Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Great Com-Pear-ison Results!

By Marcie Barnes

(This is a follow up post to my research proposal, which is posted here.)

The results of my great compearison (sorry, couldn’t resist) are in – here’s a look at the nutritional differences between fresh pears and canned. For this study I used the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference to compare one cup of fresh pear cubes with one cup of canned pear halves (in light syrup). It’s worth mentioning here that the added syrup found in canned fruits makes a significant calorie difference. In this case, a cup of canned pears has nearly twice as much sugar and 65% more carbs than fresh.

Now, on to the nutrients. Most sources
I found cited pears as a good source for potassium and vitamin C. It seems that all of the minerals found in pears (except fluoride) were still evident in the canned, with about an 8% reduction in quantity. (Potassium itself was reduced by 13% in the canning process). Another item of note is that you will consume over six times as much sodium by choosing canned pears.

Sadly, the vitamins did not fare so well. There are 6.8 milligrams of Vitamin C in a cup of fresh pears as opposed to only 1.8 mg in the canned equivalent – meaning you get over three and a half times more vitamin C by eating a fresh pear! Other items with a significant decrease are: Vitamin A (was completely destroyed by the canning process), Vitamin E, Vitamin K, total folate, and Beta Carotene. Overall, you get nearly five times more vitamins (in weight) by choosing a fresh pear!

Based on my findings, I am going to look into the other ingredients in traditional fruit cocktail as well so I can tell Del Monte exactly how inaccurate their marketing claim is…stay tuned!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cheap Food or Expensive Organic: Is the Price Worth the Cost?

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is a Research Proposal and part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I hope you will join me as I investigate the nutritional differences between foods grown, distributed and processed in different ways.)

A few weeks ago, I found myself reaching for a can of Del Monte Fruit Cocktail in my pantry because I was out of fresh fruit for my son. As I opened the can, I noticed a new message on the label containing the words: “Same nutrients as fresh!” This claim startled me and then made me angry. As I’ve stated time and time again, I have become increasingly disheartened by what I perceive to be downright inaccurate and false marketing claims by companies who are trusted by the general public.

There has been a continuous debate in our household as to whether organic, fresh and unprocessed foods are worth their higher cost. On average, organic produce costs 50% more. I have every reason to believe that organic and less-processed foods, for a variety of reasons, deliver far greater health benefits than their commercially-grown, highly processed counterparts. My husband argues it is a waste of money to purchase organic products. So, the question has been lingering in my mind for quite some time: how can I prove to him (and others) that the nutritional differences in organic, unprocessed foods are significant enough to justify the increased cost of “going organic”?

A cursory search for nutrition information on fresh vs. canned pears confirmed my suspicions. A quick study of the numbers in the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference showed that there is indeed a significant difference when you compare the nutrients found in fresh and canned pears. Quickly comparing the nutrients between organic and conventional foods has proven more difficult. I hope to find more information through my research and possibly utilize the Department of Food Science at North Carolina State University, where they perform nutrition information analysis.

With my results, I hope to end the debate once and for all and prove that you do get what you pay for when it comes to purchasing food. It is unfortunate that people (notably in low-income situations) often rely on highly processed foods because they are always the cheaper alternative. I believe we are sacrificing our health in order to save money, which ironically costs us dearly in the end with skyrocketing health care costs. What is the real price of cheap food?


organic produce nutrition, canned vs. fresh, produce quality, malnutrition processed foods, organic cost


Title: Organic foods in relation to nutrition and health key facts
Web Address:
Brief Description: This article is found on Medical News Today – described as “The number one ranked (Google and Yahoo!) website for medical news. Independent, authoritative and unbiased news from thousands of sources around the globe, divided into over 100 therapy areas (disease/condition categories).” - it contains a lot of information and studies on this subject (cited) that I would like to read and research further.

Title: Wikipedia: Organic Food
Web Address:
Brief Description: This entry on organic food contains additional (cited) studies and articles I would like to read, in particular the criticisms of organic food.

Title: When buying organic pays (and doesn't)
Web Address:
Brief Description: This is a collection of linked articles on this topic from Consumer Reports, a trusted independent testing & reporting venue. I am looking forward to reading about their findings on this topic.

Title: The Soil Association: “Get the facts” page
Web Address:!OpenDocument
Brief Description: This web site is “the UK's leading campaigning and certification organisation for organic food and farming.” The “Get the Facts” page lists reasons for buying organic, and links each reason to a plethora of information and research to back up each claim.

Title: Malnutrition Matters (Background Page)
Web Address:
Brief Description: This website discusses global malnutrition issues and what types of foods/food improvements are needed to fight malnutrition. I would like to explore this topic further as it relates to food quality vs. cost.

Friday, September 21, 2007


By Marcie Barnes

Hello - I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome you to my blog. I started creating it last month as soon as I saw that it was an assignment for the class I am taking because I have already had the difficult experience of setting up two other blogs from scratch, and wanted to get a head start. Then I got carried away :). To learn more about me and this blog please visit the
About Me page.

By the way, any revenue generated from this blog will be donated to charity, and I need your help deciding which one. I would like for it to be something health-related, and of course charities like JDRF or The American Cancer Society come to mind, but I was wondering if there are organizations concentrating more on prevention than finding a cure? If you have any suggestions, please post them in the comments. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rapid Fat Loss - Here's the Formula You've Been Looking For

By Marcie Barnes

Much credit is due here to my virtual friend Timothy Ferriss, bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek. I stumbled across his website one day when reading a fitness blog, and this is the post I was linked to. Right away, I knew that he and I had similar philosophies on fat loss (among other things), so I wanted to share his post with you. Below are his rules, with my comments (but please read Tim's post as well!):

Rule #1: Avoid “white” carbohydrates
The diet world has gone crazy with low-carb regimens, but as with most things I find trying to create a catch-phrase around one facet of weight loss has a big downside: we should not be pouring all carbs in one bucket. Tim is right, any white carb is something to avoid. His plan does not include grains at all except post-workout (and then you should choose whole grains only), and legumes are a-okay - so it is totally possible to create meals that don't leave you hungry.

Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again
Tim's suggestion for simple construction:
Proteins: Egg whites with one whole egg for flavor, Chicken breast or thigh, Grass-fed organic beef, Pork
Legumes:Lentils, Black beans, Pinto beans
Vegetables:Spinach, Asparagus, Peas, Mixed vegetables

This sounds kind of boring, but believe it or not your body will appreciate the consistency and you will actually begin to crave these foods after awhile. I would throw in ground turkey and broccoli as staples in my menu planning - and I never eat red meat. But I think men have some kind of a genetic disposition to do so :). Keep things like fish and olive oil in the mix so you are getting your good fats.

Rule #3: Don’t drink calories
I wholeheartedly agree with Tim about drinking massive quantities of water and as much unsweetened iced tea, tea, coffee, etc. But one thing I absolutely will not endorse are diet sodas, because among other things, I believe they fuel your sweet tooth. If you are used to milk, I think unsweetened soy milk (not "plain") is a decent choice since it's basically like drinking a vegetable.

And more good news for wine drinkers - Tim says "I’m a wine fanatic and have at least one glass of wine each evening, which I believe actually aids sports recovery and fat-loss. Recent research into resveratrol supports this."

Rule #4: Take one day off per week
Whoo hoo! Tim recommends Saturdays as a “Dieters Gone Wild” day. Eat anything. I will quote Tim here because I don't exactly understand the science: "Paradoxically, dramatically spiking caloric intake in this way once per week increases fat loss by ensuring that your metabolic rate (thyroid function, etc.) doesn’t downregulate from extended caloric restriction. That’s right: eating pure crap can help you lose fat. Welcome to Utopia."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Stay Home When You Are Sick!

By Marcie Barnes

I mentioned at the end of my last post how it would be nice if more people stayed home when they are sick. I think too many times people try to be heroic and come into the office to impress their boss. I don't really understand this logic. Odds are, a contagious co-worker will infect additional members of the team, subsequent offices, and perhaps affect the whole building. From the perspective of company impact, if that one person stayed home one or two days it could potentially prevent hundreds from getting sick, not being able to do their job well - and possibly being able to come into work altogether.

This man was fined for reporting to work with a salmonella diagnosis. Undoubtedly, because he works in the food service industry, his actions were seen as intentional and harmful. I agree that he had potential to really make a lot of people sick in that setting, but what is the difference between that and if I were to go to work sick? Say I make a friendly visit to the salad bar - easily, hundreds of people frequent the salad bar after I do, they disperse to their respective offices and buildings, and in turn infect more people around them.

I know that hand washing is touted as a cure-all, but I don't believe most people take the proper steps to wash their hands in order to truly to kill germs (or wash them at all), and sick people tend to cough and sneeze a lot anyway. Plus, hand washing has it's own set of negatives.

For further reading, here's another article with a similar perspective.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Health Alert for Today: Get Dirty!

By Marcie Barnes

In the same spirit as my post about antibacterial soap, it's become more evident to the health and medical community that being too clean is a bad thing. My dad always quoted his grandmother as saying "let them eat dirt" in reference to children, because she believed (as I do) that exposure to the vast majority of "germs" is a good thing. It makes for a strong immune system. So take a break from that obsessive cleaning!

Do exercise caution in the kitchen, however, in order to avoid the nasty food-borne illnesses. And the best way to avoid the cold and flu during the cold and flu season? Eat healthy, get some probiotics in your system, and if more sick people would stay home - that would help greatly!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Great Life Expectancy Calculator

By Marcie Barnes

I've seen several of these calculators, and I'm normally annoyed by the questions they ask - for example - "Do you take prescription or OTC drugs (yes or no)" as opposed to asking how often I take them. This calculator lets you gauge the answer on a slider for each question. It told me I have a real age of 21 (I am 36) - so maybe that's why I like it so much! :) In any case, it's important to know which factors are considered in calculating your longevity.

Conversely, Dr. Oz's comprehensive real age quiz tells me I am slightly older than my "biological age"...but perhaps they want to be more on the conservative side so I will stay on their website for their tips. (I like most of the content on this site, it's just very market-y).
How do you fare?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Eat Fat to Lose Fat?

By Marcie Barnes

There are several reasons why I think this statement is true. And for the record, we're talking about healthy fats here - I love this definition of good vs. bad:

"Fats are good if they come from whole, natural, unprocessed foods. Fats are only bad if they become damaged. Fats are damaged by heat, light and oxygen. High heat and chemicals used by manufacturers to process oils are the chief sources of damaged fats. One particularly damaging process is partial hydrogenation, which gives oils longer shelf life. This process creates trans fats and other altered molecules that are harmful to the human body." (From

The "friendly" fats in nuts (specifically almonds) are great for curbing appetite. Drinking almond milk in the morning is a great way to start the day! Good fats have many other benefits - including lowering cholesterol and triglycerides, and combatting depression and perhaps even suicide. Many people avoid them for their high-calorie content, but I'm not convinced that "a calorie is a calorie" - I think our bodies use these fats to sustain essential components of our makeup (brain cells, for one) - so give your brain and body a good daily dose!

Need more help choosing 'good' fats? Read this article from iVillage UK.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Artificial Sweeteners Fuel Your Sugar Addiction

By Marcie Barnes

I've always had a theory that using artificial sweeteners only adds to or intensifies sugar cravings. Much in the same way as smelling a favorite food can cause an intense craving, I think the empty calories in artificial sweeteners just trigger your brain to want the real thing. A new study out of Canada seems to bolster that opinion.

I say stick to sugar, and use it in moderation. The herbal sweetener stevia is a great alternative to artificial sweeteners, and is becoming easier to find. Look for the brand name GreenLeaf at your local grocery (I have seen it at Kroger) or the WholeFoods 360° brand.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Short Message About High Fructose Corn Syrup

By Marcie Barnes

It's everywhere - and it's not good for you. Just take a look at the ingredient labels of some seemingly innocent foods: bread, catchup, spaghetti sauce, cereals you add sugar to such as Special K - it's there.

I was perusing the
wikipedia article about HFCS and found something I have heard many times before: "There is a striking correlation between the rise of obesity in the US and the use of HFCS for sweetening beverages and foods." As we've also seen diabetes rates skyrocket, it's interesting to read this article from the medical community about the correlation between HFCS and diabetes.

What's also interesting is the fact that "The preference for high fructose corn syrup over cane sugar amongst the vast majority of American food and beverage manufacturers is largely due to U.S. import quotas and tariffs on sugar. These tariffs significantly increase the domestic U.S. price for sugar, forcing Americans to pay more than twice the world price for sugar." - So, the rest of the world gets soda and other US products with regular sugar. Nice.

It is possible to avoid HFCS, though: I have never personally seen an organic product containing it and I find as a whole the sugar content on the organic counterparts to a lot of typical items is lower. And I would choose sugar over artificial sweeteners any day. The best course of action is to start drinking water and reduce your
dependency on sweet foods and drinks. I don't miss them very much at all since I have "phased" them out!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Mainstream Deodorant Causes Cancer!

By Marcie Barnes

Okay, I am being an alarmist, but this is something I have been suspecting for years. And just as I was about to post a product review on Tom's of Maine Natural Lavender Long-Lasting Deodorant Stick - out comes the news from Britain: a link between breast cancer and deodorant. It just seems logical to me that applying aluminum to your body every morning just after shaving said area is not the greatest idea, considering this is an area of your body designed to release toxins.

I know, there are always people who say "there is no conclusive proof that x, y, or z cause cancer", and I agree that there are probably a lot of factors that go into the birth of something like cancer, but if you're like me, air on the side of caution. I have been known to use mainstream deodorants in the summer when the "natural" kinds didn't do the trick, but after trying this new Tom's product, and reading the recent news, I think those days are over.

That said, I highly recommend the above product, for those of you looking for a good alternative. I don't even normally like the scent of lavender, but it is extremely light in this product. In addition, I picked it up at my local Target, which was very convenient. It has passed the day-at-the-pool-in-90+-degree-heat-in-NC test as well. And, it's clear, so I don't have to worry about those accidental white marks on my clothes.

However, I'm not much of a sweater so I'd be glad to hear if anyone else has tried it and how they liked it.

Product review can wait, I thought this news was pretty important to get out there.