Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Do we need the government to tell us what to eat?

Whenever the government regulation argument is made there is the juxtaposition of big brother control versus freedom to choose.  For the most part this deliberation might be moot.

Whenever salmonella or E. coli gets into our commercially supplied food we the people become angst and demand government regulators do more to hold food manufacturers and suppliers to higher standards.  In this light we typically see big corporations being demonized by people, portrayed as only caring about profits and not about the safety of their customers.

Talk about reducing the gargantuan 1000, 1500 calorie plus meals, and limiting the mind boggling severe sodium levels of 1000 mg per serving though... well now those same corporations that were charged with greed and insensitivity are now public hero's serving up great tasting meals that the government has no business sticking their nose in.

We hope that the food handlers training and certification regulations provides some level of assurance that food is prepared under sanitary conditions and if it isn't, there better be a price to pay, and this will be tightly regulated.. to protect the health and safety of consumers. 

We have, and demand to have, tough government regulations in all manner of food products from listing when a food is expected to spoil (best before date), and that no products should be allowed to be on shelf after this date, to the temperature that fridges and freezers are at (to maintain food quality).

So in fact we already have regulations that serve to ensure a certain level of food safety and these regulations had to be put in place because there were enough problems occurring that we could not be assured that all businesses knew about and followed the same standards.. that is to say.. when business was left to self regulate there were enough that did't play fair that an even playing field had to be regulated.

Would anyone like to see the regulations concerning safe food handling be revoked? Should we have the right to choose to eat E. coli contaminated food?

"Fair point Cris.. but that's food safety.. regulating food taste is different."

It's an interesting counter point because fat, sugar, and salt are the main targets to be regulated, and it's these three ingredients that contribute a great deal to the flavour and ultimately the gratification that accompanies that flavour.

But what if that flavour reward is the result of an over stimulus our bodies were not designed to cope with?

What if chasing that gratification clouds our otherwise good judgment and in pursuit of those tasty morsels, we cause ourselves high blood pressure, high levels of circulating fats in our blood?

We now understand that high concentrations of fat, sugar, and salt cause an above normal heightened sense of pleasure from eating: pleasure centres in the brain are more active than with normal proportions of these ingredients.

High fat-high calories meals also alter hormones that regulate how full you feel and hungry you feel, making you feel more hungry and less full.

This results in experiencing the sensation of hunger when you're not actually physically hungry or exaggerates these feelings, and increases the amount of food you need to eat to feel full.

We can taste extra salt but we can't feel blood pressure rising.  We sense the immediate gratification from eating but don't necessarily make the connection that we're reducing our quality of life and indeed our life span.

I think it's interesting we'll demand government regulations for some things, yet proclaim the "nanny state" argument for government intervention in other things.

I've said it before.. in my opinion the best solution is that we the customers ask for healthier food choices from restaurants and food manufacturers.  Right now consumer demand helps drive the cycle of ever increasing portion sizes and keeps the eat lots = reward association going.

The ignition source for many government regulations though is the refusal or lack of recognition for the need of individuals or corporations to regulate themselves, and this may end up being the case for the genesis for regulating proportions of fat, salt, and sugar in foods we buy.  Obviously as a population we're not regulating ourselves all that well as obesity and overweight stats continue to climb,  and clearly if restaurants heavily promote "all you can eat" deals; we're not really doing much to reverse our obsession with overeating.

So many have told me that they can't stand the idea of big brother taking away their right to choose to be satisfied from a simple pleasure like eating cake.  I don't get this though, as the outcome of outlawing cake has never been part of any regulation proposal I've seen.. that's simply an extreme juxtaposition that's used to try to make things sound worse than they really are.

What may be regulated are extreme levels of fat, salt, and sugar in that cake..  We can still bake and sell great tasting cakes and such.. but the composition of those cakes should not exceed levels of ingrediants that are known to cause serious long term health problems.

We're in love with fat, sugar, and salt, and we hate the idea of this being taken away.


It's about  regulating risk of harm, not about eliminating cakes and burgers.

Health: OECD says governments must fight fat

Check this out.. a study from George Washington University shows obesity adds a few thousand dollars to annual living expenses.. being overweight adds a few hundred dollars..

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Junk Food Cheaper Than Healthy Food? MYTH!

As heard this morning on CJOB with Chris Reid on the Weekend Wakeup Show

Looking through this mornings supermarket flyers I converted sale prices of various foods to $ per kilogram or Litre to get a straight price comparison..

Oatmeal                                  $2.59/ kg
Name brand potato chips        $9.84/ kg
No Name potato chips            $6.66/ kg
Yams                                      $1.50/ kg
Tortilla chips                          $10.70/ kg
Apples                                    $1.46 - $2.18/ kg
Oranges                                  $0.61/ kg
Sugary cereal                          $6.82/ kg
Whole wheat cereal                $4.01/ kg
Chocolate bars                        $12.71/ kg
Brand name grain/ nut bars     $16.66/ kg
No name Granola bars           $7.37/ kg
Salad in bag                            $5.48/ kg
Bakery cake                            $5.03/ kg
Cookies                                   $7.73/ kg
Packaged cakes and rolls        $8.83/ kg
Whole wheat bread                 $2.92/ kg
Specialty "healthy" bread        $4.83/ kg
Canned beans and pasta          $1.93/ kg
Quick rice packages                $7.10/ kg
Fruit Yogurt                             $1.92/ kg
Canned tuna                             $7.35/ kg
Frozen Pizza                            $5.55/ kg
Orange juice                            $1.50/ Litre/ kg
No Name cola                          $0.45/ Litre/ kg
Skim milk                                 $1.16/ Litre/ kg
Banana's                                   $1.52/ kg
Blueberries                                $8.28/kg
Broccoli                                    $3.29/kg

Nearly all the healthier choices here are either significantly cheaper than the less healthy choices, or very similar in price.

Comparing the nutrient density of baked yam and plain potato chips and you can see that both are fairly nutritious, with the potato chips beating out the yam on several nutrients.  Woo hoo! Let's get at those potato chips and forget about those damn yams!  Ok.. But the potato chips are also a lot higher in a couple other factors.. sodium: Chips- 525 mg/ 100g.. Yam 8mg/ 100g.  Calories: Chips- 547/ 100g.. Yam 116/ 100/ g.  So why do potato chips have more vitamins and minerals compared to yams?  What gives?

Actually, per gram of dry weight, the yams are better, hugely significantly better, by about 300%.  Read the nutritional break down.  100 grams of baked yam has 70.1g of water.  Potato chips have 2.3g of water per 100 gram serving.  The process of making chips is more dehydrating than baking a yam (or potato).

Hmmm.. so if almost all the water is dehydrated making potato chips, but the nutrient density is still similar, how does that work?  An important question you might not think to ask.  Taking away all that water should result in the grams of nutrients being around 300% more in the chips, if all you did was bake potato slices until mostly dry, but chips are 20 to 50% (not 300%) more nutrient dense when looking at vitamin C, potassium and the like.

The missing grams of nutrients are replaced by fat, sugar, and salt, that's why the calories and sodium are so high in the chips.  Chips are made essentially by dehydrating potato slices and adding a lot of fat, salt and other flavouring.

The calorie cost of potato chips is far higher than from a potato.. you have to eat over 300% more calories and 700% more sodium to get at those vitamins.. not worth the trade off.

No name cola is a little less than 1/3 the cost of orange juice, but the orange juice is significantly more nutrient dense.. you get absolutely no vitamins and minerals with cola (ok I'm exaggerating a bit there, you get a trace amount), but the orange juice has lot's of vitamin C, folate, and potassium.

The grain and nut bars marketed as being uber healthy were more costly than chocolate bars, but the chocolate bars were amongst the most expensive items here. No name granola bars where cheaper than chocolate bars.  Read the labels for sure, but wise shopping will find granola bars are more nutrient dense than chocolate bars.. but do read the label.. easy to get a fatty granola bar.

Think that specialty "healthy" bread is way too costly because it's 2X the cost of regular whole wheat bread?  "I'm not buying that!  That's a rip off!  Hmmm... where's them potato chips."

Those potato chips are 35 to 50% more costly than that specialty health bread.

The potato chips are justified as inexpensive, quick, great tasting food.

The healthy bread is perceived as a rip off.

I don't know.. kinda looks the other way around to me.. according to the actual price and the amount of vitamins and minerals you get out of each.

Someone is buying this healthy stuff though, otherwise it wouldn't be on the shelf.  Yeah, heh, heh.. it's those granola hippies.. they'll buy anything... weird.  Maybe, but looking at the actual cost and nutrient density comparisons, it might seem a little weird to buy food that costs twice as much and has less than half the vitamins and minerals.

If we can get passed the urban myth that junk food is cheaper than healthy food, and that junk food is more tasty, it's easy to instantly realize that fruit yogurt at $1.92/ kg is far cheaper than cookies at $7.73/ kg.. both taste good, and one is better for you.

So tell me.. after eating something that we know isn't the greatest for us.. how do we feel?  How many either try to either ignore it, or find themselves feeling regretful?

And when we eat something that tastes great and is healthy, do people feel the same regret?

... healthy food, most of the time, is cheaper than junk food, is accessible, and easy to prepare/ consume, and you don't feel buyers remorse afterwards.

Get passed the old stereotypes and get into healthy eating, it's cheaper, tastes great, can make you healthier and feel better.  You brain will work better, you'll sleep better, and you'll have more energy.

Almost seems to good to be true, but.. it is true :-)