Consumer Reports describes itself as the world’s largest independent, nonprofit, consumer-product-testing organization. It maintains integrity by paying for all the products it rates, not accepting paid advertising, and not accepting test samples from manufacturers. Consumer Reports also does not allow its name or content to be used for any promotional purposes.
The November 2017 Eat Smarter, Eat Healthier cover story in its monthly magazine caught our attention, and the organization met its goal with this article of serving up clarity about conflicting nutrition news concerning sugar, salt, fat and gluten. And the current issue (January 2018) of the magazine includes letters in response to the article and succinct advise in Consumer Reports Editor’s Notes on two matters that especially deserve spotlighting.
One reader suggested that maple syrup should be used instead of table sugar or honey because it has a lower glycemic index and also contains higher levels of beneficial nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. In the Editor’s Note in reply, it is noted that a quarter cup of maple syrup does supply 62 percent of your daily riboflavin requirement, about 9 percent of calcium, 8 percent of zinc, and 5 percent of potassium.
Nonetheless, the Editor’s Note in the magazine also emphasized the fact that a quarter cup of maple syrup has about 200 calories and 50 grams of sugars- more than in a 12-ounce can of cola, and you can get those nutrients from other foods. This emphasis brought to mind Food Rule 5 from Michael Pollan’s highly recommended Food Rules: Avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients because “sugar is sugar.” Even so, unlike the forty types of sugar used in processed food such as barley malt, beet sugar, brown rice syrup, cane juice, corn sweetener, dextrin, dextrose, fructo-oligosaccharides, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, sucrose, invert sugar, polydextrose, sucrose, turbinado sugar, and so on, with maple syrup, consumers can know exactly where their sweetener comes from and also support a local sugar bush producing maple syrup with the potential benefit to a local community’s economy and environment.
Further, a couple of months ago, we reported on the annual conference in upstate New York for members of the praiseworthy Grassfed Exchange, a volunteer organization that has for nearly a decade collected and disseminated information on how grass-fed cows are healthier, the meat and milk that comes from them is better for humans, and the cycle of grass-based grazing is better for the land, water and air. Consequently we were very pleased to see the Editor’s Note from Consumer Reports in reply to a letter from a reader who wished that the magazine in the November issue had discussed grass-fed meat and dairy as part of its focus on the deception in our food industry. This reader of the magazine noted that saturated fat in factory-farm-raised meat is not created equal with saturated fat in grass-fed meat.
In reply, Consumer Reports succinctly detailed the reasons for its agreement with the reader’s letter and recommended that consumers should choose grass-fed meat and dairy products when possible. The Editor’s Note summed it up well: Total fat in grass-fed meat and dairy products is lower than in grain-fed cattle, and the mix of fats they contain may be healthier. It elaborated as follows:
Grass-fed has a more healthful ratio of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids to omega-3s. Too much omega-6 fats in your diet can cause inflammation, but omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. More of the saturated fat in grass-fed is stearic acid, a type of fatty acid that doesn’t raise blood cholesterol. Eating grass is also better for the cows: Grazing is a natural behavior, and cows that don’t eat grain are less likely to suffer from gastrointestinal problems. These benefits come into play, however, only if the animals were 100 percent grass-fed. Look for products with seals such as American Grassfed or PC) Certified 100% Grassfed to ensure that the claim was verified.
Consumer Reports’ recommendation for consumers to choose grass-fed meat and dairy products is in accord with a thorough and long-standing review of the scientific literature on the subject conducted by agricultural experts from California State University (Chico) and University of California Cooperative Extension Service (Davis). This review also concluded that grass-fed beef has elevated carotenoid content (precursor for Vitamin A) and elevated precursors for Vitamin E, as well as powerful cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathione (GT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) as compared to grain-fed beef. Ruminants on high forage rations pass a portion of the ingested carotenoids from the grass into their milk and body fat. Pasture fed steers incorporate significantly higher amounts of beta-carotene into muscle tissue as compared to grain-fed animals: a 7-fold increase in B-carotene levels over grain-fed steers.
(Frank W. Barrie, 12/14/17)