Tips on Becoming a Better Food Shopper. Interview with Dr. Elizabeth Klodas, Cardiologist and Founder of Step One Foods.
Have you ever gone grocery shopping and felt tempted to purchase a food product that has "reduced sodium" or "only 100 calories per serving" in hopes of making the healthier decision? While this approach makes sense at first glance, the reality is that these claims are usually nothing more than marketing tactics. Rather than providing actual nutritional guidance, the actual purpose of these health messages is to sway a purchase decision. The truth is, manufacturers are able to manipulate the way ingredients appear on nutrition labels in a way that still follows FDA guidelines. And a big consequence of this is that it is nearly impossible for consumers to really know what is in their food.
Dr. Elizabeth Klodas, a John-Hopkins trained Cardiologist and Founder of Step One Foods, spoke with the Garden State Woman Education Foundation and shared tips for navigating the food landscape. Dr. Klodas is a practicing preventive cardiologist and developed Step One Foods with the goal of helping her patients. As she was treating her patients, she realized that the root cause of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar was their diet. Step One Foods provides science-backed foods that deliver quality ingredients and essential nutritional value. Here is what she revealed.
- How can shoppers navigate the food landscape and purchase nutritious foods, despite deceptive advertising? What are some tips on becoming a better food shopper?
"Be wary of claims on food packaging. We've all seen these: "Low in sodium!" "Helps lower cholesterol!" "Only 100 calories per serving!" Yet, as a cardiologist, all I treat all day long is high blood pressure and high cholesterol in people trying to lose weight. This should tell you something. The truth is that these health messages are more marketing hype than straightforward nutrition guidance or a guarantee of a desired health result. They're designed to sway a purchase decision, which in a grocery store is made in 3-5 seconds. My first rule is the more the item shouts about how good it is for you, the more skeptical you should become. After all, the healthiest foods in a grocery store—fruits and vegetables—carry no claims.
Always read the ingredient panel. The more the list sounds like it came from a chemistry book, the less of it you should have. Yes, some of the ingredients may be fortifications, and vitamins can sound like chemicals, but foods that need lots of fortification are foods made from ingredients that are devoid of nutrients to begin with. Adding lots of vitamins to a highly processed sugary breakfast cereal does not make it good for you.
Understand that the Nutrition Facts Panel doesn't give you all the facts. It hides important information and tells you nothing about where the nutrients are coming from. For example, people often focus on sugar content. But sugar is not bad if it comes from whole fruit, like apples for example. Yet, if you were going to create a NFP for an apple, it might list more sugar than what's found in some candies. So even though we all know that apples are good for us and candies are not, the NFP might lead you to conclude otherwise. What's more, many sweeteners—that are not by definition sugars—can, by law, be excluded from the nutrition facts panel even though they have been associated with negative metabolic effects. So you could be eating a food that lists no sugar, tastes sweet, but is counterproductive to health. Go back to the ingredient list! That's where the real information is."
- What made you start Step One Foods?
"I went to medical school because I wanted to cure people. As you might expect, during my training I spent a lot of my time learning how to prescribe just the right drug for the right ailment. Unfortunately, the conditions I treat—high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar—are not caused by a lack of the right drugs. These are all caused in part or in whole by a lack of the right foods. All those medications I was taught to prescribe couldn't possibly cure anyone because I wasn't addressing the root cause of illness. I was just covering up the real problem with a bunch of pills.
But when I advised patients to eat better, nothing happened. My patients were trying to follow dietary advice but were still failing. And here's my big realization: It wasn't all their fault. My patients were being duped. So, I decided someone had to provide them with the right foods that are truly effective and as targeted and as science backed as pharmaceuticals. In other words, foods where the claims are real and proven."
- How does Step One Foods help prevent and lower cholesterol?
"It's important to point out that high cholesterol is a big risk factor for heart disease and that it affects a lot of people—94 million Americans or basically 1 in 2 adults. And even though we have effective medications to lower cholesterol, a substantial proportion of these 94 million can't even tolerate the pills or don't want to take them. In addition, many continue to experience higher than ideal cholesterol numbers even though they're on the drugs. So, there's a big need for other solutions, especially food-based ones that get at the root of the problem.
But those solutions need to be not just effective, but also practical and realistic.Which is why Step One Foods were modeled after products people are already buying and eating like instant oatmeal, pancake mix, granola, snack bars. And they're made from real and whole ingredients like walnuts and oats and chia and blueberries, dark chocolate, and almonds. So, Step One Foods are not supplements – they are foods. But they're specifically formulated to lower cholesterol by combining the right ingredients in the right amounts to deliver clinically meaningful levels of nutrients known to affect cholesterol levels.
Furthermore, we've subjected these foods to rigorous testing at institutions like Mayo Clinic and University of Manitoba‑the type of testing reserved for evaluating pharmaceuticals—to prove efficacy. The test demonstrated that eating just 2 servings a day of Step One foods can yield highly significant cholesterol reductions in 30 days. We've seen people's LDL (bad) cholesterol drop by 40 plus points! These are medication level effects…attained with food. Not everyone will see such dramatic results, but we've shown it's possible. And for people with high cholesterol who can't tolerate cholesterol lowering medications, that could be a game changer.
Ultimately what we've proven is that you CAN make foods that live up to the hype. I am proud to have created a line of foods that people can trust—and that taste fantastic! And the best part is we're not asking people to change what they do. We're just making what they're doing already MUCH better for them. It's pretty much effortless."
Visit Step One Foods at steponefoods.com.
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