Letters to the editor, April 2017

This article was originally published in April 2017

Whole grain vs. whole grain flour

I eat essentially only organic, whole grains. I do all my own gluten-free baking. I have a large selection of gluten-free flours. I eat a lot of homemade sandwiches with bread that I make myself using those flours.

I am wondering whether there is a difference between eating whole grains as literal whole grains, and eating them ground into flour. For example, whole grain cooked quinoa, rice, amaranth, millet, etc. versus those same grains ground into flours (other than rice, I grind my own in my Vitamix). I’m looking forward to your thoughts!

— Leslie Geller

PCC replies: There’s a benefit to selecting intact whole grains over whole grains ground into flour. Intact whole grains spend more time in the GI tract where they are broken down more slowly by our digestive system. Intact whole grains have a lower glycemic index compared to whole-grain flours, because they take longer to be digested and absorbed. This lower glycemic effect prevents spikes in blood sugar and insulin, protecting us from a number of health concerns including diabetes, weight gain, inflammation and cardiovascular problems.

Whole-grain flours still provide beneficial nutrients, however, and there’s plenty of research to show that people who regularly consume products made from whole-grain flours (bread, pasta, crackers, etc.) are healthier than those consuming refined grains. When whole grains are ground into flour, nothing has been removed, refined or lost, so all the protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. still are present.

For more, read our recent articles, “What’s wrong with wheat?” and “Are whole grains the secret to living longer?”.

Cold-pressed juices

Can you please explain the difference between raw cold-pressed and HPP (high-pressure processed) cold-pressed juices? People say there is a definite taste difference as well a health difference.

I want to know how people come up with the nutritional numbers to verify this. If HPP cold-pressed still kills off much of the health benefits of cold-pressed juice, then why are we paying such big bucks for it? It seems like deceptive labeling to me.

— Jill Zimmerman

PCC replies: Labels such as “cold-pressed” and “raw” are not well defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it’s difficult to generalize what these labels mean on packaged juices. Most packaged juices rely on flash pasteurization, which uses heat (145° F) to sterilize pathogens in fresh juices, so claims such as “cold-pressed,” “HPP” or “raw” often are used to distinguish products from these shelf-stable, heat-pasteurized juices.

HPP is a type of pasteurization used to kill microbes without exposing the juice to any heat. HPP pasteurization exposes juice to extremely high levels of pressure to eliminate bacteria, while preserving flavors and possibly nutrients. Bottles of juice are placed in a water-filled tank and exposed to pressure that kills bacteria, molds and yeast by damaging their cellular structure. HPP juices have a much shorter shelf-life (45 days) than heat-pasteurized juices.

Manufacturers claim that HPP juices are more nutritious than heated juices but there isn’t much evidence to support these claims. Vitamins and antioxidants could be impacted by the various processing methods, but other calories, carbohydrates and nutrients such as potassium, calcium and iron aren’t impacted by either type of pasteurization.

HPP results in juice that really tastes like the fruit and vegetables it’s made from. It’s more expensive than heat-treated juices, but for a real treat, the fresh, bright flavors can be worth the extra price. PCC carries HPP juices by Genesis, Evolution Fresh, Columbia Gorge, WTRMLN WTR and Suja.

Raw, unpasteurized juice must be sold within two days and requires a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning statement that the juice “may cause serious illness” in children and the elderly. PCC does not sell any prepackaged raw, unpasteurized juices.

Arsenic in chicken

I saw an article on MSN.com about arsenic in chicken. Can you give any assurances that PCC chicken is not fed the same arsenic-containing foods and is free from levels of arsenic?

Thank you.

— Cluny McCaffrey

PCC replies: Yes, we can assure you that the chicken you purchase at PCC is produced without arsenic. The MSN article was from January 2015. Later that year, the FDA banned the use of arsenic-based drugs in livestock production.

There’s still concern about the use of arsenical drugs in livestock raised in other countries, however, so if you’re purchasing meat not produced in the United States, it’s a good idea to choose organic. Organic standards prohibit arsenic drugs in poultry production. All meat at PCC is produced in the United States.

Gelatin in supplements

I’m a long-time member of PCC, starting in the late 1980s at the original location on North 66th in the Green Lake area. Now, “my” location is the one at Green Lake Village. I love it!

I love how it’s organized, that I can find almost everything I need, the produce is always tops, and there are usually vegan options in the hot food bar. (I do wish they were labelled as such, though!) I use the salad bar a lot. Also, the folks that work there are so awesome! Always friendly and always helpful. You’ve got a lot of fantastic people there.

I’m writing to comment about a vitamin C supplement: PCC Bio C Complete with Bioflavanoids (100 capsules). I liked this product because it has 1000mg of C and is buffered. Unfortunately, it contains gelatin, which I failed to notice when I purchased it. I’m newly aware of gelatin being in many supplements.

I hate that animal gelatin is used when I know vegetable cellulose fibers can be used to make the capsule cases. I’ve been pescatarian for 25 years, consuming only fish and chicken eggs occasionally. I’m an aspiring vegan and gelatin is something I just can’t agree to consume and support. It is so unnecessary but most likely the least expensive way to make capsules.

Will PCC attempt to have this product manufactured without the use of gelatin?

— Nancy

PCC replies: Good news! We do sell a buffered vitamin C tablet that doesn’t contain gelatin. The capsule is made with cellulose instead. It’s also our PCC brand. Next time you’re at the store, just ask and a staff member will be glad to help you find it.

Tofu in the deli

Do you make the tofu in your deli from raw soybeans? If not, I’d like to know more about where you get the processed soy. I understand a number of manufacturers process soy with the aid of hexane, a very toxic substance. Thank you.

— Patrick Kent

PCC replies: We use Island Spring organic tofu, locally made on Vashon Island. Organic standards prohibit the use of hexane and other solvents. For more information about Island Spring tofu, visit islandspring.com.

What qualifies as dark chocolate?

I’m looking for guidelines to help pick good-quality dark chocolate. Apparently, the FDA has not established any standard of identity or labeling regulations.

I’m seeing a lot of candy manufacturers use the term “dark” to sell low-quality products. Do you have any tips for correcting this misconception?

— Cindy

PCC replies: We agree; the lack of regulation can be misleading. We’ve seen bars with as little as 33 percent cocoa labeled “dark.”

While there’s no official definition of dark chocolate, PCC’s nutrition educators advise shoppers to look for chocolate with a minimum of 70 percent cacao because it curbs the amount of sugar and allows for more antioxidants and other good nutrients.

Not all brands list the percentage of cacao in each bar, so another way to decide on a bar is to compare the ratio of fiber to sugar on the label. As the percentage of cocoa increases, the grams of fiber per serving increase, while the grams of sugar decrease. For example, a bar at PCC that has 34 percent cacao has 1 gram fiber and 19 grams sugar, a ratio of 1:19. A bar with 85 percent cacao has 5 grams fiber and 5 grams sugar, for a ratio of 1:1. Look for chocolates with a ratio of fiber to sugar of less than 1:3, the ratio for most bars with 70 percent cocoa.

Of course, the cacao content doesn’t necessarily relate to the quality of the chocolate. For quality markers, look for bars that say “single origin,” or that list the types of cacao beans, and are organic or fair trade. These label claims indicate the producer likely cares about making high-quality, unique chocolate.

Silicone storage bags

I was given three Stasher platinum silicone storage bags. How safe are they to use as sandwich bags and then wash in the dishwasher? Also, they’re advertised as safe to use in freezing and cooking. Your thoughts?

— name withheld upon request

PCC replies: We recently reached out to Toxic-Free Future with this question. They said, “we are concerned about the use of silicone cookware because it has been found to contain D4, which is a chemical used in the production of silicone polymers. It has been classified as a hormone disruptor by the European Union.”

Silicone is still a fairly new material, and there hasn’t been much research into its safety, especially when used with food. In 1979 the FDA determined that silicon dioxides — the basic elements in silicone cookware — were generally recognized as safe in food-grade contexts. But the first silicone cookware (spatulas) didn’t show up on store shelves until a decade later, and the FDA hasn’t conducted any follow-up studies to determine whether silicone leaches out of cookware.

Also in this issue

News bites, April 2017

When we eat matters, PCC opposes seed megamergers, Labeling Roundup, and more

Aquaculture awash in controversy

Learn about projects in the pipeline, the environmental and social impacts of aquaculture, and ways you can take action.

Tender local, organic asparagus

Few vegetables herald spring better than slender, bright spears of fresh asparagus. And it's tough to find better asparagus than the harvest from these three local farms, longtime PCC partners whose devotion to organics is unparalleled.