Food for Thought: Read labels carefully
TIP OF THE WEEK
Decipher misleading food labels
Food labels are important. After all, they help you determine the best value and the healthiest option. But while the FDA requires terms like “low sodium” and “high fiber” to meet strict definitions, other terms aren’t regulated at all. Here are some tips from the Center for Food Safety to help you decipher what these classifications really mean:
-- Multigrain: To avoid refined flour, look for products that list whole wheat as the main ingredient.
-- Made with real fruit: Because this claim is unregulated, products may only contain trace amounts of actual fruit -- and not necessarily the kind featured in the packaging. Look for products where fruit is a primary ingredient.
-- Lightly sweetened: Products with this description can still be full of artificial sweeteners and sugar.
-- Pesticide free: With no legal requirements behind this claim, the only way to be certain your food has no pesticides is to buy certified organic.
5 surprising facts about avocados
The avocado is virtually the only fruit that contains monounsaturated fat -- a good fat. Around 90 percent of the nation’s avocado crop is produced in California. Here are five more facts about the fruit from the California Avocado Commission:
-- The Hass avocado is a California native. The Hass variety was discovered in La Habra Heights, California, in the 1920s by Rudolph Hass.
-- It takes 14-18 months to grow a single California avocado.
-- Less than 1 percent of California has the fertile soil, cool breeze and gentle sunshine necessary to grow avocados.
-- There are nearly 4,000 avocado growers in California; the average grove size is around 13 acres.
-- One California avocado tree can produce up to 200 avocados (or 100 pounds of fruit) a season.
FOOD & HEALTH
5 foods that can help you sleep
Are you having trouble falling asleep? Are you waking up in the middle of the night? According to AARP, these foods may help you get a better night’s sleep.
-- Almonds: Almonds contain magnesium, a muscle-relaxing mineral that plays a key role in regulating sleep.
-- Bananas: These nutritional powerhouses contain tryptophan, an amino acid linked to sleep quality. They also offer abundant amounts of magnesium and potassium, two minerals that help relax muscles.
-- Cherries: Cherries, especially the tart varieties, are one of the few food sources of melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates your internal clock.
-- Green tea: Green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that helps to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Just make sure the green tea you enjoy at night is decaffeinated.
-- Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds are packed with a variety of essential nutrients, including substantial amounts of tryptophan.
Do you enjoy soy?
Though soy used to be a staple of the health food movement, now many claim soy isn’t good for you. For example, studies have found that infants who are fed soy-based formula may not be able to develop vital immune functions, according to Scientific American.
If your stomach has ever felt upset after eating soy, it could be because soy contains many inhibitors that prevent proper digestion. This in turn can lead to gas, cramps and diarrhea.
In addition, the soy used in many dairy and meat substitutes is usually heavily processed with additives like sugar and vegetable oil and can contain high levels of aluminum, which is toxic to the kidneys and nervous system.
To avoid these effects, read labels carefully and only eat soy in moderation.