News Feed: Label Transparency, Ultra-Processed Foods, The Hearty Breakfast Myth

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Who farmed your food?

Curious about what’s in the packaged foods you eat, where the ingredients came from, and who produced them and how? More and more consumers are demanding this sort of information and transparency, and so companies big (Kellogg’s, Hershey, Wal-Mart and Campbell’s Soup, among others) and “niche” (Fish + People, The Real Co.) are responding through a variety of labeling initiatives. “Driving the efforts are consumers’ heightened concerns about health and the environmental and social impact of food production, as well as regulatory and safety worries,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Soon we’ll probably know a lot more about the people who produce our food — a development that is as sweet as it is empowering.

Speaking of the need for greater transparency…

Guess how much of Americans’ daily caloric intake comes from “ultra-processed’ foods — those made with not only salt, sugar, oils and fats, but also flavorings, emulsifiers and other real-food-mimicking additives. The answer: more than half — nearly 60 percent. (Gulp.) What’s more, according to a study published in BMJ Open, “ultra-processed” foods — such as soft drinks; packaged snacks, instant soups and noodles, and baked goods; and reconstituted meat products like chicken and fish nuggets — are responsible for nearly 90 percent of the average American’s intake of added sugars. To curb the intake of added sugars on a broad scale, the researchers say, Americans should cut way back on their consumption of these foods.

Breakfast benefits overblown?

The conventional wisdom is that you need to eat a hearty breakfast every day to stay lean and healthy. But, in response to a reader question about whether skipping breakfast really slows down your metabolism and leads to weight gain, The New York Times has busted the myth. “The food industry has promoted this claim for decades to sell breakfast cereal,” Well blogger Anahad O’Connor writes. “But rigorous scientific studies have found no evidence that it’s true.” One recent study, published in February, found that people randomly assigned to either eat or skip breakfast didn’t differ in terms of their weight and health changes. “Whether or not you have breakfast in itself is not going to impact your body weight,” said study author James Betts, of the University of Bath in England. There you have it.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.