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More intense flavors and more variety of textures: From food or environments?

Some people experience caffeine use disorder. Could the reason have some connection with a need for more stimulation either from food, environment, or activities? What's with the need for more intense flavors and more variety of textures? Is it because they can't get the textures, moods, and varieties at work, school, in hobbies, in their choice of music, and travel? Or is it about income glass ceilings? Does a lack of variety in environment or activities get replaced by more variety in food tastes and textures? Or do people with underaroused autonomic nervous systems need more stimulants from foods and beverages just to have a feeling of wellbeing?

Caffeine use disorder, healthier crackers, and intense flavors and textures.
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Cracker Jack'd comes in three different varieties: The Hearty Mix flavors have "clusters mixed with nuts," with flavors such as peanut butter and chocolate and Berry Yogurt, while the Intense Mix flavors, like Buffalo Ranch and Spicy Pizzeria, have "intense flavor and pack a powerful crunch." Sweet 'n Savory Clusters includes a salted caramel flavor with "sweet and salty popcorn." You may wish to check out articles such as, "Caffeine coming to Cracker Jack, critics howl - USA Today," "Cracker Jack's New Surprise: Caffeine - ABC News," or "Caffeinated Cracker Jacks concerns consumer group - CBS News."

Caffeine use disorder needs more attention because it's a drug, not just a food

Several months ago Frito-Lay released a new version of the 105-year-old snack called Cracker Jack'D with some flavors that contain caffeine, to the dismay of several consumer groups. Market experts may find that youth wants intense flavor and food that packs a powerful crunch and eats that energize and stimulate. But the reality is lack of energy could be due to not getting enough sleep, working to many hours, playing or partying too hard, or the wrong type of and length of exercise.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest says the snacks, along with a few others it flags, are a violation of Food and Drug Administration law, according to the article, "Cracker Jack'D: Frito-Lay Gives Cracker Jack A Makeover With New Line." The FDA only considers additive caffeine safe for cola-type beverages if it contains only 0.02 percent and has no such standards for snacks and other products, according to the consumer group.

PepsiCo's Frito-Lay wants to attract those sleep-deprived, hard-working or studying younger customers seeking more energy from even more intense flavors. The 105-year-old snack is changing with a new product line called Cracker Jack'd. Find it in convenience stores. But why isn't the old product that attracted so many young people in the 1950s not interesting the same-age groups today? With so many young people into the healthier foods movements, why are so many other young people feeling that the old flavors aren't relevant?

Does the world need more central nervous system stimulants? Or are people become more 'dead' or flat inside and need a stronger and stronger 'fix' to feel alive because they lack purpose, passion, and perseverance on their paths to success or completion?

Caffeine use disorder

You may wish to check out the January 28, 2014 news release, Caffeine use disorder: A widespread health problem that needs more attention. Caffeine is the most widely used drug, but little is known about helping those who depend on it.

"I'm a zombie without my morning coffee." "My blood type is Diet Coke." "Caffeine isn't a drug, it's a vitamin." Most people make jokes like these about needing a daily boost from their favorite caffeinated beverage—whether first thing in the morning or to prevent the after-lunch slump, says a blurb from the news release, Caffeine use disorder: A widespread health problem that needs more attention. But a recent study coauthored by American University psychology professor Laura Juliano indicates that more people are dependent on caffeine to the point that they suffer withdrawal symptoms and are unable to reduce caffeine consumption even if they have another condition that may be impacted by caffeine—such as a pregnancy, a heart condition, or a bleeding disorder.

And according to the study Juliano coauthored, even though caffeine is the most commonly used drug in the world—and is found in everything from coffee, tea, and soda, to OTC pain relievers, chocolate, and now a whole host of food and beverage products branded with some form of the word "energy"—health professionals have been slow to characterize problematic caffeine use and acknowledge that some cases may call for treatment.

These symptoms combined are a condition called "Caffeine Use Disorder"

"The negative effects of caffeine are often not recognized as such because it is a socially acceptable and widely consumed drug that is well integrated into our customs and routines," Juliano says, according to the news release. "And while many people can consume caffeine without harm, for some it produces negative effects, physical dependence, interferes with daily functioning, and can be difficult to give up, which are signs of problematic use."

"Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda," which Juliano coauthored with Steven Meredith and Roland Griffiths of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and John Hughes from the University of Vermont, published last fall in the Journal of Caffeine Research.

Grounds for More Research

The study summarizes the results of previously published caffeine research to present the biological evidence for caffeine dependence, data that shows how widespread dependence is, and the significant physical and psychological symptoms experienced by habitual caffeine users. Juliano and her coauthors also address the diagnostic criteria for Caffeine Use Disorder and outline an agenda to help direct future caffeine dependence research.

In so far as heeding the call for more research, the scientific community is beginning to wake up and smell the coffee. Last spring, the American Psychiatric Association officially recognized Caffeine Use Disorder as a health concern in need of additional research in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders—the standard classification of mental disorders, now in its fifth edition (DSM-5), used by mental health professionals in the United States.

"There is misconception among professionals and lay people alike that caffeine is not difficult to give up. However, in population-based studies, more than 50 percent of regular caffeine consumers report that they have had difficulty quitting or reducing caffeine use," says Juliano, according to the news release. Juliano served as an appointed advisor to the DSM-5 Substance Use Disorders work group and helped outline the symptoms for the Caffeine Use Disorder inclusion. "Furthermore, genetics research may help us to better understand the effects of caffeine on health and pregnancy as well as individual differences in caffeine consumption and sensitivity," she adds, according to the news release.

A Lack of Labeling

Based on current research, Juliano advises that healthy adults should limit caffeine consumption to no more than 400 mg per day—the equivalent of about two to three 8-oz cups of coffee. Pregnant women should consume less than 200 mg per day and people who regularly experience anxiety or insomnia—as well as those with high blood pressure, heart problems, or urinary incontinence—should also limit caffeine. Limiting one's caffeine intake is often easier said than done as most people don't know how much caffeine they consume daily.

"At this time, manufacturers are not required to label caffeine amounts and some products such as energy drinks do not have regulated limits on caffeine," Juliano says in the news release, adding that if this changed, people could perhaps better limit their consumption and ideally, avoid caffeine's possible negative effects. But in a nation where a stop at Starbucks is a daily ritual for many people, is there really a market for caffeine cessation? Juliano says yes.

"Through our research, we have observed that people who have been unable to quit or cut back on caffeine on their own would be interested in receiving formal treatment—similar to the outside assistance people can turn to if they want to quit smoking or tobacco use."

How about healthier wraps, crackers, or flat breads instead of more central nervous system-stimulating foods and drinks?

Healthier wraps, crackers, or flat breads without baking soda, baking powder, salt, oils, fats, sugars, syrups, or bleached white wheat flour are possible. For flour you can grind up a package of sprouted lentils or quinoa in an electric coffee grinder and use the course flour to make crackers.

Or try sweet potato flour, garbanzo bean flour, oat bran, or a mixture of flaxseed meal, oat bran, and lentil flour. Commercial snacks may contain caffeine. And for numerous people, the desire is to see healthier snacks, wraps, crackers, and baked goods or raw vegan dehydrated snacks you can make yourself with the ingredients you prefer for your health needs.

If you want to make a healthier cracker, in a dry grinder (like the VitaMix dry grinder attachment or any grain grinder) grind a cup of quinoa into flour or use garbanzo bean flour if you want a gluten-free, no grain base. Then grind 1/2 cup of flax seeds into meal.

Then start mixing the two flour/meal combinations together with 1/4 cup of sesame seeds or 2 tablespoons of tahini sauce, a little carrot juice or grated carrots, 1/4 cup of chia seeds, and 1/4 cup of coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper if you wish or garlic powder, onion powder, and turmeric or curry powder.

If you don't want to add any oils, use grounded sesame, chia, and flax seeds, since crackers bake crispier with fats added. Or for a no-fat cracker, you can make a flat bread of meal/flour and any liquid such as carrot juice or unsweetened almond milk to moisten so the mixture sticks together when chilled.

Roll out the dough as thin as you can make it look because it's going to be baked into a cracker. Then pat it out flat on a greased cookie sheet. Cut it into squares, and bake it a few minutes from 20 to 30 minutes or less at 350 degrees F until it's firm to the touch and golden brown. Now you have crackers, if you rolled out the dough thin enough to look like a cracker. Additional recipes for home-made crackers can be found at the sites, "Cracker Recipes -" and "How to Make Your Own Crackers - Homemade Cracker Recipes." Or see, "Gluten Free Crackers: "Wheat" Thins Copycat Recipe." Use ingredients you choose according to your preferences to put into the cracker dough mixture.

Who can make a healthier bread? The University of California, Davis studies how phytosterols in whole grains

For example, see the article, [PDF] Phytosterols lower cholesterol levels in a dose-dependent manner - UC Davis CHNR. Why does it take the mainstream media so long after a new study to report health benefits? The answer to that question is that the media is looking for other scientists to speak up and say whether or not any given study is flawed.

Whole wheat bread is high in sugar, higher than some candy bars and sugary sodas, and some scientists and physicians say two slices of whole wheat bread probably will raise your blood sugar levels as high as if you were eating some popular candy bars. There's a 'controversy' about the effects of whole grains. Some people can't eat any grains at all due to sensitivities, allergies, and Celiac disease -(celiac sprue).

Others say whole grains help to rot some children's teeth. Still others ferment their whole grains, and some kids endure dental cavities just from eating whole grain cereals and sandwiches. Physicians writing articles in major consumer health publications sometimes say that it's primarily whole wheat that creates havoc with blood glucose levels, perhaps being one more stressor behind the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemics in all ages.

Let's take a look at what some physicians and scientists report on the 'dangers' of whole wheat. For example, two slices of whole wheat bread increase your blood sugar to a high level than sucrose--table sugar, according to the October 2011 Life Extension Magazine article, "Wheat: The Unhealthy Whole Grain," page 82. Too much bread or cake can raise your risk of cataracts, diabetes, and rapid aging inside and out, say some scientists and physicians.

When it comes to health, in the Sacramento and Davis area, the UC Davis studies whole grains, including rice, and scientists around the nation are researching whether whole grains can keep your blood pressure in check. Sacramento and Davis scientists may sometimes jokingly tell people to eat like a horse, meaning eat your whole grain oats.

Check the Glycemic Index Before You Shop for Favorite Foods

Just check out how high whole wheat bread is in 'sugar' or on the Glycemic Index. See "The International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2002;76(1):5-56. See the sites, Full Text - American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Dietary glycemic index and load and risk of type 2 diabetes in older adults.

It's truly shocking. According to the Life Extension article, eating two slices of whole wheat bread is worse than drinking a can of sugar-sweetened soda or eating a sugary candy bar. The original 1981 study at the University of Toronto found that the Glycemic Index of white bread was 69 and whole-grain bread was 72. Wheat cereal was 67, but table sugar (sucrose) was only 52. That means the Glycemic Index of whole grain bread is higher than that of table sugar, which is also known as sucrose.

In fact the Glycemic Index of a Mars Bar nougat, chocolate, is just 68. The Glycemic index of a Snickers bar is just 41. All those values are less than whole grain bread, especially whole wheat bread. But what you do get with the whole grain bread besides the sugar spike is some fiber that you don't get with the candy bar or the sugary soda beverage.

On another Glycemic Index chart, a Mars Bar, medium is listed at 64. It's listed under the category, "Snack Food and Sweets." But on that web site which also is about the South Beach diet, whole grain bread is listed as low on the Glycemic Index at 50, and white bread is listed high on the Glycemic Index at 71, with whole rye flour bread listed as medium at 64.

Rice cakes are listed as high on the Glycemic Index at 77, and Whole Meal Bread (not whole grain bread) is listed as medium at 69 on the Glycemic Index. But you have to remember that that Index is on the South Beach Diet Plan website. And you'd have to check out other Glycemic Index listings to see whether any match. The Glycemic Index listings seem to be different at various websites, but why, are various brands being tested or listed?

Or are various candy brands different, but the Glycemic Index, itself, remains steady. It's just that one manufacturer may make different types of candy bars under the same brand name. For example, Glycemic Index of a Mars Bar nougat, chocolate, is listed as just 68 in the Life Extension Magazine article, Oct. 2011.

Is Whole Wheat the Culprit, According to Studies In Wheat's Ability to Cause Your Body to Make More Insulin?

So, wheat seems to be the worse, according to the studies, in assaulting your body in its ability to keep making insulin. Could this be part of the cause of the diabetes and obesity epidemic in the USA and in other countries, and especially among young people? And do you fight carbs with other carbs? Or is any food high on the Glycemic Index also causing your body to secrete more insulin, aging your organs and arteries faster as your body seeks to lower the glucose levels to what's supposed to be 'normal'?

You want to watch out for advanced glycation end products called AGEs, which stiffens arteries and may lead to cataracts, clouded lenses of the eyes. See the sites, Glycemic Index Food Chart. and Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods - Harvard Health.

Check out the study, "Glycemic Index of Foods: a physiological basis for carbohydrate exchange," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1981 Mar; 34 (3):362-6. Also see, Glycemic index of foods: a physiological basis for carbohydrate exchange.

Do Whole Grains Improve Blood Pressure? Studies on whole grains and the health benefits of phytosterols

Read the published scientific study, Pins JJ, et al. "Do Whole Grain oat cereals reduce the need for antihypertensive medications and improve blood pressure control? Journal of Family Practice 51: 353-359, 2002. For example, it took three months after a new July 2009 study on the health benefits of whole grains, especially bran in whole grains, and how whole grains help to lower hypertension, had been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition before the mainstream media (Reuters) reported it October 7, 2009.

The Whole Grain Stamp now appears on over 3000 products in 14 countries, according to the body that issues the Stamp, the Whole Grains Council. Also see the October 10, 2009 Windsor Star article, "Whole grains may help keep blood pressure in check."

The most recent USA nutrition guidelines recommend that people get at least 3 ounces, or 85 grams, of whole grains daily, and that they consume at least half of their grains as whole grains, according to the recent Reuters article of October 7, 2009, "Whole Grains May Keep Blood Pressure in Check."

"There's evidence, the investigators note, that women who eat more whole grains are less likely to develop high blood pressure, also called hypertension, but there is less information on how whole grains might affect men's heart health," according to the Reuters article, based on a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Eating lots of whole grains could ward off high blood pressure, according to that study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. You can read the abstract of the actual study in the July 1, 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 90: 493-498, 2009, doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27460.

The title of the research is, "Whole grains and incident hypertension in men." Although the study had been performed with only men, women can benefit also, provided that you don't have sensitivities to whole grains such as celiac disease. It doesn't matter which whole grains you eat so much. You could substitute quinoa or amaranth, oats, brown rice, or rye for wheat because wheat in some people causes a rise in insulin. But what did the study actually find?

According to the study, men with the highest whole-grain consumption were 19 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than men who ate the least amount of whole grains. But you need to know something about how to prepare whole grains so that you don't get the phytates in grain.

Whole grains contain phytic acid in the bran of the grain. Phytic acid combines with key minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc and prevents their absorption in the intestinal tract, according to the article, "The Two Stage Process: A Preparation Method Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Whole Grains."

According to Introduction to Whole Foods, page two, "Soaking, fermenting, or sprouting the grain before cooking or baking will neutralize the phytic acid, releasing nutrients for absorption. This process allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to not only neutralize the phytic acid, but also to break down complex starches, irritating tannins and difficult-to-digest proteins including gluten. For many, this may lessen their sensitivity or allergic reactions to particular grains."

The healthier way to prepare whole grains, according to the article, " is to soak the whole grains or whole grain flour in an acid medium such as buttermilk, yogurt, or other cultured milk, or in water with whey, lemon juice or vinegar added. As little as 7 hours soaking will neutralize a large portion of the phytic acid in grains. Twelve to 24 hours is even better with 24 hours yielding the best results."

Basically, you can soak grains overnight in a covered jar of filtered water in your refrigerator. The grains will become soft. I soak my grains two days. The whole buckwheat becomes soft enough to eat for breakfast without cooking with heat. Just put some cherries and blueberries or dried fruit such as raisins on top of it, add a handful of chopped nuts or hulled sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, and you have a great breakfast cereal, as long as you're not sensitive to the nuts and seeds or the particular grains. Buckwheat isn't the same grain as regular whole wheat.

Usually, there's an alternative whole grain you can tolerate, with some exceptions for persons with various sensitivities or those with celiac disease who must eat gluten-free foods. Then choose the gluten-free substitutes.

Brown rice, buckwheat and millet are more easily digested because they contain lower amounts of phytates than other grains, so they may be soaked for the shorter times. According to Introduction to Whole Foods, other grains, particularly oats, "the highest in phytates of the whole grains, is best soaked up to 24 hours."

The article reports that there are two other advantages of the two-stage process. "Several hours of soaking serves to soften the grain, resulting in baked goods lighter in texture, closer to the texture of white flour. The longer the soaking, the less necessary is the baking powder. Baking soda, alone, will give enough rise. Secondly, this is a great step in convenience, dividing the task into two shorter time periods, cutting the time needed to prepare the recipe right before cooking and baking when you feel rushed to get food on the table."

The difference between whole grains and refined grains is that refining takes off the grain's outer coating. But whole grains are left with the rich nutrients, bran and germ

If you want to make soaking grains simple and basic, just soak what you want to eat overnight in a covered jar of water in your refrigerator. The grains will do a little fermenting, and that's the result you want.

Science research teams often look at the The Health Professionals Follow-Up Study on various topics. The Follow-Up Study explores some of the health issues of men, relating nutritional factors to the incidence of serious illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, and other vascular diseases. This all-male study is designed to complement the all-female Nurses' Health Study, which examines similar hypotheses.

For further information, see the Harvard Science article, "Eating whole grain cereals may help men lower heart failure risk." In the recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, the research team first looked at data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which has followed 51,529 men since 1986, when the study participants were 40 to 75 years old.

Researchers viewed a subset of 31,684 men free of hypertension, cancer, stroke or heart disease at the study's outset. During 18 years of follow-up, 9,227 of them developed hypertension. Men in the top fifth of whole grain consumption, that averaged about 52 grams of whole grains daily, were 19 percent less likely than the men in the bottom fifth, who ate an average of about 3 grams of whole grains daily, to develop hypertension during follow-up.

What Did the Separate Components of Whole Grains Reveal?

When the researchers looked at separate components of whole grains, only bran showed an independent relationship with hypertension risk, with men who consumed the most at 15 percent lower risk of hypertension than men who ate the least. However, the researchers note, the amount of bran in the men's diet was relatively small compared to their total intake of whole grain and cereal fiber. See the article, "Bran, whole grains may fight high blood pressure in men."

According to the HealthDay News article, "Whole grains as a part of a prudent, balanced diet may help promote cardiovascular health," the lead researcher and project director at Harvard School of Public Health of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, Dr. Alan J. Flint explained to the media. The latest analysis followed up previous studies that's why it's called a Follow-Up study. "Higher intake of whole grains was associated with a lower risk of hypertension in our cohort of over 31,000 men," Flint told the press.

The relationship between whole grain intake and hypertension risk remained even after accounting for men's fruit and vegetable intake, use of vitamins, amount of physical activity, and whether or not they were screened for high blood pressure. This suggests that the association was independent of these markers of a healthy lifestyle behavior pattern. It's possible, the researchers say, that the men that ate more whole grains gained less weight over time. The current findings, Flint and colleagues explained, "have implications for future dietary guidelines and for the prevention of hypertension."

This is not a new idea. The most recent scientific studies help to lend credibility and validity to the claims and to studies using fewer people. For years, books have touted the health benefits of whole grains. In the 2008 book, The Cholesterol Hoax, Dr. Sherry A Rogers notes on page 181, "Whole grains are actually much higher in antioxidants than fruits and vegetables."

The section, "They Forgot the Whole Grains," explains the research regarding whole grains and the effect of whole grains on reducing heart disease risk, "Folks who have diets containing daily whole grains have 26% less heart disease, 36% fewer strokes, and a 43% lower cancer rate.

In another study of 88 folks with high blood pressure, 73% of those who had two meals of whole grains a day dropped their blood pressure medications in half in addition to dropping their cholesterol and blood sugars (Pins, Jones)." Read the published scientific study, Pins JJ, et al. "Do Whole Grain oat cereals reduce the need for antihypertensive medications and improve blood pressure control? Journal of Family Practice 51: 353-359, 2002.

Oat, nut and fruit 'nutballs' a homemade treat using soaked, raw ingredients

Here's a way you can make healthier snacks together without cooking the raw vegan 'cookies.' Make nutballs with your kids. You also can substitute seeds for nuts such as pumpkin seeds or roasted squash seeds, and/or brown sesame seeds, or use grains and fruit without the nuts and seeds if there are allergies to nuts and/or seeds.

Why serve cookies and milk to kids or older adults as a snack when they arrive home from school or other activities? Instead, have your children, or if an older adult, family members make raw, vegan snack foods with you from nuts, oat bran, and oat meal moistened with a little soy or almond milk, and formed into balls. These snacks are great for including in lunch boxes. Just pack them in baggies next to the luncheon foods kids take to school.

The nuts and oat meal/oat bran combination with ground sesame seeds and a tablespoon or two of flax seeds (ground to a meal consistency) along with the almonds and walnuts supply some omega 3 fatty acids to help balance the dietary needs of people of all ages. Instead of overloading on snacks containing too much omega 6 fatty acids, try a combination of nuts, seeds, and oats along with some dried fruit. Eat in moderation. It's healthier than eating a box of cookies between meals. Eat a handful, not a can full of the nuts and seeds or dried fruits. And these raw vegan nut balls also provide some fiber.


1 cup of raw almonds

1 cup of raw walnuts

1/4 cup of sesame seeds

2 tablespoons of flax seeds

1 cup of raw oat meal (Old Fashioned Quaker Oats is fine).

1/3 cup of raw coarse oat bran

1/2 cup of pitted prunes, chopped

1/2 cup raisins

1/3 cup chopped pitted dates and/or dried figs (optional)

1 organic banana, sliced in thin circles

1/2 cup of liquid such as soy milk, juice, water, rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk, hazelnut milk, or any non-dairy milk substitute

You can substitute for the prunes dried nectarines or apricots for prunes. Or use your favorite flavors of chopped, dried fruits such as dried blueberries, dried cherries, or any dehydrated chopped fruit of your choice.


1. Grind the nuts and seeds in a dry grinder, coffee grinder, or other grinding machine, such as a Vita-Mix dry grinder, until the nuts and seeds combination is the consistency of meal. Place the ground nuts and seeds in a large glass bowl or other container.

2. Add the oat meal, oat bran, and chopped dried fruit.

3. Add the liquid, such as soy milk to create the consistency of a meat ball so that the nuts and oats stick together to form a ball. If too dry, add more milk substitute, juice of your favorite fruit, or water. If too wet, add more oat bran and oat meal.

4. Mix everything together and form into balls about the size of meat balls.

5. Put the nut balls into a large covered glass bowl or similar container and refrigerate for two hours.

6. Serve chilled as a raw, vegan snack, dessert, or cookie substitute. Or serve with a cup of mint or decaf green tea on the side.

The ground nut balls can last in the refrigerator about two to three days. See my YouTube video on how to make vegan, raw nut balls.

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