De-Mystifying Food Labels

“Natural flavors” is a term many of us food label readers have probably seen hundreds of times but what are they really? It most commonly found on the labels of our most processed foods.

The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.

In other words, a chemical normally flavor found in any of the products can be extracted and enhanced and added to in a lab. These natural flavors may contain up to 50 or 100 added ingredients. If you have an allergic reaction to something and cannot figure out what it is, add “natural flavor” to your list of foods to avoid. It is prevalent in so many processed foods. Try to make your own foods from scratch – that way you know what is in them.

How Much Sun is Too Much

It is almost time to start worrying about wearing sun screen. And that means everyone, not just babies and kids. Adult sun bathers should be wary about what and how much sunscreen they wear and how long they spend in the sun per day.

One only needs 15-30 minutes of midday sun exposure a few times a week to see the health benefits. Anything else may be damaging to the skin.

This is how SPF works: if you skin normally burns after 10 minutes in the sun, if you apply an SPF of 15, you can stay out in the sun for about 150 minutes (15 times longer). To be on the safe side, reapply in 2 hours.

Many sunscreens under perform so it is recommended that every use at least SPF 30 to get the full protection they need for extended exposure to the sun. A family of four should be using an entire 8oz bottle of sunscreen distributed evenly among them if they are in the sun for four hours.

How Often Should I Get on the Scale?

Mental health is just as important as physical health. And sometimes our physical health goals can become obsessions that can be harmful to our mental health.

One habit in which this can become an issue is how often we weight ourselves. Obviously people are all the spectrum from not even owning a scale to, perhaps, weighing themselves more than once a day.

Daily weight checks can be problematic as small fluctuations in weight are common place and should be expected. Many factors like hormones, medication, exercise programs, climate, digestive system, how recently one has eaten and how hydrated one is can all change our weight more than we think from day to day.

Excessive micro management of weight is more than likely not doing anyone any favors mentally. Weighing one self once a week is probably a good average. That cycle will give one a more accurate idea of where their weight stands if one has a particular goal in mind.

 

Counting Carbs: What Are Net Carbohydrates?

What are “net carbs” exactly? It is a term you may see on food labeling or used by those on low-carbohydrate diets.

The most basic answer are that “net carbs” are the number of grams of carbs left over after one subtracts the grams of fiber from the grams of carbohydrates in a serving of food. This method counts the amount of carbohydrates your body will actually digest from a serving of food.

Essentially, each gram of fiber helps your body pass and not digest 1 gram of carbohydrates.

Additionally, some people will also subtract sugar alcohols present in fruits and vegetables. There are even apps available to help the serious carb counter manage the math.

You’ll note that many foods still have a large amount of carbohydrates even after calculating net carbs–things like potatoes, pasta, oatmeal and many grains. Some vegetables have a high carb count even after the calculation. Even after subtracting the fiber from one cup of peas they still contain a net of 14 grams carbohydrates–which depending on your daily goals could be quite high. A cup of corn nets an astonishing 123 grams carbohydrate!

 

Foods with Advantages

As with all things, moderation is key. But some fresh foods may have a “scientific advantage” over others. Introducing a reasonable amount of the following foods could give the eater a small but noticeable “advantage.” Some of these foods may compound other conditions, so you may want to consult a physician before introducing a new food into your regular weekly diet.

Beet juice aids in stamina. They state that research shows it may be more effective than caffeine.

Honey help with endurance. Consuming honey before exercise acts like a “time-released” fuel keeping sugar and insulin levels steady longer.

Pea protein delays muscle fatigue. You can this in powder form. Since it’s rich in amino acids it can delay fatigue during exercise.

Blueberries reduces inflammation. When fresh blueberries aren’t available, you can use dried or freeze-dried berries.

Tart cherries fight pain and help one regain strength. In a test, it was found that drinking 12 oz of tart cherry juice twice a day helped them gain strength. Frozen, dried, or juice options. Remember you want 100% real juice with no sugar added.

Salmon to build muscle. Omega-3 fatty acids may also be a muscle booster. Try to include wild salmon in meals a few times a week, or even salmon jerky.

Watermelon reduces muscle soreness. It was found that watermelon juice helped relieve muscle soreness when drinking about 16oz an hour before exercise.

Pomegranate muscle strength recovery. It was found by researchers that it helps improve muscle recovery. About 4 ounces of juice was enough to help improve muscle soreness/weakness.

Coffee for next-day energy. It helps replenish glycogen more rapidly after exercise.

Watercress reduces DNA damage. It counters the “wear and tear” of exercise. 3 oz. of fresh watercress is enough.

Dark chocolate curb exercise-induced stress. In a study, the men who consumed 3.5 oz. dark chocolate before 2 1/2 hours of cycling experienced higher blood anti-oxidant levels.