Google has made it even easier to compare two types of foods. Just type the names of those foods versus one another into the search bar (for example: “wheat bread vs white bread”) and the nutrient composition for the two foods will pop up. This side-by-side comparison includes the total calories, macronutrients and micronutrients. There are of course some limitations of the tool, you can only compare two foods at a time for example, and the information may not be completely accurate, but this tool does allow for some quick and easy comparisons. Try it out and see what you discover!
You probably already know that nutritional needs change as we grow older. A healthy diet for an infant, teenager and older adult can all differ dramatically since the body is in different stages of growth. A new study highlights one of these dietary differences and how consuming it at different points in your life may actually change overall health: protein. In this study researchers found a correlation between the amount of protein study participants ate and cancer and premature death. In middle aged people, a low protein diet was associated with lower incidence of cancer and overall mortality, but in older aged adults it was the high protein diet that associated with health. Why would protein needs change so much as we grew older? It may be that a certain molecule in our body that triggers growth is not as responsive to protein intake in older age, so we need more protein to activate it. Read more about this study and the explanation at NPR’s coverage here.
Vitamins are essential nutrients that are required for the function of several proteins in our body. If we become deficient in one or more vitamin entire cellular processes will shut down, leading to sometimes deadly diseases like scurvy, beriberi and pellagra. The body has developed intricate systems to ensure that vitamins are absorbed and stored correctly, preventing deficiency if we go too long without eating our fruits and vegetables. While vitamin storage is helpful, have you ever stopped to think about why the human body requires consumption of specific nutrients in the first place? After all, several other mammals can make many of the vitamins that we must eat. At some point in human evolution the genes that are needed to synthesize vitamins have been silenced or lost. A report from The New York Times looks at this relationship between human evolution and food consumption.
A study has found that organic milk may contain a better balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than conventional milk. Both types of fatty acids are essential, but it is the omega-3 fatty acids that may have beneficial health effects, like preventing heart disease and lowering inflammation. The typical western diet is low in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish and some nuts and seeds, like flaxseed. Claims that pasture raised meats and animal products contain larger concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids compared to grain-fed animals have been made, but this study published in PLoS One is the most clear example to date. In the study, samples of organic and conventional whole fat milk sourced from around the country were analyzed. Organic milk was found to contain 62 percent more omega-3 and 25 percent less omega-6 fatty acids than conventional milk. The study’s authors conclude that drinking the recommended servings of organic whole milk everyday would improve the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood, decreasing heart disease risk.
To read more about this study, as well as about why some prominent nutrition scientists question the conclusions of this study check out the article at The New York Times.