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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
An architect's notes, experiments, discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

Search from over a hundred HOW TO articles, Tips and Tricks


Notes from the course "Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights" on Coursera

I live to eat and also like knowing more about the food I eat - I'm fascinated about food. Ever since the course Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights appeared on Coursera, I've been meaning to complete it but I've managed to reach completion with the third offering (a year and half later) of the course. The excellent course is delivered by Jamie Pope of Vanderbilt University.

The course has been very insightful. There are numerous takeaways and I've jotted down the points that I found most useful from the 7-week course along with my own notes, for future reference:

- What drives food and beverage choices – taste, price, healthfulness, convenience
- Balance calories with physical activity to manage weight
- Energy dense foods tend to be nutrient poor
- Reduce intake of sodium to less than 2300 mg per day
- Replace saturated fatty acids with poly and monounsaturated fatty acids
- It is advisable to moderate sugar intake to less than 40 grams or 8 teaspoons (~5 grams each) per day
- Mediterranean diet emphasizes olive oil, breads, whole grain cereals, nuts, fish, dried beans, vegetables, and fruits; and wine in moderation.
- The Jelly Bean Rule prevents food manufacturers from indiscriminately adding nutrients to otherwise nutritionally inadequate foods and then claiming the food is “healthy”. For example, adding vitamin C or calcium to a food like jelly beans wouldn’t make jelly beans “healthy”.
- Though there are more that 160 foods that have been identified as potential allergens in sensitive individuals, the following major (big 8) food allergens account for over 90% of food allergies - milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soybeans, fish, crustacean shellfish.. Manufacturers are required to declare the presence of: milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, and soybeans.
- Nutrition labels in India are not as comprehensive as in the US; sodium content in processed food is not mentioned. Standards for Packaging and Labeling in India are governed by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India [PDF]. FSSAI has a reward scheme for consumers to report wrong food claims.

- In India, the packaging of vegetarian food is required to have green colour filled circle while non-vegetarian food needs to have a  brown colour filled circle
- Sugar/added sugar in processed food may be specified by more than two dozen names on food labels
-  Labeling rules in India don't appear to be well-enforced. The picture below of a biscuit packet claims to have no added sugar but lists liquid glucose as an ingredient.
- UK follows a traffic light system for nutrition labeling, giving a visual indicator of the health value of a food product.

- Foods (in the US) can claim to be “Trans fat free” if they contain less than 0.5 grams per serving
- Super foods provide optimal nutrition along with additional health benefits but are not energy dense (relatively low in calories). Examples - beans, blueberries, oats, quinoa, walnuts, carrots, soy, spinach, tomatoes
- The colon is home to 500 species of microorganisms
- Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates broken down by colon bacteria. Sources - chicory, wheat, barley, onion, garlic
- Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods
- The Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) for calcium is 2,500 milligrams
- For individuals not consuming milk or milk products (or minimal amounts), fortified juice might be a good choice.
- 5% of US adults are vegetarian and 2% vegan
- The most orthodox among vegetarians are vegans whose food plan consists of only plant foods
- While a vegetarian diet has health benefits, it may lack Vitamin B12, Iodine & Omega-3 fatty acids
- Soy products, Quinoa, Spirulina are non-animal source of complete proteins
- Quino provides all 9 essential (of 20) amino acids
- Iron found in plant foods (nonheme iron) is lower in bioavailability than heme iron found in animal foods. Thus the recommended iron intake as per the US Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) is 80% higher for vegetarians.
- Sunlight, cod liver oil, egg yolks are sources of Vitamin D
- Omega-3 fatty acids are found in plant foods like walnuts, flax seed, canola and soybean oil
- Organic food does not result in better nutrition but means safer food
- Organic and natural (natural is not a term approved by FDA) are not the same thing
- GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms – foods) can be plant or animal foods
- GMOs have been around for centuries. Historically, farmers bred plants & animals for thousands of years to produce desired traits
- GMOs can be bioengineered to alter taste, nutrient content, and perishability (shelf life).
- Monsanto introduced its GM crops in the 1990s. They've been adopted by 28 countries (including US and China) and planted on 11% of the world's arable land, including half the cropland in the US.
- About 90% of the corn, cotton and soyabeans grown in the US are genetically modified.
- Modified plants or animals may have genetic changes that are unexpected and harmful
- People living in the following geographic areas have been found to have measurably longer lives: the Provence of Okinawa in Japan, the Lome Linda area of California, the Italian island of Sardinia, New Scotia in Canada, Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. People in "The Blue Zones" have lower incidence of diseases associated with old age and fewer physical limitations.
- The Okinawan diet consists of low-calorie, nutrient dense, antioxidant rich dietary pattern low in glycemic load
- Key behaviors and practices of populations living longer:
# a regular, natural tendency to be active
# a habit of eating less than average
# active participation in a community (faith or family based)
# a "plan" or purpose

- The water content in foods provides about 25% of our water needs.
- Before exercise, a meal or snack that is rich in carbohydrate enhances performance, boosts glycogen stores, and helps sustain blood glucose levels. Carbohydrate foods with lower glycemic index are recommended (foods that do not raise blood sugar too rapidly).
- Percent of carbohydrate used as fuel by muscle varies by intensity. The greater the intensity, the greater reliance on carbohydrate as fuel: approximately 40% when walking, 50% when jogging, 80% when running, and 95% when sprinting.
- Activities of low-to-moderate intensity are “aerobic” or “oxygen requiring” and burn primarily fatty acids as fuel. Oxygen is required to convert fat into energy.
- Higher intensity or anaerobic (without oxygen) activity relies primarily on carbohydrate (glucose) as fuel.
- Much of the glucose for intense activities comes from the body's limited storage form of carbohydrate or glycogen.
- Glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrate in the body, is found in our muscles and liver.
- Several health and sports medicine organizations all focus on at least 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days a week (150 minutes) as a goal for adults or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise three days a week.
- Food allergies are a reproducible, adverse reaction to a food that is cause by a type of immune reaction to an allergen (usually protein) in food.
- A food intolerance is a reproducible, adverse reaction to a food that is not a direct result of an immune response.
- Exception: Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease that is considered a food intolerance not an allergy. The disease is characterized by inflammation of the small-intestine lining resulting from a genetic gluten intolerance.
- Lactose intolerance or maldigestion is caused by low production of lactase, an enzyme that helps digest milk.

Also see:
Book Review: Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter
Book Review: Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal

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