If there is one thing I appreciate being able to observe in my role as a retail dietitian, it’s the intersection of nutrition guidance and food industry-trends. In other words, the crossroads at which consumers find themselves when they search the aisles of the supermarket for the foods they believe are the most nutritious for their family, while recalling the latest headline they saw online, a magazine article recently read, or the persuasive package call outs they pass as they shop. After all, if coconut oil is all over the supermarket then it must be good for you, right?
I get it. Nutrition guidance, policy, and recommendations from organizations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, or the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can be boring, science laden and sometimes difficult to understand and put into practice. That said, these organizations are our link to the latest sound science, and their messages are crafted to help you understand how to prevent chronic disease and live your healthiest life. While the food industry may align with these health messages, it can’t be counted on as an ambassador for these organizations. In other words, a food-industry trend is not the same as a nutrition trend.
Let’s consider for a moment the numerous recent headlines surrounding saturated fat. These headlines, which have created consumer confusion by putting saturated fat in a favorable light, have driven food-industry trends and led to this intersection of food trend and health trend. So we know that the food industry has embraced saturated fat and wants you, too, to do this as well through whole milk yogurt, coconut “everything,” and the like. But, has the science really supported this new emphasis on saturated fat?
Last June, in their Presidential Advisory on Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease, the American Heart Association (AHA) reported the results of studies in which participants lowered their intake of dietary saturated fat and replaced it with polyunsaturated vegetable oil and saw a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk by about 30%, similar to the reduction achieved with commonly used statin drugs. In this report, the AHA also showed that lower intake of saturated fat coupled with higher intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat (the “good fats” found in nuts, seeds, olive oil, fish, and avocados) is associated with lower rates of heart disease, including reduced risk of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries). Based on these studies and more, the AHA concluded that a diet low in saturated fat is recommended and suggested a daily intake of only 5% to 6% of total calories from saturated fat.
In another study, which was reported in the British Medical Journal (Nov. 2016), found that a 5% higher intake in saturated fat from hard cheese, whole milk, butter, beef, and chocolate, was associated with a 25% increased risk of coronary heart disease.
So, if the science is telling us to reduce our intake of saturated fat, why does the food industry seem to be telling us the opposite through their ever-growing number of saturated fat rich products? Indeed, throughout history we can find periods when the food industry influenced our diet through non-fat (think SnackWell cookies), then trans-fat (until we learned how harmful that was), and then “right fat,” which embraces all fats and is the prevailing message today.
As your Hannaford dietitian, it’s my job to help you navigate the challenging landscape of the supermarket; to help you cut through the “noise” to ensure you can make wise choices. Ultimately, it’s my job to serve as the bridge between science and the supermarket and ensure that your shopping cart is not only a reflection of your personal goals, but of what research is saying is best for your health and wellness.
Join me on Wednesday, September 13 at 2:00 p.m. when I co-host a free webinar that dives deeper into this intersection between a food industry trend and a health trend. Visit www.guidingstars.com/webinars to register. Please note, the webinar will be archived if you are unable to listen to the live broadcast.
As your local Hannaford Dietitian, I’m pleased to be sharing my advice and simple tips. Please visit www.hannaford.com/dietitians for my in-store schedule of classes, demonstrations, and store tours or call 845-855-0553 for more information.
Enjoy these last days of summer and cooler nights with this Fresh Tomato Soup (1 Guiding Star). Please visit www.guidingstars.com for more on the Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program.
1 lb. tomatoes
2 red bell peppers, seeds removed
3 garlic cloves
1/4 c. fresh basil
1/2 c. hemp seeds, shelled
1/4 t. chipotle powder
Juice of 1 lemon
1. Puree the tomatoes in a blender.
2. Add peppers and puree.
3 Add remaining ingredients and blend until creamy. Serve hot.