Ingredient Profile #4: Cellulose

Did you know that you have more than likely consumed wood if you’ve ever eaten  packaged shredded cheese?  Crazy, right?  Cellulose, an additive incorporated into various dairy products, as well as other foods,p is a filler or binder that mimics the effects of flour and oil, and is now being used by a growing number of processed food companies.  It’s a less costly, if chemical, way to thicken foods and reduce shipping costs while simultaneously increasing their fiber content.  In particular, cellulose is a member of the hydrocolloid family, and consists of wood pulp.  To create cellulose in the powdered form, manufacturers must first cook raw plant fiber (mostly wood) with an assortment of other chemicals in order to separate the cellulose.  After this occurs, the cellulose mixture is purified and then taken to the final stage of processing, where it interacts with acid to fully decompose any remaining plant fibers (Nassauer).

Some say that cellulose is absolutely fine to consume, as we consume it through a variety of other plant and grain sources from the Earth, but this is not the case.  The cellulose or plant fibers that enter your body after you eat a vegetable aren’t the same plant fibers that you’d be consuming after you finished a handful of shredded cheese or a dollop of sour cream with cellulose powder in the ingredient list.  In fact, the cellulose found in a majority of dairy products has been heavily processed.  It’s man-made from a scientific laboratory, instead of originating from the Earth.  Therefore, the bottom line is that not all cellulose is the same…you have to be careful about where you’re getting it from (Michaelis).

If the thought of eating processed wood pulp and plant fibers disgusts you, there are ways to limit, if not eradicate this additive from your diet.  As mentioned above, one of the most common places cellulose is found is in shredded cheeses.  Just as an aside, even companies like Organic Valley use it, so just because the product is organic doesn’t mean that it is additive-free (Michaelis).  Anyway, you can always opt to purchase an entire block of cheese at the supermarket and shred it yourself.  This will not only save you money, as the bigger blocks of cheese tend to be much cheaper than the bags of shredded cheese, but you will also be avoiding excess chemicals.  In addition, begin to purchase dairy products that are full fat, rather than the low/reduced fat or “skinny” replicas.  This may seem counterintuitive, but in actuality, when manufacturers extract fat out of normally fatty foods, the only option they are left with is to compensate with added fillers and man-made chemicals in order to provide a creamy mouth-feel (Michaelis).

Obviously, the FDA and our federal government allows cellulose to be added to certain food products, but I’d be interested in whether or not you feel the name of this additive is misleading.  Should ingredient labels boast “chemically processed wood pulp”  or “chemically processed plant fibers” in order for consumers to properly understand what they’re buying, or do you think that the naming of this ingredient is appropriate?  Let me know!

Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

M. Kristen. “Would You Like Some Wood Pulp In Your Shredded Cheese?” FoodRegenade. Food Regenade. 2013. Web. 28 May 2013. <http://www.foodrenegade.com/would-like-some-wood-pulp-your-shredded-cheese/>

Nassauer, Sarah. “Why Wood Pulp Makes Ice Cream Creamier.” Wall Street Journal. 4 May 2011: Web. Dow Jones Company, Inc. 28 May 2013. <http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703834804576300991196803916>

Morning Cup of…Toothbrush?

Now I feel like I’ve truly heard it all and therefore feel compelled to share.  The dental industry has imagined a new innovation: the caffeinated toothbrush.  Yes, you read that correctly…a caffeinated toothbrush! Colgate-Palmolive has recently filed a patent for technology that would redefine the handheld toothbrush as we know it.  In fact, they are proposing a design for new toothbrushes that would gradually dispense chemicals as the brushing process ensued.  Among these chemicals include the stimulant caffeine, so you can wake up each morning and immediately satisfy your coffee craving.  In addition, they have thrown around the idea of injecting certain medication and appetite suppressants into the chemical dispensers.  For instance, one proposed additive was benzocaine for small children’s toothbrushes, as they believe this chemical will lessen the pain of teething.

Their proposal described patches on the back of each toothbrush head, which would signify to consumers what type of additive is inside each brush.  For example, a flamethrower or candle illustration would signify that the toothbrush contains capsaicin, a compound that gives chile peppers their spicy flavor (all the better to wake you up in the morning!). Regardless of the added chemical however, toothbrushes would last for up to three months before the additive injection would run out.  It will be interesting to see whether or not Colgate-Palmolive is granted a patent, or if the Food and Drug Administration will have anything to say about it, especially given their recent inspection and inquiry into the safety of Wrigley’s Alert Energy Caffeine Gum.

While reading about this new innovation, I didn’t know whether to feel amused, slightly sad, or a little bit of both.  Part of me went right to the logistics of this proposed toothbrush, and I began to wonder:  1. What materials would the patches be made out of? 2. Would there be other additives inside of the patches other than the main chemical (i.e., caffeine, etc.)? 3. How would the toothbrush know to regulate the amount of chemical released…would it be now be possible to “overdose” on the caffeine in your toothbrush?

Furthermore, my mind kept flashing to scenes from the PIXAR film, Wall-E, which foreshadowed a dismal tale about the future of humanity and the environment.  In the movie, humans are toted around in hovering chairs and press buttons to order meals or change television stations.  If this new technology ever comes to fruition, will we as a nation be getting one step closer to that lazier, technology-dependent society depicted in Wall-E?  We shall see…but I do know that personally, if I drank coffee, I would want to brew it myself instead of having it injected into my mouth with my toothbrush.  But that’s just me…what about you?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Gates, Sara. “Toothbrush With Caffeine? Patent Filed for Device That Delivers Chemicals While You Brush.” Huffington Post. Web. The Huffington Post.com, Inc. 20 May 2013.

Lange, Maggie. Gawker. Gawker Media. 2013.Web. 20 May 2013.

The Non-GMO Project

As we know, to create a genetically modified organism, the DNA from one species is literally injected into the DNA of another.  Examples of crops that have been genetically modified include: alfalfa, canola seed, corn, and soy.  Although I’ve blogged about genetically  modified organisms in the past and their hazards to our health, this week I wanted to report some great news regarding the labeling of products that contain them.

Have you heard about the Non-GMO Project?  This Project consists of an alliance among consumers, seed breeders, farmers, distributors, processors, retailers, and manufacturers who have come together to form North America’s first independent third-party Non-GMO Product Verification Program.  Their program uses a multi-level process in order to verify compliance with the non-GMO standard at every level of the supply chain.  This insures that producers follow exacting best practices for GMO prevention.

In addition, the Project’s seal helps consumers make more informed choices at the supermarket.  So the next time you’re at the grocery store, make sure to scout out the non-gmo seal (it has a small orange butterfly in the top left-hand corner of the label!)  Let me know how many you find in your favorite grocery store!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

PS – If you’d like more information about the non-gmo project, check out their website at: http://www.nongmoproject.org

Have You Read…

Sometimes eating healthier is easier said than done.  So, this week, I have a book recommendation for you.  The book, by Michael Pollan, is basically an eater’s manual entitled, Food Rules.  It is divided into three sections,with each section answering these essential questions: What should I eat? What kind of food should I eat?  How should I eat?  Here are some of Pollan’s food rules, one from each of the three sections:

Food Rule #6: “Avoid food products that contain more than 5 ingredients.”  The specific number of ingredients you decide on is, of course, arbitrary.  Just remember though, the more ingredients found in a packaged food, the more highly processed it is.

Food Rule #36:  “Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.”  You know how I feel about chemical additives.  You can be sure that if the color of your milk is changing when it encounters breakfast cereal, then said cereal is full of chemical additives!

Food Rule #57:  “Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.” As it turns out, gas stations in the U.S. now make more money selling food (and cigarettes) than they do selling gasoline. With the exception of milk and water, any food found in a gas station is highly processed and ridiculously sweetened.

As I think you will agree, Food Rules is really a terrific book and at only 140 pages, it’s a quick read as well!  I’d love to know if any of you have already read it.  If not, let me know when you do!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

It has recently come to my attention that when you comment on my blog, you don’t always see my reply.  If this is the case, you can always check the blog page itself for my response.  I just want you all to know how much I appreciate your comments and your ongoing support of this blog!!  Thank you!  🙂

When you go to your yearly physical and have your blood pressure taken, the nurse or doctor is measuring the force of blood driving against the arteries in your body.  There are actually two numbers associated with blood pressure readings: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure.  The systolic pressure is the first number that measures the magnitude of force acting upon your arteries while your heart is beating.  The diastolic pressure is the second number that measures the magnitude of force acting upon your arteries while your heart is resting between heartbeats. A blood pressure reading that is 120/80 or less is considered “normal” in a physician’s eyes, while readings higher than 120/80 can lead to heart and kidney complications along with an increased risk of stroke.  I feel strongly that health problems can be either solved or at least improved by following a healthy diet.  Therefore, in the words of Hippocrates, this week we are going to “let thy food be thy medicine” and seek natural routes to lowering blood pressure.  Below you’ll find a list of seven foods that can help combat high blood pressure in those at risk of developing it or who already have it:

1. Chili Peppers – Believe it or not, chili peppers contain cayenne, which does have properties that lower blood pressure.  Consider dicing the peppers finely and incorporating them into your salads, soups, sandwiches…I’ve heard they’re even yummy in scrambled eggs!  Just remember that before consuming them, remove the  stem and seeds, as these parts of the pepper definitely pack the most punch in the spice department!

2. Hibiscus Ice Tea – Well, you’re going to need something to restore your senses after the hot chili peppers, and this drink is a perfect and refreshing fix!  Look for hibiscus tea (it’s the main ingredient in Red Zinger tea) at the grocery store or purchase hibiscus leaves and make it yourself.  Studies have shown that hibiscus tea has diuretic properties and that it opens the arteries.  Drinking this tea (hot or iced) on a regular basis will help to lower systolic blood pressure.

3. Spinach – This leafy green offers an abundance of nutrients, including magnesium, which aids the body in attaining a lower blood pressure.  It’s a versatile vegetable and is a wonderful addition to quiche, tarts, and sandwiches.  It can also act as the base to a world of different salads.  If you just can’t stand it, try sneaking some into your breakfast smoothie in the morning.  Although it might alter the color a bit, you won’t be able to taste it!

4. Bananas – These fruits contain potassium, and potassium plays an essential role in healthy blood pressure, not to mention overall wellness.  Bananas are great on their own and even tastier in banana bread.

5. Watermelon – A slice of watermelon is a great choice because it contains an amino acid called L-citrulline/L-arginine.  Have you ever tried grilled watermelon?  Simply cut the melon into thick slices and place on the grill.  You’ll soon have a delicious and smoky flavor on the outside, with a sweeter taste revealed as you dig deeper inside.

6. Chocolate – I couldn’t forget chocolate!  As we know from a previous blog post, opting for an organic dark chocolate would be most beneficial for your health.

7. Sunflower Seeds – These seeds, which are an excellent source of magnesium which helps to lower blood pressure, serve as a good crunch for trail mixes…just remember to always purchase a brand that is sodium free!

Please feel free to share any other foods you know of that can help to lower blood pressure.

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Bauer, Joy. Joy Bauer. Everyday Health Incorporated. 2013. Web. 20 April 2013. 

Chan, Amanda. “Raisins & 7 Other Foods that Could Naturally Lower Blood Pressure.” Huffington Post. 28 March 2012: Web. The Huffington Post.com, Incorporated. 20 April 2013.

Louis, PF. Natural News. Natural News Network. 2013. Web. 20 April 2013.