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The calcount Team
full-cream vs lite vs skimmed milk

Full Cream vs. Lite vs. Skimmed Milk

When you are controlling your calories, which is the better choice: full-cream milk, “lite” milk, or skimmed milk? Is it true that reduced-fat milk is just watered-down whole milk? Before you rush in with a quick “Its obvious!” answer, let us take a closer look at these three options…

How do they make reduced fat milk?

In pre-industrial times, skimmed milk was simply whole milk whose cream was removed by skimming off the top after it was left to settle in a pail. We do things a bit differently these days!

To make reduced fat milk, pre-processed whole milk from a blend of different cows is spun around in a specialised centrifuge. The centrifugal force breaks the milk into its separate components of water, fat, carbohydrates, protein, minerals, and vitamins. The manufacturer then reprocesses the separate ingredients in different batches and proportions to make different types of dairy products.

If you have read our post on panela, you will have found out that centrifuges are incredibly useful food-processing machines.

Reduced-fat milk is theoretically just recombined whole milk, without all the fat added back.

Whole milk has a generally accepted fat content of 3.5%, but of course in nature this varies immensely depending on the cow breed, the cow’s diet, the relative water content, and a hundred other input variables. Non-standard inputs are anathema to industry, so manufacturers therefore carefully standardise the fat content of designated full-cream milk at 3.5%.

Fat in Full-Cream, Low-Fat (Lite) and Skimmed Milk

Different countries have various regulations which determine what can and cannot be called “skimmed milk” and “reduced fat milk”. In Australia, milk must have a fat content of less than 0.15% before it can be marketed as Skimmed Milk or “Fat-Free”.

Reduced Fat Milk must have at least 25% less fat than whole milk.

Low-Fat Milk (also marketed as “Lite” or “Light” milk) must have less than 1.5% fat by composition.

milk nutrition comparison
Full-cream milk has way more calories than lite and skimmed milk

There is more Sugar in Skimmed Milk

Back up a little and think about how they make reduced fat milk: the fat is physically taken out. What happens when you take one specific thing out of a mixture? Everything else, including the sugar, becomes relatively more concentrated! It is like simmering sugar water on your stovetop to make syrup.

A typical full-cream milk is 4.7% sugar, whilst a typical skimmed milk is 4.9% sugar, compared to 4.8% for low-fat milk.

This sugar difference (about 4%) has a noticeable effect on the taste of skimmed milk compared to full-cream milk.

In addition to there being more sugar in reduced fat milk, there is also more of everything else (except for fat!) like protein (mainly in casein form), minerals and vitamins.



Full-Cream Milk has way more calories

Full-cream milk has 45% more calories than skimmed milk, as a direct result of there being about 95% more fat in it. Low-fat milk by comparison has about 65% less fat and 30% less calories than full-cream milk.

A single small glass (250ml) of full-cream milk makes up about 8% of a 2,000 calorie daily diet, whereas that same glass of skimmed milk would comprise just 4% of the same diet.

Lots of Saturated Fat in Whole Milk

Everyone has probably heard that saturated fats, as opposed to unsaturated fats, are bad for you if eat too many. Saturated fats have been linked with a broad range of “first-world” health problems like heart disease. The World Health Organisation recommends that less than 10% of total energy intake should come from saturated fats.

Milk fat is typically 60% saturated fat! In a typical full-cream milk product, 2.1 grams of the 3.5grams of fat per 100ml is saturated fat. This means that drinking more than two small glasses of full-cream milk will quickly bring you up to the daily recommended limit. You would need to drink about 45 of the same glasses of skimmed milk to hit that same limit.

There is saturated fat in full-cream, lite, and skimmed milk, but in widely differing quantities.

saturated fat comparison of full-cream and skimmed milk
Drink skimmed milk to avoid saturated fat

Of course, there are always dissenting voices supported by studies like this one which say that the saturated fat in milk has no adverse effect on health. As with many contentions related to health and food, it may be many years before we reach the unassailable truth.

Read the label!

If you are serious about nutrition, it is a good idea to base your milk choice on what you see on the food label. The nature of milk means that there is an enormous amount of variation between types and brands of milk. Manufacturers have a lot of leeway when it comes to what they put in and take out of the product known as milk.

Other than the broad percentage-based government guidelines, reduced-fat milk could be anything from 75% full-cream to 0% full-cream. Lite milk could have as much as 1.5% or as little as 0.15% fat – the difference is a factor of 10!

Conclusion

Finally, a simple conclusion: Skimmed Milk beats Lite Milk beats Full-Cream Milk because less calories, less saturated fats, more nutrients.

Reduced-fat milks do not taste as good as full-cream milk because they have less fat in them, not because they are “watered-down”. You will get excellent nutrition from skimmed milk, don’t worry.

Yes, it was kind of obvious.

Check out this video from Dairy Australia about how milk is manufactured:

The calcount Team
Diet Coke versus Coke No Sugar

Diet Coke vs. Coke No Sugar

Since both Diet Coke and Coke No Sugar are sugar-free and contain less than one calorie, are they really different? Let’s take a closer look at both drinks to find out if so and which one is healthier.

Different Histories

Malcolm Fraser was the Prime Minister in 1982 when Diet Coke was launched. In 2017, Malcolm Turnbull was the Prime Minister when Coke No Sugar was released. Maybe Malcolms are good for low-calorie colas?

Diet Coke replaced the Coca-Cola company’s first-generation diet cola, named Tab. Coke No Sugar replaced Coke Zero in Australia and became Coke Zero Sugar in some other countries (not to be confused with Coke Zero).

coke zero became coke zero sugar
Coke Zero became Coke No Sugar

Diet Coca-Cola was launched hesitantly due to fears that customers would reject anything other than “the real thing” being called Coke. Up until 1982, there had not been another “Coca-Cola” besides the original since 1886. Diet Coke does not taste like regular Coke, but it became massively popular because people began taking calorie control seriously.

Diet Coke’s success led them to launch many other Cokes, like Cherry Coke, Coke Ginger and Coca-Cola With Energy. In 2005, they began to sell Coca-Cola Zero to appeal to people who wanted the regular Coke taste with the Diet Coke calories. They ran into a problem though: many people did not realise that Coke Zero was sugar-free, just like Diet Coke. In response, the company tweaked the recipe again and renamed the product to either Coke No Sugar or Coke Zero Sugar, depending on which market it is sold in.

Ingredients compared

The ingredients in both drinks are remarkably similar. This may come as a surprise to people who have tried both, because the two colas taste quite different. The key flavour differences are a company secret, but we can take a side-by-side look at the published ingredients:

Diet Coke compared to Coke Zero Sugar Coke No Sugar ingredients

The three major ingredient differences are that Diet Coke, compared to Coke No Sugar (or Coke Zero Sugar), has 1) more “Coke Secret Flavour” by volume, 2) a preservative (sodium benzoate), and 3) has citric acid instead of sodium citrate.

Why does Diet Coke need a separate preservative, whereas Coke No Sugar does not? Perhaps this is because the sodium citrate (Food Acid 331) and phosphoric acid (Food Acid 338) are sufficient to do the job, whereas the citric acid (Food Acid 330) and phosphoric acid combination in Diet Coke is not. Phosphoric acid, citric acid, and sodium citrate are all food acids which have a dual function of adding flavour and preserving the drink. Maybe the sodium citrate/phosphoric acid mix just works better?

Diet Coke has about 13mg of caffeine per 100ml, compared to about 10mg in Coke No Sugar.



Calories in Coke No Sugar

When it comes to calories, Coke No Sugar has a slight edge over Diet Coke: 0.33 calories per 100ml compared to 0.35 calories per 100ml. Most of the calories in both drinks probably come from the food acids. Bear in mind that at the level of less than one calorie per 100ml, both drinks may realistically be called zero calorie because the human body is going to draw no usable calories at that dilution.

If Diet Coke has more secret Coca-Cola flavour in it than Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, why does it taste less like classic Coca-Cola? Probably because there are different Coke flavour recipes, and Coke No Sugar’s version hits the mark closer than Diet Coke’s.

In Australia, both Coke No Sugar and Diet Coke are sweetened with Aspartame and Acesulfame Potassium. This sweetener blend is different in other countries.

Diet Coke Marketing

The flavour of Coke No Sugar is clearly different from Diet Coke by design. Coke No Sugar was introduced to appeal to the people who wanted a sugar-free Coke but did not want to drink Diet Coke.

The three main reasons for not wanting to drink Diet Coke are that:

1) it does not taste like the original Coke,

2) it has the word “diet” in it, therefore carries a certain social stigma, and

3) it is packaged in light colours and advertised as being “Coke-lite”, lending a certain airiness to the brand.

To overcome these reasons, Coke No Sugar

1) is remarkably close to the original Coke flavour,

2) does not feature the “D” word, and

3) is packaged in dark colours and advertised as being “proper Coke”, lending a certain heaviness/solidity to the brand.

Which is Healthier, Diet Coke or Coke No Sugar?

Diet Coke and Coke No Sugar
Tough choice?

Before answering the question, which is healthier, Diet Coke or Coke Zero Sugar, let us first and foremost acknowledge that neither are healthy! A quick rundown of the reasons why:

Aspartame may be Bad for You

Aspartame is one of the most intensely studied food chemicals in the world. It is a man-made chemical, first coming out of the lab in 1965. It then took over 15 years to gain regulatory approval by the FDA, mainly because many scientists just could not believe that it couldn’t have some sort of harmful effect! One of the biggest concerns was that the molecule in some ways looks like other molecules which cause brain tumours.

If you read the nutrition label of foods which contain aspartame, they will often include the warning “Contains Phenylalanine”. Phenylalanine is a by-product of aspartame and should be avoided by people with Phenylketonuria (PKU), especially pregnant women.

The other sweetener in both drinks, acesulfame potassium, is also 200 times sweeter than sugar and is also the subject of academic debate as to whether it causes cancer.

That said, many studies have shown that aspartame is harmless, even though many scientists today are still studying it closely. The jury is still out!

Carbonated Water might cause hunger

A study in 2017 showed that the carbon dioxide in carbonated water stimulates the release of ghrelin, the so-called “hunger hormone”. If true, this means that fizzy drinks make you want to eat more than you should.

Food Acid might weaken bones and teeth

Phosphoric acid, citric acid and sodium citrate have all been implicated in harmful effects on human teeth and bones. Older women who are at risk of osteoporosis should really avoid eating/drinking too many food acids.

Diet Coke compared to Coke No Sugar, choose which?

A side-by-side comparison of both products leads us to the conclusion that Coke No Sugar is the better choice. Coke No Sugar contains less sodium than Diet Coke (4.2mg/100ml compared to 15mg/100ml). It also contains less caffeine and it does not have any sodium benzoate in it. As a psychological bonus, Coke No Sugar contains fewer calories than Diet Coke.

Finally, it tastes better too!

The calcount Team
cashew chicken dont eat the cashews

Cashew Nuts Nutrition: calories, benefits, disadvantages

They are growing in popularity, so let’s take a closer look at cashew nuts nutrition, calories, health benefits and disadvantages. Are there any general reasons to choose cashews over, say, almonds? Why don’t nutritionists go “nuts” over cashews?

Cashew apples look different

cashew apple and nut on tree
cashew seeds below the apple

Cashew nuts are the seeds of the tropical cashew apple tree, native to South America. The apples, unlike the apples most of us are familiar with, do not have cores with seeds in them. Instead, the seed (cashew, or cashew nut) grows in a tough shell attached to the bottom of the apple! Although flavoursome, The apples don’t usually make it out of their local markets because they bruise and spoil quickly.

cashew apple cut in half
cashew apples have no core

Cashew nuts, on the other hand are exported far and wide. Australia has its own small cashew industry, but most of the cashews in our supermarkets are imported from South America, South East Asia, and Africa.

A hard nut to crack

The cashew seed has a double-layered shell which is extremely hard to open. A nasty mix of several different plant acids lies squeezed between the shell layers, ready to squirt on anyone who unwittingly gives it a crack. This acidic liquid is the same chemical found in poison ivy, so getting the cashew shell juice on your skin is painful and damaging.

The processors first boil and dry the seeds before carefully cracking them open with a hand-operated nutcracker.

Workers use their hands to gently pluck just the kernel of the seed from the meticulously cracked shell to reveal the cashew nut we are familiar with. Thereafter, the nut is usually skinned, roasted, and salted before making its way into a package ready for the supermarket. It is possible to buy unskinned and unsalted cashews, but these are much less tasty and therefore unpopular.

When the product is boiled or steamed most of the caustic juice runs off. Even so, acid burns and chronic skin irritations are a common occupational hazard for the workers who process cashews. There has been growing activism by consumers and the Fair-Trade movement to protect vulnerable workers from exploitative cashew producers.

The next time you see a recipe calling for “raw cashews”, allow yourself a chuckle.

Cashew Nut Nutrition benefits

Cashews are highly nutritious and packed very densely with calories. The popular roasted, salted kind weighs in at an eye-watering  616 calories per 100g! For comparison, something like a bacon burger with cheese has 177 calories per 100g.

The reason for the high calorie count is fat (oil): cashews are half fat, half everything else (carbohydrates, protein, fibre, minerals, vitamins, etc.). This is not surprising because most nuts have a similarly high fat to weight ratio, for example macadamia nuts have 724 calories per 100g and are 75% fat.

Like many of the popular nuts, cashews are high in minerals like zinc, magnesium, and selenium. Magnesium is especially important for body weight control because it is used when the body regulates metabolism and fat deposits. They are also a good source of plant protein, coming in at 17g per 100g. Cashews contain vitamins in abundance, especially vitamin E. Plant fibre holds everything together in a honeycomb nut structure, which helps with good digestion.

Almost as good as carrots

No outline of cashew nuts nutrition would be complete without noting that cashews have excellent stores of carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are a class of organic pigment which give carrots and other orange/yellow vegetables their colour. These wonder chemicals are believed to prevent some cancers and promote eye health as we age.

Cashew Nuts Nutrition Disadvantages

Unfortunately, it cannot be said that cashew nuts stand out from other nuts in terms of micronutrients. They are not particularly healthy when compared to almonds, pecans, walnuts, or pistachios, so there is no reason to choose cashews other than the flavour. Studies like this one show that most other nuts outperform cashews from a nutrition perspective.

cashew nuts nutrition

Super high fat content

The main disadvantage of cashews is the high calorie count, which can punish unsuspecting dieters. Chicken and cashew stir-fry is a popular dish with a deceptively high calorie count, thanks to the cashews. If you are sharing a plate of cashew chicken with someone, we suggest that you focus on the chicken, and let the other person eat the cashews! Remember that cashews like many nuts are very “moreish”, so it is easy to keep eating well after you hit the calorie target.

You will hear people say that the oil/fat in nuts is the good kind, they are right, but it is still oil.

If you eat too many cashew nuts, you will gain weight quickly.

Gassy Nut

Some people are prone to experiencing bloating and gassiness after eating cashews. This is because of the triple-whammy of high fat, high fibre and high tannin content. They just take a long time to be digested, all whilst releasing their tannins. Tannins are antinutrients, you can read about what we think of antinutrients here.

Kidney shaped, kidney beware

Try to avoid cashews if you have kidney stones or a propensity to produce them. This is because cashews have a high mineral (especially phosphorous), and oxalates content. An alternative renal-friendly nut would be macadamias because they have a much lower phosphorous content.

Allergies alert

Whilst the obvious disadvantage of tree nuts like cashews to people with nut allergies need not be mentioned in this article, it is worth pointing out that cashews contain a rather special allergen called anacardic acid (this is a key reason they are cooked during processing). Anacardic acid, also known as urushiol, in even tiny amounts can cause anaphylactic shock in sensitive people.

Storing Cashews

cashew nuts nutrition lipid oxidation rancid
look out for bad cashews

The next time you see cashews in the supermarket, look closer. You might notice that the plastic package feels a bit different to regular bags, and you will often find a little “oxygen absorber” sachet nestled inside. This is because oily nuts like cashews have a chemistry with common plastics: they tend to, kind of, dissolve into each other. Without going too deep into the chemistry, lipid oxidation is a common problem with stored nuts, which combined with free monomers in plastic packaging, can result in unwanted combination reactions.

Storage harms cashew nuts

Unlike many other nuts, cashews are sold skinless and they contain relatively high amounts of plant acids. Without their protective skin, they are exposed directly to packaging plastic and oxygen, so it is no wonder that reactivity is an issue. Storage conditions affect cashew nuts nutrition more than nuts with shells and/or skins.

If you store cashews in a low-grade plastic container for a few weeks or months, you may find that the cashews taste like plastic! (Don’t eat them if they do).

Cashew Nuts Nutrition Conclusion

Nuts in general are nutritious and should be a moderate part of every balanced diet, however, our inescapable conclusion is that you can do better than cashew nuts!

When we compare cashew nuts nutrition to other nuts, we see that they are mediocre to sub-par. They are just as fattening yet less nutritious than alternatives like almonds. Their physical form makes them prone to over-processing and spoilage. Many of the cashew nuts for sale in our stores are harvested and processed in India and Vietnam in ethically questionable conditions.

The calcount Team
is panela healthier than sugar

Is panela healthier than sugar?

It is a flavoursome choice for sweetening anything but is panela healthier than sugar? The answer is yes, but not by much.

To understand why, first we must think about what sugar is. Sugar is the name we give to a family of sweet-tasting chemicals which are extracted from plants like sugar cane, sugar beet, corn, and sugar maple. Examples are sucrose, fructose, and glucose. In pure form, these chemicals form colourless or white crystals when not dissolved in water.

Centrifugal Sugar

In the “olden” days (before the mid-19th century), almost all sugar sold was brown or black because it was not pure. Back then, when people said “sugar”, they meant brown sugar.

The brown/black colour comes from all the non-sugar parts of the plant, combined with sugar to form a sticky, thick syrup called molasses. Molasses has a distinct earthy/burnt/bitter taste which flavours anything it is added to.

Nowadays, we have the technology to separate the sugar from the molasses effectively and efficiently, using a centrifuge. Most of the sugar sold today is refined centrifugal sugar, produced at vast industrial scale.

australian sugar refinery
Australian sugar processing facility

A centrifuge is a machine which spins a pre-processed sugar-molasses solution fast enough so that pure sugar crystals are separated from the molasses. The sugar crystals are collected and further refined to produce common white sugar, a singular product which is sold as 99.5% pure sugar.

This high purity is a big reason for sugar’s bad reputation for being a massive source of “empty calories” because, besides calories, there is practically no other nutritional value. Less-pure brown sugar has more nutritional value because it includes molasses along with the sugar.

Panela is sugar

The word “panela” is simply the name given to the type of sugar made in some parts of South America. In other parts of South America, this same sugar is called rapadura, chancaca, atado dulce, or piloncillo. Panela has been made in the region for about 500 years, and it continues to be made the same way to this day.

Panela processing
Panela processing cane juice

Panela imported from South America is cane sugar (sucrose), just as the normal white and brown sugar grown and sold in Australia is. The key difference between panela and regular sugar (besides the price) comes from the way it is made. Unlike centrifugal sugar, panela is made the pre-19th century way, by simply evaporating the water.

Other so-called non-centrifugal sugars from other parts of the world include jaggery and gur (Asia), papelon (Caribbean), tang (China), and many others. They are basically all the same thing.

Difference between white sugar and brown sugar

If the only difference between white sugar and brown sugar is that brown sugar has more molasses in it, does that mean that panela is simply normal brown sugar? If it is, why would anyone fork out extra money to buy it instead of Aussie brown sugar?

The answer to that question lies in a not-so-secret secret of the sugar industry: brown sugar is normal white sugar, with some molasses splashed onto it. It is far more efficient for the sugar company to make white sugar then add varying amounts of molasses to it in order to arrive at the desired colour and taste combination, rather than make separate batches of less-refined sugar.

Crack a typical brown sugar crystal in half and look closely, you will see that it is white inside!

Unlike typical brown sugar, panela is brown all the way through, so it contains a higher proportion of molasses and tastes much more “molassesy”. Panela is a less-pure sugar than normal brown sugar because it is made the old-fashioned way, without a centrifuge.

So, is Panela healthier than sugar or not?

Panela and other non-centrifugal sugars naturally contain molasses as well as sugar, so by default they are theoretically healthier because molasses contain trace minerals and vitamins whereas sugar is just that: sugar.

Pure molasses itself is high in vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, and other minerals.

However, from a practical standpoint, there is almost zero nutritional benefit to opting for panela instead of normal white sugar. This is because the actual quantity of molasses you will consume by substituting panela for regular sugar is so small as to be insignificantly beneficial for your health. It differs by brand and even by batch, but the actual molasses content of panela is usually about 5% by volume. Nutritionally, this is an insignificant percentage considering that sugar is not a product that is consumed by the bowlful.

You would need to eat 20 spoons of panela to get the nutrition of one spoon of molasses. One spoon of molasses would provide about one fifteenth of your recommended daily amount of vitamin B6.

The amount of extra minerals and vitamins you get from a teaspoon of panela stirred into your coffee compared to a teaspoon of regular white sugar is so tiny as to be virtually undetectable. If you are eating panela to get the nutritional benefit of molasses, you’re doing it wrong. Just buy a jar of molasses instead.

As you can see from our calorie counter database, there is no meaningful difference in the calorie count of panela and regular sugar. Most types of sugar pack about 385-395 calories per 100 grams, (about 18 calories for a teaspoon) including both centrifugal and non-centrifugal types.

Panela, like white sugar, is “empty calories”.

The difference is taste

When it comes right down to it, the only sensical reason to use panela instead of other sugar is taste. Panela tastes much more interesting than regular sugar because it is thoroughly imbued with molasses.

Not all molasses tastes the same, because not all sugar cane tastes the same just as not all apples taste the same. In the same vein, molasses taste different depending on how they have been made, how long they were boiled for, what temperature they cooled, what water if any was used in the process of evaporating the sugar syrup to make the solid block of panela.

On the other hand, all white cane sugar tastes the same because it is 99+% pure.

panela drinks
Add panela to homemade drinks

Something about the South American cane and their age-old process makes panela tasty. It is so tasty that in South America, people call home-made lemonade “panela water” (aguapanela), probably because the panela flavour dominates the lemon juice.

Beware misleading marketing

Perhaps the key takeaway is that panela tastes better than regular white or brown sugar (assuming you like the taste of molasses), but it is just as lacking in nutrients. Do not fall for the marketing ploy which leads one to believe that panela is healthier than sugar, because it simply isn’t!

The calcount Team
Nutella Ingredients Visualized

Nutella Ingredients demystified

Let’s take a look at Nutella ingredients and discover why this cultural icon is so popular. What is Nutella, exactly?

Calories in Nutella: 533/100g

Nutella is incredibly popular. So popular in fact, that most people think of it as a distinct food type, rather than just another a brand of sandwich spread.

Which of these three sentences are you most likely to overhear in your kitchen:

“What would you like on your toast? We have cheese, peanut butter, jam, ham, and Nutella.”

“Would you like some hazelnut chocolate confection on your toast?”

“Hey kids, I’m making sandwiches. Do you want Kraft, Skippy, Cottees, or Nutella on your toast?”

We don’t really think of Nutella as a brand; instead we see it as its own category of bread spread, like peanut butter, jam, and cheese.

Bread gets spread with Nutella, then there are Nutella shakes, Nutella cookies, Nutella pizzas, Nutella cakes, Nutella ice-creams, Nutella empanadas and a hundred other Nutella-flavoured and Nutella-themed foods and drinks out there. Recipes featuring Nutella are shared far and wide and Nutella is an actual menu item in many cafes and restaurants.

So, why is Nutella so popular? Well, there are several different reasons, but one specific thing about Nutella above all else draws the big crowds: Nutella tastes awesome.

Nutella tastes awesome

Nutella taste

A good and expensive chocolate truffle which has been in your mouth for a few seconds: that is what Nutella tastes like, right off the bat.

The flavour of Nutella is intensely rich butter with deep thin streaks of chocolate and flourishes of hazelnut whorls at the edges.

The initial texture is smooth and clingy, like super-smooth peanut-butter, but that soon changes to melty, runny chocolate as you chew. It is better than chocolate because it is not solid. Many people find it better than peanut butter because it melts faster and smoother. It is better than jam because it is not as sweet and heavy.

Mass-market packaged foods developers know a lot about that pleasure sensation you get from eating something that feels good in your mouth. They call it: Good Mouthfeel. Yup. Nutella has Good Mouthfeel and it tastes great.

Correction: Nutella tastes awesome. It is nutty and chocolatey and creamy and SWEET. It is very sweet. Something that tastes this sweet cannot be an everyday healthy food, can it?

Can it? This brings us to the second-most important reason which explains Nutella’s popularity:

peanut butter

Peanut butter and Nutella

Made from whole peanuts and little else, we all know that peanut butter is a healthy food which can be eaten every day in moderation. Peanuts are complex whole foods which pack a massive nutrition punch. Humans have enjoyed peanuts for as long as history because they are energy-dense with a low glycemic index and more than twenty different vitamins and minerals. Perhaps best of all, they are a great source of plant protein. They even contain anti-oxidants like p-coumaric acid.

Merchandisers do not place Nutella alongside to the squeeze tubes of chocolate ice cream sundae sauce, instead they use the same supermarket aisles as peanut butter. Stored in similar jars, Nutella looks like peanut butter with some cocoa powder blended into it.

The label has pictures of nuts on it, just like most peanut butter labels. Multi-media advertising positions Nutella in the exact same lifestyle category as peanut butter: beautiful children eat breakfast, happy moms make sandwiches, cool café denizens chomp artisan brownies.

The word “Nutella” has a “nut” in it, and many people call it “NUTella” instead of the official “NEWtella” pronunciation. It’s nutty.

Therefore, Nutella must be an everyday healthy food because peanut butter is undoubtedly an everyday healthy food and Nutella is a peanut butter alternative.

Nutella is basically just crushed hazelnuts with a bit of cocoa whipped in, right?

Wrong.

Nutella, the substitute

Crushed hazelnuts make hazelnut butter, just as crushed peanuts make peanut butter.

Nutella is not, and has never been, a hazelnut butter. Instead, Nutella’s story began in the nineteenth-century, with an Italian confectionery bar called Gianduja. During the Napoleonic wars, there was a dire shortage of cocoa in Italy. To get around this problem, local candy-makers swapped cheap local hazelnuts for cocoa powder in their chocolate bars recipes. When the chocolate shortage ended after the war, the market for the cheaper Gianduja remained.

In the early 1950s, the famous Italian baker Ferrero ground up some Gianduja and added oil to it to make a paste. This was a common thing to do with chocolate, so why not Gianduja? This Gianduja paste became what we now know as Nutella.

That’s right, Nutella is a chocolate substitute, not a peanut butter substitute.

Nutella is not a nut butter because it contains less than the legislatively required 90% nuts. Much, much less nuts.

Nutella is not even a chocolate product by law because it contains less than the required 10% cocoa solids.

In the USA, the FDA classifies Nutella as a dessert topping.

dessert topping

So, what exactly is in Nutella?

Nutella Ingredients

Nutella Ingredients

To begin with, it is useful to stop thinking about Nutella as a nut butter and start thinking about it as a chocolate paste.

Unlike sugary pastes, nut butters keep their paste form easily because all you need to do to make a nut butter is grind some nuts up. The ground nuts release natural liquid oils in which their solid particles become suspended in a near perfect natural ratio.

Chocolate pastes traditionally start with pre-processed chocolate, which is a solid made from cocoa seeds which have been dried, roasted, ground, liquefied, distilled, and sugared. Then oil, milk powder, more sugar, emulsifier, and flavouring are added.

You can easily make a make a chocolate paste at home, just grind up your favourite chocolate bar then blend in enough margarine to get the right consistency.

If you use a hazelnut chocolate bar, you will make a hazelnut chocolate paste. If you think that the word “paste” is not very evocative, just call it a “spread” or make up your own fancy name for it.

The Ferrero company calls their chocolate paste “Nutella”.

Nutella ingredients are:

Sugar

Nutella ingredients are dominated by sugar, which makes up 55% of the mix. That’s about 20% more sugar than you would have if you made your own chocolate paste at home with a typical bar of milk chocolate.

Palm Oil

After sugar, palm oil is the most abundant ingredient in Nutella. You need oil to make chocolate paste because the other ingredients do not contain enough of their own oils to make a suspension. The manufacturers of Nutella have chosen palm oil.

Mass-market packaged foods industries love palm oil, because it is cheap, plentiful, low-odour, low-colour and naturally solid at room temperature.

Nutritionally, you can do a lot better. Unlike alternatives like olive oil, industrial palm oil is a highly saturated and thoroughly purified seed oil with few benefits besides a high calorie density.

Palm oil cultivation in massive tropical plantations is a major cause of environmental degradation.

Hazelnuts

The original Italian Gianduja sweet had a hazelnut to chocolate ratio of about 7:1, but the Nutella hazelnut to chocolate ratio is less than 2:1. Hazelnuts make up just 13% of Nutella! 87% of Nutella is not hazelnuts. The hazelnuts are a flavouring, rather than a core component of the product.

Therefore, calling Nutella a “hazelnut chocolate spread” is misleading. It is more truthful to call it sugar paste flavoured with hazelnuts, cocoa, and vanillin.

Milk Powder

Close to 9% of Nutella is milk powder. This is helps to give it a distinctive creamy taste and texture.

Cocoa Powder

The cocoa powder ingredient is about 7% of Nutella by weight.

Emulsifier

The emulsifer is Soy lecithin which holds the ingredients in Nutella together. Extracted from soybeans and widely used in the food industry to bind oily and watery ingredients together. The emulsifier ensures that you do not find a layer of oil sitting on your Nutella when you open a fresh jar. Don’t. worry though, the oil is very much there!

Vanillin

Made from wood creosote, Vanillin is an artificial flavour which imparts a hint of vanilla to the flavour of Nutella.

Nutella Ingredients Conclusion

Whilst Nutella tastes awesome, it is packed with “empty” calories. Nutella is not an everyday healthy food.

Our final, inescapable conclusion about Nutella is that it is an unhealthy confection. It is a lolly in spreadable form. Eat it as you would an ice-cream sundae topping: very rarely, as a guilty indulgence. Do not smear it on your toast every day, because Nutella is junk food.

Nutella is Junk Food



The calcount Team
foods to boost your immune system

4 Foods to Boost your Immune System

To say that Corona Virus or Covid-19 has been in the news lately is a bit of an understatement, so if you are like us, you are probably thinking about what you can do to prevent infection and illness. The good news is that, like many other virus infections, this new one struggles to do serious damage to people who have healthy immune systems. From what we know so far, most healthy people who contract the Corona Virus experience mild symptoms and make a full recovery.

Eating certain foods to boost the immune system

So, besides practising good hygiene and avoiding obvious sources of infection, the best thing you can do to fight Covid-19 is to keep a healthy immune system. You can give your immune system a boost every day with these 4 common foods:

Mushrooms

mushrooms to boost your immune system

When thinking about foods to boost your immune system, mushrooms are not always top of mind. However, research shows that mushrooms boost your immune system by promoting the growth and efficiency of T cells in the blood. T cells are a type of white blood cell which actively hunt and “eat” viruses and bacteria. Do your T cells a favour by adding a cup of chopped mushrooms to whatever meat or vegetable dish you are planning to eat tonight! Calories per 100G: 20

Garlic and Onions

garlic

You probably knew that garlic would take a spot on this list, because it has been used as a home remedy for generations. Perhaps the key ingredient of garlic which boosts the immune system is a chemical called Allicin. Some studies show that Allicin has a beneficial effect against common colds and other infections. Some studies show that onions have similar properties. Calories per 100g: 124

Oranges and Lemons

oranges

Basically, all the citrus fruits and other high Vitamin C foods like kiwifruit will give your immune system a leg-up. Why? No one really knows exactly why and how Vitamin C increases infection resistance, but it seems to promote the growth of white blood cells. Your body cannot make or store Vitamin C, so make sure to include a good helping in your diet. Calories per 100g: 42

Yoghurt and other Fermented Foods

yoghurt

Fermented foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and kefir contain high amounts of probiotics which, in addition to helping with gut health, reduce upper-respiratory tract infections. Existing problems with your upper-respiratory tract (nose, sinuses, throat and upper bronchial tubes) can quickly exacerbate virus infections, so look after yours with a bowl of yoghurt! Calories per 100g: 105

There’s an old saying which goes: “let food be your medicine” and another which says: “prevention is better than a cure”. We think that there is a lot of wisdom in these two distilled nuggets, so why not add some citrus, mushrooms, yoghurt and garlic to your meal plan this week for some extra peace of mind? You eat food every day, so eat foods to boost your immune system and stay healthy!



The calcount Team
pile of biscuits

Swap Carbs: Top 4 Ways

Read our top 4 ways to swap carbs for other nutrients! Carbs are the sugars, starches and fibres found in plant and dairy products. They are one of the three macro-nutrients your body uses to power up (the other two being fats and proteins). Studies have found that our typical Australian diet can contain relatively more carbs than we need, so it may be a good idea for us to re-balance our macro-nutrient intake towards proteins and fats rather than remaining carb heavy.

Swap Carbs, start today

You might have heard about the “keto-diet” or “paleo-diet” or “Atkins-diet”? They are all based on the idea that we lose more excess weight and feel healthier when we go low carb. If you want to mix things up and cut carbs, here is our list of the top 4 ways you can start today:

Sweetened Drinks

swap carbs cola
Skip cola, choose water

Don’t forget that sugar is a carbohydrate! When it comes to cutting carbs, a quick and effective action is to drop the sweetened drinks. Bottled soft drinks, sugared coffees and tea, fruit juices: all of them are swimming with carbs.

A typical can of fizzy drink contains about 38 grams of pure carbohydrates in the form of sugar, so get that fridge-friendly box of cola out of sight.

Instead, opt for water or unsweetened coffee and tea.

Starchy Snacks

swap carbs chips
Eat a strip of beef jerky instead

Swap starchy snacks like biscuits, chips, toast, muesli bars and instant noodles for high-protein snacks like beef jerky, boiled eggs, canned salmon and Greek yoghurt.

High-protein snacks tend to take the edge off hunger much more effectively than high-carb snacks, so people tend to eat less of them.

Breakfast Cereal

swap carbs cereal
Swap for bacon and eggs

It is in the name: “cereal”. Cereals are grains, and grains are the primary source of carbohydrates in our diets.

Half a cup of muesli will typically contain about 35 grams of carbs, so ditch your breakfast cereal and opt for eggs and bacon instead.

If eggs and bacon turn your stomach in the morning, try yoghurt instead.

Condiments

swap carbs condiments
Replace with olive oil and vinegar

Condiments and sauces are often overlooked as potent sources of carbohydrates.

Tomato sauce, gravy, BBQ sauce, salad dressing and chip dips are common daily additions to our carb load. These condiments are often highly flavoured with concentrated sugars, so beware.

Instead, try using simple vinegar and/or virgin olive oil as a flavourful dip and dressing.

Hopefully, this post did not come across as being anti-carb. Whilst there are clear benefits to balancing your diet away from them, they should not be cut out completely from a healthy diet. Being able to swap carbs for other macro-nutrients is an important skill when calorie counting.

Want to try olive oil as a condiment? Have a look at this one with truffle!

The calcount Team
fish meal

Best 3 Fish

Our list of the best 3 fish you can eat in Australia. If you have read our post on the best 3 fruits you can eat, you will know that Calorie Counter Australia sets some clear criteria for what determines “the best” of any food type. Based on our criteria of nutrition, price and availability, uniqueness, taste and low-calories, let’s talk about the best 3 fish you can eat.

First, consider the three main reasons to choose fish:

  1. High protein – lean fish contains about the same amount of protein as lean beef
  2. Lower omega-6 fat – fish (especially white-fleshed types) contain less omega-6 fatty acids than red meat
  3. Higher omega-3 fat – fish (especially dark-fleshed types) contain more omega-3 fatty acids than most other food sources

Fat and fish

Unless you are getting your daily protein from relatively pure sources like supplements or egg-whites, you are probably taking fats in along with it. This is a good thing, because fats are an essential part of a balanced diet and the human body has developed over millions of years to efficiently digest proteins and fats in the proportions typically found in natural sources.

There are many different types of fat and they come bundled up together. The two that we are most interested in are called 1) omega-3 and 2) omega-6. Both of these fats are necessary for good health yet neither can be made by our bodies, so we must eat foods which contain them or we will become deficient.

Fats, Flipped

Compared to most other sources of protein in the typical Australian diet, fish differ in that the proportion of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats is flipped. Fish have more 3 and less 6, whereas beef, lamb, pork and chicken have more 6 and less 3.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with omega-6 (omega-6 is crucially important for good health), too much of it can cause a raft of problems related to inflammation. It is therefore a good idea to balance the 6 to 3 ratios by choosing fish 2 or 3 times per week instead of land-based protein.

Starting with, in our opinion, the single best fish you can eat:

Sardines – best of the best 3 fish

can of premium sardines

If you are a long-time reader of our blog, you will know that we love sardines. There is a boatload of reasons to choose sardines:

  • High protein
  • High omega-3
  • High B vitamins
  • Sustainable – they grow quickly in vast numbers, so low risk of overfishing
  • High calcium, especially when eaten whole
  • High minerals, especially zinc, iron, potassium and magnesium

Another reason to choose sardines is that they live fast and die young, so they do not have enough time to accumulate heavy metals in their bodies. Unlike other ocean fish like long-lived predatory swordfish and tuna which can contain mercury, sardines are a safe choice.

Salmon – second best of the best 3 fish

raw salmon

Number two on the list is salmon, for three main reasons. In addition to bringing the expected benefits you would get from similar fish, salmon wins with:

  • High DHA. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a type of omega-3 fat which is especially important for the central nervous system. It has been linked to improved brain function and nerve health, with some studies showing that it reduces the chance of age-related memory loss.
  • Sustainability. Most salmon sold in Australia is farmed in Tasmania, so there is no risk of overfishing wild salmon stocks. The salmon are fed wild-caught fish like sardines (about 2 kilogrammes of sardines are used to make 1 kilogramme of salmon). As noted above, sardines are sustainable because they grow quickly, reproduce quickly and have a wide oceanic distribution.
  • Great taste. Salmon is much less “fishy” than many other oily fish, so it finds favour with people who do not usually like to eat fish. Fresh is best, but don’t feel bad about including smoked salmon in moderation. Replace canned tuna with canned salmon for a more nutritious, sustainable salad or sandwich.

Cod – third best of the best 3 fish

baked cod

Cod makes our list for two reasons:

  • Low calories. Compared to oily fish and even other white-fleshed fish, cod is very lean. This makes it a great option for calorie-controlled meal plans because it contains about half the calories per weight compared to salmon and other oily fish. Of course, this means that they contain less omega-3 than the oily fish, nevertheless you will get appreciable quantities from a good serving.
  • Iodine and taurine. Cod contains about 9 times more iodine than oily fish like salmon. These minerals are very important for hormone regulation and anti-inflammation, as well as helping to maintain healthy blood pressure.

Hopefully, the main takeaways from this post are clear enough:

eat fish to balance your omega-3/omega-6 intake;

farmed oily fish or those with short life cycles are a safer and more environmentally friendly choice;

white-fleshed fish is much better for your waistline than oily fish.

Want to eat the best sardines in the world? Buy a can here!

The calcount Team
Christmas Food

Christmas Calories Survival Guide

This is a Christmas Calories Survival Guide for Australian Calorie Counters!

Christmas in Australia almost always includes tradition, family, friends, food, drink and binge eating. It is a tough season for the calorie-conscious, so we made this short guide to surviving each aspect of Christmas without packing on the kilos:

Tradition

Christmas traditions date back into the mists of time. Most are innocuous, but the ones to watch out for are:

Road Trips

Hours of sitting cramped in the car can lead to boredom and discomfort. For many of us, when we are bored and uncomfortable, we eat.

If you are going to take a long road trip, you are going to eat and drink something in the car. Therefore, surviving the trip without seriously attacking your daily calorie target is going to involve the fine art of substitution:

  • Swap out the lollies for carrot sticks or sugar-free chewing gum
  • Drink water instead of sugary fizzies
  • Avoid service station food like pies and doughnuts. Instead, pack your own snacks from home
  • Choose fresh fruit over dried! Remember that a small dried fig has the same calories as a big fresh fig

Parties

The best way to avoid calorie overload with party foods and drink is to think about your entire day’s intake, rather than obsessing over that extra mini sausage-roll.

If you know that you will be partying it up in the evening, try to eat low-calorie, fibre and protein-rich foods like bran for breakfast and chicken breast for lunch. Thus, you will enjoy the party food more knowing that you have been “storing up” a calorie deficit all day.

Midnight Mass

This tip goes for all late night and early morning activities: remember to include whatever you eat and drink in your daily calorie tally. In other words, everything you eat and drink counts towards your daily count.

It is easy to forget the extra meals you eat outside of the usual breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack routine, so keep track!

Family and Friends

If your immediate and extended family are all supportive and encouraging you to hold strong in your efforts to control your calories, then you can skip this section. However, if there are people in your life who enjoy putting plates of mince pies by your elbow, you may need to try:

Friendly Hints

One of the best ways to get family and friends on board with your efforts to stay on track is to drop both subtle and not-so-subtle hints before you get together. Sometimes, a well-timed Facebook post about what you aim to achieve health-wise might be all that’s needed to stop a friend from laying out sour cream and chives dip along with the chips when you come over to visit.

BYO Christmas Calories

If you have the sort of family and friends who wouldn’t be taken aback if you bring your own salad-dressing to share, why not bring your own snacks and drinks along when you go over to theirs? That way, you can enjoy their company whilst to stick to your plan.

Straight Talk

Just straight up tell people that you are watching your Christmas Calories over the festive season, so please stop offering the toasted almonds!

You might even discover that they are themselves worried about the social stigma of being weight-conscious, thus opening a new way for your relationship to deepen.

Christmas Calories: Food and Drink

Let’s face it, one of the best things about Christmas is the food. You are going to eat more than you usually do. Your stomach is going to feel full for days on end.

Since that is going to happen, try to make it happen with a good choice of food.

Be aware that there is a huge calorie difference between a belly full of caramel pecan pie and a belly full of roast beef.

Ultimately, the solution to surviving with your calorie target intact is to CHOOSE WISELY . If you do, you can come out on the other side of this season in relatively good shape.

A special note on seafood: seafood in general is a great choice for the season, but with one huge caveat. Try not to crumb, batter or sauce your ingredients. This is because, for example, the difference between steamed prawns and crumbed fried prawns is over 100 calories per 100g!

Whilst you could always hop onto Calorie Counter Australia to do some detailed checks, read this quick reference list of common Christmas food and drinks to get a sense of what you are up against (all values per 100g):

MAINS

Christmas Ham: 207 calories

Roast Beef: 172 calories

Lamb Roast: 205 calories

Roast Chicken with Stuffing and Gravy: 220 calories

Stuffed Potato: 119 calories

DESSERTS

Fruit Mince Pies: 416 calories

Christmas Pudding: 314 calories

Chocolate Mud Cake: 508 calories

Plum Pudding: 279 calories

Pavlova: 292 calories

DRINKS

Eggnog: 193 calories

Brandy: 214 calories

Sweet Sherry: 137 calories

Lemon, Lime and Bitters: 49 calories

SNACKS

Sausage roll: 255 calories

Ginger Nut Biscuits: 431 calories

Party Quiche: 257 calories

Double Cream Brie: 403 calories

Remember that traditional Christmas foods are almost always calorie-dense, so try to save them for specific feast days rather than spreading them throughout the festive season.

Christmas foods are luxuries to be long-anticipated and savoured slowly!

PS: Steaming seafood this season? Take a look at this cool pot!

The calcount Team
calcount antinutrients

Antinutrients are a Real Thing but Don’t Worry

Antinutrients are a real thing but don’t worry about them too much unless you suffer from some specific diseases and ailments.

What are Antinutrients?

Most people know what a nutrient is: a beneficial substance which living things use to grow, survive and reproduce. The word “antinutrient” has started to come into general usage recently. It sounds scary because it has an “anti” in front of the word “nutrient”. Most people think of “anti” as meaning something like “the opposite” of something else, for example “clockwise” and “anticlockwise”, “climax” and “anticlimax”. So, if a nutrient is something that our bodies use to survive, is an antinutrient a substance that causes our bodies to die? Is a deadly poison like arsenic an antinutrient?

In a word, no. An antinutrient is a substance that interferes with the absorption of nutrients. In other words, antinutrients stop some nutrients from being used properly.

Examples of Antinutrients

Antinutrients are found in almost all foods. You eat them every day. Here are four examples:

  • Phytate, also known as Phytic Acid. This antinutrient has a strong action on important minerals like zinc, calcium and magnesium. It prevents the minerals in food from being absorbed by the body. Phytate is one of the reasons why you may not be getting enough of these minerals even if you eats lots of food which “on paper” contains large amounts of the required minerals. For example, about 80% of the zinc in chickpeas probably does not make it into the bloodstream because it is tied up by the phytate in the chickpeas. Something to think about when you read nutrition information labels… Just because a food contains 100mg of zinc/iron/calcium etc., you are probably not going to get the benefit of the full 100mg. You might get more minerals from a food with low levels of the same minerals if it is eaten without any accompanying phytate.
  • Glucosinolates are found in high quantities in leafy plants like cabbage, kale and broccoli. They block the absorption of iodine, which is an important chemical used in the thyroid gland. People who do not get enough iodine suffer from a range of health problems which can be difficult to diagnose, including fatigue, weight gain, depression and goitre.
  • Amylase inhibitors are found in many different types of beans such as kidney beans and broad beans. These antinutrients stop the normal digestion of large carbohydrates like starch, so that they pass through without being taken up into the bloodstream. Some of these amylase inhibitors are sold as the main ingredient in weight management pills.
  • Protease inhibitors are found in very many seeds, grains and legumes including soybeans. They block several enzymes in the digestive system from working normally on protein, so that essential amino acids cannot be transferred into the bloodstream.

The list of antinutrients goes on: oxalates, phytoestrogens, saponins, flavonoids and lipase inhibitors are also classed as antinutrients.

If they are real, why not Worry?

Antinutrients are a “real thing” and many people do worry about them a lot, but these three reasons are why you should not worry about them:

  1. Unless you are eating a very limited diet of just a few select plant foods, you are very unlikely to be eating enough antinutrients to significantly damage your health. Humans have evolved to actively seek variety in their food, and in our society there is no shortage of food variety. That said, antinutrients are a good reason to be conscious about trying to eat a balanced diet. If you do not eat the same thing all the time, there is much less of a chance for antinutrients to be present in your diet in high enough quantities to negatively affect your nutrient absorption.
  2. Many antinutrients are actually good for you in important ways. Glucosinolates, for example, are the same compounds which help your body to fight cancer! Phytate (Phytic Acid) have been shown to lower blood sugar levels and reduce heart disease.
  3. Cooking food often reduces the levels of some antinutrients like oxalates and increases the amount of available minerals to a level which greatly outstrips the antinutrients’ capacity to block their absorption. Most people cook most of the food they eat, so antinutrients are much less of a concern that they would be if most people ate raw vegetables and grains exclusively. Cook your veggies!

 

When to Worry

So, if the problem of antinutrients is not likely to significantly affect your health, why think about them at all? When, if at all, should you worry about them? We recommend that you give them serious thought when:

  1. Your doctor tells you to. Some conditions, like kidney stones, hormonal imbalances and leaky gut syndrome, can be caused by and/or exacerbated by certain antinutrients. In those cases, your doctor will tell you what to avoid.
  2. You are consuming big quantities of a small variety of plant foods to the exclusion of meat, seafood and dairy (think tofu and brown rice washed down with raw kale smoothies every day for a month). This is not a good thing to do, for many reasons including the chance that the chosen foods might have large quantities of antinutrients in them. The antinutrients will hamper nutrient absorption including any vitamin and mineral supplements you might take.
  3. You see a food advertised as being “low in antinutrients”, or read an article telling you to avoid some particular food because of its high antinutrient content, or to take something that “fights” antinutrients. Question the motives of such advice, because antinutrients are a naturally occurring feature of so many of the foods that humans have been eating for thousands of years. Anyone advising you to avoid them is probably misinformed.