular researcher found a link between processed meat consumption and increased chance of early death, especially from hotdogcardiovascular disease and cancer. Deli meats are been under critique of whether their good or bad for quite awhile.

So what is processed meats?  Generally anything that is cut and then ground.   The term typically refers to meats (usually red meats) preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. Ham, bacon, pastrami, salami and bologna are processed meats.  As well as sausages, hot dogs, bratwursts and frankfurters. Few studies have defined processed meat to include turkey and chicken slices.

processed-meatMore research is necessary before any conclusion can be made on whether processed meat is safe because their is a variety of aspects like the smoking process in smoked meats, the salt, and the fat.  In the mean time be more cautious about the amount of processed meat you consume and try switching it out for white meat that you slice yourself.

Become more knowledgeable about what your putting on your sandwich.  The main three things you need to watch out for are:

  • sodium
  • nitrates (jury is still kinda out about these, nitrates can react with amines that occur in some types of food which then form carcinogens.  But otherwise nitrates are generally harmless to your body)
  • saturated fat

What You Should Be Having For Breakfast

People seem to be spending less time making a home cooked hot breakfast.  uncooked-oatsThey appear to be more likely to grab a breakfast sandwich on the way to work with a coffee full of cream and sugar, or quickly eat a bowl of unsatisfying cereal.  Stay tuned for a future rant about cereal.  So what should you be having for breakfast?  Protein and complex carbs are suggested, oatmeal will get you on the right parth.

The benefits of oatmeal, besides it being high-performance, energy-producing, cholesterol-lowering breakfast, is quite the list.  We’re talking about old-fashioned plain oats, or steel cut, not the instant stuff with added sugar.  One advantage this superfood has is that it is slow-digesting and high-fiber, which means your stomach wont be growling two hours later.  Additionally, this whole grain has omega-three fatty acids which are amazing and not commonly found.  Oatmeal‘s nutrition is unstoppable.

In order to make your breakfast optimal, protein needs to be incorporated.  I like to do this by having some Greek yogurt but you could also have scrambled eggs, or added protein powder.  Too really be nutritious you can add berries that all chocked up with antioxidants, particularity blue berries.  Fun fact I think raw blue berries are gross and they are only acceptable once baked.  I know it’s a shame I don’t like this superfood but life goes on.

The different forms thatApple-Cinnamon-Oatmeal-Marla-Meridith-IMG_66561 oats can take include steel-cut, rolled (regular or old-fashioned) and quick oats.  Each variety has a different type of taste because there starts to be less texture as the oats are processed more.  I like old-fashioned that take 5 minuets to cook which fits into my schedule and still has enough texture, the 1 minute instant stuff ends up tasting like a cream of wheat mush to be. Pressed for time in the mornings and don’t have much time to spare, I’ve got options for you.  Overnight oats as their name suggests can be made the night before.  The process involves adding liquids like milk or yogurt (for that protein) to a container with the oats and allowing them to soak in the liquid.  Here are some recipes.  Or perhaps a hot breakfast is preferred.  By baking some oats you will have breakfast prepared for the week in no time.  Or you can check out this recipe for Heat and Eat Oatmeal that also can be prepared ahead of time and is very easy.

Here’s some recipes to get you started, I like to add a banana for it’s natural sweetness and extra nutrition.

How Cooking Can Change Your Life

This video was posted by The RSA that explains how to can your diet and start to eat well by simply cooking your own food.  It’s a quick summary of a event they held last year with author Michael Pollan.  He suggested that an important step to improve one’s health and well-being is to cook.  For more information you can check out to the audio and video.

I follow this practice myself.  Sure I had pizza two nights ago but I made the dough, added some shredded chicken breast that I also cooked, and had control of every item I put into it.  What are your thoughts on processed foods?

“Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself” Michael Pollan.

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