Should you throw out your nonstick pans?

 

I’ve been getting lots of questions relating to the documentary Dark Waters.

For example, Dannette wrote:

“I just  watched the movie “Dark Waters” which makes the case against Teflon.  I immediately threw away my nonstick pans. I’m concerned about ALL nonstick surfaces now. I’m not sure if I need to be. I’d love it if you watched it and then let me know what you think. I love having a good nonstick pan, but it isn’t worth my family’s long term health. I just want to figure out what my best options are for being completely safe cooking for my family.”

7/5/20 UPDATE: In my original response (posted here on June 25th), I disclosed that I had not seen the movie Dark Waters.  Unfortunately, that did not keep me from making some false assumptions about it.   In response to valid criticisms, I’ve removed my original comments about the movie Dark Waters, which included some inaccuracies.  (See the comments for several thoughtful descriptions of the movie).

This doesn’t change my answer to Dannette’s question. Although I don’t personally use it, I don’t think users of modern nonstick cookware need to be concerned about chemicals leaching into their food.  But let me add some additional context:

Although PFOA persists in the environment,  it is no longer used in nonstick cookware.  And even when it was used in Teflon cookware, the primary threat was not due to exposure from use of the pans but from industrial dumping of the chemical into the water supply.

Although I’m not afraid of poisoning myself or my family by using nonstick cookware,I prefer to use stainless steel, cast iron, glass, and silicone. I use a little oil or cooking spray when necessary.  I sometimes have to clean a pan.

But the choices that we make individually about which products we use do not necessarily protect us from industrial chemicals that may be harmful to the environment in which we all live.

There are ongoing, legitimate concerns about the process by which industrial chemicals are tested and approved for safety and impact on the environment, including downstream effects on wildlife and human life.

Thank you to all who helped clarify this issue.

Immune Boosting Fact Check

In the chaos surrounding the novel coronavirus, there is a lot of information swirling around about foods and nutrients that can “boost your immune system.”  Some of it is not terribly accurate. In this Live Q&A, I answer your questions about specific supplements and highlight the most effective things you can do to keep yourself and your family safe.

Related listening:

 

Is Durum Wheat Semolina a Whole Grain?

In the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade program, players earn points by choosing whole grain foods instead of refined grain foods. But distinguishing one from the other can sometimes require an advanced degree in label reading! As one of my Upgraders recently posted in our private Facebook group:

“Labels on food can be confusing. Pasta labels are especially confusing – one says ‘durum wheat semolina’ and another says ‘enriched durum wheat semolina’. I know enriched means refined but if it doesn’t say enriched does that mean it’s whole grain?”

Let’s break down some of this terminology:

Durum” is a strain of wheat that is used mostly for pasta, due to its higher protein content. (Think of “Durum” as its first name and “Wheat” as its family name.) But unless it says “whole grain” you can assume that it is refined, which means that the nutritious germ and fibrous bran have been removed.

The word “Semolina,” on the other hand, refers to the fact that the durum wheat is coarsely ground–again, in order to produce good pasta texture. The word “semolina” is sort of like the designation “Esquire” after a lawyers name; it’s not part of the lawyer’s identity like her first or last name but an indication of her preparation and function.)

The word “enriched” almost always signals a refined grain. Refined grains are often enriched in an effort to replace the nutrients that are lost to refining. You will virtually never see “enriched whole wheat,” because it would be unnecessary to replace nutrients that have not been removed.  However, the absence of the word “enriched” doesn’t mean that it is not refined.

You can save yourself a lot of label reading by looking for the 100% whole grain stamp. When you see this (or the words “100% whole grain”) on the front of the package, you don’t even need to flip the package over to see the ingredient list….that’s the golden ticket right there.

 

Can we all calm down about coconut oil?

I’ve gotten several emails from readers asking me to respond to a viral video in which a Harvard (Harvard!) professor asserts that coconut oil is “pure poison.”

It’s hard to imagine how someone with such a prestigious pedigree could make such as silly and sensational statement in public. Presumably she was pushed over the edge by the ridiculous claims that some people have been making about coconut oil lately.

Can we all just calm down about coconut oil?

Coconut oil is not pure poison. On the other hand, it’s also not going to make you smarter, thinner, younger, or fold your laundry for you.

Proponents of coconut oil make a big deal out of the fact that coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). But, as I discussed in my podcast episode on MCTs, claims for these specialty fats tend to be exaggerated or unproven.

Coconut oil haters such as this Harvard (!) professor mostly object to the fact that coconut is is almost 100% saturated fat. But, as I discussed in my recent podcast episode on butter, saturated fat in moderation may even have some heart health benefits.

Despite saturated fat’s rehabilitated reputation, I still think it makes sense to limit saturated fat intake to around 10-15% of calories, if for no other reason than to leave room in the diet for other healthy fats. But if you want to spend your sat fat allowance on coconut oil, I see no reason to call in Poison Control.

The case for super slow weight loss

One of the things that sets the Weighless approach apart from other weight loss programs is our emphasis on slow weight loss.  Instead of coaching our members to lose a couple of pounds a week, we try to hold them to a couple of pounds a month.

Crazy, right? And yet there is a method to our madness.

Most people can only lose 2-3 pounds of body fat per month. If you’re losing weight faster than that, the rest is likely to be lean muscle. Believe me, that’s NOT what you’re trying to lose. Although our approach may seem like an insanely slow way to lose weight, we’re finding that it’s actually a much quicker (and less unpleasant) path to sustainable fat loss.

Interestingly, our members frequently report that after losing weight the “Weighless way,” they look and their clothes fit as if they have lost much more than they have.

Losing weight slowly not only preserves your metabolism and muscle mass. It also gives you more time to acquire the habits and practice the skills that will help you maintain a lower weight, heading off the dreaded–and seemingly inevitable–rebound weight gain.

It all makes sense, right? But occasionally, someone in the group will ask if there is published research to support the merits of the super slow pace of weight loss we endorse. Fair enough. I’ve built a reputation for being evidence-based, and most of the people who sign up for my programs cite this as one of the reasons they trust my advice.

Show Me the Research

A few studies have compared the effects of slow vs. fast weight loss. For example:

A 2016 study involving almost 60 subjects found that those who lost weight more slowly lost less muscle mass, which was associated with less weight regain. A similar (but longer) study dating back to 1994 compared the effects of “fast” vs. “slow” weight loss and found that the fast losers lost more weight initially but were much more likely to regain it.

The problem is that virtually all of the studies that compare fast and slow weight loss define “slow” as 1-2 pounds a week, which is still too fast by our standards.

There’s this 2008 study which found that small, cumulative changes in diet and activity (similar to the approach we use in Weighless) produced slow but sustainable weight loss–and was ultimately far more effective than giving people standard weight loss advice.

At the other end of the spectrum, the famous (and heartbreaking) “Biggest Loser” study demonstrates just how much damage fast weight can do to your metabolism. After six years, virtually all of the contestants had regained every pound (and more)–despite continuing to eat fewer calories. 

Our approach is certainly informed by research–but it also draws heavily on our experience and common sense. And although we are not (yet) conducting a controlled trial, the results we are seeing and the feedback we are getting from our members are enormously validating.  I think we’re onto something here…and maybe the researchers will take notice.  In the meantime, you can learn more about our Weighless group here.

Is Halo Top Ice Cream Healthy?

Piper writes:

“Ordinarily, I try to eat natural, whole foods. But I have a soft spot – literally and figuratively — for ice cream. There are some new brands of ice cream, such as Halo Top, that are supposedly higher in protein and lower in fat, sugar, and calories.  The main ingredients are milk protein concentrate, erythritol, corn fiber, and other things one would not find in premium ice cream. Being able to eat an entire pint of ice cream for just a few hundred calories is tempting. But are these products too processed to be good for us?”

Premium ice creams made from milk, cream, and sugar can claim to be less highly processed and perhaps more “natural.” They are also deliciously rich–meaning, high in sugar, fat, and calories. If you’re the type that can savor the recommended (but ridiculously small) half-cup serving size, you can enjoy a decadent treat without doing too much damage.

The problem is that most of us can easily plow through an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s (did I mention the part about delicious?), at which point we’ve consumed a half day’s worth of calories and four day’s worth of added sugar.

One of the big attractions of Halo Top ice cream is that you can eat the entire pint for about the same number of calories as a tiny scoop of Ben and Jerry’s.  You also get 20 grams of high-quality protein, 12 grams of fiber, and 24 grams (one day’s worth) of added sugars.  For many people, Halo Top wouldn’t just be a healthier dessert option; it would make a more nutritious breakfast!

What is in this stuff?

Although taste is highly subjective, I actually think they taste pretty darned good. Which is surprising when you look at the ingredient list, which contains things like erythritol, prebiotic fiber, milk protein concentrate, vegetable glycerin, organic guar gum and organic stevia leaf extract (in addition to things like milk, eggs, cream, and cane sugar).

This is not a minimally-processed food, by any stretch of the imagination. But perhaps this is processing put to a good cause. Continue reading “Is Halo Top Ice Cream Healthy?” >