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Barney Butter Almond Butter (Crunchy)

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I saw this almond butter at Whole Foods and decided to try it out. I’m a big fan of Justin’s almond butter and was curious to see how this product would differ. (I reviewed Justin’s maple almond butter here.)

Flavor

Though the ingredients are exactly the same, this almond butter is very different from Justin’s almond butters. First of all, it’s crunchy which large chunks of almond strewn throughout. Not only does this give if a very different texture, but it reminds me of white chocolate chip cookies which is a big plus.

The base itself is a single light brown color, whereas Justin’s products are a mix of various shades, giving them a sandy appearance. Barney Butter is also much less oilier, which can be a positive or negative depending on how you look at it: spreadability vs over-greasiness.

Even though the sugar amount is exactly the same as Justin’s maple butter, I felt Barney Butter’s almond butter to be significantly sweeter.

All in all a great taste!

Nutrition/Ingredients

Each serving is 2 tablespoons (32 grams) and there are about 9 in the jar. There are 180 calories per serving, with 140 of those from fat.

In a serving there is also 80 mg sodium (3% of DV), 3 grams of sugars, and 6g of protein.

With no artificial flavors or colors, no preservatives, and no mysterious “natural” flavors, it can’t get much more natural than this. To top it off, evaporated cane juice and sea salt are used instead of their common counterparts. Yes, whether these are actually healthier is in debate, but if I had a choice I would pick these over their more common variants.

Full ingredient list: Dry roasted almonds, evaporated cane juice, palm fruit oil, sea salt.

Price/Availability

I bought a 10 ounce (284 g) jar of this at Whole Foods Market for around $4.99.

Ratings:   Flavor: 9.0    Nutrition/Ingredients: 9.0   Price:  8.0  Overall: 8.66

Summary

A great way to get natural protein and all the other nutrients that come packed in almonds, along with a wonderful taste. Highly recommended for those looking for an upgrade for their plain-jane peanut butter.

References

http://www.barneybutter.com/products/category/barney-butter-crunchy/

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Spirulina Special Report: Should we give it to the children of the Fukushima accident? [Part 3]

This is the last part of a special series of posts on spirulina. See the other posts here and here. The references at the end apply to all three posts.

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So let’s get back to the original question: Does it make sense to give Spirulina to the children of the Fukushima accident as a means to treat ailments caused by long term radiation exposure?

As with most important questions, things are not black and white so I’ll rephrase this into a few sub questions and discuss each in turn.

Q: If a Spirulina producer offered to donate a large bundle of Spirulina to the children of Fukushima, would that be a good idea?

A: Yes, assuming a third party verifies there are no contaminants in the spirulina being donated. I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact Spirulina has alot of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and I haven’t read about any known side effects.

Q: If someone has money and wants to donate it to the children of Fukushima, is purchasing Spirulina and sending it the best use of these funds?

A: No, based on the limited studies I have researched which only give inconclusive evidence for Spirulina’s efficacy against radiation-induced ailments, I think this would not be the best way to spend your money. While it is true spirulina has a good amount of protein by weight, you may remember the U.S. National Library of Medicine quote that stated its protein quality is no better than meat or milk, and yet can cost 30 times as much. Because of this high markup (with spirulina being a so-called “super food”), it is not a cost effective way to supply protein.

I would recommend instead focusing on things that will more likely have a positive effect for a reasonable price – food, shelter, and in some cases relocation. There are even programs which send these children on a short term field trip to northern Japan where they radiation level is much lower and they can safely play outside (see here).

Q: Isn’t there some other way Spirulina producers can help?

Rather than just donating spirulina, I recommend spirulina producers, the government, as well as unbiased third parties, work together to establish programs where groups of children are given spirulina in a controlled environment and the effects of spirulina can be observed. If the results come out positive the group size can be ramped up and many children’s lives may be improved. If the studies don’t show major improvements little is lost.

Also, some research could be done into more cost-effective ways of producing spirulina. The cheaper it can be made, the more likely it will be used as a nutritional supplement, especially for those in need.

I’m always open to new information and interpretations of existing information, so please feel free to leave any comments and we can discuss. I also welcome references to any important studies I missed.

Notes

1. I generally use only photos taken personally, but for this article I used a spirulina photograph taken from Wikimedia Commons, which was released into the public domain.

2. I am not promoting and spirulina supplier, any such ads you see on this page have been put there by WordPress (Yes, I need to upgrade my account).

3. I haven’t put many references inline in the text so if you want to quickly know where I got some information feel free to leave a comment. All the references I used are below but it may be tedious to search through them for a specific fact.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algae

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/09/spirulina-reversed-radiation-damage-in-chernobyl-children-in-just-20-days.aspx

http://www.naturalnews.com/036101_spirulina_superfood_nutrients.html

http://www.superfoodsforlife.com/page/103407

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012-03/30/content_14947780.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirulina_%28dietary_supplement%29

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/923.html

http://www.phyco.org.tw/caa/Reduces%20effects%20of%20radiation%20by%20Spirulina.pdf

http://iimsam.org/publications_and_reports.php

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/spirulina

http://www.akins.com/ns/DisplayMonograph.asp?StoreID=a59a6b1c10e44c9e9420a7a75b27460a&DocID=bottomline-spirulina

http://books.google.com/books?id=Vz7SpjEsE3IC&pg=PA83&lpg=PA83&dq=ige+spirulina&source=bl&ots=O_2JJFUwyb&sig=DEihIxNUNHqOO-gtu_PL9RJ6yPU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YSVhUpeyEI_G9gTiuoDYAw&ved=0CEoQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=chernob&f=false

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed

http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/http-fukushima-kids-org/

http://www.incrediblesmoothies.com/nutrition/spirulina-nutrition-health-benefits-is-it-worth-the-cost/

http://www.theness.com/index.php/blue-green-algae-natures-perfect-scam/

Studies mentioned

1.Loseva, L.P. and Dardynskaya, I.V. Spirulina- natural sorbent of radionucleides. Research Institute of Radiation Medicine, Minsk, Belarus. 6th Intl Congress of Applied Algology, Czech Republic, Sep. 9, 1993.

2. Belookaya, T. Corres. from Chairman of Byelorussian Committee “Children of Chernobyl” May 31, 1991.

3. Evets, P. et. al. Means to normalize the levels of immunoglobulin E, using the food supplement spirulina. Grodenski State Medical Univ. Russian Fed Comm Patents and Trade. Patent (19)RU (11)2005486. Jan. 15, 1994.

Spirulina Special Report: Should we give it to the children of the Fukushima accident? [Part 2]

This is the second part of a special series of posts on spirulina. See the first post here. The full set of references will be saved to the last post which will be available within a week.

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I was able to find only a few studies quoted which gave good indication Spirulina might be of use to children in Japan. One of these was done in 1993 and is titled “Spirulina – natural sorbent of radionucleides” This study is very important because it involves treatment of children in Belarus, who suffered from the effects of the Chernobyl disaster. The children were given 5 grams a day of spirulina and in 20 days radiation levels in their urine decreased 50%. Specifically,  “Use of spirulina decreases radioaction dose load received from food contaminated with radionuclides, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90.”

On the surface this is an amazing result and looks like Spirulina has real potential in treating radiation-induced sickness. However I have many questions about this study:

1) Was there any other metric of health recorded in addition to radiation levels?

2) What happened to these children a month later, or a year later?

3) Did the radiation levels return to normal after stopping spirulina?

4) Were any other medicines or placebos given to the children? In particular, were other less expensive nutritional sources tested in parallel?

I searched for the full papers on PubMed, a site that indexes more than 23 million citations from biomedical literature, but could not find any of them. I also had someone help me search for the full paper on several other databases, including LexusNexus Academic and MedScape, but no luck there. I am not saying this paper doesn’t exist, but until I see details I cannot say on how strong evidence this paper gives for Spirulina’s efficacy. Dr. Belay, the CTO of Earthrise (a major producer of spiralina), told me in an email communication that only the abstract of this study was published.

There is another study from 1994 which is also of interest: “Means to normalize the levels of immunoglobulin E, using the food supplement Spirulina.” This study involved 35 preschool children living in highly radioactive areas who were given 5 grams of Spirulina day for 6 weeks. At the end of this period, Immunoglobulin E was found to be reduced, which is a marker for high allergy sensitivity. This study also shows great promise that Spirulina may be appropriate in treating certain types of problems caused by long-term exposure to radiation.

I was able to find a rough translation of the patent description for this, and it gave the detail that the children’s immunoglobulin E level range was 15 mkg/l – 6663 mkg/l  before treatment, and 12 mkg/l – 5416 mkg/l after. There is also a few examples quoted, such as Child A who went from 5183 mkg/l to 767 mkg/l and one who went from 73 mkg/l to 177 mkg/l. You may have noticed that the latter set of figures actually shows a major increase of IgE level, which is counter to the desired effect. Of course any study has a statistical variation where some patients react positively and some negatively, but its surprising out of the few actual data points given one of them had a negative effect.  If I was to administer this supplement to patients I would like to know more information about how many of those tested had a negative effect. The patent description also reports P < 0.005, which is a measure that the change observed is likely not from random chance.

I found it odd that the overall average (or median) of IgE before and after treatment was given. Without this, there is no indication how great the effect was, and we cannot infer it from the ranges given. Also, there was apparently no placebo group, and the untreated group was only 15 people, less than half the size of the treated group (35). I have seen tests where the untreated group is proportionally larger and wonder how this effects the overall results.

A final study of interest is “from Chairman of Byelorussian Committee “Children of Chernobyl” May 31, 1991″. In this study, Spirulina was given to 49 children in Beryozova aged 3 to 7 years old for 45 days. Beneficial hormones and T-cell suppressors rose, and in 83% of the children radioactivity of their urine decreased.

As with the first study I mentioned, these other two studies leave a lot of questions. I wasn’t able to find the full text of these either using various online sources. The CTO of Earthrise, who provided me the rough translation of the 1994 study, said that he could not find the 1991 study (“Childen of Chernobyl”) anywhere, but is appeared to be letter or report based on the 1993 study (the first one referenced in this article).

Several of these appear to be in Russian, but if I am ever able to find them and translate them into English, I’ll write another post.

(To be continued in a followup post)

Spirulina Special Report: Should we give it to the children of the Fukushima accident? [Part 1]

Up until now I have tried to keep this blog very focused on things related to sweets, but I felt a need to make an exception. This is the first part of a special series of posts on spirulina. I will be posting the others shortly. The full set of references will be saved to the last post which should be available within a week.

I have written the full article as a unit, but because it extends over 2000 words I thought it would be easier to digest in several parts. 

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Recently I came across an article which made claims that Spirulina reversed radiation damage in children and should be given to the children of Fukushima who are struggling through this terrible accident. I had only heard of Spirulina in passing, but I decided to do some research on it to determine whether it really made sense to start giving it to Japanese children.

Spirulina is a cyanobacterium which is identified by some sources as a blue-green algae, although some disagree and claim it is technically not algae. In any case, it was harvested from Lake Texcoco by Aztecs up until the 16th century and is generally thought be very nutritionally rich. Approximately 60% of it is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids, and there is a large variety of lipids (GLA, ALA, LA, etc.) as well as vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, etc.) and minerals (potassium, calcium, iron, etc.), among others.

With such a rich nutrient profile, Spirulina has been called “The Magic Food”, a “Superfood”, and even “The Most Nutritious Food On the Planet”.
As you can imagine, many companies have taken advantage of this and selling nutrient supplements of Spirulia, either by itself or with other nutrients added in. If you do a web search you will find hundreds, if not thousands of articles talking about its myriad of health benefits.

Though there is some exaggeration of “amazing” health benefits, and even some have even claimed Spirulina is a flat out scam, there is no doubt to me that there is abundant nutrition in this cyanobacterium. In fact, many types of algae are known to be nutritionally rich and are consumed by many countries. China consumes over 70 species and Japan over 20, including nori, aonori, and wakame.

Some of the various health claims for spirulina are backed by scientific studies. In this series of articles I’d like to focus on the studies and evidence which indicate it has a beneficial effect on radiation victims.

Before I talk about specific studies, I decided I would check to see what medical institutions had to say about Spirulina. First of all, the US National Library of Medicine’s website on Spirulina, last updated 12/09/2011, does not mention anything about effects of reversing radiation damage. It only lists a set of serious medical ailments (diabetes, depression, weight loss, etc.) and notes that there is insufficient medical evidence to rate effectiveness regarding treatment of these. It also remarks that contaminants, such as toxic microcystins and bacteria, maybe present in spirulina so one should be careful to obtain safe spirulina without these, especially when children are consuming it. This is not empty paranoia – in a study published in 2012, several Spirulina products marketed in China were found to have excessive lead.

The US National Library of Medicine also makes an important statement about spirulina as a protein source: “You may have been told that blue-green algae are an excellent source of protein. But, in reality, blue-green algae is no better than meat or milk as a protein source and costs about 30 times as much per gram”. Take note of this, I’ll come back to it a little later.

The University of Maryland Medical Center web site lists similar precautions about contaminants, and also lists a few preliminary studies that give evidence for spirulina’s positive effects on oral cancer, liver disorders, and other ailments. However there is no discussion about its radio-protective properties.

Using Amazon’s online search tool, I also did some searching through the 2007 published work “Spirulina in Human Nutrition and Health”, but was only able to find mention of spirulina’s radio-protective effect with respect to studies about mice and dogs. There was discussion about a study which showed good results for spirulina helping pulmonary function and Immunoglobulin E (an antibody related to allergies) levels.

Searching around the net, I found many articles which referred to Spirulina’s benefical effects of protecting from or reversing problems caused by radiation. However if you look closely into the studies quoted, most of them are either done in test tubes on or animals, were unpublished, or were studies where spirulina was used in combination with other suppliments.

(To be continued in a followup post)

Product Review: Clif Vanilla Almond Builder’s 20g Protein Bar

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There was a time in the last year or two when I was into weightlifting. As many weightlifters do, I tried to get as much protein as possible to help maximize my muscle mass by using protein bars, shakes, and the like. I have since stopped lifting, and also discovered there isn’t much conclusive research showing that excess protein really helps develop more muscle. So for the most part I’ve given up on all the protein supplement products.

Clif’s Vanilla Almond Builder’s protein bar is the one thing in this category I still eat from time to time, not for the protein but because it’s just so darn tasty. Not surprisingly, it also happens to be quite sweet.

Flavor

My first feeling when removing this protein bar from the wrapper is that it’s really *big*. It’s solid rectangular shape hints at the bulging muscles you might get with frequent consumption of it (of course, assuming you do the necessary weight training). On its way to your mouth, this solid mass of protein and almonds gives off a very strong scent of vanilla, whetting your appetite.

As you sink your teeth in, you put in a little extra force to bite off a chunk, after which your jaw gets a real workout on chewy, sweet stuff.

This bar is composed of three parts. The outside is coated in a sugary vanilla frosting that is the star of the show, thick on the bottom but thinly painted on the top. Within there are two layers, the larger bottom one comprised of tiny almond pieces that are held together by something sticky with the appearance of brown sugar. This has only a mild sweetness if eaten on its own, pale in comparison to the candy-like frosting. The top layer, partially visible by the thin coating on top, is made of very dense, chewy soy protein isolate. It doesn’t have too strong of a taste on it own. In fact I’m impressed how they’ve managed to cover up the texture and taste of powdered protein, which is not exactly what I would call appetizing.

This bar does an excellent job at filling you up so you can continue on with exercise. In my case it filled me up for an hour or two, if not longer. A minor side effect is that it really makes you thirsty. I typically drink a glass of cold water while eating it, and another after I’ve gobbled it up. The flavor tends to stay around in your mouth for a while afterwards and the water helps lessen this effect.

If I had to describe this product in a single word I would say “addictive”. From the fresh vanilla scent to the delicious chewy texture, Clif and his company have truly crafted a masterpiece of sweet nutrition.

If little frosting pieces didn’t break off and make little white smears on my clothes it would be perfect, but for those who aren’t messy eaters like me this won’t apply to you.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In one bar (68 grams / 2.4 ounces) there are 270 calories. This figure should be judged differently than other sweet products, since the whole point of this bar is to give your body some nutrition so it can keep working, or start rebuilding muscle before you have a chance for a proper meal. Remember this type of product should never replace a real, complete meal with fresh vegetables, starches, and meat (if you aren’t a vegetarian, that is).

There is of course the massive 20 grams of protein, plus 240 mg of salt (10% DV), 170 mg of potassium (5% DV) and 3 grams of fiber (12% DV).

This is a big portion of sugar, 22 grams, which I don’t consider a bad thing if you are consuming this product during or after exercise. After all, your body does need some sugar to function properly. However, for this like myself who simply indulge in this as a tasty snack there may be a little guilt, especially given the sugar per weight (roughly 32 grams sugar / 100 grams total weight) is higher than many ice creams!

Actually I take that back – this is one of the few products where you shouldn’t feel very guilty about the high sugar content. The reason is that there is several different sweeteners used, at least one or two of which has the potential to be healthier than your average added sugar: beet juice, brown rice syrup, and dried cane syrup. Sure, it may turn out that after all “sugar is sugar” and your body handles these roughly the same, but until that is 100% proven I think you’re better off with a variety of sweeteners as opposed to a load of everyday table sugar.

Except for the “Natural Flavors” which I have a deep hatred of, the rest of the ingredients are very healthy. There is a mix of oils from natural sources (palm kernel oil, sunflower oil), natural seeds (flaxseed, quinoa), oats, almond butter, and almonds.

The only other thing which is potentially unhealthy is the soy protein isolate itself, more because it is in super-concentrated form (and hence unnatural) than because of claims of soy’s effects on testosterone, which have for the most part been proven invalid. Complaining about this ingredient when it is the primary selling point of the product doesn’t make much sense, because those purchasing it know full well what they are buying.

The full ingredient list is: Soy Protein Isolate, Beet Juice Concentrate, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Palm Kernel Oil, Organic Rolled Oats, Almond Butter, Organic Soy Flour, Almonds, Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Quinoa, Organic Vanilla, Organic Sunflower Oil, Inulin (Chicory Extract), Rice Starch, Organic Flaxseed, Organic Oat Fiber, Natural Flavors, Soy Lecithin, Salt.

Vitamins & Minerals: Dicalcium Phosphate, Magnesium Oxide, Ascorbic Acid (Vit. C), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit. E), Ferric Orthophosphate (Iron), Beta Carotene (Vit. A), Zinc Citrate, Phytonadione (Vit.K1), Biotin, Niacinamide (Vit. B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vit. B5), Potassium Iodide, Manganese Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Sodium Selenite, Thiamin (Vit. B1), Chromium Chloride, Cyanocobalamin (Vit. B12), Sodium Molybdate, Folic Acid (Vit. B9), Riboflavin (Vit. B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vit. B6).

The long list of vitamins and minerals could be a blessing or a curse, depending on your stance regarding these food additives. I think they may help and are less likely to cause harm, and am therefore cautiously positive on them. Again, if you are the type of person who balks at vitamins added to a food product you wouldn’t likely be looking for a protein bar in the first place.

33% of the ingredients are Organic, which is nice bonus because the product is not openly marketed as a organic product.

Price/Availability

These are sold are various supermarkets, including Publix and Whole Foods Supermarket, from $2 – $3. If you buy wholesale online (in packs of 12), you can get the price down to $1.50 a bar.

Ratings:   Flavor: 9.0  Nutrition/Ingredients:8.0    Price:7.5    Overall:8.2

Summary

If you’ve looking for a great way to grab a load of protein quick during or after exercise, this tasty mix of mostly natural ingredients is highly recommended. Those with a sweet tooth who are less active should find it equally appealing as a delicious snack.

References

http://www.clifbar.com/food/products_builders/1230

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soy_protein

Three Sisters Cocoa Snapz rice cereal – product review

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Introduction

I like to eat cereal every morning with my family before I go to work. It’s a good way to start the day especially when I can’t always predict when I’ll have time for lunch. To keep things from getting boring, we try to change up the cereal every few days to something different.

I had reviewed Three Sister’s Honey Puffs rice cereal in a previous blog entry (see first reference below), and I decided to try out another of their cereals. As you’ll soon find out, these two cereals have a great deal in common.

This cereal is pretty much a “healthy” version of Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies, meaning its supposed to be healthy though in some ways it isn’t much different.

Flavor

This cereal is made of puffed rice, made with a similar process as puffed wheat in Honey Puffs. This gives it a light fluffy texture, and the added advantage of higher surface area without too much volume. In other words, you are eating a lot of air, and as a result you take in less calories, sugar, and nutrients (per spoonful) that you would otherwise if it wasn’t puffed. You could call this a health food in that sense (much like puffed rice cakes), but I actually think of it more as a way for the producer to save money on materials and sell a large bag of cereal with a good percentage of that empty space.

It has a moderately sweet chocolate flavor, which is appetizing but not quite what I am looking for in a cereal. The sweetness catches your intention while you are eating but sometime later you realize you really haven’t eaten that much food (at least if you eat a small bowl like I do) and are likely to get hungry earlier than if you ate a more wholesome breakfast.

Both the flavor and texture is nearly identical to Cocoa Krispies.

Nutrition / Ingredients

In a single 29 gram (3/4 cup) serving, there are 120 calories which is standard for this type of product. Sugar is 13 grams, a bit on the sweet side.

There isn’t much nutrition in this product, with no fiber, practically no protein (1 gram per serving), and less than 10% of most common vitamins and minerals. Sodium is nothing special at 150 mg, which is 6% of daily intake.

Because of the lack of substance and nutrition, I feel this is really not the best way to get your day started, unless of course you supplement it with other foods higher in nutrition.

The ingredients are so-so, with caramel color, and natural flavor as negative marks in my book. The full list is as follows:

Rice, Sugar, Coconut oil, Cocoa (process with alkali), Contains 2% less of: salt, caramel color, natural flavor, reduced iron, zinc (zinc oxide)

When comparing this to Cocoa Krispies, as you might expect both the ingredients and nutritional information is very similar. Calorie count is virtually the same (120 calories for one 31 gram serving) and sugars is actually a tad less in the “less healthy” version, at 12 grams. The other funny thing is that Cocoa Krispies has much more vitamins and minerals (compare 25% DV of vitamin A and C to 0% in Cocoa Snaps).

I remember writing something similar for the Sugar Puffs review – but I’ll repeat it here. If a cereal really wants to be billed as “healthy”, it should reduce sugar and add some more nutrients. This cereal actually has less nutrients and more sugar! (I’d like to point on here that some believe that vitamins and minerals added artificially are not easily absorbed by the body and have little to no value)

There are a few areas where Cocoa Snapz is healthier than its predecessor. Natural flavor and caramel color is used instead of malt flavor, artificial flavor, and BHT (a preservative). The last of those has particularly scary, with some research pointing to cancer-inducing effects in animal experiments. I’m not convinced it is truly harmful but if a cereal can stay fresh enough without BHT that is clearly a better way go.

Price and Availability

Available exclusively from Whole Foods. I purchased mine for $3.99. There are 396 grams in the package.

Ratings

Flavor: 7.0

Nutrition/Ingredients: 6.0

Price: 7.0

Overall: 6.66

Summary

A cereal that closely copies Cocoa Krispies flavor while making it more healthy in some areas (no preservatives) and potentially worse in others (less nutrients, slightly more sugar). If you are a fan of Krispies I recommend trying this, otherwise I would search for a heartier cereal with more nutrition.

References

https://sweetsreporter.com/2013/10/02/three-sisters-honey-puffs-product-review/

http://threesisterscereal.com/product/cocoa-snapz/

http://www.ricekrispies.com/products/cocoa-krispies-cereal

http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food-safety/article/two-preservatives-avoid

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Ingredient Math – estimating worst (or best) case for ingredient proportions

Have you ever wondered how much of a certain ingredient is really present in a sweet, or any food product?

You probably know that ingredients are listed on food labels in order or prevalence, with the most predominant ingredient first. You may have even known this was determined by weight. But in this article I will discuss a method to get an estimate for the maximum of each ingredient’s percentage of total weight – just by using the ordered ingredient list.

To derive this formula, lets start with a very simple example, a product with just “coffee and sugar”. Since coffee is listed first we know it has higher or equal amount of total weight when compared to sugar.

Is there anything we can do to determine about how much the first ingredient, coffee, is really in the product? The answer is no because coffee could be almost 100% to almost 0% of the total weight, with sugar filling in the remaining space. (Actually, there is a trick to determine the amount here since the second ingredient is sugar, which I’ll discuss later in this article).

But what about the sugar?

Well, if you think about it, there can’t be more than 50% sugar, by weight, since any more of that would mean there was more sugar than coffee, which we know is not the case.

So we’ve learned something important – that there is no more than 50% sugar in the product. This would apply to another second ingredient when there are two total ingredients.

What if there were three or more total ingredients? We would get the same result, because the other ingredients could be in trace amounts (practically 0%), so the “50% maximum for the second ingredient” rule would still apply.

What about the maximum amount of the third ingredient? Using the same logic you will see it cannot be above 33.3%, since any more of that would mean it is in greater proportion than the first and second ingredients. And for the forth ingredient you get a maximum, by weight, of 25%.

Turning this into a simple formula we get the following:

Maximum percentage of the Nth ingredient = (100 / N)

So for the 5th ingredient, you would get (100 / 5) = 20% maximum weight of that ingredient.

If you use formula along with the serving size you can determine the maximum weight of any of the ingredients per serving. Pretty handy if you want to minimize your intake of certain things.

If you want to take this to the next step, you can infer more information when one more more ingredients are a type of sugar. For example, if a product contains “coffee, sugar” and has 3 grams of sugar per 15 gram serving, then you know right away there is 20% sugar and 80% coffee in this product. Keep in mind that the grams of sugar listed includes any type of sugar, so if you have multiple ingredients which contain some type of sugar (even fruits) then the calculation gets a little trickier.

Besides knowing there is a certain percentage of sugar, you can use that to deduce information about other ingredients.

For example, if the imaginary product I just described had a third ingredient, say “coffee, sugar, vanilla”, then you would know that there is 20% or less vanilla because sugar is 20% or less. This assumes that there is no sugar in the vanilla, otherwise it would be harder to make any definitive conclusions.

Similarly, if you know how much protein is in each ingredient, you can figure out even more using the supplied protein in grams.

You can also leverage information about other ingredients to deduce additional information about the other ingredients. For example if a product had “milk, sugar, guar gum, vanilla”, you would know that the proportion of vanilla is much less than 25% since guar gum is typically used in relatively small doses. (I’ve tried overusing guar gum in homemade ice cream – its not pretty!)

I love thinking about food and ingredients from a methodical, logical point of view since it allows me to apply science to my everyday life.

References

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064880.htm

Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream – Product Review

benjer

Introduction

In my college days, Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie was my go-to ice cream when I had a rough week or had accomplished something noteworthy and deserved a reward. Though I would never attempt this at my age, in those days I would just sit down and polish off an entire carton in a matter of minutes.

I generally try to gravitate towards less sweet products, but there was a half price sale at Publix so I had an excuse to pick up a pint of this.

In spite of my nostalgic attachment to this product, I’ll do my best for an unbiased review.

Flavor

This ice cream is about as sweet, rich, and decadent as you can get. As you come across the brownie pieces, your teeth sink into spongy cake with an even deeper sweetness (if that is even possible). When I eat this my “avoid too much sugar” angel on my shoulder has to keep quiet or else I can’t enjoy myself.

I love how the base ice cream itself is so thick and gooey. It would work fine on its own even without the brownie bites inserted.

This ice cream also tastes colder on the tongue than most others I have tasted, possibly because it is so dense an can hold a low temperature better than others. One reason for this is a high concentration of water.

Ingredients & Nutrition

A 105 g serving (1/4 of the container) contains 270 calories, which is significantly above average for the ice creams I typically enjoy.

I’ll just let the cat out of the bag – Chocolate Fudge ice cream contains way more sugar than anyone health-conscious would ever consider consuming, a whopping 28 grams per serving. But the fact this ice cream is so bad for you is what makes it so tasty, and why it’s perfect for special occasions when you feel you deserve it. Just make sure you eat no more than half of the carton at a time!

Other nutrients are mediocre, with 5 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, 15% DV of iron and 10 %DV of calcium.

There are around 20 ingredients, which is no surprise because typically brownies require several ingredients on their own. Also, this product isn’t marketed as a healthy ice cream so there’s no reason for the producer to try and reduce the ingredient count. Ingredients of note are liquid sugar (#2), water (#4), and cocoa (#6). There is also three egg ingredients (egg yolks, whole eggs, and egg whites) present.

While Ben & Jerry didn’t go out of their way to use ingredients thought to be ‘healthier’ such as agave syrup instead of plain sugar, its nice to see there are no artificial flavorings or colorings. There is no ‘natural flavor’ either.

One minor annoyance I have with this product is the ingredients for the base ice cream and brownie bites are not separated as is done for other products. I have a feeling  the thick texture of the ice cream base is due in part to egg yolks, but I can’t tell for sure since eggs are also typically used in brownie baking.

The brownie bytes make this ice cream very filling so it can be enjoyed even when you’re hungry. Regardless of the state of your stomach, you’ll get a huge sugar rush after this.

Price and Availability

This is available in many different grocery stores, from Publix to Target to Walmart, for roughly $3.79 for a one pint container.

Ratings

Flavor: 9.0

Ingredients&Nutrition: 6.0

Price: 8.0

Overall: 7.66

Summary

This ice cream is perfect for when you want to go overboard and just totally enjoy yourself – at the cost of a massive amount of sugar intake. Not recommend for frequent consumption.

References

http://www.benjerry.com/flavors/our-flavors#product_id=611

Artisana Organic Raw Cacao Bliss – The coconut lovers’ spread!

artisana

Intro

A majority of the products I’ve reviewed in this blog up until now have been longtime favorites of mine, something I’ve enjoyed for months if not years. Those reports were a lot of fun to write, but I’m running out of ammo. If I am going to keep updating this blog at the same rate, I’m going to have to adventure out and try new things. It will be a great experience for me to see what else is out there in the world of sweets, and I hope some of you readers can learn about some products you hadn’t heard of it, or hadn’t had a chance to try.

My last review was partially in this category, but the subject this time, Artisana Oganic Raw Cacao Bliss, was chosen just so I could have something interesting to report on.

I wasn’t able to find out the official date this product was released, but I just noticed it on the shelves of Whole Foods Market a few weeks back, so it may be somewhat new.

Flavor

I could just state the flavor is a mix of coconut and cacao, which would be quite correct, but that much you could easily guess just from the product name.

In all fairness, I come a background of heavy “Justin” (Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter) use, so I can’t help but compare initially. Texture wise, cacao bliss is much more oilier with a finer consistency, almost what I would describe as grainy. Due to the lack of nuts this product is less ‘meaty’ than nut-based spreads.

What really hit me in the face, so to speak, was how *coconutty* this spread is. I’m a big proponent of coconut-based ice cream, but I’ve never been overpowered by the coconut flavor there; it’s always secondary to the other flavors. In this product it’s really exposed, with the cocoa flavor taking a back seat.

My first reaction wasn’t too rosy, but after I finished my slice of bread and rested a moment, I realized I wanted some more. So I worked my fingers and squeezed every last drop of this coconut-heavy spread into my mouth, and to my surprise was already liking it more. I have the feeling I’ll learn to love it as I eat more of this product, and learn to stop comparing it to other spreads.

Ingredients / Nutrition

In one 33.7 gram pack there are 177 calories, a value on par with similar spreads. Sugar is very low at 3 grams, nearly half that of my beloved “Justin”.

There all only five ingredients, all Organic: Coconut Butter, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Agave Syrup, Cacao, and Cacao Butter. Many will be happy to hear this product is both vegan and free of sugar cane sugar, and it should satisfy even the pickiest health fanatics. I’d like to note that the term “raw” is a bit vague, and most if not all of the ingredients here have at least some processing.

Although the protein content (2 grams) is a little lower than nut-based spreads, both coconut butter and coconut oil are known for a wide array of health benefits.  For example, they can increase metabolism, reduce cholesterol, and help maintain proper weight. 

Unfortunately in the world of nutrition there is always another side to things. Coconut oil is a saturated fat and hence should be limited a small portion of total calories due to potential increase in heart disease risk. So as with most things, eat this in moderation.

Price and Availability

This product is sold in 1.19 ounce (33.7 gram) packs, either individually or in sets of 10. I bought a single pack from Whole Foods for around $2.00, though if you look around you can buy a pack of 10 for as little as 1.67 per pack online (see references).

It’s also sold in 6 packs of 227 gram jars, for roughly 20% cheaper than buying the 33 gram packs.

Ratings

Flavor: 5.0

Ingredients/Nutrition:8.0

Price: 7.0

Overall: 6.66

Summary

Healthy chocolate spread which is great for coconut lovers.

References

http://artisanafoods.com/raw-organic-cacao-bliss-single-serving

http://artisanafoods.com/products/cacao-bliss

http://www.wholesomerepublic.com/artisana-organic-raw-cacao-butter-1-19-oz-10-squeeze-packs/

http://www.vitadigest.com/groc-870001000923.html

http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/surprising-health-benefits-coconut-oil

http://www.12minuteathlete.com/coconut-butter/

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/coconut-oil-and-health