Nutrition News: Chipotle Unseats Subway, FDA Added-Sugar Label Rules and Soybean Oil Health Effects

Subway cedes top “healthy” chain spot to Chipotle; FDA to require added-sugar info on labels; and a study says soybean oil may be making us fat and diabetic.
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So Long, Subway. Hola, Chipotle!

Subway’s stint as America’s favorite “healthy” fast-food spot has reached its end. The sandwich chain has been bested by Chipotle, where sales have grown more than 20 percent this year. Meanwhile, sales at Subway — whose (now former) spokesman Jared Fogle has recently been embroiled in a scandal that is beyond distasteful — have sunk by 3 percent. While some experts have scoffed at Chipotle, whose tasty offerings are hardly low-cal, being labeled a “healthy” choice, the burrito chain has staked its claim to the title by using fresh, high-quality ingredients, maintaining high standards in its supply chain, preparing its food on the spot and in view of customers, and consistently publicizing its efforts to improve its product. Recently Chipotle announced it would no longer use GMO ingredients. Subway, on the other hand, struggled to overcome criticism that it used a chemical used in yoga mats and shoe rubber in its bread, though it subsequently discontinued the chemical's use. Chipotle’s rise and Subway’s decline may also indicate changing attitudes about what constitutes “healthy”: “Millennials care less about calories and more about where their food comes from,” Darren Tristano, of the food industry research firm Technomic, told Business Insider.

Added-Sugar Watchers Get Sweet News

It will soon be much more difficult to ignore how much sugar is in a can of soda or packet of cookies. The Food and Drug Administration has formally proposed requiring food makers to note the amount of added sugar and recommended consumption levels on nutrition labels for food and beverages, a move celebrated by health advocates and dreaded by food companies. The FDA’s recommended maximum intake of added sugar would be set at no more than 10 percent of a 2,000-calorie daily diet, or about 200 calories per day. That's equal to about 13 teaspoons of added sugar, just three teaspoons more than you’ll get in a single 12-ounce can of Coke, which has almost 10 teaspoons of added sugar. Yup. Drink up that bit of info.

Study Slams Soybean Oil

In other alarming news, eating a diet that includes a lot of soybean oil may lead to a greater risk for obesity and diabetes than consuming one that is high in coconut oil or fructose, according to a study conducted by scientists at the University of California, Riverside. According to the researchers, mice fed a diet high in soybean oil had higher weight gain, larger fat deposits and fattier livers, as well as other symptoms, compared to those fed a diet high in coconut oil. The soybean-oil-diet-fed mice also showed a weight gain nearly 25 percent higher than those on a coconut oil diet and 9 percent higher than those on a fructose-enriched diet. Project director Poonamjot Deol called the study’s results "a major surprise ... especially when you see headlines every day about the potential role of sugar consumption in the current obesity epidemic.”

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 .

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