CHAPTER
22

Controversial Foods

In This Chapter

  • Why eggs can be a beneficial part of a healthy diet
  • How to make the best meat and fish choices
  • Is coffee helpful or harmful to your health?
  • Alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk

When it comes to controversial foods, what makes the headlines and travels the media circuit is king. Unfortunately, the original story may get exaggerated or be taken out of context, often leaving the consumer bewildered as to what to believe. Some foods are considered to be controversial because they’re not grown sustainably, and others are controversial due to the handling and treatment of animals as well as their impact on the environment.

In this chapter, we’ll explore the facts surrounding controversial foods and beverages such as coffee and wine, and whether or not they should be included in your diet.

Why Certain Foods Are Considered Controversial

Oftentimes there is some grain of truth behind food controversies. Different sources pick up one side of a story and expand upon it without looking into the full background and illuminating the truth. However, by then it’s too late and the food controversy is blown completely out of proportion. It’s best you do your own research about these controversial foods and make your own decisions about the foods to include in your diet.

Eggs

Purchasing eggs at your local market can be overwhelming. Key words such as cage-free, free-range, all-natural, and hormone-free are labeled on the cartons, but what do they really mean and how do you make the right choice?

Eggs are big business. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), approximately 8 billion eggs a month produced by over 360 million laying hens in the United States. Consumer concerns have surfaced regarding the hens’ living conditions and how humanely they’re treated. Many people envision hens packed into tight, filthy cages that breed disease. Consumers also believe it’s common practice to use high amounts of antibiotics to keep production levels high.

According to the USDA, federal law prohibits the use of all hormones when raising any kind of poultry. Antibiotics are used only when hens are ill. There are also specific guidelines for antibiotic withdrawal. During that period, the layers’ eggs are not allowed to enter the market.

WAKE-UP CALL

The Cleveland Clinic reports only about 20 percent of the cholesterol in your blood comes from foods in your diet. The Harvard School of Public Health states the biggest factor in your diet is the combination and types of carbohydrates and fats consumed. Eliminating trans fats and reducing foods high in saturated fat along with increasing high-fiber grains will have a bigger impact on your blood cholesterol levels than the cholesterol content in your food.

From a nutrition standpoint, eggs have been given a bad rap over the years due to their levels of dietary cholesterol. Eggs also have the potential to carry the bacteria salmonella, which is the most common cause of food poisoning in the United States. This bacterium resides inside the egg, typically in the yolk, although it can be present anywhere. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 1 in 10,000 eggs contains salmonella. This is why every restaurant that serves eggs puts a warning on the menu regarding consumption of undercooked eggs. Cooking the egg to an internal temperature of 160°F where the yolk and white are firm reduces the risk by killing any bacteria present. Most health experts agree that certain people shouldn’t consume undercooked eggs, such as the very young or old and those with a compromised immune system.

The Hen House

How do you know if the eggs you’re purchasing come from a source that provides a healthy, humane, safe living environment for the chickens? Understanding the industry lingo can help guide you to the right place to spend your dollars. According to the American Egg Board, there are no regulations in the egg industry defining cage-free or free roaming. Generally, these terms mean the animals are not held in cages; instead they roam freely in a barn or indoor sheltered area. While some may have access to the outdoors, there are no standards stating how much, if any, access should be provided. Layers have free access to food and water and are provided perches, nests, and floor space to allow them to engage in some natural behaviors. However, there is no third-party audit to ensure any of these procedures are followed.

Free-range or pasture-fed eggs come from hens with outdoor access determined by weather conditions, environmental concerns, and state laws. Often the layers forage for some of their food and eat a diet consisting of grains. Indoor perches and nesting areas are provided. Similar to cage-free, certified humane eggs come from hens housed in large barns or other types of indoor facility with no required outdoor access. These hens are allowed more natural behavior; however, induced molting is permitted as long as the elimination of food is not practiced. Antibiotics may not be used and the stocking density, or amount of hens per square foot, is specified. Third-party audits are performed to ensure the farms are following the correct procedures and policies.

DEFINITION

According to the American Egg board, induced molting is a commonly used practice in the egg industry. Hens are fed lower qualities of feed to induce a period when eggs will not be laid. At the end of this period, the hen’s reproductive quality is revitalized, which enables the hens to produce a greater number of eggs. Organic farming practices prohibit the use of induced molting.

The molting process occurs naturally in hens once a year. Induced by the shortened days of autumn, hens will stop laying for a short period. However, with low stress, controlled temperatures, and artificially lit barns, hens can go a whole year without molting, which results in a decline in production and egg quality.

Utilizing an Enriched Colony System produces American Humane Certified eggs. This system allows for hens to have space for natural behavior, although their confinement space may be small. Eggs from the Enriched Colony System may come from layers caged or with free access. There’s no way to know which housing method is used.

Family farms may specify their eggs are Animal Welfare approved. These layers have ongoing access to the outdoors, open pasture, and shelter. No antibiotics are allowed and their feed is vegetarian. Family farms do adhere to certain regulated standards. Many other labeled practices are not standardized or audited. Eggs labeled that the hens had vegetarian diets are not regulated. The term “natural eggs” also has no defined meaning. Eggs cannot be labeled antibiotic-free unless they’re certified organic, and they have no regulation associated with them.

Certified organic eggs come from hens enclosed inside large barns. These hens are required to have access to the outdoors. However, there are no standards as to what “outdoor access” entails. Induced molting of all varieties is permitted, including complete food deprivation. Feed is 100 percent vegetarian and pesticide-free, and layers are not allowed to receive antibiotics.

Chicken feed is scientifically balanced to provide optimal health for the layer and to produce the best quality eggs. Hens have continuous access to water, and feed is dispensed at timed intervals. All feed additives have been proven to be safe for hens and consumers. Additives may consist of antioxidants, omega-3s, and mold inhibitors to maintain feed quality.

Cholesterol and Fat

“The Incredible Edible Egg,” a tagline used by the American Egg Board, sums up the nutritional makeup of the egg. High in biologically available protein, the egg is relativity inexpensive compared to other protein foods ounce per ounce. An egg is comprised of two main edible parts: the white and the yolk.

The white consists of approximately two thirds of the volume of the egg with 17 calories and just over half the egg’s total protein. It also contains no fat and the majority of the egg’s niacin, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, and sodium, with just over half the egg’s total protein.

The average yolk contains 55 calories, all the egg’s fat, and just under half of its protein. The yolk also contains a higher amount of vitamins than the white, including a higher proportion of B6, B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid, thiamin, calcium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. The yolk also contains all of the vitamins A, D, E, and K.

A large egg is relatively low in fat when you consider the protein and nutrients packed into the shell. With less than 5 grams of fat, one third is saturated fat (1.6 grams) and two thirds is unsaturated (2.8 grams). An egg also contains about 186 milligrams of cholesterol.

Eggs naturally contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. The addition of omega-3 to the hen feed increases the omega-3 fatty acid, which is then passed on to the eggs. Because these amounts are not standardized, there’s no way of knowing how much omega-3 the egg you select contains. Eggs advertised as having omega-3 can contain a range between 100 and 600mg. Regular eggs contain only about 30mg per egg.

The Harvard School of Public health states whole egg consumption as part of a healthy diet is acceptable for individuals with low risk of heart disease and normal cholesterol levels. Intake should remain at 1 egg or less per day, including those contained in baked goods. If you have heart disease or high cholesterol levels, it’s advisable to limit the amount of dietary cholesterol to less than 200mg per day with a limit of no more than three egg yolks a week. Egg whites may be eaten freely.

FOODIE FACTOID

Eggs should be stored in the refrigerator at or below 45°F to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Eggs should never be stored in the door of the refrigerator.

According to the American Egg Board, here are the following are storage times for eggs and egg products:

  • Raw eggs in shells: 3-5 weeks
  • Raw egg whites: up to 4 days
  • Raw egg yolks: up to 4 days
  • Hard-boiled eggs: 1 week
  • Opened egg substitute: 3 days
  • Egg-containing pies and quiches, and egg-based casseroles: 3-4 days
  • Commercial eggnog: 3-5 days

Classification of Eggs

Eggs are graded based on height of the white and quality of the yolk. All grades are nutritionally equivalent. Eggs may be Grade AA, A, or B. All eggs sold in retail establishments must be grade B or higher.

Size is based on the weight per dozen of eggs. They may be jumbo, extra large, large, medium, small, or peewee. Most recipes are based on large-sized eggs. The older the hen, the larger the egg will be. The layer’s breed also affects the size, as does the weight.

Even though eggs have a fairly long shelf life (in the refrigerator), knowing how fresh your eggs are is important. Eggs may contain three different dates on the carton. The only one required on USDA-graded eggs is called the Julian date—when the eggs are packed. An optional date is the “best by,” which must be 45 days or less from the pack date. If “expiration date” is used, the date must be less than 30 days from pack date.

The American Egg Board states the color of the eggshell is not a determinant of how the eggs are raised, its quality, or its nutritional components. The breed of the chicken determines the shell color.

The yolk’s color is impacted by the feed. Natural feeds and pigments may change the color of the yolk from bright yellow-orange to pale yellow. Some farmers add natural coloring from flower petals to influence the yolk’s color.

Meats

Producers of meat, including beef and pork, are committed to treating all animals humanely, as industries know consumers are concerned about animal rights and care. The farmers and ranchers have a vested interest in keeping animals healthy. To treat animals in any other manner would be self-defeating for farmers and ranchers, as animals fed and cared for properly will be healthier and grow faster.

In addition to the care of animals, global climate change is a concern with all agriculture practices. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only 3.4 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are from livestock, and methane from livestock accounts for only 2.8 percent of all world’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Pork Checkoff Environmental Sustainability Effort, the nation’s farmers and ranchers have held their greenhouse gas emissions fairly stable since 1990. This is despite a steady increase in production of almost all animal agricultural products, including an increase of meat by 50 percent, milk by 16 percent, and eggs by 33 percent.

NOTABLE INSIGHT

Commodity checkoff programs collect funds from farmers and producers to provide research and market commodity products. These checkoff programs also provide consumers with information about the specific commodity, including recipes, new uses, nutrition, and safety. Examples of commodity checkoff programs include the American Egg Board, National Pork Board (Pork Checkoff), Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (Beef Checkoff), and the National Dairy Council.

Beef

According to Beef Checkoff, all beef is grass-fed, natural, nutritious, and safe. Variations in raising practices may result in slightly different product labeling, such as grain-finished, grass-finished, naturally raised, and certified organic.

Grain-finished beef cattle spend the majority of their lives grazing on open pastures. The last 4 to 6 months is spent in a feedlot consuming a diet of grains. Grass-finished cattle never spend time in a feedlot but continue grazing pastures. Both grain-finished and grass-finished cattle may be given vitamins and minerals. Antibiotics are administered under careful consideration and only approved growth-promoting hormones are routinely used.

Both naturally raised and certified organic beef may either be grass-finished or grain-finished. Reading the food label can help determine the source of feed the cattle were given the last several months. Certified organic cattle must have 100 percent organic feed if they’re grain-finished. Both classifications of beef may be given vitamins and minerals. However, neither may receive antibiotics or growth-promoting hormones, and the USDA must certify both products.

Lean beef is rich in nutrients and can be part of a healthy diet. With high biologically available protein, a 3-ounce portion of lean beef provides 25 grams of protein and 184 calories. Containing about 10 grams of total fat, lean beef is less than half saturated fat. Lean beef is also an excellent source of niacin, B6, B12, zinc, iron, and selenium.

NOTABLE INSIGHT

Choosing lean cuts of beef is key in maintaining a heart-healthy diet. The Beef Checkoff offers the following popular lean cuts of beef:

Beef contains primarily monounsaturated and saturated fat. Cattle feed can impact the beef’s fatty acid profile. According to the Beef Checkoff, feeding grain for an extended length of time can increase the levels of monounsaturated fat in the end product, which can have a cholesterol-lowering effect. Beef allowed to graze longer on grass will have a higher fatty acid profile. Keeping this in perspective, a 3-ounce portion of grass-finished beef has 0.055g of omega-3 versus 0.02 grams in grain-finished beef. The DRI for omega-3 is 1.1 grams per day for women and 1.6 grams for men.

Pork

Pork farmers have a longstanding relationship with reducing the impact their industry has on the environment. Less than 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from the pork industry, as pigs inherently are not methane producers.

In 2008, pork producers approved a list of ethical principles. U.S. producers accept the responsibility the consumer puts on them to ensure pork products are safe and raised in a humane and ethical manner. These principles include addressing food safety, animal well-being, the animal’s environment, public health, employee care, and the communities in which they operate.

Pork products are marketed as “The Other White Meat.” According to the Pork Checkoff, lean cuts of pork often have less total fat than skinless chicken breasts and a similar amount of saturated fat. Pork is an excellent source of thiamin, selenium, protein, niacin, vitamin B6, and phosphorus. Lean cuts of pork, such as loin and chops, are a healthy part of a balanced diet.

NOTABLE INSIGHT

Choosing lean cuts of pork is key in maintaining a heart-healthy diet. The Pork Checkoff recommends the following lean cuts of pork.

Fish

Industrial-scale fishing has left over 90 percent of the fisheries overexploited and unable to keep up with consumer demand. As a result, new ways of raising seafood have been developed to take the pressure off the wild supply. Not all countries or operations consider the environment and the end product. Concern over pollutants and mercury contamination leaves many consumers unsure how to make safe selections when it comes to fish.

Endangered Species

Overfishing has depleted many species of fish, causing very low levels remaining in the wild and leaving some species no longer commercially viable. The fishing industry has attempted to regulate itself as to what species can be fished; how much of a species can be removed; when certain species can be fished, where, and by whom. Sometimes species are products of bycatch, which means they’re unintentionally caught.

SeafoodWatch states some countries have set fishing regulations to prevent overfishing. The programs set forth by countries like the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the Falkland Islands have allowed for species to regenerate their numbers and prevent drastic reductions.

As a consumer, there are ways you can make a difference, such as purchasing only sustainable seafood. Check out sustainable sources of fish before you make your purchase. Visit BlueOcean.com or SeafoodWatch.org or use their app to find sustainable sources of fish before you make a purchase. Look for sustainable fishery logos, or ask where the seafood at your local market comes from.

Fish Farming

The aquaculture industry accounts for over 50 percent of the world’s edible fish, and it may actually save the world’s fish supply. Over 100 different species are currently being farmed. Each species, farming method, and farm location has its own impact on the marine ecosystem. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (operators of SeafoodWatch.org), sustainable fish farming protects the fish’s natural habitat by limiting damage and disease, the escape of nonwild fish, and promotes the feeding practices of using wild fish as feed.

Often these aquaculture practices also improve the environment in which they operate. According to SeaWeb, fish farms take the pressure off wild fish resources, allowing wild species to regenerate. Fish farms may actually also help improve the water quality in some areas. Some species remove excess nitrogen in water, which would be used as food for algae blooms. Farms must also maintain standards to ensure waste and diseases are contained.

FOODIE FACTOID

An example of U.S. farm-raised sustainable seafood is catfish. Farmed catfish are not given hormones, and as with other agriculture practices, antibiotics are only given judiciously. Farm-raised catfish follow environmentally sustainable practices and are endorsed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, National Audubon Society, and Environmental Defense. According to the Catfish Institute, over 10,000 people are employed in the catfish farming industry in Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The industry contributes over $4 billion dollars to each state’s economy.

Mercury

Methylmercury (mercury) in seafood has also been an ongoing public health concern. Recommendations for types and amounts of seafood containing mercury have changed over the years. Current mercury levels listed only take into account the mercury in fish and not the selenium amounts.

Selenium is an antioxidant and works with vitamins C and E to protect our body against free radicals. One of the biggest sources of selenium in our diet is seafood. Selenium is also an essential component of an amino acid our body makes called selenocysteine. If mercury is present, it irreversibly binds to the selenium, making it unavailable to synthesize the amino acid in the body. Mercury can also bind to the selenium in the selenocysteine amino acid, making it unusable by the body.

According to the Energy and Environmental Research Center, selenium’s ability to counteract mercury toxicity has been known since the 1960s. The key is the selenium-to-mercury ratio. If more selenium is consumed than mercury, the mercury binds to what it requires and leaves the excess selenium available for selenoprotein synthesis. If more mercury is consumed than selenium, there’s no selenium left after mercury has bound it. This is when problems occur.

Because ocean fish are an excellent source of selenium, mercury amounts in most fish are inconsequential. When seafood is higher in selenium than mercury, all mercury will be bound and rendered ineffective.

Consuming fish is an important way to get heart-healthy fatty acids in your diet. Each serving of 4 to 6 ounces should be about the size of the palm of your hand. According to the Safina Center, women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should eat only fish low in mercury. Children under the age of 12 should consume only 1 ounce for every 20 pounds of body weight.

Coffee

Coffee is a major source of caffeine, which is a stimulant to the central nervous system. Caffeine doesn’t stay in the blood, but rather immediately passes into our brain. Caffeine found in coffee is known to raise blood pressure and increase the fight-or-flight stress response. Is coffee healthy for us? Should we be drinking it?

According to AARP, 83 percent of Americans drink coffee on a regular basis. Coffee has been shown to increase mental alertness and help prevent some forms of cancer and stroke. Coffee consumption may also help reduce your chances of developing dementia or Parkinson’s disease as well as reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the U.S. 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

This committee considers three to five cups per day as moderate coffee consumption. Their research review stated that up to five cups of coffee (400mg of caffeine) per day can provide many health benefits. The key is moderate consumption. The committee also advises that about one cup of coffee (100mg of caffeine) can negatively affect your sleep when consumed around bedtime.

FOODIE FACTOID

Coffee comes from the Arabic word meaning “wine of the bean.” Though its roots are in Ethiopia, coffee is enjoyed throughout the world.

The Good News About Your Cup of Joe

The coffee bean is a type of seed. Seeds in general are packed with a variety of nutrients and phytochemicals. According to the Mayo Clinic, no studies as of this date have looked at the antioxidant properties of coffee after it has been brewed and entered our bodies.

In a Japanese study, researchers found that women drinking two to three cups of coffee daily had reduced systemic oxidative DNA damage, which is linked to the formation of cancer cells. Researchers also surmised that habitual coffee consumption reduced the study participants’ iron stores and thus decreased the systemic oxidative DNA damage.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that individuals who consume coffee on a regular basis may have a reduced risk of death. A study conducted by the NCI and AARP showed habitual coffee drinkers were not as likely to die from respiratory disease, heart disease, stroke, injuries, accidents, and infections as their noncoffee-drinking counterparts. This study found equal results for regular coffee and decaffeinated, supporting the hypothesis that phytochemicals in the coffee are likely the beneficial components.

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation reports coffee consumption of three to five cups a day, from midlife on, has been linked to a reduced and/or delayed onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. When the caffeine in coffee goes straight to the brain, it blocks a type of receptor important in the inflammation response. By blocking the receptor, the chain of events causing the cognitive decline is stopped. The foundation does caution, if the excessive caffeine intake affects sleep causing insomnia, a reduction in cognitive decline may not be experienced.

Harvard Health reports high intake of coffee may slow the onset of type 2 diabetes. However, in type 2 diabetics, consumption of three to six cups of coffee a day may adversely affect blood sugar levels.

Caffeine and Coffee—the Dark Side

Caffeine is addictive. High consumption of caffeine is associated with an increase in anxiety, insomnia. Caffeine may interact with some medications, so please check with your doctor or pharmacist before consuming.

Caffeine has also been shown to have a detrimental effect on your bones. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition reports that consuming more than 300mg per day or drinking three or more cups of coffee a day is linked to the inability to absorb sufficient calcium, which has been attributed to bone loss. Younger women who consume adequate calcium may not experience negative results from caffeine. However, it’s recommended that older women increase calcium intake when consuming caffeine.

NOTABLE INSIGHT

Be aware of how much caffeine you’re consuming from your daily coffee. The USDA National Nutrient Database lists the following amounts of caffeine in various coffee drinks:

  • Espresso (1 oz.): 40-75mg
  • Instant coffee (8 oz.): 27-173mg
  • Brewed coffee (8 oz.): 95-200mg
  • Brewed decaf coffee (8 oz.): 2-13mg
  • McDonald’s brewed coffee (16 oz.): 100mg
  • Starbuck’s brewed coffee (16 oz.): 330mg
  • Specialty espresso beverage such as latte (8 oz.): 63-175mg

A Swiss study shows the consumption of decaffeinated coffee in individuals who do not regularly drink it increased blood pressure and muscle sympathetic nerve activity. The researchers believe there are components in the coffee other than just the caffeine that may attribute to cardiovascular changes. In fact, sympathetic nerve activity (the fight-or-flight response) reaches its peak about 60 minutes after consumption. In nonhabitual coffee drinkers, blood pressure significantly increased. There wasn’t a significant effect on the blood pressure of those individuals who regularly drink coffee.

Coffee is one of the most common stomach irritants, as it’s very acidic and irritates the GI tract easily. Individuals with heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) should avoid all coffee, even decaffeinated, which has been shown to be even more irritating to the stomach for some than regular coffee. Caffeine, in addition to coffee itself, can induce acid reflux by relaxing the muscles in your GI tract, allowing the contents to back up into your esophagus.

According to Harvard Health, there are substances in coffee, cafestol and kahweol, that can raise your LDL cholesterol. These two substances are oily and can be easily filtered out with paper filters. They are found in Turkish coffee, coffee made with a French press, boiled coffee, and espresso. However, cafestol and kahweol are not filtered out of espresso.

Wine

There are many negative health consequences associated with alcohol and its addictive properties. However, people have been making wine for eons, and many of those large populations that consume it on a regular basis tend to be healthier and live longer.

Polyphenols (antioxidant components) found in wine along with flavonoids have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL. The key, however, is drinking it only in moderation.

Moderate consumption of alcohol means no than one (5-ounce) glass a day for all women and men over 65 years of age and no more than two glasses a day for men under the age of 65. Excessive alcohol has many negative health consequences. The American Heart Association (AHA) doesn’t recommend starting to drink alcohol, however, simply to prevent disease.

Researchers aren’t sure if all alcoholic beverages, including beer and liquor, are as beneficial to the heart as wine is. The Mayo Clinic reports that researchers have discovered drinking any alcohol, not just red wine, can have health benefits, too. Alcohol may increase HDL cholesterol, reduce the chance of blood clots, and reduce damage done by LDL cholesterol.

Health Benefits

Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skins of grapes, is the reason red wine became known for its health benefits. Red wine grapes spend more time with the skins attached than white wine grapes due to longer fermenting time, and this appears to have a beneficial affect. However, it’s now thought that white wine may have similar benefits to red wine as well.

The Mayo Clinic reports much of the research done on the health benefits of red wine and resveratrol has been done on animals. The results have been promising, showing benefits relating to reducing obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. However, these results have not been duplicated in humans and amounts for human intake to reach the same levels as animals would be equivalent to drinking 1,000 liters of wine each day!

WAKE-UP CALL

Some consumers wanting the health benefits of resveratrol are turning to supplements to get the recommended does of 1,000-1,500mg per day from a pill. Remember, supplements are not regulated, so choose brands that have been voluntarily audited. Always discuss your supplement usage with your medical providers. Note that resveratrol has anticoagulant properties, and it may interfere with blood thinners such as Coumadin or Warfarin.

Supplements, grape juice, and other foods containing resveratrol like blueberries, cranberries, and peanuts may be options for obtaining its health benefits without consuming alcohol.

The AHA states that middle-aged men and women are at a greater risk of heart disease and also would benefit the most from light to moderate wine consumption. Moderate wine intake of one or two glasses a day or three to four a week is associated with a 30 percent reduced likelihood of developing plaque deposits on artery walls.

Breast Cancer Risk

Alcohol intake has also been shown to increase the risk of certain types of breast cancer. Hormones like estrogen are increased by the ingestion of alcohol. When alcohol is broken down in the body, it forms acetaldehyde. This component has the ability to damage cellular DNA and proteins in the body.

The American Cancer Society reports an increase of 10 to 12 percent risk for every drink a woman consumes. The National Cancer Institute reports that women who drink the equivalent of three drinks per day have a 1.5 greater risk to develop breast cancer. Increased alcohol intake also increases risk of developing other forms of cancer.

Beer

Beer contains as many antioxidants as wine, but they’re different due to the ingredients that go into the making of beer, specifically barley and hops. Beer has more protein and B vitamins than wine. Research has shown all alcoholic beverages are likely as good as the next in preventing heart disease. Beer, in moderation, has many health benefits. Remember, though, it is still alcohol.

A report published in Nature states the yeast found in beer acts as a prebiotic in your gut. Common gut microbes break down yeast to use as energy. Healthy bacteria in your gut translates it to a healthy gut overall.

According to the Beer and Wine Journal, ferulic acid is found in beer and is bound to the malt. If the mashed grains are allowed to rest during beer making, the ferulic acid is released from the malt. An increase in ferulic acid in turn increases the amount of 4VG molecules, and these molecules give beer made from wheat or wheat malt its distinct aroma.

WAKE-UP CALL

For over 100 years, doctors prescribed Guinness to pregnant women for the added B vitamins. We now know drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause harm to the fetus. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, beer does contain some B vitamins, but the quantities are less than 1 percent of the DRI.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states ferulic acid has many possible health benefits. With regular consumption, this powerful antioxidant may help protect against oxidative stress. Ferulic acid has the highest bioavailability of the flavonoid class of polyphenols. Multiple derivatives of the acid have been linked to cancer prevention, diabetes prevention, and antiaging treatment, as well as possible protective qualities for liver and neurodegenerative disease. This ferulic acid is a powerful antioxidant and may help prevent inflammation.

The Least You Need to Know

  • Eggs are an excellent source of protein and contain many vitamins and minerals that are part of a healthy diet.
  • Selecting the right cuts of meat and eating the proper serving size can help you achieve healthy results.
  • You can support sustainable seafood practices by choosing the safe species of fish.
  • Research shows that coffee can offer some health benefits, but it should be consumed in moderation.
  • Drinking alcohol is a personal decision, and you should consider your individual health risks before consumption.
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